Downside of Bodybuilding

How Bodybuilding Causes Tendon and Ligament Damage

At almost every fitness seminar, you will hear the phrase “functional training.” Presenters will tell you how traditional bodybuilding exercises won’t help our neuro-musculo-skeletal health and how they are leading us to muscular imbalances.

But the fact remains that every individual who walks into a gym wants the very same thing – to change how he or she looks. Very few people join the gym because they feel they need to improve their stability.

End of an Era

Functional training is now apparently the only way to train, apparently leaving bodybuilding in the past. So are these functional advocates telling us that building muscle is bad for us? Surely building muscle is the body’s natural response to hard work, and we replicate hard work in the gym with resistance.

Bodybuilding programme design is based upon one principle: in order to increase the area of our muscles, we perform repeated resisted movements which, in turn, induce fatigue within a certain time. This can be performed for all of the “major” muscle groups in a variety of layouts.

Decreased Function

Most bodybuilders will have been told that using 8-12 repetitions will achieve the best results when wanting to increase size and they will very seldom, if ever, deviate from this repetition range.

Reaching maximum voluntary contraction within this time frame will ensure that the body is heavily dependent on the lactate (anaerobic) energy system for ATP production. However, when you exercise for these short periods you will not promote a proportionate increase in capillary density due to a decreased dependence on oxygen.

“A rapid increase in the volume of a muscle cell, without any increase in the capillary network that supplies the muscle, will lead to an ischaemic environment being created. This will result in diminished nutrient and oxygen supply, which slows down the metabolic processes within the muscle and the disposal of metabolic waste products from the muscle” – (Zalessky & Burkhanov, Legkaya Atlitika, 1981).

So, in short, many bodybuilders will have fewer capillaries per square inch of muscle than even sedentary individuals, let alone other exercisers.

“The decreased oxygen carrying and utilisation abilities of hypertrophied muscles will affect their ability to respond positively to exercise, leading to irreversible structural damage occurring within the muscle.” – (Adapted from “Advanced Training Planning for Bodybuilders: Part 1” by Brian Haycock MS, CSCS from the web site)

Tendon & Ligament Damage

Another detrimental effect of bodybuilding on muscle function is the decreased ability of the connective tissue to repair and strengthen itself in proportion to the muscles. Due to the reduced nutrient and blood supply, ligaments and tendons can take up to seven times longer than muscle tissue to recover from a single bout of exercise.

“Increases in strength, brought about through muscle hypertrophy without proportionate increases in connective tissue strength, will inevitably lead to tendon and ligament damage” – (Zalessky & Burkhanov, Legkaya Atlitika, 1981).

With both of these situations in mind, surely it’s no coincidence that bodybuilders have the highest injury rate – the most common being muscular tears. Be sensible when it comes to weight training and seek professional advice on what suits you best when it comes to a programme.

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