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Benefits of Weightlifting for Increasing Bone Density

Bone density is a measure of the strength and robustness of bones. Maintaining healthy bone density is essential for avoiding osteoporosis and fractures later in life. Exercise, specifically weightlifting, has been shown to have a significant positive impact on bone density, especially in women approaching menopause. Osteoporosis is a serious risk factor to start combatting as early as possible, and resistance training is the key to maintaining as much bone mineral density as possible throughout the aging process. Strength training can come in many forms, but the most important part is starting and staying consistent!

At menopause the normal bone turnover cycle is impaired by estrogen deficiency. This may be due to the presence of estrogen receptors in osteoclast progenitor cells and multi-nucleated osteoclasts. The osteoclastic resorption activity increases while the osteoblastic activity decreases. As a result, the amount of bone resorbed exceeds the amount deposited, which leads to a net loss of bone.
PMID: 29062981

Other than combating osteoporosis, there are several other important reasons why strength training to improve bone density is an important goal, such as, improving resiliency to impact injuries, improving balance and posture, and improving mobility. There are several modalities to strength training, and, as mentioned earlier, the most important aspect when choosing is selecting something you will stay consistent with. Oftentimes, a combination of several different training modalities and styles is what creates the most effective training programs. Today, we want to specifically highlight the benefits of weightlifting-based resistance training.

One thing we want to highlight early on is that even though improving bone density is commonly associated with the older population, this blog is just useful for younger people, too. The best way to eliminate worry about bone disease being an issue later in life is to be proactive about this aspect of health early on. Being active in sports at a young age and learning the fundamentals of safe strength training is extremely important. Using your young adult years to build up as much lean muscle and bone density you can is the best way to prevent rapid deterioration with age.

Barbell weightlifting is an effective way to increase bone density. This type of weightlifting consists of several compound lifts: the snatch, clean and jerk, squat, deadlift, bench press, overhead press, rows for starters. These lifts require the use of large muscle groups and vary between explosive, dynamic movements, and slow and controlled movements. This combination of strength and power puts significant stress on bones, which in turn stimulates bone growth. It's important to prioritize compound movements when your goal is to increase strength, bone density, and muscle mass. A compound movement is something that is multi-jointed and incorporates large muscle groups. An example of a compound movement compared to an isolation exercise would be a pull-up versus a bicep curl. The pull-up recruits large muscle groups in the back and arms and incorporates movements at the elbow and shoulder joints, while a bicep curl only works the biceps muscles and the movement at the elbow joint.

The Snatch and the Clean & Jerk both make up the Olympic lifts. One of the key benefits of Olympic weightlifting for bone health is improved power. This is because the explosive nature of these lifts requires a lot of force to be generated quickly. This force stimulates the bones, promoting the growth of new bone tissue. Additionally, the speed and power of these movements also helps to build resilience in the bones. Bones that are more resilient are less likely to fracture when subjected to sudden impacts or loads. The athletic high speed nature of these movements also make them great candidates for improving balance and coordination, too.

In order to get the most benefit from Olympic Weightlifting it is very important to have great technique and work within your capabilities; otherwise, you could be at risk for injury. Work with an expert to ensure your technique and progress is monitored and safe!

The Squat, Bench Press, and Deadlift make up the powerlifting movements. These are much slower exercises by nature, but allow you to focus on controlled ranges of motion under heavier loads. The distinguishing difference between strength and power is velocity (fast = power, slow = strength). When looking to optimize bone health and muscle mass gain, it is important to incorporate both power and strength into your program. Movements like the Olympic lifts detailed prior are great for developing athleticism, reaction time, and balance. The slow speed and higher force strength movements are great for developing muscle mass and stimulating bone growth. With age muscle mass naturally decreases. Weightlifting and strength training is the best way to slow the rate of degradation of both muscle and bone cells.

The greatest skeletal benefits from [resistance exercise] have been achieved when the resistance was progressively increased over time, the magnitude of mechanical load was high (around 80% to 85% one Rep Max), exercise was performed at least twice a week, and large muscles crossing the hip and spine were targeted.
PMID: 30513557

By promoting the growth of new bone tissue and improving the power and resiliency of bones, weightlifting can help to prevent osteoporosis and fractures later in life. If you're looking to improve your bone health, incorporating weightlifting into your fitness routine is a great place to start. With that being said, start as early as possible rather than waiting until life makes it harder. If you're looking for help with getting started with a strength training program, schedule a consultation with the Mach 1 Barbell coaches today!


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