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Are Lifting Heavy Weights Bad For You?

A T-Nation reader has read that lifting heavy weights can have a negative effect on ones arteries. The poster says:

I recently read in an article on strength training that lifting heavy weights has a detrimental impact on arterial compliance, thus increasing the risk of heart disease. Is this true?

Some pretty emphatic responses are found in the thread. Many question the study which the article was based upon:

Arterial compliance? Does this mean the article is implying that heavy lifting constricts blood vessles directly leading to heart disease? I am calling bullshit and would love to see the article and the studies they pulled this from. Increased muscle size leads to an increase in blood proliferation and even new blood channels to support the growing muscle. If anything negatively effects "arterial compliance" it is obesity and the massive extra pounds of lard sucking up the individual's blood supply as they waddle down the grocery store aisle in search of cream filled goodies while wearing a qradruple XL mumu and house slippers.

Heavy lifting is a temporary act that results in adaptation by the body to better perform the exercise later. I would love to know how they would even relate the act to heart disease considering the time it takes to form heart disease and the many other factors that contribute to it including AGE.

It sounds like great news for sedentary people who are looking for some reason to call working out "bad". Please, post the source and the references.

The only detrimental "impact" on you arteries that I could imagine is if you drop them on yourself. Yes, that could damage your arteries.

There may be some truth to this, I have read also where heavy lifting exacts a certain toll on the heart and the vessels leading to it. I think that is why creatine was such a huge discovery for the supplement world years ago, because it`s funtion is to aid in muscle function and workload, which includes the heart. I use the combo of creatine and nitric oxide, which for all intents and purposes does just that, it aids in the ability to increase workload{weighttraining), and it helps to open the blood vessels going to and from the heart, to aid in circulation, which also protects the heart itself.

Ha ha..every now and then you read stuff like this.

The doctors told Jack Lalane that he better quit lifting weights or something bad would happen to him. That was exactly 74 years ago...he's still waiting.

I've been training for about 35 years with weights and I bet I can out run and out lift the dufus who wrote that article...

"Arterial compliance"...WHAT A CROCK OF CRAP!

I also read about it... I think they refer to the decreased arterial compliance as a product of increased calcium deposition on the vessel walls (which is known to happen as we age). Theory is when you lift heavy loads blood vessels(especially the ascending aorta) feel an impact of a transient elevated blood pressure. The body compensates by making the vessl walls stronger to protect against rupture. Thing is a calcified, less compliant, aorta is bad for you in the long run since it will increase the afterload that you heart experiences.

I just talked to one of the older surgeons here who I trust as far as general knowledge and he thinks the idea is mostly bogus due to arterial breakdown due to injury and age. It would be extremely hard to make a direct correlation between "arterial complience" being decreased by weight lifting and leading directly to heart disease.

It also causes tumours. I have two big ass tumours, one on each side of my neck, caused by doing shrugs and power cleans. I think the doctor refered to them as the dreaded "Trap Tumours".

Apparently, the main side effects are finding shirts that fit you properly and weird looks from soy-boys.



Two studies showing that weight training increases arterial stiffness.

Now it should be noted that in the first study they only compared19 weightlifters to 19 healthy but sedentary men. No training was involved, nor any investigation into their diets. Just having them come in and be measured. They didn't even check to see whether they were curling in the squat racks or not.

The second also found arterial stiffening that returned to normal after detraining. This time they did train the people, and they were told not to do any training outside of the control gym. Again no aerobic training, just 3 days a week of 3 sets of 8-12 reps with 2 minute rest periods. (Cressey has referred to this study in his cardio confusion article.)


This is an abstract, (because I am to damned cheap to pay for access to the journal,) showing arterial compliance was unaltered after 12 weeks of weight training. They resistance trained 5 days a week using a 3 day rotating split body routine.

1.)scientific studies are VERY important in the medical field. Evidence based medicine is constantly evolving, and without the research the field does not advance.

2.) Evidently, even the results of these studies are debatable. Science ALWAYS has forefront areas that are highly debatable.

3.) Even if those outcome measures (i.e arterial compliance) do change with weight training, does this lead to pathological changes? For instance a distance runner may have a resting heart rate in the 30's due to physiologic compensation, while a person with 2nd degree Mobitz type II may have a heart rate in the 30's due to pathologic heart block. The outcome measure (heart rate) is the same; however, in one you have a healthy physiologic compensation, while in the other you have a pathologic (unhealthy) cardiac phenomenon.

4.) Pointing out that Jack Lalane (sp?) is still in great health is NOT valid reasoning to argue that weightlifting is healthy. I can always point out that my 'Uncle Marty' smoked 2 packs of cigs/day and didn't die until he was 90. Does this mean that smoking is healthy? A single ocurrence of a phenomenon may be an outlier. That is why scientific studies are conducted with populations.

Do not let these studies deter you from lifting weights.

On the surface, decreased aortic compliance seems detrimental, and to an untrained person this is true. However, weight trained athletes aren't normal anymore physiologically, and I'll just bet that this physiological change is positive for weight trainers. This isn't the only instance scientists have been guilty of this. Recall excess protein consumption being "bad for the kidneys", based not on athletes physical requirements, but patients who have renal dysfunction.