There are a lot of misconceptions in the world of bodybuilding. We’ve all heard weekend warriors and couch potato claims “I could do that if I wanted to” and “If I used steroids I’d be that big too”. For those who actually are competitive bodybuilders, these statements are just something that comes with the territory.
Bodybuilders understand that the sport is far more than just lifting weights. A masterful amount of self-discipline, preparation, training and research goes into molding the human body into an amazing example of art and perfection. It’s not as simple as just spending more time in the gym than the other competitors. In fact, spending too much time and limiting recovery time can be detrimental.
Bodybuilding requires a massive amount of lifting while maintaining optimal balance. It is essential to allow the muscle the proper time to recover. As well as stressing all the muscles equally to create symmetrical muscle growth on both sides of the body. No one is winning any competitions with a great physique on just the right side of their body. More to the point, you put yourself at great risk of injury when you are unbalanced.
I had the distinct pleasure of being able to hear Lou Ferrigno speak in person to hundreds of future chiropractors. My first thought was that he was just a celebrity that came in to talk to us at the expense of raising tuition and attracting more students. I was very wrong. Lou Ferrigno is a big proponent of chiropractic. He described that he utilizes chiropractic because he understands that chiropractors are very focused on proper form.
A chiropractor treats the spine and body to correct any spinal shift away from the normal ideal spinal structure which is essential for bodybuilders. If your spine is unbalanced you WILL have improper technique. This is not an opinion it is a fact. If the foundation (spine) that the muscle attaches to is not level then it is practically impossible for you to equally stress the muscles on both sides of the body.
Ferrigno said something that really stuck with me. “The greatest lesson I learned for myself is connecting the mind to the muscle, to the body”. He went on to describe how many people will do a lot of repetitions without really being connected and, as a result, they end up getting injured. Remember balance is the key. You can’t just add more reps than everyone else and expect to be the biggest or the best. Don’t fall into the same mentality that the rest of the general public has. Working harder isn’t enough. You have to work smarter too.
In this modern world, the trend is to take shortcuts. More specifically, we take chemical shortcuts. Whether it be cough meds or cocaine, the U.S. is highly medicated. We want to feel better and perform better now, often despite significant risks. This is just as true, if not more so, with building muscle. Everyone knows the most popular form of chemical assistance for weight lifting is steroids. It’s so well-known and so common that virtually everyone assumes all successful athletes are taking them. Sadly they may be right.
While I don’t advocate drug use, I also don’t think we should have the right to tell anyone what they should or should not put in their body. Ultimately, you can take all the drugs you want. However, you will never be able to correct the foundation of your body with a pill, a shot, or surgery. This is where chiropractic is essential. Working harder and using performance enhancing drugs still, can’t compete with chiropractic. No, I am not suggesting that going to a chiropractor will improve your muscle gains beyond that of steroid use. The bottom line is that it doesn’t matter how many drugs or hormones you take to build bigger muscle you still have to have a solid and balanced foundation.
Using steroids alone increases your chance of injury. Using them with abnormal shifts in your spine is a recipe for disaster. Over two thousand retired NFL players were anonymously surveyed finding that 21 percent of those who used the drugs said they’d suffered herniated discs, compared to 10 percent of players who didn’t take them. Why is that? It can easily be argued that, while the players were bigger and stronger they were not healthier or more athletic. Meaning, they only focused on increasing muscle mass despite the need for balance. Chiropractic is essential for this process. Both athletes who use both legal and illegal supplementation put themselves at greater risk if they do not first have a chiropractor addressing any potential imbalances.
When there is a spinal shift, the muscles on one side of the body are more stressed and have to work harder than the other side. Often the directions of force by two separate limbs have to move the weight in more opposing directions instead of working together. Think back to high school physics. Remember vectors? A vector is an arrow that represents both direction and magnitude. Ideally, on a bench press or squat your arms are pushing away from your body with the simultaneous amount of force in the exact same direction. If the bench was slanted to the side you might find this very difficult. You’d be wise to find a new bench or fix the bench if this was the case because you’re putting yourself at risk for injury.
The bench is the foundation that you rest your back on to be able to perform the exercise. Take it one step further and imagine that your back or ribs or shoulders are not balanced and equal in their structure on both sides. It’s not only possible but very common for people to have one side of their rib cage, which attaches to your spine, rotated so that one side sticks out farther than the other. Whether it’s the bench or ribs and spine you run the risk of potential injury while lifting with an unlevel foundation. You may be able to avoid injury for a while but it is often only a matter of time. At the very least you’re not getting the maximum potential out of your workout.
The problem is that unless you have someone else taking pictures of your form and posture you cannot see yourself from a third party perspective. It’s much easier to see the bench being unlevel than it is to see your torso rotated. You’re looking from the outside in. Another issue is that it is possible to have literally millions of different combinations of postural shifts that are very hard for most chiropractors to pick up on. This is why it is extremely important to be evaluated by a chiropractor that is structurally focused.
This is different than traditional chiropractic which is often just going to focus on using chiropractic adjustments. Which helps to improve joint mobility while treating pain and symptoms. Traditional chiropractic is not bad but for a bodybuilder without pain, it is imperative that you find a chiropractor who is going to use x-rays before and after to determine the course of treatment necessary to correct any spinal shifts. Your chiropractor obviously cannot do this if their treatment success is based on a resolution of symptoms and not an improvement in comparing objective x-ray results.
Speaking on chiropractic, Arnold Schwarzenegger stated, “It’s not even an option, it’s a necessity to have a chiropractor.” He wasn’t even speaking specifically to bodybuilders but to the public as a whole. He went on to say “As much as it is a necessity to have a dentist if you have a dentist for the family you should have a chiropractor for the family.” Something that is so valuable for overall health it clearly is essential for those who want to perform at a higher level physically. Every bodybuilder understands the importance of diet and exercise. You cannot just lift without disciplined eating or vice versa.
Bodybuilders take the essentials of basic human health and take them a step further to create them a step further to both lose fat and gain muscle in a big way. Ignoring a key component of human health, your spine and nervous system, out of the bodybuilding equation is only going to slow you down.
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