Wolff’s Law: Weightlifting is Good For Your Bones
Written by Kaitlyn Kassis
One of the main criticisms of CrossFit is that it is dangerous and you will get hurt doing it. Skeptics often accuse CrossFit of “causing back injuries,”. They say that the heavy weightlifting of puts your spine at unnecessary risk. However, contrary to the critics’ beliefs, lifting weights— heavy weights— is one of the best things you can do to support your skeleton.
Wolff’s Law essentially means “use it or lose it.” More specifically this law refers to “use it or lose it,” in regards to the skeletal framework of the human body.
Wolff’s Law states that in a healthy individual will adapt to the loads that their body is placed under. If the loading on a particular bone increases, the bone will remodel itself to be stronger in order to support that load.
The inverse (the “lose it”) of this law in true: as loading decreases, bone density will decrease and become weaker due to the lessened stimulus.
Is Weightlifting Good for Your Spine?
Weightlifting puts increased load on the skeleton which leads to the adaptation of stronger bones — i.e. Wolff’s law. These adaptive benefits include the strengthening of the spine. If you put your spine under load it will become stronger.
Increase in strength is beneficial because as you age your discs and vertebrae naturally degenerate. The fluid-filled jelly-donut center of the discs lose water, while the skeletal structure of your vertebrae become weaker.
Specifically what happens is that he cancellous bone (spongy, inner part of the vertebrae) loses its structural integrity while, coticial bone (hard, outer part of the vertebrae) become more porous and brittle. The combination of disc and vertebral degeneration leads to a myriad of back problems — from fractures to disc herniations.
Having a spinal problem is not a matter of IF, but WHEN as you get older if you don’t include weight-bearing exercise into your routine. By weightlifting and putting your spine under load, you can increase your bone density which will increase the length of time you have healthy vertebrae. You can actually slow down the degenerative process through weightlifting, and decrease the risk of compression fractures from osteoporosis.
Proper Weightlifting for Spinal Strength
Although lifting weights is good for your bones, poor movement patterns are not. It is important to understand that putting your spine under load is incredibly beneficial, given you have adequate mobility and correct movement mechanics. Lifting weights does not cause injuries, improper movement patterns do.
Always ensure you are moving safely before increasing the load you are lifting. Create the proper foundation through mobility and bodyweight movements, and increase the load once you have mastered the basics.
Tips for Basic Weightlifting Exercises
Check out this article on the proper deadlift set-up position and this one on the deadlift pull from the knees to the hips. If you love to squat, here is a drill you should master before you begin adding load – Squat Therapy. Use it as a warm-up, activation drill, and as a prescription for the cure to your squatting woes.
Doing things properly and progressively will ensure your longevity in CrossFit as well as the longevity of your spine health.