Let me cut to the chase, and explain when and why size DOES matter…in the context of strength training and lift mechanics. Let’s start with an example:
If I were to give you a 10 pound weight in the shape of a softball, most of us can lift it to our chest with perhaps 1 hand fairly easily. If I were to give you the same 10 pound ball in the size of a large beach ball, it would be a different kind of lifting experience, and would likely require both hands, and some form of leg and hip mechanics to lift up. And if I gave you that same 10 pound weight in the shape of a 2 person couch, it would absolutely change the way you lift and subsequently carry that weight.
It’s the same weight, different mechanics…why?
When lifting an object, the larger the size of the object, the farther the object’s central weight is from YOUR center of gravity. This phenomenon is equivalent to increasing the distance of a lever arm from a fulcrum point, which is why you can lift large and heavy objects at the end of a “see-saw” lever with this modification.
Our bodies function in the gravitational world by using tendons, muscles, and bones around the joints which act like fulcrum points throughout the body. As we lift and carry loads, the body’s internal mechanics are required to adapt in order to successfully balance it’s center of gravity according to the amount of weight AND the size of the object we are carrying.
When is 10 pounds not equal to 10 pounds?
The human head is nearly 10 pounds, and in this example, can have the effect of 15-20 pounds on your body. Here’s how…
Remember that weighted softball in the first example? That same weight has a different mechanical influence on your body the further away you hold it from the body. How long do you think you can hold that 10 pound ball in 1 hand with your arm extended away from your center of gravity? Not long, and if you tried, muscles of the shoulder and the midback start to burn and strain. Over time your lower back will get tired! This is the effect of your head on your spine as you slouch or carry it’s weight further from your center.
Muscle fatigue is the primary cause for head and neck slouching. Habit and muscle memory is another cause. At the end of the day, as the head projects further forward, the effect on neck muscles and spinal joints become more and more significant. Chronic tension due to poor posture causes joints to become inflamed, muscles to spasm, and pain to become prominent. Repetitive sequence of poor posture also triggers early degenerative changes in the joints, causing osteoarthritis over time unless it is corrected.
Whenever you are carrying or lifting a weight, be mindful of the size of the object. Light objects with awkward shapes demand different, and therefore more strenuous, amounts of work and stress on the body. This is one of the main reasons why I believe in strength and conditioning development for non-athletes at any age. Stay strong, stay flexible, and stay balanced whenever you lift and carry, and don’t forget that size…does matter!
Dr. Adrian Pujayana has been providing drug-free solutions for health and wellness to adults, athletes, and youth since 2000 through his private practice at Family Chiropractic Center of South Pasadena, a place for strength training and nutrition based health care.