4 Terrible Side Effects of Lifting

Posted: September 13, 2015 in General Fitness
Tags: , ,

This is an old post I started and didn’t finish awhile back. At the time I had recentrly read a cracked article: The 5 Most Terrifying Side Effects of Exercise. I was looking forward to a humorous take on some of the scary or just unpleasant things that cane come with exercise. I was disappointed though that almost everything on the list was specific to endurance activities, not lifting and so I decided I would make my own list of the “terrifying side effects” of lifting.

This isn’t really based on any significant research, just some things I’ve either personally experienced or read about.

Also a disclaimer: a lot of comments on the cracked article complained about how it made exercise sound worse than it is, and these things don’t happen to all people, and suggesting this would make people not want to exercise. I think that’s just kind of stupid. There ARE unpleasant things that can happen with exercise. And honestly, I feel like the folks most inclined to appreciate that they exist are the people who engage in those activities. Thus why I was disappointed that most of the cracked article’s side effects weren’t related to lifting, as someone who lifts.

I love lifting, there are so many reasons to do it, and so many positive effects that come with it, and I have posted about them and I will continue to, but this post is related to the negative stuff.

Last disclaimer- I’m not a comedian or comedy writer so don’t expect this to be super funny.

1. Acne

I went with “terrible” instead of “terrifying” for my list because some of the first ones that comes to mind for me are more annoying and frustrating than terrifying.

And the very first thing that comes to mind for me is acne. I’ve had acne since puberty, but it’s gotten a lot better since then. It’s never totally gone away and been a non-issue but as an adult watching what I eat (because I know sugar can cause breakouts for me), I would get occasional break outs, but never too bad and not all the time. Until I started lifting that is. I was not expecting that! Here I am, doing something really healthy, that has all these awesome benefits for my body… and then it sends me back to having constant, more severe, breakouts? Not fair!

Took me awhile to put it together. I ended up looking up info about this and it is indeed a thing. There seem to be a few factors. First off directly lifting weights increases testosterone, which can cause acne. While an issue for both genders from my google research, it seems like it tends to be more often an issue for women. Or we just talk about it more? But it certainly makes sense that the effects of testosterone would vary a bit by sex. I’ve also noticed anecdotally that men seem to mention body acne as a side effect whereas women seem to mention breakouts on our faces. Which is consistent to my experience, my breakouts are typically restricted to my face.

There also seems to be some indirect ways that it can increase breakouts. One of those being diet. According to websites I found googling this, dairy products including whey protein can increase breakouts- and when taking up lifting I also increased these in my diet.

Of course I’ve also found that even eating the same when I didn’t lift for awhile my face cleared up a lot more, so definitely lifting seems to be having an effect in and of itself.

Of course there are also other factors as well, like wearing makeup while working out can increase clogged pores. I’m a lot more cautious now to remove any foundation and concealer before working out and washing my face immediately after a workout, not that this has completely solved the problem, but it certainly helps.

2. More Facial Hair

This one is specific to women. Remember how I mentioned above that weight lifting increases testosterone levels? Well, there are a lot of side effects that can cause, including more facial hair for women. My source this is mostly anecdotal- I’ve seen a number of women report more unwanted hair after taking up lifting due to hormonal changes. And noticed it myself. I’m told this can also be an effect of aging, though it seems  quite a coincidence that this aspect of getting older for me has coincided so specifically with when I started lifting heavy.

3. Stress Incontinence

This is another specific to women as far as I know. And to be fair, this is not at all caused by lifting so much as possible to experience during lifting- even for women who have never experienced other forms of stress incontinence. Stress incontinence is “leaking” urine during certain activities that can include sneezing, coughing, or exercise. While typically the assumed cause is weak pelvic floor muscles this isn’t necessarily the case, and a woman who never “leaks” when coughing, sneezing, running, or jumping, may still find that she does during a heavy lift. And the solution isn’t always as simple as doing kegel exercises. 

From the linked article Ann Wendel explains some of the causes for urinary incontinence when lifting heavy:

  • The muscles of the pelvic floor may be weak from being stretched during vaginal delivery or even from the weight of the baby during pregnancy. They may also be weak due to postural habits (standing with a posterior pelvic tilt) and lack of exercise.
  • The muscles may be hypertonic (overactive) and unable to relax, which decreases the strength of the contraction when they do fire. So they are overactive, but weak.
  • The pelvic floor muscles may be overactive but strong; yet, the client has stronger abdominal, back, diaphragm and glottis (voicebox) muscles. Women who leak while lifting a heavy load may be in this category — holding their breath leads to a rigid thorax, yet they can’t contain all of the pressure, so they either grunt/yell, leak urine, or sustain an abdominal hernia or herniated spinal disc. The pressure escapes the system through the weakest link. (For more on this topic, check out this post from Physio Detective on pelvic floor dysfunction.)
  • The pelvic floor may have been damaged (think episiotomy, forceps, vacuum extraction of baby, cancer/radiation) and the scar tissue affects the ability for the muscles to contract properly.

So even with strong pelvic floor muscles, a woman can still experience this during heavy lifting. Though certainly it’s better than an abdominal hernia or herniated spinal disc!

4.  Serious Injury

Ok, so the previous item references risks of abdominal hernia or a herniated spinal disc which are clearly much more serious than anything else I mentioned!

Using basic safety measures lifting heavy is actually relatively safe, but there is always a risk of accidents and injury and adding large amount of weight to the mix can increase the danger. In 2014 a crossfit athlete was paralyzed when he failed a snatch and the dropped barbell bounced back up and hit him in the back. Depending who one asks this was either a freak accident or something that could have been prevented with a safer platform. I’m unqualified to make any judgement on that.

However, risks can be reduced through proper form, not trying to lift heavier than what you can safely manage, having a spotter or a power cage or squat rack set up to catch a barbell, and knowing how to safely drop the weight. Since I workout alone at home without a spotter my power rack is incredibly important to me for lifting heavy. I do my bench press in the power rack with bars on the side that will catch the barbell if I were to drop it so it doesn’t fall on me. I’ve failed reps on bench before with no injury because I have those bars there to catch the barbell. Lifting alone at home makes it harder to get feedback on proper form vs form that puts you at risk for an injury, but with the internet it is possible to record lifts and get feedback on them from people online which is great.

  1. G says:

    I leak occasionally and I’m nursing an injured back… so I’m feelin these 🙂 It does seem like all the women I know are growing new hairs as they get older, lifter or no….

    • ebay313 says:

      Have you tried anything for the leaking? I started having an issue with it, and I’ve found that luna beads help- especially wearing them during my workouts has helped to specifically strengthen those muscles for those movements. Though I haven’t heard anyone else recommend this, but it’s helped me.

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