Stop Dropping Weights in the Gym. It’s Hurting Your Ability to Fight Cancer.

Each gym has its own expectations, its own vibe, and its own set of unspoken rules. That’s what makes each gym a unique community. And within each community there are different personalities that fill specific roles — like how every class has a class clown or how every family has a rule enforcer. Here are some common gym personalities that you might be familiar with: 

The Hoarder: this fellow likes to surround himself with 5 pairs of dumbbells, 2 benches, 1 barbell and 3 towels. Oh and he’s probably using the squat rack across the room too. 

Motto: “I’m using that…”

The Grunter: you might not see him, but you definitely hear him.

Motto: “I pick things up and I put them down.” 

The Phone Addict: her workout for the day includes - 10 texts, 4 Instagram posts and 1 phone call. 

Motto: *scrolling continuously*

The Talk Show Host: Oh you’re about to hit your set, let me tell you about this new workout that I’m doing. 

Motto: “And then he said…” 

And my personal favorite…

The Weight Dropper: Strong enough to lift the weight up, but never enough to put it down gently. 

Motto: “The floor is my nemesis.” 

If you can not identify someone in your gym that has one of these personalities, chances are it’s probably you. All jokes aside, there is nothing wrong with any of these behaviors. At the end of the day, as long as you are enjoying your time in the gym, we respect that you’re investing time to better your health. That is, unless you’re The Weight Dropper. In that case you might consider changing your lifting approach. 

In a study published in the Journal of Physiotherapy, controlling your weights on the way down, delivered various performance and health related benefits. Participants in the study underwent two training sessions that involved the same exercises — chest press, pull down, leg curl, leg extensions, etc. The first session focused only on the concentric portion of each exercise, which includes the shortening of a muscle group. (e.g., curling a dumbbell up during a bicep curl.) The second session focused on the eccentric portion of an exercise. This includes lowering the weight in a controlled manner during the lengthening of a muscle group. (e.g., slowly controlling and lowering the dumbbell down during a bicep curl.) In other words, it’s the portion of the exercise that you miss out on when you drop the weight. 

It was observed that the eccentric exercise session resulted in higher heart rates and blood lactate levels. Higher heart rates indicate that the exercises were more intense and demanding on the cardiovascular system, while elevated blood lactate levels—responsible for the “burn” that we experience—tells us that it was more taxing on our muscles. Together, these results suggest that eccentric resistance training can offer greater weight loss and disease prevention advantages, as well as valuable stimuli for continued muscle development. 

Perhaps the most interesting result that was reported after the eccentric exercise session was the moderate elevations in blood Tumor Necrosis Factor Alpha (TNFalpha). TNFalpha is a signaling molecule that is produced in our bodies’ immune system as part of its inflammatory response. Now you might think inflammation is bad, but some inflammation is required for our body to fight off illnesses—especially cancer. Cancer involves the uncontrollable growth of our own cells into clumps called tumors. When this happens, it is critical for our immune systems to try to shut these cells down by killing them. One of the ways to accomplish this is initiated by TNFalpha. At moderate levels in a healthy individual, it can mark the tumor cells that need to be  destroyed and recruit the immune system to attack them. In other words, the results in this study suggest that engaging in the eccentric portions of exercises—not dropping weights—can better your body’s ability to prevent cancer. 

If that doesn’t convince you to stop dropping weights, we’re not sure what will. Learning to incorporate eccentric training will not only lead to more intense and effective workouts, but it will also enhance your immune system’s ability to prevent and fight cancer. Honestly, we’re okay with you being The Show Host or The Hoarder in the gym, but for your own sake please don’t be The Weight Dropper. 

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