How many of you perform an exercise every time you go to the gym that you LOVE to do yet it never feels quite right? Or do you constantly finish your workouts with a nagging irritation in a muscle or joint only to plod on, ignore and push through pain, chalking it up to over use, age or simply adopting the “no pain, no gain” adage? If you are honest, we have all experienced these levels of pain/
discomfort and we have all used these same excuses. The problem is, if we continue to push through and ignore pain, we will eventually cause problems that could lead to a medical intervention. In order to give you a better understanding of what I am trying to describe, let me sum up my thoughts with an analogy called the paperclip effect.
Paperclips come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. You have big ones, small ones, skinny ones, oddly shaped ones, colored ones, plastics ones and metal ones. All of those adjectives for the various types of paperclips living in your desk drawer can also be applied to people. In the gym you have big people, small people, skinny people and people of all shapes and size - just like the types of paperclips in your
Most workouts should include multiple exercises that work your muscles to provide both function and balance. When you perform an exercise, each joint, muscle(s) and the movement pattern itself must be executed correctly. If we don't perform the exercise right, it may start to irritate the muscle/joint and cause pain. Over time, other muscles will start to compensate for the pain/weakness and the next
thing you know, you have bent yourself out of shape, created weak areas and will be on the verge of breaking.
This is very similar to bending a paperclip out of shape to make it fit your specific need. The problem with bending it is that it is no longer in its original form and is now weaker because it’s structural integrity has been compromised. But you bend it again and again until it eventually snaps in two pieces. When strength training, if you continue to do a specific exercise with poor form or exercises that irritate a joint you are bending the paper clip. If you force your body to do something it wasn’t supposed to do long enough then you, too, will break.
Each person, like each paperclip, is different. An injury may not occur right away but most likely, it is just a matter of time before you will be calling your doctor for an appointment. The human body is quite remarkable because when posture fails or a lift becomes too hard, our body automatically compensates to move the weight (just check out the guys bending their backs like rainbows while doing bicep curls). Unfortunately, this only makes us weaker in some areas and more prone to injury in others. If you experience small irritations, pain from exercise, or simply are not seeing the kind of results you are expecting, you could be moving incorrectly. When this happens, quit bending your paperclip and get feedback to ensure the types of exercises you perform are correct for your fitness level, body type, size and shape. Just like the various types of paper clips in your drawer, you are not a one size fits all and your workout shouldn’t be either!