Off-Topic Spinal compression from barbell training


Level 9 Valued Member
@Antti Just being able to do the basic human movements fluidly and without pain. Maybe great wasn't the right word. Active flexibility for me means being able to control yourself in all ranges of motion. Which I understand requires strength but not 500lb deadlift type strength. I get what you're saying about it being enjoyable but not at the expense of current or future health.

@offwidth I understand what you're saying but will pushing ponderous poundages really enhance your life or sport if it's not powerlifting? Being a climber I'm sure mobility, flexibility and relative strength are paramount?

I think another important topic here is separating proper exercise from recreation or feats of strength. Only the individual can answer that.
Indeed... only the individual can answer that. And yes for me mobility and relative strength are certainly of high importance.
My whole point (well most of it I guess) is that (and I’m repeating myself here...) concern for longevity, current and future health are going to be highly relative to an individual’s perspective. Also repeating something I have quoted many times over on this forum...
Live fast, die young, leave a good looking corpse’

Societal norms for the population that actually trains as we do, are for the most part are going to be more than likely in line with your thoughts. Meaning that many people are going to be more concerned with ‘proper exercise, health, and longevity’

Anna C

Level 9 Valued Member
Elite Certified Instructor
Well, yeah but there is a point of diminishing returns and I think it's a great deal lower than most people realize. How many people have needlessly risked their health in the pursuit of absolute strength?

The point of diminishing returns in terms of "benefit gained for time/effort spent" is one thing. "Risk/Reward" ratio is a different thing - i.e. risk of something detrimental to your health, like injury, from the activity. The "Cost of Adaptation" is yet another thing. Does one automatically give up certain qualities to pursue strength? I don't think so, but it can happen, depending on how one trains.

Personally I would say "there is a point of diminishing returns and I think it's a great deal higher than most people realize"... but as you both said @Adam R Mundorf @offwidth , "only the individual can determine that."


Level 7 Valued Member
To the OP... it's definitely a poison-is-in-the-dose scenario. But, just to put a little color on the argument for back squats; several years ago I went to the "Body Worlds" exhibit (educational exhibit using preserved corpses) when it came to our local museum. I recall clearly seeing one of the corpses who had a noticeably thicker spine than any of the others. Maybe it was just genetic, who knows, but I remember thinking to myself, "I'll bet this dude did his squats."

I don't have any science to point to, but my understanding is that lifting does generally increases bone density. Of course, trading spinal disc health for bone density probably isn't a good trade... perhaps that speaks to one of the points of diminishing returns. But I doubt most of us ever come anywhere close to "maxing out" our bone density (or risking our disc health to do so). And bone density can be one of those things that, when you get older, you wish you spent more time acquiring when you were younger...

kurt perham

Level 4 Valued Member
Well, yeah but there is a point of diminishing returns and I think it's a great deal lower than most people realize. How many people have needlessly risked their health in the pursuit of absolute strength? You don't need to be all that strong to live a long and healthy life. What you do need is great mobility and active flexibility, once strength interferes with that, it's time to call it a day.

I agree, my MO is to make good athletes who are strong, not just strong for the sake of adding poundage. But as a 50yo american male, my barometer of "strong" when compared to my peers, is REALLY weak. So yes I agree, a powerlifter I am not or do i prescribe to my athletes i guide. but a low bar back squat 1 x per week during the non-comp period is not likely going to compress my disc or injury my least not as much as the numerous falls and sports injuries ive had in 30+ years of sport.


Level 6 Valued Member
Certified Instructor
Since starting this thread I have found some good decompressing exercises that I've been doing daily. They seem to help a little. For the record, I never found hanging exercises to be beneficial. I've done lots of hanging over the years, sometimes during group sessions I run, I'll spend some time hanging. I swing the legs side to side to get some lateral movement and I do pelvic tilts. The pain in my back is still there the next day.

The exercises I found helpful involve being almost upside down. I'll post a link if anyone's interested. I've noticed less pain the following mornings. That's a good indication to me!

Steve Freides

Senior Certified Instructor
Elite Certified Instructor
If one must find a place to draw a line for "what's strong enough?" the SFL standards are a good place.

Go to the web site here, click Get Certified, then SFL, then Requirements.

A deadlift single is required: for open age bracket men, double bodyweight (up to 450 lb); for women, one and a half times bodyweight.

For the bench press, one and a quarter times bodyweight for men, and three-quarters bodyweight for women.

The numbers are lower for older folks. But I can manage them at age 65 and expect to continue to be able to manage them for a while longer, "God willing and the creeks don't rise," to quote a Johnny Cash song.

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