Fitness Corner: Safety First

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In this latest Fitness Corner, strength coaches Johnny Parker and Duane Carlisle discuss the importance of proper technique and safety in the weightroom.**

When players clash on the gridiron, it's strength versus strength. On each play, power can be seen and critiqued by fans and coaches alike. But when working to make their athletes stronger, strength and conditioning coaches Johnny Parker and Duane Carlisle know that real progress can not be measured by numbers alone.

"It's not how much weight you lift; it's how you lift the weight," Parker said. "Perfect technique is important, not only for results, but for safety."

Technique is taken quite seriously in the 49ers weight room. An injury could doom a player's season and quite possibly his career as well.

"We don't have injuries (in the weight room)," Parker said. "We're not going to have them."

Parker and Carlisle are always present during workouts. They make sure every player is lifting the correct amount of weight while still maintaining good form.

"Players can't graduate to heavier weights until they've mastered technique in lighter weights," said Parker. "That whole theory of 'I'll get it. I'll get it. I'll get it.' No, you have to show me you've got it. I go by what I see not by what I hear."

Coach Parker also makes sure he sees his players following several fundamentals at all times while they are in the weight room. They apply not only to athletes, but to all recreational lifters. They are as follows…

• Warm up. Your core temperature needs to be raised to the point of perspiration.
• Lighter weights to heavier weights
• Always wear a belt for exercises where a lot of tension is involved and in particular, exercises where you're standing.
• Always have at least one spotter.
• Have your shoes tied, especially on exercises where you're standing.
• Once you touch the bar, your total focus is on that.
• A weight room is not a recreational facility.

While these rules are religiously followed by the 49ers, they are not taken as seriously by the general public. Coach Parker says he notices technique and safety mistakes every time he steps into another gym.

"Any time you're out at a gym, most exercises I see are done incorrectly," Parker said. "Obviously, the more complex the lift, the greater the chance it's done incorrectly. Also, the more status that is associated with the lift, the more it's done incorrectly."

Status, according to Parker is engrained into our culture. People want to assess their strength versus another's by comparing benchmarks. This is especially dangerous as it can lead to an individual lifting too much weight and being forced to use improper technique in order to compensate.

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"In Europe, when someone asks 'How much can you press?' they mean how much can you military press, press over your head," Parker said. "In America, it's 'How much can you bench press?' There's status associated with a big number. I almost never see bench press done correctly in the general population."

Most Americans probably don't even know the proper technique of a bench press. There is no reason the lift cannot be done safely however, if one's form is precise.

"Lower the weight to your chest under control," Parker explained of a proper bench press. "Keep your hips flat on the bench. Push the weight over your head without bouncing. Hips have to be flat on the bench without the spotter pulling on the weight. A lot of times I'll see a spotter doing more work than the lifter and the lifter thinks that he got it."

The weight room is a very serious environment. Serious injury can occur, but only with a lack of understanding of the details.

"This is place where professional athletes improve the skills they already have," Parker said. "We are trying to help them have greater capacity to do well on the field."

Those on-field results make the work in the weight room worth the effort, but safety always come first.

Question From a Fan:

Bryan asks: I use one of those scales that calculates mass, water percentage, body fat percentage, and muscle percentage. I know that it can't be completely accurate because the measurements always add up to greater than 100% (i.e. Fat 16-17%, water 50-56%, muscle 40-44%). But I am wondering how accurate are these tools? Is one measurement more accurate than another (i.e. does it predict fact better than muscle)?

Carlisle's response: Based on research, the most accurate methods for determining body fat are hydro-static weighing (under-water weighing) and BOD POD (which we have). Then, the next category is called Futrex, that's the manufacturer. The way they calculate body fat is by using infrared light. Then, the next category would be skin folds. You can go to any health club and get a skin-fold caliper test done.

To have your fitness related question considered, please email Carlisle and/or  Parker at fitnesscorner@niners.nfl.com

Coach Carlisle also has training videos available. Find out more by visiting his own website by clicking here! 

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