Weightlifting and Bone Density

The conventional wisdom of health and fitness tells us that weight training and specifically weightlifting is bad for your bones. We look at bodybuilders of yesteryear or perhaps football players who lifted a ton of weights and how tough it is for them to move around. They have all endured countless orthopedic surgeries and they constantly complain of aches in their bones. Human beings have many biases in our minds. We constantly look for a reason to associate an outcome with and in this case the common denominator is weight training. “That’s it!” We think. Surely, it can’t be the constant pounding football players take for roughly 20 years of their lives. Surely, the bodybuilders were all not using performance enhancing drugs that allowed their muscles to grow but not their connective tissue. Surely, that’s not what did it.

If you could see my face right now…well, it’s basically this:

No, weight training is not the culprit here. It is, in fact, the saving grace for many people who have suffered through severe problems with their bones.

I recently read an article about a 67-year-old woman named Barb Brady who discovered CrossFit. She had suffered through a spinal fracture of her 8th thoracic vertebra in 2015 and had been diagnosed with osteoporosis in 2014. Her husband, Mike, also had some health issues that he had to deal with; his blood pressure was high and his doctors were concerned with his cholesterol levels. They both decided it was time for change so they walked into CrossFit Flagstaff in Arizona. After just 10 months, Mike’s blood pressure had normalized to a consistent 120/80 and Barb saw even greater results. “In a bone mineral-density test, a T-score between -1 and -2.5 indicates osteopenia, or low bone density. A score of -2.5 or lower means osteoporosis. Before CrossFit, Barb’s T-score was -2.4; today, it’s -1.6, just six-tenths below normal.” (https://journal.crossfit.com/article/bradys-beers-2)

There have been numerous studies done to show that weight training can consistently improve bone density in human beings. What’s the reason for it? There’s plenty of hypotheses, so here’s mine:

When you weight train, your body doesn’t know that you’re weight training, it simply knows that there’s a significant load being placed on your tissue, as well as your bones. A signal is sent from your bones and muscles to your brain saying, “there’s this load on me and I need you to make more muscle and stronger bones to deal with it.

So, as long as you’re loading up your skeletal tissue you will see improvements in bone density.


If you’re where Barb was or you’re walking in some similar shoes, and you’re ready to make a change, schedule a no-sweat intro with us. If you have other questions, email me at jobie@crossfitvirilis.com.