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Rachel Straub has a B.A. in Chemistry from Carnegie Mellon, as well as Masters degrees in Exercise Physiology, Nutritional Sciences and Biokinesiology with a focus on Biomechanics. She is certified as a Strength and Conditioning specialist and coauthor of scientific papers published in the American Journal of Sports Medicine in the fields of Biomechanics, Sports Medicine, Nutrition and Computational Chemistry. Her papers have been published in multiple journals including the Journal of Strength; Conditioning Research; Nutritional Research; Electromyography; Kinesiology; and Nutritional Psychology. She is the coauthor of Weight Training Without Injury.
How did you come to write the book?
I met my coauthor Fred Stellabotte in high school because I was having postural issues and was advised to start weight training. Fred's knowledge was enthralling so I ended up studying biomechanics, etc. in college, and his main focus was injury prevention. We just continued working together afterwards. The book is mostly about preventing injuries because so many people hurt themselves in the gym or lifting weights.
Is weight training something an older person can do?
Weight training is essential for mobility and maintaining strength, especially as you age. It's recommended that everyone weight train at least 2 days per week. The problem is most people are afraid of it if you don't know how to do it properly. It's about learning basic moves on how to do them properly, which is what the book teaches you—the fundamentals, whether you're wanting to do it in the gym or at home. You can apply these principles to any activity.
It's normal when people get out of shape or haven't worked out in a while to become motivated in the beginning to join a class like CrossFit or something to jumpstart their efforts. But there's recent research that shows 2/3 of adults who join CrossFit get hurt, and the reason is it's advanced—advanced movements that beginners don't realize they don't know they don't have the ability to do and they get hurt. Your injury risk skyrockets if you don't learn what you should and shouldn't be doing and when to say no. Just because you're in a class with a trainer doesn't mean you're immune from injury.
Certifications for personal trainers are not all the same and that's why it's important to educate yourself. Just because you're getting your heart rate up and you leave feeling energized doesn't mean you're doing everything right at the gym.
The book has over 350 pictures demonstrating proper techniques to help you design a weight training program for yourself, then we focus on each of the main body parts. Next we have key points for safe and effective exercise from head to toe, explaining what is right and what is wrong. Learning proper technique is our purpose here. We start with squats, then lunges, then bench press and chest fly, for example. You have to understand the basic principles of everything before you can apply the techniques to different types of exercise equipment—and there are new developments in exercise machines every year. Basic positioning of your body with exery exercise is key, whether you're using weights or not.
Are there exercises we should never do?
We show lap pulldowns for example—you should never do any exercises behind the neck and we explain why you shouldn't be doing them. Roman benches (where people do extensions for their back)—you can blow up a herniated disc within minutes. Dead lifts: those are really for highly trained professionals only. You only should be doing exercises that you can do properly. There are exercises some people cannot do properly, and there are other exercises you should never do, like behind the neck pull-downs.
How do you explain exercising or weight training to someone who's older or out of shape or generally unhealthy?
Everyone has their own challenges but it's basically learning movement patterns and gradually increasing the intensity. Even if you're not well it's about maintaining mobility, which prevents you from suffering from aches and pains or postural illness. The book teaches movements that keep you moving, even if you're not using weight. It's really essential for long-term health. If you're doing the movements properly you're getting the full range of motion. The goal is to be healthy, maintain mobility, not get injured, and be free from aches and pains.
As you get older your injuries occur because you don't have a range of motion.
But you typically can't get a full range of motion if you're using heavy weights. Both factors are essential.
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