Since we first published our blog on building bone density with serious weight lifting, we’ve been bombarded with questions. In particular, everyone wants to know how our client Cindi managed to increase her bone density in the neck of the hip by over 20% and the spine by over 5%. I promised I’d give you the details on her story, so here it is.
Point # 1: Cindi’s Background
- Cindi was a lifelong exerciser who paid good attention to her diet and lived a very healthy lifestyle.
- Even before coming to work with us at the Center for Better Bones she had a serious, long term exercise program.
- For decades, she enjoyed a regular exercise program combining muscle conditioning exercises, cardio, and yoga.
- Cindi also used low dose hormone replacement therapy since menopause.
- When she came to see us in April 2016, she had a low vitamin D level at 29ng/ml. Her weight was 116 lbs.
- With this exercise program, lifestyle, and estrogen, her bone density tests showed generalized stability from ages 55 to 62.
- Then, between the ages of 62 and 65, she lost a significant amount of bone. She lost 3.2% bone density in the spine, 18% in the neck of the hip, and 14% in the total hip.
- Not believing that she could have lost this much bone, Cindi herself paid for a second bone density test two months later, to find out that she indeed had lost that much bone density.
- So at 65, she was diagnosed with osteoporosis of the neck of the hip (T-2.9), osteoporosis of the total hip (T-2.6), and osteoporosis of the spine (T-2.6). After doing the complete Better Bones, Better Body program and doing her serious strength training for 1.5 years, she no longer had osteoporosis, her T scores were all in the osteopenic range.
- It is also worth mentioning that Cindi had a great deal of support from her family physician who was willing to order all the appropriate tests to look for any hidden causes of this rapid bone loss.
Cindi’s bone density loss between the age of 62 and 65
|Spine||Neck of Hip||Total Hip|
Point #2: Cindi’s decision for building bone density
Cindi had regular bone density test and the bone was quite stable but at age 65, she suddenly found that she lost a significant amount of bone.
Being quite attentive to her health, Cindi was alarmed at this accelerated bone loss. She became further concerned when her endocrinologist told her the solution was, “ to gain 10 pounds and go on a bone drug.” Cindi really didn’t see herself either doing a bone drug or gaining 10lbs, so she set out to learn all she could about how to naturally build back her bone density. One of the first things she did was to make an appointment with D. Brown at the Center for Better Bones.
“I went to the Center for Better Bones because they offered a comprehensive program. They evaluated my diet and prescribed a vitamin and mineral regime. My vitamin D and calcium was tested twice a year to ensure I maintained the correct levels. I learned about and adopted an alkaline diet. Dr. Brown offered a well researched plan, education and a helpful and supportive staff.” — Cindi
- Cindi also discussed her rapid bone loss with her son, a professional CrossFit and Olympic weight trainer, who suggested she began serious weight lifting.
- While she was intrigued by her son’s suggestion, she was concerned that she might injure herself. Doing online research Cindi discovered the Australian Bone Clinic where older women were gaining significant bone density lifting heavy weights with any injury.
- Assured that she could develop a safe weightlifting program, she began her “technical weight lifting program” soliciting the supervision of her son and other trainers at her local gym.
A year and a half after beginning her weight lifting program, Cindi spoke with Lisa Weiss, one of the Australian Bone Clinic’s founders. Lisa told Cindi they recommend people only do the such weight lifting programs under their supervision. Cindi had read in their Women’s LIFTMOR Trial Study that they perform 5-7 different tests to assess safety while training their clients. Lisa Weiss said without such supervision and testing she would wonder about the possible development of horizontal fractures. Cindi thought that was referencing the spine. She did not know what that meant and feels it is important to find out about that and the tests. Cindy did her weight training program without thoroughly understanding this information. She feels it is important to know more about this to feel a “technical weight lifting program” is actually safe for women with compromised bone density.
While not fully understanding the reference to “horizontal fractures”, Cindi took from the conversation an appreciation of the importance of knowing how and what to test for safety as one develops their weight lifting program. Cindi did her weight training program without benefits of specific testing for safety and looking back she sees the importance of such individualized testing so women can be assured their “technical weight lifting program” is safe given their compromised bone density.
Point # 3: Cindi’s whole body approach
- First let’s be clear, Cindi did not only do the serious weight lifting, but Cindi carried out every part of the Better Bones Program in a very disciplined fashion.
- For example, she followed our nutritional supplement suggestions, alkalized her body chemistry, reduced stress, meditated, and she was committed to maintaining a positive perspective on her challenge.
- While undertaking her new technical weight lifting program she also continued her former exercise program.
- The characteristics her technical weightlifting program were that it was progressive, meaning she started with low weights and worked up over time to higher weights.
- Another characteristic was that she spent a great deal of time and effort learning the proper form of each lift so she would not get injured. All in all, she was very disciplined, and consistent with her program, and she had proper supervision with her weightlifting program.
So what exactly was Cindi’s serious weightlifting program which she did diligently for 1.5 years before the follow up bone density?
|Exercise||Frequency||Reps/ Sets||Starting Weight||Weight worked up to|
|Romanian Deadlift||1x/ week||10 reps, 3 sets||45lbs||110lbs- 5 reps/5 sets|
135lbs-1 rep maximum
|Conventional Deadlift||1x/week||10 reps, 3 sets- working up in weight each set||45 lbs||110lbs, 5 reps/5 sets|
135lbs, 1 rep maximum
|Back Squat||1x/week||10 reps, 3 sets||45lbs||95lbs- 5 reps/5 sets|
|Farmer Carry||2-3x/ week||0.1-0.2 mile||20lbs in each hand||30lbs in each hand|
|Suitcase Carry||2-3x/week||0.1-0.2 mile||20lbs||30lbs|
|Back Extension||3x/week||15 reps||0lbs||15lbs/15 reps/1 set|
It is important to note that this is Cindi’s weight training program, designed for her particular needs. Each client should develop their own program with a trainer that is specific to them.
Want to know more about these exercises? Join our Better Bones Exercise Evolution and see these described in detail! (Available Thursday 2/14)
What do you think? Interested in adding serious weight lifting to your program for building bone density? The first step is to talk to your health care practitioner to understand what kind of exercise and the amount is right for you. When choosing an exercise program or exercise class, find one the caters to women with bone density issues taught by a qualified trainer.
I want to know how you do so please let me know your progress with weight lifting. Let us know what you are doing to build strong bones in the gym in the comments below!
I’m Dr. Susan Brown. I am a nutritionist, medical anthropologist, writer, and speaker. Get my free weekly newsletter here.