"Gravitational Wellness" weightlifting participants lift 1,000 pounds with potential health benefits

Woodruff Health Sciences Center | Aug. 27, 2015

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Janet Christenbury
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The Gravitational Wellness technique involves lifting free weights using a special harness without holding the weights.

An Emory researcher in musculoskeletal medicine says the use of a once-a-week Russian weightlifting technique in individuals of both sexes and all ages tested, can quickly double their strength to enormous levels while possibly receiving significant health benefits. The Gravitational Wellness technique involves lifting free weights using a special harness without holding the weights. The results were published recently in the Journal of Rehabilitation Medicine (PDF).

This retrospective study reviewed the records of 161 consecutive participants (100 males and 61 females) enrolled in the Atlanta Gravitational Wellness gym. Participants ranged in age from 17 to 74 years. The weightlifting protocol called for one 30-minute weightlifting session per week for 10 weeks, using 10 repetitions per lift, at four different weight stations – a belt lift, a hand lift, a chest press and a leg press. A patented harness was used to assist with the lifting of the free weights.

At the beginning of the study, using the belt lift to stimulate the core, the average weight lifted in females was 462.5 pounds, and in males was 654.3 pounds. At Week 10 of the intervention, the women increased their belt lifts to 949 pounds and men to 1,336.7 pounds. Other lift stations had similar progressions of weights for all age groups and for both sexes.

"Participants lifted progressively larger weights until the instructor determined that their form was faltering, and then the instructor would reduce the weights by 30 percent for additional repetitions," says David T. Burke, MD, professor and chair, Department of Rehabilitation Medicine, Emory University School of Medicine. "In lifting these extreme weights, short arcs are used, as the founder of this technique sought to stimulate the area in the lower pelvis where the 'chi' or traditional center energy is thought to reside, thus allowing participants to lift more weight."

Burke went on to say, "In our retrospective study, we found that subjects could lift remarkably heavy loads with significant strength gains per week, regardless of age or gender. We also found that with these short workouts, even with unthinkable weight amounts, it led to very few injuries in the participants."

This study adds to previous findings suggesting health benefits of this unique program, including decreased back and neck pain, decreased fatigue and increased health-related quality of life. Data have shown a very low rate of injury, with only muscle strains reported.

Previous research in progressive strength training has also shown improvements in risks for coronary artery disease, osteoporosis, osteoarthritis and mental disorders, as well as improved quality of life. Future weightlifting studies will need to be completed to understand the specific health benefits from this extreme weightlifting technique.