Could lifting heavy weights worsen my bow legs? Do I need to avoid certain exercises?
For a few years, I have been running casually and hitting the gym about 3 times per week. I love doing compound exercises like squats and deadlifts.
Recently, my friend pointed out that I have a mild case of bow legs. Strangely, I do not feel any pain or discomfort during running or weight lifting, although sometimes when I try to get heavier on deadlifts my legs tend to cave in a bit.
Could lifting heavy weights worsen my bow legs?
Are there any exercises that I should/should not do?
Hi Green Arrow,
Dr. Henry Chan
Hi Green Arrow,
I can see why you need to keep fit with your superhero vigilante activities. I’m also a fan of compound exercises myself – more bang for buck!
Long story short – it’s unlikely that these exercises will worsen your bow leg. It’s a common variant in most of the population, and I have some degree of bow leg myself (and I still go to the gym).
The more common worry is placing undue stress on the knee joints due to the biomechanic position in someone with bow legs doing a heavy squat; this could predispose you to injuries and early onset osteoarthritis later on in life.
You’ve rightly figured out intuitively that the lack of pain is a good indicator that you’ve not been unduly stressing your joints so far – it’s important to pay attention to your body and read the signs when going heavy on big exercises.
A good exercise substitute for a squat would be the leg press machine – but I’ve never been a huge fan of machines (I’m sure you are aware too that the range of motion in a single plane with the leg press is less than a proper squat).
Hence I suggest – if you are a serious lifter, it’s probably a good idea to visit a sport medicine doctor to have your gait and posture assessed – the all-clear would probably give you a peace of mind to continue your intensive training regime.
Dear Green Arrow,
Interesting observation by your friend and good of them to bring it up for you. Sometimes these things can be difficult to discuss especially if it raises the question of injury or health concerns.
As Dr Ethan mentions, bowing of the legs is unusual from the activities that you mention. That said, as a caveat, I have noted that people who have played soccer for a number of years can sometimes develop this phenomenon. This is likely to be due to the repeated striking of the ball using the inside of their foot causing tightness of muscles over the inside of the leg and slight bowing of the legs.
One thing to bear in mind is that bowing of legs can be caused by other causes, particularly in younger individuals. The main one to consider is vitamin D deficiency; despite the warm climate and sunny days that we have here in Singapore, I am sure that vitamin D deficiency is quite prevalent given that most people work indoors or they exercise outdoors, in the evening! So it’s worth considering this when discussing bowing of the legs.
In terms of your sport, Dr Ethan is correct in suggesting that you seek advice from someone who understands the sport. Perhaps it’s worth contacting Powerlifting Singapore (http://www.powerliftingsg.com/) for advice on coaching and medical aspects of this sport.
In the meantime, keep training, consider your technique and be safe!