The Hippocratic Oath is credited to the ancient Greek physician and philosopher, Hippocrates. Taken by physicians and healthcare professionals, the most well known tenet is translated as “First, do no harm.” This is a fantastic starting point when considering an exercise program. I had the fortune of being taught this lesson by a mentor and leader in the field of exercise science and strength and conditioning, Mark Asanovich. Mark was the long time strength and conditioning coach for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers under head coach Tony Dungy and went on to spend a number of seasons as the strength and conditioning coach for the Jacksonville Jaguars (Mark had coaching stints with the Vikings, Bucs, Ravens, and Jaguars). Mark was presenting at a strength and conditioning conference in Ohio in 2002. His presentation was confrontational and not well received by the audience (if I recall, one attendee wanted to fist-fight with him following the presentation). Why? Because Mark questioned the popular practices and trends (Olympic weightlifting, fast speeds of movement, plyometric training) in strength training and called them out as… “Dangerous.” His message was simple. Our (the strength and fitness professional) role as an allied health professional is to “first, do no harm.” Our first priority in an exercise program should be safety. This really shouldn’t be a controversial topic. After all, by definition, exercise should improve physical function (not decrease it). Arthur Jones put it succinctly: “Exercise should help to avoid injury…not cause injury.” If it doesn’t improve our function and in fact has a negative impact on our health or function, it really isn’t exercise (it is probably better classified as sport or physical activity… very different than exercise). Mark was very clear, if an exercise carries with it a potential for acute or chronic injury, it shouldn’t be performed. This message resonated with me in 2002. Today, Mark’s message is more important (and less accepted) than ever. A review of current exercise practices, trends, classes, and methodologies reveals that the vast majority of what passes as exercise (particular resistance exercise) is in fact, about as dangerous as it gets.
Note: It’s worth noting that “First, do no harm” may actually find it’s historical origins from the Hippocratic Corpus, generally credited to Hippocrates but probably authored by a number of philosophers and physicians over a larger time frame.