Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Advice for Older Lifters...and Pretty Much Everyone Else too.

Just thought I'd pass along to streams of great information that came my way this week. As most of you reading this know those aches and pains start becoming more frequent once you hit 40. Or if you played sports and lifted from a young age then expect it by 30.

I have trained guys that had some serious joint pains in their late 20's, and it seems like the higher the level they competed at the worse the injury. Just goes with the territory.

By the time I hit 30 I had to stop doing jiujitsu and being as aggressive in other sports as I wanted to simply because of two many piggybacking injuries. It hit me that being able to walk suddenly seemed more important.

Some of those injuries I attribute to lifting with poor form and a bodybuilder approach for too many years. I see guys in my gym that are in their early 20s that already have frequent joint pain and injury from using bodypart split bodybuilding style training.

If only I had some of the following advice back then I'd be much better off now.

First up is a Dan John interview. Dan is one of the truly good guys in the fitness industry. He's walked the walk and doesn't try to sell you any bullshit about getting jacked. Just good common sense and advice informed by decades of experience.

TM: Any closing advice for lifters on the wrong side of 40?
DJ: Once you get past 40, only two things matter: joint mobility and hypertrophy.
It's not flexibility. Flexibility is like a party trick for the muscles. I can instantly be more flexible. It's joint mobility, keeping the body able to move correctly in a given plane that's vital to long term training.
The other thing is, once you get past 32 or 33 you start losing lean body mass at a stunning rate. So you need to do some bodybuilding or hypertrophy work to slow this down. I focus on variations of the military press because I believe that the deltoids, triceps, traps, rhomboids, and probably the butt are the keys to youth. So the more time squatting, doing farmer's walks, and military presses, the younger you stay.
I also believe that it's a real mistake as you get older to keep bench pressing. Between the damage it does to the shoulder joint and the tighter it makes the pecs and delts, I say forget it. Those problems just get harder and harder to deal with as you get older.
I like to say that everyone can have one more injury, but do you have it in you for one more recovery? If you go rollerblading and break your wrist at 50, and it takes you 18 months to get back to lifting, where are you going to be in 18 months? Does the calendar say that you can afford an injury of that magnitude? That question gets tougher to answer as you get older.
So joint mobility, hypertrophy, and don't mess yourself up. Don't get that stupid injury you can't get back from.

The second link is to an online discussion with well known Olympic lifting coach Glenn Pendlay. In it he shares his experience coaching people who in their teens up to women in their 60's. This information is pure gold for anyone that is looking to stay fit and healthy and is in their 30's on up.

A couple of common threads between Dan and Glenn's wisdom are apparent.

1. They advise people to train full body. No working arms one day, back another etc... Make every day "body day."

2. Focus on using perfect form on every movement. If someone can't do it then regress to a simpler version and work on joint mobility, or whatever the issue is. You'll be much better off in the long run.
What's the hurry anyway? Think about all the progress you can make in 20 years.

Let me go ahead and just give you a real world example of an older lifter, one, by the way, that I am trying to get to come to your Bash with me, Mary McGregor.

Mary started training at age 55, having never done anything athletic in her life. She did general training for a few months, but was watching the younger OLers all the time and thought it looked fun. She asked if she could do it, I thought so, so she began to train for OL. It was a bit of a struggle, and having never coached anyone in her particular position (a beginner at that age) I had to fail as a coach to her a number of times before I learned what worked. I will spare you the details of all the things that didnt work, and just go straight to what did. 2 times per week, sometimes 3 for a couple of weeks right before a meet, Mary will go up to about as much as she can comfortably do on both the snatch and clean and jerk. This means what can be done with good crisp form and very little chance of a miss. We try to get 4-5 good snatches in the "working range", which for Mary is about 38kg to 42kg. Her best in competition is 44kg at 61 years old. Then we try to get 2-3 clean and jerks in the "working range", which for her is 55kg to 60kg. Her best clean and jerk is 63kg, done at 61 years old. 
This is it, this is her total amount of work in the Olympic lifts. She adds to this 2-3 general fitness workouts per week, sometimes on her own in her garage with kettlebells, sometimes with a personal trainer (friend of mine and also an Olympid lifter) or simply doing the machine circuit they have set up at the YMCA. She usually does no squatting, none at all.
Now, at previous times, she had squatted, and worked fairly hard at it... But I eventually learned that it took more out of her than it gave her, and since her lifts werent held back by leg strength, it wasnt helping anything to subject her nearly 60 year old body to squats. At previous times, we did more volume on the Olympic lifts, but, it just made her tired and created aches and pains. I could go on and on but you get the picture.

1 comment:

movefree said...

I think the title should put more emphasis on the EVERYONE ELSE, and further just EVERYONE. Being someone who rushed headfirst into weightlifting and built 60 lbs of NON FUNCTIONAL muscle, it took alot of doubling back before I had a body that was good for more than fumbling and knocking into things! Joint mobility drills were the holy grail at the time that basically reminded my body how it felt to move naturally, without any “hidden” chronic tensions. That’s the basis for any functional movement, which is the basis for functional strength gains.