Ask Greg: Issue 84
Greg Everett

Bruce Asks: So I am in the middle of a life changing/saving journey, I have dropped 100 pounds in the past year through nutrition and Crossfit. During this journey I have found a love of the barbell and moving heavy weight. My question is this: At 36 am I too old to see significant gains in my lifts? I recently transitioned from a pure CrossFit cycle to a mixed strength/CrossFit cycle, I have an Oly lifting coach who is working with me on my form and technique, and I have the drive to compete. What I don't want to do is set goals that are not obtainable. So at 36, should I just focus on general fitness, or is it possible to still see significant weight gains in my lifts. Thank You!

Greg Says: You will be able to realize considerable gains if you learn the lifts and train appropriately. At 36, you won’t recover as quickly from training and won’t be able to handle as much volume as your early-20s counterparts, but that doesn’t mean you’re hopeless. I coach masters lifters from 40 to 55 years old, all of whom still make progress even on strength lifts, not just Olympic lifts through technical improvements, don’t get injured, compete and enjoy training.

To set goals, I would suggest looking at the masters records for your age & weight category get an idea of what’s possible and work from that. Keep in mind that in your age category, there are some very good lifters who have maintained pretty well from their senior lifter careers, so don’t set goals based on the numbers of such outliers. Take into consideration all the obligations of life that will limit your training time and recovery time, e.g. work and family, and also your late start with weightlifting. And of course, the more you want to make gains in weightlifting, the less CrossFit you need to do, so make sure your training choices reflect your goals and priorities.

Make mobility and injury prevention an emphasis—nothing will slow you down like injuries and flexibility limitations.

KJ Asks:
I found your website about 6 weeks ago, but bought your Oly book awhile back - it's fantastic! Last March, I discovered Olympic Lifting through my CrossFit gym here in Iowa, and was making some pretty good gains until I blew out my left ACL on August 8th. Had surgery Sept. 13, and am now 12 weeks post surgery, and cleared to do many things - low box jumps, deadlifts, squats, and the like. The one thing I won't be cleared to do for awhile is full O-lifts - my surgeon doesn't want me to be shifting my feet from the starting position to the receiving position (with weight) for another 8 weeks, at least. I'm trying to get around this by doing partial movements - high pulls, heaving snatch balance, push presses, and the like, but was wondering if you had any advice in terms of programming (good substitutions for the full/power lifts), and what (if any) your experience has been with athletes post-ACL surgery. Strength is my goal here. Thanks in advance! Keep rockin' over there at Catalyst! Love your stuff!

Greg Says: First and foremost, always get your doc’s approval before you add anything to training. There aren’t many things as frustrating as getting set back on recovery time through aggravation of an incompletely healed injury or surgery.

Next, my question would be how you blew out your knee, because that may give you some good guidance on what you need to work on as you come back. Based on your email, I’m not sure if you injured the knee actually lifting or doing CrossFit (or, also pretty likely, blew it out during lifting after having set it up for the injury through CF abuse). But if it was entirely the result of lifting, there is a problem with something you’re doing: lifting itself shouldn’t be placing that kind of stress on your ACL. I would go back and evaluate your squat mechanics, especially during cleans and snatches, and look for moments at which your knee is not hinging squarely, but experiencing some kind of rotation or lateral stress. Big thing I would look for is having a squat stance that is both too wide and with the toes too straight forward.

In any case, as you come back, prioritize the re-establishment of proper mechanics through a lot of deliberate positional work. I would squat daily, not with a lot of weight, but using the frequency and volume to build up connective tissue strength and ingrain the perfect motor pattern. Consider using pause squats some of the time not only to allow more strength development in the deepest position, but also to further reinforce proper mechanics in the recovery.

Spend plenty of time preparing to train with foam rolling, necessary stretching and generally getting warm and moving fluidly. Use standard knee strengthening protocols that focus on VMO strength and hip strength/stability: exercises like terminal knee extensions with a band, backward sled pulling, Peterson step-ups, and 1 and ¼ squats for the VMO; mini-band squats, X-band walks and clamshells for hip stability; and things like unilateral bent-knee balancing on an air pad for general stability and proprioception work.

If strength is your goal, focus on strength work. Squats, pull and deadlift variations, press variations, heaving snatch balance, and muscle snatches and cleans. You might also try doing the lifts without moving your feet. Start with the feet in your receiving position, keep the weights light, and force yourself to maintain contact with the floor and receive the bar tightly and with total control of the squat mechanics. This will just allow you to keep a feel for the lifts until you’re cleared to do them.

Be the first to comment!
Log in or Subscribe to post a comment
Search Articles

Article Categories

Sort by Author

Sort by Issue & Date