A mini-article about how I train around old injuries.
I was thinking today that I might like to talk about how I train around nagging injuries etc. I am 42 years old and unfortunately trained improperly for many of the 25+ years I have been strength training.
Louie Simmons, Westside and My Stupidity:
Meeting Louie Simmons and learning his Westside methods have been a real life saver for me. Exercise rotation and proper technique within the confines of my physical limitations have allowed me to train heavier than ever at 40+, but I still have to contend with the remnants of the training folly of my youth.
I have had bad knees for over 20 years. I have severely injured my back twice with the first time being about 20 years ago and the second about 6 years ago just prior to my learning Westside. As a consequence I have disc degeneration and nagging back pain that increases and decreases in intensity (said back pain primarily only bothering me during training). I have incurred a significant injury to my left shoulder and the list goes on.
My back problem is the primary issue with respect to my current training. It is at its worst when I squat. As squatting is an integral part of the Westside protocol (and powerlifting in general) you can imagine this can be problematic.
The back pain I am referring to feels structural in nature which then becomes muscular when it gets aggravated (the musculature tries to protect the spine and then gets overworked).
Training Around My Injury:
I mentioned in the beginning of this post I wanted to discuss how I train around issues like my back pain. As already noted I train Westside. This dictates that I DE (Dynamic Effort)squat once per week and then use a ME (Maximum Effort) squat variation (normally a box squat with accommodating resistance and an alternate bar, or a version of a good morning, or a deadlift variation) once per week as well. All of these exercises place a lot of stress on my old back injury (each to a varying degree). The pain from the injury is very manageable at times and does not preclude me from doing what a given day calls for. At other times, like the last few months, it gets particularly aggravated. When it does, after one to two squat sessions the pain gets to the point I cannot properly perform a squat or deadlift variation. I have had to devise a way to train around this problem and still get stronger.
My solution has been a combination of the use of the Westside Barbell Belt Squat device (WFS - http://www.westside-barbell.com/prod....php?c=7&p=321) and various accessory exercises. Currently, when my back gets overly aggravated after a couple of sessions I will substitute the belt squat device for my normal box squat speed work (or DE day). The belt squat removes significant loading from the lower back by placing the resistance around the hips via the use of a fabric belt attached to a cable. It allows me to train the muscles of the hips and legs without loading the lower back thus allowing the inflammation to go down and for me to return to squatting normally the following ME day.
If the problem is particularly bad, or if I do not have access to the belt squat, I use accessory movements which target the muscles of the hips and legs without loading the back. I have used this strategy in the past and have been able to maintain the vast majority of my squatting strength over the course of several weeks when necessary.
My current method of substituting the belt squat when needed has proven to work very well allowing me to progress in absolute squat strength. The same method/concept can be employed to train around other nagging injuries and the like.
Why Westside is Superior:
Taking things full circle, the thought process I am employing to train around issues is really just proof in the pudding for some of the underlying concepts of the Westside system. The use of accessory movements and classic lift variations is an idea Louie got from the scientists and coaches of the great Russian weightlifting teams of yesteryear. The idea was to build strength in the musculature used for the classic lifts by using different exercises and variations which helps to preclude neural stagnation, overuse injuries, and to more effectively target an individual's relative weaknesses. I think it is one of the most useful concepts ever devised relative to strength training.
We all know that there is more than one way to get strong. Powerlifters 40 years ago (and still today) were lifting some amazing weights and using either forms of block periodization or simple linear progression without significant use of accessory movements. In other words, they did a lot of benching, squatting, and deadlifting and yes, some of them got amazingly strong, but most of them did so at a high cost to their health. The grinding repetition of the same movement patterns over and over with heavy loads essentially destroyed their joints. Only the most hereditarily gifted escaped relatively unscathed.
So, while there are other strength training systems which will work in the sense of building absolute strength etc., only Westside can do so and provide the lifter with a good chance of longevity via minimized structural damage. Consider the implications. Should athletes (especially those in non-lifting sports) strength train in such a fashion as to abuse or protect their joints?
Nutshell, if you want to strength train in the safest, most efficient manner, you should learn more about Westside.