As many of you know, I have been lifting weights seriously for a LONG time….62 years to be exact. In that time, I have competed in both Olympic style lifting and did 25 years of powerlifting competition. I also competed as a runner for 22 years and played all the “ball sports”…
Occasionally someone asks me “how the hell did you survive so long?”
Because I have enjoyed such a long and relatively injury free career, I thought some of you might find what I have to say to be useful in your own training.
Obviously, there are a lot of reasons why someone can do high intensity training for 60+ years and avoid major injury. I did have some injuries that hurt, but nothing that stopped me from training, or couldn’t be fixed by the sports medicine folks without surgery.
On reflection, I think that there were two big reasons why I didn’t get hurt very often:
- A high level of muscular endurance
- Regular “cross training”
What I call muscular endurance is basically the resilience to do weeks and months of hard training without having a breakdown….major or minor. Endurance in this case is the ability of your muscles to fully recover from hard training between workouts.
Over the years in the gym I observed that many lifters got hurt because they did not have adequate resilience or muscular endurance. They could not recover from one heavy workout in time to do the next. They “toughed it out” and many paid a huge price. Some even suffered career (or come back) ending injuries.
How did I escape this fate?
Looking back it is evident that I always seemed to combine at least one other sport or recreational activity with heavy lifting. For example,even though I quit running competitively, I loved to run,and still do so to this day.
I know most weight lifters enjoy running about as much as they would enjoy a colostomy. I’m not going to suggest that you take up running. I will suggest that you find a way to get a modest amount of aerobic training into your workouts.
Another suggestion may sound more attractive.
I also tended to experiment with “new” things that came along. Many were silly, but one or two were extremely important.
Perhaps THE most important of the “new” things that I adopted (and practice to this day) was kettlebell training
Back in 2002, I saw an article in Powerlifting USA about this insane Russian guy Pavel. He was using these “cannonballs with a handle” to build up both strength and resilience. He was selling them as well.
I recalled that kettlebell handles came with my first Joe Weider weight set back in 1955. A combination of curiosity and the appeal of training with something that seemed totally off the wall was too much to resist. I bought a set of three kettlebells from Pavel and a few weeks later found them left on my front porch by FedEx.
In those early days there were no instructors, so I learned how to do the basic movements from a book.
What became instantly apparent was the the kettlebell swing and snatch did an extraordinary job of toughening up my lower back, abs and hips. In fact, once I started lifting kettlebells, I never had so much as a hint of back pain or problem.
For the last 15 years I have used kettlebells in almost every training workout I do. They have rewarded me with a near bulletproof resilient body.
My advice to anyone who does a lot of heavy training is to begin using relatively light kettlebells at the end of your workout.
High-er reps and light-er weights will build a lot of resilience.
I am a huge fan of two movements in particular….the Russian style swing (arms only go to parallel with the floor) and the one hand kettlebell snatch.
If you only practice these two movements, you can gain a HUGE amount of protection from injuries and build up formidable muscular endurance.
As I said, this training should be done at the end of your regular workout. Keep the sets to a minimum (2 or 3 max) and use weights that will allow you to do 10-25 reps in each set.
Over weeks and months it can make a huge difference in your ability to continue lifting big without injury.
That has been my experience, and one I have passed along to many others who have enjoyed the same experience.
Lift Big: Richard Schuller
Check out Powerlifting Over 50 Many great reviews on this from enthusiastic buyers.