Being in Pain Is Not the Nature of the Game
By Jay Campbell
May 30th, 2017
My Dads joints all bother him, A LOT.
He’s not debilitated, nor “out of shape”, but he’s got years worth of hard living that have added up to him.
In his younger years (he is in his 60s now), he lifted weights constantly. In his later years though, those same movements that didn’t bother him then, they bother him now.
Most notably the BARBELL.
The barbell is a phenomenal tool, no question about that.
Its effectiveness has been proven many times over. Barbell movements are in almost all of my programs.
At the same time, the barbell IS the most “joint stressful” training implement.
DBs, machines, Cables, Bodyweight, you line yourself up how you want, and can adapt the exercise to suit your mechanics.
The barbell though, not so much. Technique can be changed, but its the most limited in regards to this.
I discovered this years ago when I first started training.
My older clients, say 40s and beyond, the amount of volume (working reps) they could do with a barbell was limited.
It would take A LOT of time build them up simply to use it pain free. And in some cases it was always uncomfortable.
With older bodybuilders I know, the experience is much the same.
Barbell squats turn into smith machine squats, barbell bench presses are avoided completely.
Deadlifts MIGHT be done, IF their low back is healthy enough for it.
With heavy back squatting, the barbell puts immense pressure on the back of the shoulder capsule.
This makes squatting immense painful for the whole rotator cuff.
Add in the stress of trying to bench press heavy with a straight bar, and neither movements are ones you can make much progress on.
Even with novice female clients, it generally takes about 12 weeks before they have enough muscle to handle a having even an empty bar being held on their upper back.
When you have ZERO upper body muscle, trying to back squat isn’t happening. You can barely even hold onto the bar itself.
So with all this, what are your options?
1) Make sure you LEARN PROPER TECHNIQUE with barbell movements – The margin of error with these is small. If you learn to do them incorrectly, your odds of getting injured are basically 100%
2) Be efficient with your volume – barbell work is going to be taxing on the body. Don’t waste time on endless warmup sets, junk volume, and sloppy reps
3) Use Speciality bars – What are these? They are “barbell alternative bars” that are designed as a substitution for the barbell. Specialty bars are likely only an option if you have a home gym, or own your own gym. But if you do, USE them. The best all around specialty bar is the Duffalo Bar, which has a slight curve and can be swapped out for squats and bench press. This bar is immensely more ergonomically friendly on the joints, and many powerlifters have used it to great effect in their training.
4) If you are in pain, figure out WHY, and fix it – Training through pain is never going to be a smart idea. And training around it is frustrating as well. Most training issues I encounter with people are entirely “workable” the person simply doesn’t know how, and doesn’t know WHO to ask, or even where to begin searching,
I have a question for all of you.
Im not a doctor, and I’m not going to give out medical advice.
But if you are in pain from executing a specific movement, STOP doing that movement.