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Training Performance Issues -- What's to Blame?

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  • Training Performance Issues -- What's to Blame?

    Background: Been training for a decade. Rarely take off more than a few days at a time. PRs have surpassed 200/300/400/500 @ ~200 lbs, which, given that I'm neither naturally athletic nor started with much of a strength base, I feel OK about. Have done a few meets, would like to do more. Very accustomed to training through/around injuries, both nagging (e.g. shoulder / pec minor irritation) and more major (heavy acute low back pain, extreme neck pain). Probably more accepting of it than I should be, but, what am I gonna do...not train?

    Injury-Specific: It's not unusual for me to go through a period of months where I simply can't get my lower back to "move" right, often paired with pain. These sometimes follow an acute "incident" in the lumbar / sacral region, though not always. Training rarely seems to directly aggravate my injuries, and often makes me feel better -- quite possibly a mental thing. During these times, my hips and low back are typically very "locked up" and my entire back may feel uneven. Similarly, and likely related, I'll sometimes see prolonged and noticeable (10%+) dropoffs in strength, without much clue why.

    Problem: Now is one such training stretch. Since setting a rep PR in late summer (465x5), my deadlifts have mostly been awful -- squats more variable, but still not consistently good. Most pronounced, "setting" my chest and lower back for a set of pulls is an act of futility...chest doesn't squeeze into place, back won't stay rigid, and, consequently, hips shoot up. Flexibility seems to be playing a role here...see some examples below (keeping in mind there's only 405 on the bar):

    Programming and recovery (diet / sleep / bodyweight) haven't changed much. Varying exercises doesn't seem to help much, though I'll admit I'm certainly more inclined to compounds. At various points (though not currently), I've experimented with stretching, though never felt any benefits. Outside the gym, I'll often feel pain in simple everyday situations like bending forward while seated on the train.

    Question: I know coming out of a peak (or I suppose a major injury), it's expected to see decreased training performance. But this happens to me regularly, and I don't know whether it's a pure strength thing or potentially something connected to mobility or whatever else. Based on this description, do you have any thoughts on things that I should consider--in or out of the gym--to navigate (or ideally prevent) these stretches? I can't help but think that besides hurting my gym performance and general quality of life, that as someone experiencing this regularly in his 20s, this may not be sustainable or even advantageous to my health at this pace.

  • #2
    What kind of programming are you using?

    You mentioned hitting a PR over the summer, so I would assume you are still making progress and that's awesome. I think generally speaking if you are continuing to get stronger, then things are probably well enough. The way I see it, the longer you train and the more advanced you become, PR's become less frequent. I think Jordan just hit his first deadlift PR in like 5 years if I'm remembering correctly.

    As far as mobility is concerned, I think the general consensus (around here) is that there is no need to add extra mobility work. That said, if you want to spend your time doing it, go for it, and if it makes you feel better, that's great too.


    • #3
      I think Ruben has a good question about your programming/training and I would ask more specifically if you're using RPE. Moreover, how you're rating your exercise and session RPEs before the injuries especially because you mention a PR so maybe you were pushing a little too hard. By your own admission, you may be too accepting of this and it makes me think that you may be pushing too hard in general and potentially overcooking your RPEs.

      Additionally, I saw that in your videos you were lifting with flat side (hex or octagonal plates) and I remember Jordan talking about his own injury was when he had been stuck lifting with those style plates. I know it may be something that your gym doesn't have other plates but the potential issues of the forced readjustment may have some effect on the situation and may be worth looking potentially looking for a gym with round plates.

      Lastly, I would recommend posting to the Pain/Injury form to get some of the fantastic knowledge from the experts because I'm just parroting the tiny amount I have learned from these fantastically generous and helpful people.