Thursday, January 10, 2013

Olympic Lifts - Two PRs

I've been struggling with sore shoulders for about two months now.  I'm not sure exactly why my shoulders started to bother me, but a month ago, both were incredibly sore, with the AC joint as the primary source of discomfort.  This has made sleeping difficult at times.  And, it's made me question some of the workouts at CrossFit, particularly the Olympic lifts - the snatch and the clean and jerk.

I spent a number of years from 1985 until 1993 or so competing in triathlons.  I swam a lot in those days, so my shoulders got lots of work.  I eventually decided that triathlons were too time consuming, too expensive, and I wasn't really crazy about swimming.

When I had my ACL repaired in 2002, I went back to the pool as part of my rehab.  But, after two months or so of swimming, I was allowed to run again, and the swimming disappeared.  I've done a few short triathlons in the last 12-14 years, but I've always picked races with short swimming distances, where I could survive the swimming without training.

In 2007, I started to lift weights regularly.  But, I haven't spent huge amounts of time doing shoulder-focused lifts - overhead presses, the bench press, pull-ups, push-ups, Olympic lifts, etc.

Late in 2010, when I started CrossFit, I read lots of stories online about how CF destroys shoulders, especially for older athletes new to CF.  I decided to be very careful.  Even after almost 2.5 years of CF, I still don't do kipping pull-ups.  My bench press max remains (barely) under 200 pounds.  My strict press best is 140 pounds, and my Oly lifts have been mediocre, at best.

A lot of why I am careful with these movements is a lack of shoulder mobility.  Outside of my triathlon background, my shoulders really haven't done a whole of movement through a significant range of motion, and even the serious swimming is way in the past.

Early on with CF, I had a shoulder injury from using a weight that was too heavy for kettlebell snatches.  With some help from a chiropractor, and some very painful Graston and ART treatments, things got better.  Then, I injured the other shoulder in a skiing fall.  Again, the chiropractor and careful training and time allowed the shoulder to heal.  In August or September, I set new PRs for the bench press and the strict press with no pain at all.

And then, both shoulders started to feel sore.  All the time.  My sleep has been dramatically affected by pain at night.  So, I've been seeing the chiropractor again.  He gave me a number of mobility exercises to work on and the right shoulder improved quickly.  The left has responded somewhat, but certainly more slowly.  I saw the chiropractor yesterday, and he found an adhesion on the infraspinatus of the rotator cuff.  He worked on that for most of the session yesterday.  After that session, my shoulder felt the best it's felt in a long time.  Despite that, I swore I wouldn't go all out in a two-part strength session last night.  I was apparently lying to myself.

After our warm-up, we had 15 minutes to hit a maximal weight on the power snatch.  In the actual Olympic lifting world, no one uses the power snatch in competition.  No one uses the power clean as part of the clean and jerk either.  To get as much weight as possible up in the air and eventually overhead, everyone performs a squat while snatching or cleaning and then rises out of the squat.  We were using the "power" position last night, which is basically a quarter-squat.  The power versions of these lifts work better for my shoulders, especially with the snatch.  My overhead squat and squat snatch are seriously limited by mobility issues, so the power snatch is my variation of choice.

My PR for that lift has been 125 pounds for about the last six months.  Last night, I warmed up up to 115#, and then loaded 130# on the bar.  On my first attempt, I got the weight overhead, but my arms were not locked out as I received (caught) the bar.  This does not count as a legal rep, so I didn't count it.  On my second attempt, I got it overhead again, and my lockout was closer, but just not there.  Finally, on the third attempt, I got it right.  New PR.

Next was 15 minutes for the clean and jerk.  We were supposed to do a power clean (I can do a squat clean reasonably well) followed by a split jerk.  My previous PR, I believe, was 165 pounds.  I had gotten 175 overhead at one point in time, but again, the arm lockout wasn't there.  This time, I warmed up to 165 and found the 165 difficult.  Nonetheless, I tried 175 and found it no worse than the 165.  The clean went easily (My power clean PR is 190), and the jerk was just OK, but good enough.  I decided to take one more try at 180 pounds, and that one went as well.

Two PRs in the first half of the workout.

I struggled through the rest of the workout, to be honest.  But, my shoulders still feel OK and I slept reasonably well last night.

I will continue to work with the chiropractor in the coming months.  And, I will also keep my reps low on some of the Oly lifts, particularly the snatch and overhead squats.  But, it was nice to see some real progress yesterday after being sore and somewhat limited for a couple months.

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