COPD AND THE ATHLETE OF AGING
by Jonathon Sullivan MD, PhD, SSC, PBC Adults with COPD need strength training for all the reasons everybody else needs it--only more so. COPD, or Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, has been an important part of my life for a long time. My mother was a lifelong smoker who ultimately became a pulmonary cripple from chronic bronchitis, one of the two major phenotypes of the disease. The sound of her constant wet cough will haunt me to the end of my days. A career in emergen
LOAD DEM BONES!
by Jonathon Sullivan MD, PhD, SSC, PBC Bone loss is one of the horrors of growing older. But we have an effective medicine for prevention, management, and reversal: The Barbell Prescription. Be sure to check out the video review of the Hong and Kim paper at the end of this article. One of the key features of aging, and particularly unhealthy aging, is the loss of bone mineral density, or osteopenia, which can progress to the very serious condition called osteoporosis. These c
THE FOREVER WAR: YOU vs THE PAIN DEMON
by Jonathon Sullivan MD, PhD, SSC, PBC Our approach to the pain of aging is intelligent, careful, informed...and life-altering. I'm hurting today. I have a smoldering osteoarthritis of my right thumb that's been bothering me on and off for a few years now, and today it's a bit worse. I have a back tweak from a few weeks ago that's been slow to heal up. I just took a week off from heavy deads and squats. Last night I cautiously put up 325 and 250, respectively. While the back
SHOULD YOU DO OLYMPIC LIFTS?
by Jonathon Sullivan MD, PhD, SSC, PBC You can and should do Olympic Lifts, IF you meet the three criteria. This essay was subsequently produced as a video, which you can watch below. The Barbell Prescription for healthy aging has a deep rationale, as expounded in the book of the same name written by myself and Andy Baker. These rationale are grounded in the physiology of aging, the components of the Sick Aging Phenotype, the power of Exercise Medicine to combat the degenerat
by Jonathon Sullivan MD, PhD, SSC, PBC Nothing can deny you the choice of how to live...and nothing can relieve you of it. In a recent video, Rippetoe talked about the depredations of aging and their impact on the athlete. There's no denying that aging joints are creakier, aging muscles are achier, aging tendons heal more slowly. Over the course of a lifetime, scars and injuries and degeneration never decrease...they only accumulate. Vulnerant omnia, ultima necat: Every hour
YOGA FOR THE ATHLETE OF AGING
by Jonathon Sullivan MD, PhD, SSC, PBC Yoga practice may have beneficial impacts on your physical training, and vice- versa. As promised, we continue our series on ancillary physical exercise practice for the Athlete of Aging. If you haven’t already, I strongly urge you to look at the introductory article on this topic and our recent essay on martial arts for the Masters Athlete. Today, we turn our attention to Yoga. It is incumbent upon me to begin with the explicit disclaim
UPDATE ON HIIT: STILL GOING STRONG
by Jonathon Sullivan MD, PhD, SSC, PBC High Intensity Interval Training remains a go-to modality for conditioning in older adults. In The Barbell Prescription, we describe a range of General Fitness Attributes that must be addressed by any comprehensive exercise medicine prescription: strength, power (which includes speed), endurance, mobility (which includes flexibility and agility), balance, and body composition. It should be evident from this list that, contrary to straw-m
EVERYBODY WAS KUNG FU FIGHTIN'
by Jonathon Sullivan MD, PhD, SSC, PBC Practicing martial arts is effective self-defense...against time and unhealthy aging. In a recent post, I explored the old aphorism that athletes should "lift weights and play your sport." For the Athlete of Aging, the "sport" is aging well and healthy and strong. We need as much strength, mobility, stamina, agility, balance, power, muscle, bone, and insulin sensitivity as we can retain. Strength and conditioning training hit all the fit
"LIFT WEIGHTS AND PLAY YOUR SPORT"
by Jonathon Sullivan MD, PhD, SSC, PBC Get strong. Then USE your strength. You’ll often hear it said that the athlete should simply “lift weights and play your sport.” There’s a lot to this concept, but the devil, as always, lurks in the details. On this view, if you do proper resistance training, you’ll improve your ability to produce force and power in a general sense, and if you practice and play your sport, you’ll improve your conditioning for that sport and your ability
WEIGHTLESS HANDS IN THE SQUAT.
by Jonathon Sullivan MD, PhD, SSC, PBC The bar will not roll down your back. I promise. We've talked a lot about the Superman Chest--how critical it is to every one of the big compound barbell exercises. The Superman Chest ("proud chest, big chest, chest-up, King Kong chest, whatever) sets the upper back (the thoracic spine), and when the upper back is set, the lower back is more likely to come into line. On the other hand, if the upper back is not set, then a strong lower b
HOW TO KEEP THE DEADLIFT ON YOUR LEGS: ARMPITS!
by Jonathon Sullivan MD, PhD, SSC, PBC Use this simple cue to bring your lats into the exercise and improve your deadlift. (This article was subsequently produced as a video, which you can watch below.) At the moment a heavy deadlift comes off the floor, certain conditions will obtain, Because Physics. If a damn heavy bar comes up, it will be over the middle of the foot, which means it will come up the leg, the back will be at some non-vertical angle determined by the lifter'
DEADLIFT SETUP STEP 3a
by Jonathon Sullivan MD, PhD, SSC, PBC Improve your deadlift setup and execution with this simple fix. (This article was subsequently produced as a video, which you can watch below.) As we discussed in a recent short videoon the Greysteel Channel, barbell training is a precision activity. Precision is an interesting word. It does not actually denote a correct activity or measurement, but it does denote an exacting and highly reproducible measurement. One can measure very prec
CANDLE, CANDLE, BURNING BRIGHT
by Jonathon Sullivan MD, PhD, SSC The Athlete of Aging has resolved to burn more brightly and be more alive—socially, spiritually, mentally, and physically—in this world. As Athletes of Aging we are, in essence, like all other beings. We are embodied time. Time is a part of our existential structure. To hear some tell it, time is our existential structure. Each of us is a kind of clock, ticking from past to future. Or rather more like a burning candle. A candle, after all, is
ACID PITS, FOREARM BONES, AND BARBELLS
by Jonathon Sullivan MD, PhD, SSC Optimize your forearm angle and elbow position for a stronger press and bench. Imagine you need to push something straight away from you into a pit. But you can't get too close to the pit, because of poisonous fumes, so you have to push it with something to keep your distance. You need to find a stick. Okay, there's one right there. Fine. Now you can push the object, let's say a large trunk containing the fresh corpse of your late hairdresser
LATE KNEES IN THE SQUAT
by Jonathon Sullivan MD, PhD, SSC Attempting to squat on a vertical shank is a common form error. Let's fix it. People think the squat is complicated, but it's not. Sure, we can talk about the mechanics of the squat ad nauseum...in fact, we are about to do that now, so maybe you should pop your favorite anti-emetic before we continue. But in essence the squat is very simple. Not easy, mind you, but simple. You stand up with the bar on your back, establish knee position and ba
BAR HIGH, HIPS LOW: IMPROVE YOUR SQUAT WITH THIS SIMPLE FIX.
by Jonathon Sullivan MD, PhD, SSC An extremely common form error in the squat occurs as one approaches the hole, looking for that accursed depth. Here's how to fix it. This essay was subsequently produced as a video, which you can see below. Here’s an assignment: Go and find a seesaw, or some reasonable facsimile thereof, and set it rocking. Hell, if you have a friend, you can actually take a seat and rock it together. Maybe it’s been 6 decades since you sat on a seesaw, in w
THE VACATION PROCLAMATION
by Jonathon Sullivan MD, PhD, SSC You train to live, not the other way around. Apparently, this is the season of vacations. When one of my clients says, "Hey Sully, I'm going on vacation for a couple of weeks," the first thing I think is: What's that like? The second thing I think is How much strength will you lose? Fortunately, the answer to the second question is usually: Not much. Strength is a persistent adaptation. What we observe is that if you go without training for a
SHOULDERS, MOMENTS, J-HOOKS, AND THE PRESS
by Jonathon Sullivan MD, PhD, SSC Try this simple cue to optimize the setup and the bar path of the overhead press. We’ve talked before about the lethal consequences of dropping your elbows in the press. In this very common form error, the hip thrust forward is accompanied by a vicious drop of the elbows that causes the bar to increase its distance from the shoulder joint. I believe this results from a misinterpretation of the idea that we “bounce” the press out of the bottom
ELBOWS-UP IN THE OVERHEAD PRESS!
by Jonathon Sullivan MD, PhD, SSC, PBC Instead of allowing the hip thrust to drive the shoulders forward under the bar, the elbow drop pulls the bar away from the shoulder. This will not end well. The overhead press is not the heaviest movement, but it is arguably the most technically demanding of the Big Four. It’s worth the effort to master, however, especially for the Athlete of Aging, because strong shoulders are a blessing at any age, and an uncommon blessing after forty
SQUAT EVERY DAY
by Jonathon Sullivan MD, PhD, SSC, PBC We train these movements because they are the building blocks of human physical performance. We have to use them. (This essay was later produced as a video, which can be viewed below.) In our system of training for the Athlete of Aging, we emphasize four big compound barbell movements: the squat, the press, the bench press, and the deadlift. Together, these movements train the vast majority of the muscle mass in the human body, and they