T Nation

10 Years Later, The Light Bulb

This is going to be a bit long, so bear with me.
I’m 36, been lifting for 20 years now. Played football for 3, flirted with bodybuilding for a few years, then fell backwards into strength sports. I?ve been doing the Highland Games and some powerlifting and strongman for 10 years.

During that time I?ve managed to beat myself up a little. I have degenerative disc disease in 2 discs in my neck (no doubt this is from those early football days). I have had numerous tears (pec, bicep, triceps, Achilles tendon, quads, groin, blah blah blah) and 2 partially herniated lumbar discs to go along with one in my T-spine as well.
Woo hoo!

The point is coming. I think.
I want to make a change in my training. For years, I trained ?in the box? as some smart guy put it, never really straying from the confines of the rack or bench. I really want to change that. I am hoping to do another couple of years before I am forced to retire from HG and take up judging and telling everyone how much better I was than they are.

I also figure it will help me lose some weight, as I?d like to compete next year at around 290-295 down from the 305 I am right now (I was 330ish last year). I want to continue that trend until i hit under 270 when I’m 40.
So if I?m going to be an athlete, I?d like to train more like an athlete, and that?s where I need help.

I would love to be doing o-lifts and complexes, overhead squats etc but I have found that a lot of overhead stuff seriously aggravates my neck.

To the point where I missed pretty much all of the 2003 season cause I had very limited use of my left hand. Limited to pretty much being numb. Acupuncture helped me make my last games of the year, however anytime I put a barbell overhead the nerve pathway gets impinged and I am on the DL until it lets up.

Anyway, here are some of the things I have added lately: Medicine ball throws, overhead, chest pass, one hand weight-for-distance style, one hand WOB style for time. This is referred to on the EliteFTS site as the Bob Youngs conditioning test. It?s fun and a challenge.

Hill sprints: amazingly, not hill jogs. I can?t do very many (yet) and they make my hamstrings scream the next day but they?re fun.
Farmer?s walks: Got to watch my LB so I do these very light but quick. Also fun.

My lifting at the moment is sort of bodybuilding style, lots of exercises low number of sets and fairly high intensity, 3 days a week. This is a style that worked well for me in the past, so of course I quit doing it. I can?t manage a lot of the exercises I used to, but still can put in some serious effort.

What I would like is some input, suggestions, ideas. If I was healthy I?d be doing a ton of overhead squats and snatch stuff, deadlifts and pulls. I miss that stuff. What has helped you adapt to life as an athlete >35? Besides Advil.

Cheers in advance,


Have you tried much single leg/single arm work? I suspect that single leg work (eg split squats, one leg deadlift) will be easier on your lower back. One arm snatch or clean and jerk (possibly with a kettlebell) might also be easier on your neck. If you can’t get a kettlebell overhead, even kettlebell swings have some of that explosive element. Great for the hips/core as well. And they’ll help you prune off the weight.

Just a thought.