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Knee Issues and Olympic Lifting

I’ve been doing weightlifting for around half a year now, so I’m pretty new. For the past few weeks, I’ve been going for higher weights because I think I have the technique part down. However, last week I decided to try the daily Catalyst Athletics workouts. On that day, the workout was:

Press in Split, 3 x 5
Power Jerk + Jerk, 2 x (2+1) w/ 65% of Jerk, 3 x (2+1) w/ 70% of Jerk
Push Press, 5 x 4
Walking Lunges, 3 x 10/leg
Weighted Plank, 3 x 30 sec.

Before the workout, I did snatches, 5 x 2, because the platforms were empty, which was a rare occurrence at the time that I went to the gym that day. I then proceeded with the workout.

During one of the jerks, I think I might have hurt my knee, because after catching the bar on my shoulders to return it to the rack, my right knee was in pain. I continued nonetheless, which may have been stupid. During the lunges, my knee was hurting again and I got worried so I put the weights back and left the gym.

For the next two days, my knee was sometimes hurt while walking, but now it’s a lot less. Sometimes it still hurts though, and I think I should continue resting them. I think it may have been an overuse issue. Haven’t gotten the knee looked at yet.

Have any of you had an experience with knee pain? Is there a way to program Olympic lifting training around such an injury, considering the ballistic nature of the lifts? If not, what about deadlifts, bent over rows, pulls, and presses (e.g. strict presses, Klokov presses): would I be able to do those?

So, do you think I should start with general strength training and return
to weightlifting slowly when my knee is ready?

I did lots of calisthenics before lifting, mostly for martial arts.
Occasionally I would test my strength at a gym, and I got a 185 bench and
almost double bodyweight deadlift doing mostly pushups, bodyweight squats,
situps, leg raises, and back extensions. my squat has always been weak,
less than bodyweight whereas I benched and deadlifted more than
bodyweight. But I got my squat to over bodyweight for 5 reps, 175 lb
squats for 5 reps at a bodyweight of 145. Should I keep doing general
strength training? I mean, it’s not like I have a choice given the knee
injury, but with a background like mine should I still have done general
lifting before Olympic lifting?

Ok, thanks

It’s really tough to give advice without knowing the details of your injury. Even then, it is inappropriate without the benefit of a proper exam which means your doctor is the one in the best position to advise you. It’s been said that no two torn ACLs are the same.

See a doctor, because we have no idea what the injury is if it was a tear, strain, or tendonitis. We will all get knee tendonitis at least somewhat as Weightlifters, but the other two are very dangerous and damaging things.

The tear and strain sounds pretty serious, yeah.
I’ve been putting off the visit to the doctor because I just procrastinate
all the time, but I should probably go soon. Good thing I didn’t go back
to weightlifting so soon. I’m still resting the knee and not doing very
quad-centric stuff- except with relatively light weights- because I still
feel it sometimes.

I’ll be honest when I started Olympic lifting I was pretty much in pain all the time. It takes a lot of getting use too, I’m only 1.5 years in and I still get the odd bit of pain here and there. Tendons will get sore you’ll probably get a bit of tendonistis just have to deal with it and move on. Basically when the pain is too much to move you just need to adjust or strap up to ease the pain while you lift. I normally only use knee sleeve but I had a point where my knees were so painful I’d need very tight wraps so I could clean or squat and that was with 600mg of ibuprofen eventually the body will get use to it. Also the daily catalyst stuff isn’t really for beginners it’s quite a lot of volume. If you follow the book sold on the website when starting off it’s only about 3-4 days a week of lifting. Basically doubt it’s a bad injury probably just not conditioned enough for all these movements at the higher weights.

You’re right about not being conditioned enough; I just need to ease into
it. My injury isn’t bad, just a bit of mild tendinitis. I’m told to do
some resting and rehabbing stuff for the knee. I was thinking of doing the
Catalyst starter program, but it has you working up to 5 days per week, and
I don’t think I have the time for that. I decided I will do the Dan John
Solid Neophyte program, which is just the classic lifts, squats, and press
3 times a week. I’ll start when I’m ready, and I’ve eased back into

With reference to training with knee pain, here is a bit of my history.

About 5 years ago, i suddenly got great left knee pain in the low squat of the snatch, C+J, and squats themselves. Don’t know what brought it on, and it lasted for a year before it faded away.

During that year i trained my legs with 20 rep sets of quarter squats with heavy weights, because that didn’t hurt.
In the 2 lifts i learnt to split lift with my good leg forward.
During that time i developed quite a liking for the split technique, and set a total well above what i had done with the squat.

That experience has helped me at other times, but that is another story. I am 76 now, still competing and enjoying my training.

Interesting. I’ve heard of the split technique working for those with hip
and mobility issues, but never for knee problems. I always assumed the
split positions would be worse for the knee because instead of going into a
squat to absorb the impact, one lands in the split position in the same way
they would catch a power clean or snatch. That’s just what I thought based
on my experience with the split and power jerks, though I have seen some
old pictures of pretty deep split snatches and even split jerks!

If the knee issues become really bad I will probably try what you did or
something similar.

The knees have gotten quite a bit better, and I’ve gone back to my
calisthenics roots for the time being. Recently I’ve worked up to sets of
15-20 rep pistol squats, usually with no pain at all, but just a little bit
of knee pain- mostly in the left knee- creeps up every now and again…

With regards to the split lifting, how much did your lifts improve exactly
and who would you recommend the split technique to? I know most people can
do more with squatting and splitting but is there a certain, perhaps
bodytype or some other classification of people, to whom you would
recommend the split technique? The fact that you did improve with split
technique intrigues me. I’m not questioning it, I just want to look into
it since it is generally accepted that the squat technique is superior for
moving more weight, though the split jerk persists as the dominant jerk. I
have heard that many lifters with a little bit more mileage have more
success with splits, perhaps because of mobility. But I’m not sure and
would like to perhaps look into the split technique myself though I am
pretty young and have only been lifting for less than a year.

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Greetings Halford.
When i split with my “good” knee forward, i had no pain in doing the lifts.
After i came good, i went back to squat lifting, until i caught the “plague” during a bus tour of the UK. After that i totally lost my balance for squat snatches, so it was back to split lifting.
I have read “there is no more beautiful lift than a well performed split snatch”, and i think there is something in that, because of feedback at competitions (i am the only split lifter).
I think the split requires a lot more refining than the squat, to do it well. And it certainly has some advantages over the squat, when you consider the number of lost lifts and bombouts in the squat snatch, and the number of missed jerks following an exhausting struggle to stand up in the squat clean.
I continue to enjoy working on the split lifts, and have set a fair number of State Masters records, though at my age there aren’t too many starters.
In catching in the split snatch and clean, the weight doesn’t crash down on you, but sort of lands on a springy bed because of the fore and aft disposition of the legs. And because you are constantly working to improve flexibilty, you get to impress the gym bunnys who see what you are doing.
A number of very great lifters did both techniques. Bill Starr did better with the split snatch than he could with the squat. Dave Shephard was pretty even with what he could do with each.
So spending time learning the split is good for anybody, but i guess a young man is not really going to have the patience.
Good luck!