T Nation

Lifting Form, Knee Pain, Program Advice

Hey there T-Nation!

I hope I chose the right Forum for this.

I started doing Olympic Lifts about half a year ago. Since then I have made progress on the Snatch, which was a new lift for me. But my Clean&Jerking and Squatting numbers stayed pretty much the same. Minor increases of around 10kg to 15kg in FS and BS got back to where before because of knee pain.

I guess I’ll start with my stats. (all tested in the last few weeks)

Height: 6’1’’
Weight: 205-210lbs

Snatch: 75kg
C&J: 105kg
Squat: 150kg
Frontsquat: 120kg
Press: 5x70kg
Deadlift: 200kg

Until I started OL i played Football and developed a very painful patellar tendonitis (at least thats what the symptoms suggested and the orthopedic suggested). I guess it came from a rapid increase in “half squats” (slightly above parallel from 180-230 in a few months) combined with training on soccer turf.
After stopping playing football I paused most training for summer. In this time the pain limited itself to post-basketball sessions and the occasional weight training.

Now that I have started OL, the knee pain changed. The patellar tendon isn’t swollen or hurting anymore which may come from increased VMO strength due to full Squats but it’s another kind of pain.
In order to get into proper positions for each OL session I do mobility drills and dynamic stretching for around 15 minutes. Still when cooling down after coming home from a workout and sitting on the couch the knees are painful. And if I’d skip foam rolling on an evening after a workout my knees would be extremly stiff in the morning.

Training in long sweatpants and wrapping bandages around them also helped as far as stopping the popping in the knees. Throughout the day, even after foam rolling they just don’t feel stable. Going down stairs or rolling out of the bed just demands a lot of attention now since I am afraid to twist my leg somehow as I just don’t trust my knees to withstand such minor impact.

The last 4 months of Training looked something like this:

Hip Flexor Stretch (3-4x15sec./side)
Glute stretch (3-4x15sec./side)
Hamstretch (3-4x15sec./side)
1 round of this http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QJdMPB1FWUo
chinese ankle mobility stretch 2-3x30sec.
shoulder mobility drill
Barbell complex (RDL, Powerclean from thighs & Press, Powersnatches from thigh and hip, overhead squats, slowly working into full snatches)

Snatch 5-10xsingles and doubles (i work to a max on these every time since my technique isn’t very constant yet and my muscles don’t get a great challenge from these)
C&J 5-10xsingles and doubles
Squat (mostly 3x3, 3x5 or 5x5 (which kills my knees after some progress)) alternating with Front Squat (mostly 3x3 and 3x5)
strict press (mostly 3x5 and 5x5) or pushpress (3x3 or 3x5) often supersetted with bodyweight pull-ups
instead of the overhead pressing i threw in an occasional benchpress every few feeks too. Sometimes I also went for a Deadlift 1RM PR when the Squats felt good once a month or so)

Did that program 3-4 times a week, with a rest day after each workout.

Since I think my knee pain comes from an imbalance I thought about changing to a routine with two OL Days a week, on which I’d do the technical lifts Front squats or Overhead Squats and a pull or an explosive pressing movement and two Powerlifting/Bodybuilding days, consisting of low bar backsquats (ripptoe style) or deadlifts, some benching, back and posterior chain work and supplemental stuff.

I know that’s quite a bit to read but thanks to anyone who took the time. If anyone knowledgeable needs further info on anything in order to help with the lifting in the videos, my knee problems or the program please ask.

Snatch: (I know there is quite a difference but probably you find an error which both lifts have in common)

C&J (I can do Cleans and even easier Powercleans with 110kg but as Jerk sucks training weights are mostly between 90kg and 100kg now)

Frontsquat: (If needed ill make one in which you can see my ankles, I guess there is not much to tell from this one)

Squat: (In this video I initiated the movement more with the hips which i stopped doing since my buttwink seems to occur less when starting with the knees and pushing them out)

hey man I am by no means an authority on this but considering we have similar problems I would suggest adding pictures of your ankles when you walk or lift. I was told by my Physical therapist that I have collapsed arches and it probably is some to blame for my patellar tendinitis.

check out mobilitywod.com. Lots of info on what could be causing you pain. Hopefully someone who is way more knowledgable can give their 2 cents.

Thanks for the help man!
I already stumbled across mobilitywod but to be honest it’s hard to motivate myself further than the extended warmups, the foam rolling sessions in the evening and occasional static stretching. If I’d know what exactly causes the pain and a method to prevent it, of course I would invest more time but at the moment I don’t even know where to start exactly.

EDIT: Can anybody tell me why the forum doesn’t display the videos?

Saw you post about knee pain and I went through the same thing last year. When I started training the lifts exclusively I began having issues with my right knee and it is just like you’re saying: not bad in the gym, but I couldn’t sit long afterwards without some pain, popping, and general discomfort. I used to roll it, ice it, voodoo floss it (MWOD thing) and it would always come back. What fixed it for me was focusing on my hamstrings, glutes, and hips.

On facebook there’s a page called “stop chasing pain” and his whole thing is about not looking directly at where it hurts, but what is causing it. For me, and probably you, it’s that your quads developed quickly when you started O-lifting and you spent time massaging (loosening) them and neglected your hamstrings. Now, think about it: tight hamstrings, loose quads and boom: imbalance and knee pain. You mentioned VMO in your post, do you see a size difference between your good and bad knee?

Whenever you feel knee pain, stretch your hamstrings first and see if it goes away.

I would say start working on loosening and strengthening your hamstrings. RDLs did wonders for me. It’s been almost a year since I started really focusing on the back of my legs and I haven’t had knee pain since and I train 3-4 times a week. And learn the yoga "pigeon pose for the hips, it’ll do wonders as well.

I became a member of this site just to post this because I really wish someone would have told me this last year and I didn’t have to go to 4 doctors just to figure out the fix using the MWOD site.

Awesome input man just bookmarked this page!

Thanks for the advice andrew!
I already thought about that since front/backsquatting 3-4 times a week in combination with all the overhead and front squatting from the technical lifts makes it pretty obvious that there is more quad than hamstring training. But as the clean and sntach pulls are often referenced to as very effective ways to work the posterior chain and most olympic lifters don’t seem to include direct hamstring/glute work i just neglected the idea.

I am definitely going to check out the Facebook page.
I guess now that I plan on having a 1:1 ratio of PL and OL workouts Ill find the time to perform GHR, Glute bridges RDLs and Good Mornings. I really hope that it will make a difference.
Again, i really appreciate the advice especially since you just signed up for that!

Still, are there any OL experts who could comment on my lifting form?

It’s funny you mention the direct hamstring/glute work because a lot of good O-lifting coaches actually do prescribe them. Of several of the theories that I have heard is: do your max BS weight for 3 sets of 3 RDL. You’re correct though, the lift works the posterior chain but only if you do it correctly.
I don’t consider myself a weightlifting expert but I noticed that your lifts are missing the sweep. This coach (who is a OL expert) has a drill for that here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5ZR2tolczAo

The things I see with your lifts (snatches and cleans) is that the bar is coming straight up and instead of bringing the bar to your hips, you’re bringing your hips to the bar. You need to sweep the bar in AS SOON as it leaves the floor. In the first video, you almost lost it behind you because you hit it so hard with your hips, it looped up and over your head. You made it because you were strong enough to hold it. The second snatch, you didn’t hit it enough and you chased it forward a little. The clean was in a straight line when you pulled it; it should actually take an “s” shape into your hips and back out. On your jerk, you need to keep your hips straight and on the rear foot you should be up on your toe. And remember, chest up!!! If you look straight at the ground when you catch your snatches, you’ll go forward 99% of the time.

If you watch all of Coach McCauley’s drills you’ll hear him say “it’s not a jump” because it really isn’t. It’s you using your hips to get the bar up but in order for that to happen, you MUST engage your lats. The jump is actually just moving the feet to get into the better squat position. If you watch top O-lifters, you’ll notice some of their feet don’t level the floor at all.

Hope that helps!

you start with your hips way to low especially in the snatch. i think if you work on starting in the proper start position things will start to look much better because you actually do pretty well, you just need some minor corrections really.

also you need to work on getting and staying tight, your back looks pretty ‘loose’. RDL’s should help with the tightness and the pulls. i’ve heard lots and lots of people say so many good things about RDL’s there probably isn’t any reason not to being doing at least a couple times a week. i’m not sure the truth of this but i’ve heard the chinese get some kind of rdl in every training day

So i practiced the sweeping method you posted above tonight Josh and it felt amazingly better. I looked further into those videos and found this rdl one which almost instantly made my knees feel amazing and it kind of freaked me out! anyway figured id post it here so no one has to do any looking:

Thanks to Josh and boldar!

Doing some RDLs on sunday in my OL session and performing some high rep leg curls and one legged RDLs (circuit style) in the bobsleigh training which started this week seemed to have helped my the knee pain immediately.

Although all the youtube links still don’t show up (not even my own) i managed to find coach Mccauly’s channel and the videos look really helpful. Especially the sweep thing is a part of the movement i haven’t figured out myself so far and tried to overcompensate by punching the bar out front, which either resulted in having to chase the bar or the bar swinging far back.

I’ll definitely post feedback on how the thing is going to continue.

A little Update



150kg single

120kg x4

Sprint training started again and I recognized that my tight psoas and weak hams and glutes also show there. I have difficulties getting my legs up and driving the floor back when reaching “top speed”

Brought my Squat up to 5x140kg knee pain has become very rare.
Also made a new Snatch PR yesterday.
Can someone comment on it?

I try to involve my lats which helped a lot but getting the knees out of the bar’s path isn’t too easy for me which may have to do with the length of my legs. As a result I get the bar too far in front of me once i pass my knees and punch the bar out front.
Advice anyone?
Does jumping forward also have to do with this or is there another cause?
Do I have to pull more with my arms? I have difficulties imagining how “pulling yourself under the bar” should work?