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I have a 74 year old client who I've trained for years. This morning, in the interest of providing maximal value, I asked him if there was anything I might be missing when it comes to our training together, or anything that could improve his experience. Ed, a retired pediatrician, wondered if my cuing him to Squat deeper, reach higher (Pulldowns), or extend further (EZ Curls; don't worry he DLs, Presses, and Benches also) compromised the safety of his joints. Seems like a reasonable question to me; I have wondered the same thing to myself in the midst of cuing him.
He indicated that his tendons & ligaments felt more vulnerable at some of these end points of motion some of the time.
Is there a place for the elderly to NOT go to a full range of motion to ensure safer joints? Are there any cases where this would be recommended?
Another thought I have is that if his joints feel vulnerable, perhaps we should back off the weight until his body feels safe overall. And then continue with our normal, full ROM. Thoughts on this?
It is not unusual for people to feel uncomfortable and shut down as they go into ROM they have neglected to use and lost strength from. That is a training problem, corrected by using the ROM and developing strength.
If a person has developed actual pathology in the joints - bone spurs, for example - no, you don't push into that defect. Bony changes cannot be fixed by training and smashing soft tissue into them is a bad idea.
That said, it is not clear if your post if you are working him into normal ROM or something beyond that. Why are you trying to get him to "extend further" on EZ curls? Further than what? Reach higher into pulldowns? Why? Relaxing and letting the joints/ligaments take the load is not the idea for anyone. Hypermobility is not a good thing. Not sure that this is what you're trying to get him to do, or what is actually going on.
I just read your post on the serratus and the press, and how performing the press under correct coaching solves the movement pattern problem, assuming necessary ROM is present.
I believe that I have also seen similar views expressed with regard to "gluteal amnesia"; that performing the squat with appropriate form makes any gluteal activation work unnecessary.
So the overriding theory is to get the movement pattern correct, and the appropriate muscles will fire in the appropriate sequence. Am I about right so far?
On the other hand, you have stated that a certain percentage of your Starting Strength Seminar attendees lack voluntary lumbar erector control, i.e. "lumbar amnesia". You are able to solve this by having the attendees perform a more focused lumbar exercise, i.e. the prone Superman exercises until they gain a measure of mind muscle connection and control over the "sleeping" lumbar erectors.
If activation or isolation exercises are unnecessary to correct poorly responding glutes, or serratus (serrati?), why are they necessary to correct poorly firing lumbar erectors?
Why can't you just "squat" them through the problem?
The reason that you must instruct some trainees about lumbar erector control and that, conversely, nobody needs instruction in how to contract their glutes is that -- ready? -- it is possible to deadlift and squat with lumbar flexion, but it's not possible to deadlift and squat without hip extension.
We don't use isolation exercises to correct lumbar flexion. We use them to demonstrate the muscle's function, to identify the contraction/motor pathway in the mind of the trainee, and it usually takes about 10 reps, if that. Then we squat and deadlift with the now-correct lumbar position and go up in weight as correct form permits. In fact, the lumbar erectors are the only muscles that sometimes have this problem, in about 10% of our male attendees and essentially none of the females, because they are primarily isometric in function, and their function is therefore not inherently required to execute the gross motor pattern itself. IOW, a round-backed deadlift is wrong, but it's still a deadlift.
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