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Thread: Another spondylolisthesis thread

  1. #1
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    Default Another spondylolisthesis thread

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    Hi Rip,

    Have read through a few threads here on spondylolisthesis and your thoughts on continuing to train with it. I was diagnosed with a gr. I/II myself at L5/S1 a few years ago, and had a successful decompression surgery over 1.5 years ago to relieve significant and debilitating sciatica due to the slippage and stenosis. As background, I have been doing CF since 2007 and did several cycles of SS in 2009 as I was pretty weak overall in my lifts and was still relatively new to squatting and deadlifting. It was awesome and I made decent progress. Since my surgery, I rehabbed and gradually built back up to heavy lifting (against my doc's advice, of course) and have been feeling awesome. In fact, I feel so much better when I lift I can't even believe it, though admittedly I don't do a lot of deadlifting as I had the same (mistaken) perception that it increased the shear loading between segments. I do squat and clean a fair bit and occasionally do 1RM's, though not usually.

    My question relates to a post you made in '08 about oly and spondy: What's wrong with my squat? What level should I be programming for?

    I assume based on more recent threads that you're still in favor of the main SS lifts, but do you still have the same opinion of olympic lifting 8 years later, i.e. that the ballistic lifts for a spondy are a bad idea? I have fallen in love with olympic lifting and it doesn't invoke any pain, etc. I can't really find much in the medical literature about increase in slippage of a spondy in adulthood, though it doesn't seem to be studied very closely, and certainly not for weightlifters who continue to lift after their prime. There is some material about increase in slippage corresponding with further degeneration of the disk, but not a traumatic, sudden big slippage without a trauma.

    Thanks for your thoughts.

  2. #2
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    I suggest you fall in love with something less ballistic. Olympic lifting with your back is a bad idea. It may not hurt now, so that's fine. Until it does, you'll be fine. If you trust the repair to remain stable under a heavy 3rd attempt clean, go ahead. But if it doesn't hold, you're back where you started: your malformed L5 has caused problems, you knew you had a malformation and slammed a heavy bar onto your back anyway, and now the fucker may not be a not-repairable Grade 3.

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Rippetoe View Post
    I suggest you fall in love with something less ballistic. Olympic lifting with your back is a bad idea. It may not hurt now, so that's fine. Until it does, you'll be fine. If you trust the repair to remain stable under a heavy 3rd attempt clean, go ahead. But if it doesn't hold, you're back where you started: your malformed L5 has caused problems, you knew you had a malformation and slammed a heavy bar onto your back anyway, and now the fucker may not be a not-repairable Grade 3.
    Thanks. I hear ya. FYI - it wasn't repaired with a fusion as my doc didn't feel it was necessary at this stage. But just to be clear, you're still OK with squats and deads given my history?

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    Haven't I been clear?

  5. #5
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    Well, in the thread I linked to above you say don't train heavy with a spondy, but in other threads (e.g. Competing with Spondylolisthesis) you've said going heavy with a stable/unsymptomatic spondy is OK, so that's why I'm asking again.

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    Do you understand the difference in loading characteristics between Cleans and the Squat/Deadlift?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Rippetoe View Post
    Do you understand the difference in loading characteristics between Cleans and the Squat/Deadlift?
    Yes, I understand in general the difference in loading characteristics between cleans/snatches and squats/deadlifts. Snatches and cleans dynamically load the spine when receiving the bar (i.e. "impact" loading in compression, etc.) while squats and deads are more constant loading (not "static" per se, but you know what I mean) through the range of motion. That I understand, but perhaps my question wasn't clear enough. My question was specifically around recommendations for squatting and deadlifting only in your other two posts - one said it was ok to squat and deadlift heavy w/spondy and one recommended against it, at least in the case of unstable/symptomatic spondy. Mine has been labeled "stable" and is no longer symptomatic so I'm wondering if heavy squats and deads are OK. Not 1RM heavy, but 3-5RM heavy.

    As an aside, have you ever seen or heard of a case of slip progression in a lifter?

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    Our friend Ellen Stein has a Grade 2 (I think) spondylolisthesis, and she pulls over 400 at 132 and 63 years of age. Dynamic loading would be dangerous, static loading would be safer if the lesion is stable, but there is always a risk of movement with this injury. I'd hate for this movement to occur in my gym. I have never seen it happen, but I haven't seen everything.

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    Thanks Rip. Appreciate the input. It's so hard to find any good data on this condition for folks who want to continue to remain athletic and lift heavy shit. There's anecdotal evidence (including my own) but obviously nothing beyond that, and I'm an evidence/research geek so it ain't for a lack of looking...

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by sherwooa View Post
    As an aside, have you ever seen or heard of a case of slip progression in a lifter?
    I have. Usually, they do not progress after age 20. This guy, a 100kg class powerlifter, best squat around 660, dead lift around 620, went from a solid grade I to a full grade II over eight years. Minimal back pain, just tightness after heavier workouts.

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