Injuries

17.34 I had a bad year in 1992 for injuries. ^roughout late 1991 and early 1992 I had elbow problems caused by excessive zeal for specialized grip work, and not working into it progressively enough. ^is prevented all grip work and hampered me in all major exercises except the deadlift (because I was using grip supports). Due to an injury sustained while playing soccer in 1991, I had a problem with my right big toe until late 1993.

17.35 In late February 1992 I started using a hip belt for squats during the ^urs-day workout, for much regretted supplementary thigh work. ^is was an example of trying to improve on what was already a very productive schedule. When something is going well, leave well alone.

17.36 I started very light with the hip-belt squat—85 pounds—to get the hang of the exercise. It was awkward to begin with. I had to use a 2-inch board under my heels, though balance was still awkward. Being more mechanically suited to the deadlift than the squat probably exaggerated the awkwardness of the exercise for me. Plenty of people have prospered on the hip-belt squat but I am not one of them, at least not if it is done with a 2-inch board under my heels. My knees moaned from the first workout. ^e "moaning" was not enough to stop me. I mistook it for the discomfort of acclimatizing to a new exercise, and stupidly applied the "no pain, no gain" maxim. I persisted with the hip-belt squat for 5 or 6 workouts before I finally got the message that the exercise was damaging my knees, and abandoned it in early April.

17.37 To be fair, my knees were sensitive and quite easily irritated. Had I done the hip-belt squat in a power rack or from within the safety bars of a squat rack, holding onto the uprights to maintain balance without a board under my heels, I may have prospered on the exercise. I now vigorously oppose raising the heels while squatting other than by a regular heel of a shoe. (Raising the heels increases leg flexion and pushes the knees too far forward, greatly increasing the stress on those joints.) Never mind that some of the big physiques can apparently safely squat with their heels raised on a board, though they may pay the price in years to come. What matters is how your knees react. I paid a heavy price for my misjudgment.

17.38 With my knees injured from the raised-heels hip-belt squat, they now could not tolerate regular no-elevation barbell squatting. Even squats with light weights produced days of discomfort afterward. ^e soreness became unbearable and in June I dropped the squat.

17.39 While the knee problem ruined the squat, it did not mar the deadlift cycle. I was not using my knees a great deal in the exercise anyway. By taking my knees just a little more out of the movement the deadlift could continue to progress. ^e effect of this was that the stress upon my back was increased as my legs contributed less to the movement.

17.40 On 24 April I did 385 for 15 reps. I was down to 5 continuous reps and 10 rest-pause reps to get all 15 out. ^en I got injured, but not while deadlift-ing.

17.41 While performing standing barbell presses I felt something "twang" in my upper back. ^e pain was immediate. I visited a chiropractor the next day and had two vertebrae in my upper spine adjusted. ^ere was instant improvement and within a week my back was feeling 100%. From then on I did my overhead presses while seated and with my back supported against a high-incline bench.

17.42 Being cautious I did not deadlift again until 7 May, and then only with 330 pounds. A week later I did 363 for the usual 15 reps, and a further week later I did 374, and a week after that (28 May) I did the 385 I had done before the upper-back injury.

17.43 I then hurt myself again. While stretching at home, doing a familiar back movement, I got carried away and went for extra stretch. I felt another twang and regretted the enthusiasm for stretching. Great care needs to be given to stretching exercises because if you get carried away you will injure yourself.

17.44 Shortly after the second twang I went to the chiropractor again. Now I needed an adjustment in the lower spine. I did not think the problem was serious so I only took an extra few days off training before deadlifting again—twelve days of rest instead of seven. I felt fine so off I went. On 9 June I made the pre-injury poundage plus an increment of 2.5 kilos. Now I was up to 177.5 kilos (390.5 pounds).

17.45 It was about at this time that I foolishly bench pressed without a spotter or any safety device. I got stuck at the bottom. Alone I had to wrestle the bar down to my midsection before being able to sit up. In the process I damaged my right shoulder. With the use of ice, and tolerating the discomfort, I persisted with bench pressing till the end of the deadlift cycle, but the damage was done and would be with me for a long time.

You may be wondering how I could have done some of the foolish things I did. "Didn't you know better?" you may ask. I did know better. I knew I was taking form liberties. But I was caught up in the emotion of a cycle that was going very well in some respects, and reveling in handling large weights in the deadlift. I was apparently getting away with the liberties I was taking, so I kept on at it. My heart was ruling my brain. But eventually I came to grief, and confirmed all that I teach in my writings—that taking liberties with exercise technique is foolish.

B 66

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