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The Pusher Don't Care: Ibuprofen and Weightlifting
Matt Foreman  |  Olympic Weightlifting  |  February 16 2012

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The Pusher Don't Care: Ibuprofen and Weightlifting, Matt Foreman,
What’s your opinion about ibuprofen?
 
I know it’s a subject that some of you probably aren’t hip to. Based on what I’ve seen on Catalyst Athletics, I think we’ve got pretty educated readers. It’s obvious from the comments I see on this website that many of you do thorough research on things, so I’m sure there are a lot of you who have done some reading on ibuprofen. 
 
Consequently, I’m betting that many of you have negative opinions about it. Yes? No? Maybe? I’m making that assumption because it’s a pharmaceutical, which is something that a large section of the population seems to be against. I have a feeling that most of us, being strength athletes and coaches, try to preach healthy eating and whatnot. And there has been some documentation about potential negatives associated with ibuprofen and other NSAIDs. According to some people, it’s pretty risky stuff… right up there with pork chops, Diet Coke, rated-R movies, lifting weights, and a long list of other things that basically provide 90% of the pleasure I get in life.  But you know what? I’m gonna be a gangster and just write about it anyway. Straight outta Compton. 
 
Up until I was thirty-seven, ibuprofen was a regular part of my weightlifting life. I definitely wouldn’t say I was ever a full-blown junkie for the stuff, but it was part of my toolbox. For the last eight or nine years, I’ve been taking it twice a week before big workouts (usually 800-1000 milligrams). I usually increased the dosages a little when I was getting close to competitions and taking a lot of heavy attempts in training, and then I would stop taking it for a few weeks after the meet. But I got my ACL surgery last summer, and obviously I wasn’t lifting big weights for several weeks after the operation. Because I wasn’t training hard, I just stopped taking ibuprofen completely. 
 
When I started training the Olympic lifts again back in October, I decided that I wanted to start taking ibuprofen again but in drastically reduced amounts. So I decided to only take it one week each month when I’m going heavy. My monthly training routine now basically looks like this:
Week One- light
Week Two- moderate
Week Three- heavy
Week Four- deload
 
That’s a really simple way to describe it without going into too much detail. That heavy week is when I take ibuprofen. The rest of the month, I don’t use it at all. 
 
And let me tell you something right now, brothers and sisters. During that week when I take it…holy buckets of whale crap. I guess I know what crystal meth feels like now. I’m twice as fast and nothing hurts. As you probably know, ibuprofen is something you build up a tolerance to. Now that I rarely use it, I don’t have a tolerance built up. So when I take some, the effects are hellacious. I’m like a combination of Hunter S. Thompson and Jim Morrison, walking around in a drug-fueled haze. Okay, maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration. But my workouts do feel pretty good.
 
I’m glad that I’ve reduced the amounts I take, and I’m actually surprised that I feel as good as I do. During those weeks leading up to my heavy week, I’m not handling huge weights. That could be a reason why I’ve been able to adapt and train well without ibuprofen. But still, I’m almost forty and I’m actually relying on the stuff a lot less now than I did five years ago. That’s a good thing, and it’s not the way I thought it was going to be.
 
I’m not totally sure that there’s a message to this post. Maybe it could be food for thought in case any of you are hammering the NSAIDS pretty hard. If you’re on a lifting break right now, maybe you could try going without it (or using a lot less) when you start training again. If you’re in the middle of a hard cycle, maybe starting to scale back the dosage little by little would work. Something like that. 
 
And if you don’t take ibuprofen at all, that’s just wonderful.   
 
However, let’s make sure we all understand that this isn’t designed to be a propaganda promotion for ibuprofen. I’ve written about some of the positive effects I get from it, but I’m not telling anybody to run out and start popping pills. If any of you go nuts with painkillers after reading this and you get sick, it’s not my fault. If you try to sue me, you’ll have to deal with my lawyer, Bernie Slapasucka. He drives a Prius, so you don’t want to mess with him. 

[Editor's Note: Catalyst Athletics, Inc. and its contributors do not prescribe the use of ibuprofen. Talk to your doctor before using NSAIDs or any other drug.]
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Matt Foreman is the football and track & field coach at Mountain View High School in Phoenix, AZ. A competitive weightliter for twenty years, Foreman is a four-time National Championship bronze medalist, two-time American Open silver medalist, three-time American Open bronze medalist, two-time National Collegiate Champion, 2004 US Olympic Trials competitor, 2000 World University Championship Team USA competitor, and Arizona and Washington state record-holder. He was also First Team All-Region high school football player, lettered in high school wrestling and track, a high school national powerlifting champion, and a Scottish Highland Games competitor. Foreman has coached multiple regional, state, and national champions in track & field, powerlifting, and weightlifting, and was an assistant coach on 5A Arizona state runner-up football and track teams.
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8 Comments
Shawn McCray 1 | 2012-02-16
I have taken alot in the past for headaches and such. But i have cut that down significantly. I have also found that taking ibuprofen helps my lifts on big days, so i usually take 800mg before the saturday lift (PR day at our gym). I have found another solution that helps out during the week and just in general, Zyflamend. Its pretty good stuff, boosts your natural inflamation response. So maybe you can work that in on your moderate weeks! I just take half a dose daily and it has helped my recovery considerably.
Alex 2 | 2012-02-16
Thanks for this write up... I've been in awe for the last two years, as Crossfit culture bags on Motrin, stating it stunts strength gains and hypertrophy, but then rave about fish oil which promotes similiar anti-inflammatory effects. We had a running joke in the Marine Corps, any injury could be fixed by drinking more water and taking Motrin... Think we were on to something.
Matt Morris 3 | 2012-02-16
Shawn, you just convinced me to start chewing on Ibuprofen like its a tic tac. And any article that starts out, "straight out of compton" must be good! Thanks for the thoughts and the laugh!
Geoff 4 | 2012-02-16
I used to avoid ibuprofen off-season and just hang with the pain (character building :-)) and use it during the on-season period. Now I just use it before the clean and jerk workouts and maybe a bit more during the last week of a heavy cycle. The article reminds me of a quote at the beginning of a chapter in on of Bill Starr's books: 'The doctor has prescribed me the greatest tablet ever, it has one terrible side effect; it wears off'.
Daniel Farrell 5 | 2012-02-17
It is clear that NSAIDS are detrimental to bone and soft tissue healing for fractures and joint reconstructions by inhibiting the first phase of healing which is an inflammatory process. Inflammation is painful but a normal process of healing.
Kevin 6 | 2012-02-17
I used to take it AFTER training. Is it better to take it before?
Eddie 7 | 2012-02-17
Bad news for the liver...
Tamara 8 | 2012-02-25
s rcduee production of prostaglandins, which are required to rebuild collagen (a primary component in bone, ligament, and tendon). But they don't have a perfect study showing that this translates to a population level outcome.The 2011 review only found 12 human studies that test anything like this (this includes the studies that tested if someone on NSAIDs was more likely to get a stress fracture), and you're not going to prove this with 12 small studies and it's impossible to prove a negative.
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