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Old 06-03-2009, 08:00 PM   #1
Emily Mattes
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Default Programming for an older, inflexible beginner

I'm giving a beginning lifter some help with form and getting into basic strength work. Today I walked him through the squat, deadlift, military press, barbell row, and bench press. He's in his mid-50s and has some major flexibility/mobility issues across his shoulders and chest, along with tight hamstrings and glutes that cause some major butt-winking. It isn't possible for him to keep a flat or any sort of lordotic arch in the rows, squat, or deadlift. If he does an overhead press from the front his arms straighten out about 30 degrees in front of his head. He does look better with behind-the-neck presses, however. Difficulties arose not from the weights themselves (didn't use anything greater than 65#), but from keeping everything tight and the challenges to flexibility.

So I'm trying to figure out a good program for him. The complicating factor is that I can't be with him for all of his workouts, so I need something that he can do on his own. Originally I was thinking SS, with barbell rows subbed for power cleans as I don't think I will be able to make the commitment to teaching him power cleans right now. Emphasis will be on form, not weight, of course, and extra flexiblity/mobility work. I was also thinking of subbing in the behind-the-neck press rather than in the front, as that's the only press we tried where he was able to keep a vertical path with the bar. Again, emphasis especially on that will be on form and not weight, and I'll be encouraging him to take things slowly until he's flexible to get everything right.

Program would look like this (credit goes here).

Workout A
3x5 Squat
3x5 Bench Press
1x5 Deadlift
2x5-8 assisted dips

Workout B
3x5 Squat
3x5 Standing behind-the-neck press
3x5 Bent-over rows
2x5-8 assisted pull-ups

Three days a week, alternating over a two-week period A-B-A/B-A-B in typical SS style. I'm leaving cardio up to him, he does some bike riding here and there and I encouraged him to get off the elliptical and onto the rower as he doesn't suffer from knee or joint problems.

Is this a good idea? Should I be doing a different program? I don't have a lot of experience training people, especially rote beginners, so I want to make sure I don't totally screw him up or lead him to injury.
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Old 06-03-2009, 08:17 PM   #2
Allen Yeh
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Sounds like a good basic program. I'm assuming you'll be teaching him low-bar squats? I would suggest that you progress slowly form-wise as he is older and perhaps should deadlift from an elevated position at first until he can work his way to deadlifting from the floor eventually (i.e. rack pulls or something along those lines), for squats something similiar.

Work the flexibility/mobility work into the workout and warmup would be my suggestion. (i.e. in between squat sets work on some hip/ankle mobility drill, in between bench sets work on thoracic stuff....etc)
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Old 06-03-2009, 08:22 PM   #3
Frank Needham
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How about the broomstick for form and flexibility? Can't beat it for some things though obviously it won't help strength issues. If he doesn't object you might suggest he attend some yoga classes like power flow, that'll help loosen him up. Not to be smart but he's a big boy and should be able to handle some things by himself without being totally supervised.
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Old 06-03-2009, 08:24 PM   #4
Allen Yeh
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An interesting article that is a bit more CF oriented but relevant nonetheless I think.

http://www.cathletics.com/articles/i...ty&shortyID=54
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Pain is your companion, don't go hide from it."
-Kelly Starrett
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Old 06-03-2009, 10:47 PM   #5
Garrett Smith
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Sounds like flexibility/stretching/yoga/YRG will pay much bigger dividends for this person than a barbell ever will at this point in his life. Not that he can't or shouldn't lift, but it's like taking a car that's been on blocks for years and trying to race it. He needs a lot of prep work.

All weighted exercises for this guy should be light, stressing full ROM. Pick exercises that challenge his ROM without breaking down his form (or what form he does have).

The body naturally contracts as we age, we must do what we can to fight this, that's flexibility. He sure doesn't need SS at this point in his life.
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Old 06-04-2009, 07:48 PM   #6
Emily Mattes
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Hmm, that may be a more difficult sell.
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Old 06-04-2009, 10:11 PM   #7
Craig Brown
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If he won't go with what Garret says, see if you can get him started in a way that will counter his weaknesses: ie, he has forward shoulders, poor scap retraction, maybe start him on a lot of rows/scap push ups/etc...the issue most of us find as we get older and less flexible is at some point you HAVE to fix it or you're (even more) screwed. ...Steve Maxwell's Daily Dozen is a good start.
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Old 06-04-2009, 10:34 PM   #8
Garrett Smith
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Well, some YRG when he can't work out with you would work well--he'll be guided and you will know that he's working on his flexibility. Then he can get both.
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Old 07-05-2009, 07:42 AM   #9
Tom Rawls
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The guy is an injury waiting to happen.

Before he starts anything that looks like Starting Strength, he should spend a couple of months working on mobility, using bodyweight, bands, and the like. If he insists on jumping in with the big lifts, you might want to start searching for a good orthopedist right now.
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Old 07-05-2009, 08:06 AM   #10
George Mounce
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I agree with Tim. If the guy is serious he should realize that you crawl before you walk before you run. If he doesn't have the mobility to do the lifts he's going to be crawling again with injury.

I've been playing around with Super Joints and Relax into Stretching by Pavel, both have increased my mobility (and I can get a full on ATA squat) further, and I feel stronger in all lifts because I'm not limited by any mobility issues.

Almost 3 years ago I couldn't go below parallel in the squat at the ripe old age of 28. For this guy he has many more years of inflexibility and that needs to be taken care of first.
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