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How Strength Athletes Can Beat Arthritis
Bulletproof your knees
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Training With Arthritis
As I deloaded last week, I’m skipping a training review. Physical fatigue is down. Diet fatigue is high. Overall, feeling much better four weeks from contest. Instead of training review, this week I go deeper into dealing with. joint pain, specifically from arthritis.
Arthritis is painful. It even happens to some of us strength athletes when we’re young. But it doesn’t have to derail our strength ambitions.
I’ve dealt with arthritis in my knees for the last five or so years. Sometimes it doesn’t bother me. Sometimes it feels like knives during squats.
In that time, I’ve picked up four effective tools to sustain hard strength training in the face of arthritis:
Exercise modifications. My knees seem to either like full depth squats or box squats. Powerlifting-depth squats where I just break parallel with my hip crease bother my knees the most. When my knees hurt, box squats prevent me from bouncing out of the hole and let me still get work in. When my knees feel good, full range of motion (ROM) exercises keeps them feeling good. Full ROM ensures maximal hypertrophy, and I think it strengthens my quads around the knee more effectively.
A lot of lifters don’t appreciate what full ROM means. Here’s what full range of motion leg presses look like:
And full ROM squats:
No, you won’t move as much weight, but your knees will be happier.
Managing volume. When your knees are sensitive, you should be careful beating them up with large amounts of volume. I tolerate full rom volume pretty well probably because the weights are lighter even though the stimulus may be greater than limited ROM movements. If my knees are really bothering me, I might cut overall set volume in half and keep the same intensity. It might set you back a week in your training, but it’s better than setting yourself back a month with more knee pain.
Function, mobility, and joint health. I think that one of the big issues that compounds arthritis issues is compromised function and mobility to deal with the pain. By shortening usage of the joint, people with arthritis get tighter around the knee, compromising it even further.
Using full ROM exercises above helps with function and mobility, but I usually add a few additional exercises on top of my regular training on leg days. The two most effective for me are reverse sled drags and the ATG split squat:
The more I incorporate the drags and full ROM split squats into my regular routine, the easier I find it to train legs heavy without knee pain.
Drugs. I’ve tried aspirin, Voltaren, stem cells, peptides. None of it really helps arthritis. The only thing I’ve used that seems to offer some relief is low-dose prescription Nandrolone (an anabolic steroid). Studies suggest Nandrolone can be effective for reducing joint pain particularly in men with low testosterone. Nandrolone doesn’t eliminate the arthritis, but it does seem to reduce the frequency and intensity of pain when I’m on vs off.
If you’re dealing with arthritis, or even just joint pain, I hope these tips help you stay stronger for longer.
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