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Ask Greg: Issue 146
Greg Everett

Chris Asks: Hey Greg, love the content on your site. I have been lifting for about a year or so, averaging 4 to 5 days a week. The last few months I have been wrestling with patellar tendonitis. It finally got bad enough that I had to stop doing the lifts, squats, and even pulls. I read your article from March 2012, and I have been heeding that advice. It's been a couple weeks, and this week I started back with some very light squats. My question to you is, what do think is an acceptable threshold for pain? On Monday, during the squats the pain was maybe a 1 out of 10. On Wednesday, I added another 10 kilos to the bar from Monday, and the pain was again maybe a 1 out of 10 (usually on reps 3 through 5). If I can barely feel the pain, should I continue squatting? Or am I expecting to feel zero pain? Lastly, how soon would you start incorporating some ballistic work? I'm thinking lightweight (50%?) high pulls next week, and then light full lifts the following week. Thanks in advance for any help on this.
 
Greg Says: This is always a very subjective thing, but if you can genuinely rate your pain as 1 out of 10, I’d greenlight you without hesitation. First, that’s extremely minimal (arguably most long time lifters live with 1/10 pain most days). Second, and more importantly in a way, it’s not getting worse session to session.
 
The key in my mind is to knock down the inflammation first to get that new baseline of no or minimal pain, and then be very sure to not aggravate it. That is, if you’re at a 1, as long as you don’t have any workouts above that, I think you’re in the clear.
 
However, if you maintain that level of pain for months on end, you may need to reconsider and get a bit more aggressive to get that last bit of pain to abate. That may mean some time off completely, or it may be as simple as reducing the frequency of your squatting temporarily.
 
As far as more ballistic work, definitely begin with things like pulls that are not closing the knee completely but also are primarily concentric loading. Avoid heavy eccentric loading initially, especially with either a lot of speed or a lot of load (or both, of course).
 
I would then work to high powers, i.e. receive the bar above a quarter squat—lower than that and it may actually put more strain on the patellar tendons than receiving in a full squat. From there, begin receiving in that high power position and then sitting under control into a full squat. Once you can do that for a while without pain, work back to the full lifts.
 
Going forward, be sure to avoid whatever situation created the problem in the first place, whether it was excessive volume or frequency, a lack of soft tissue and mobility work, etc. Build back up incrementally so you can evaluate well at each stage to ensure you haven’t gone too far again.
 
Bryan Asks: I train at a globo gym that has 3 platforms for O-Lifting. I sometimes find myself without a platform due to crowds. What could I do on the fly besides bro sessions that would replace what I had planned to do on the platform? Thanks for the suggestions!
 
Greg Says: You should be able to do essentially anything that doesn’t require dropping the bar, or involve the risk of accidentally dropping it due to a miss. The obvious ones are squatting, pulling and pressing variations. This may include actual snatch and clean pulls, or if that’s pushing it for you, things like snatch and clean deadlifts, halting deadlifts, segment deadlifts, RDLs or SLDLs, good mornings and the like. Pressing work can be press, snatch press, push press, snatch push press, press in snatch, press in clean, bench press; if you’re confident enough, you may also include push jerk or power jerk, and overhead squats or snatch balance variations, although likely at relatively light weights to avoid any risk of misses. Squats are pretty self-explanatory.
 
In some cases, you may be able to create an alternative workout that closely follows what you had planned. For example, if you intended to do snatches, snatch pulls, overhead squats and back squats, instead of snatches, you might do high-pulls with slightly more weight and maybe a rep or 2 more than what you had planned in the snatches (and even a similar variation, like doing hang pulls if you had planned to do hang snatches, etc.), then your pulls if you can (if not, doing them as deadlifts ), squats as normal, and overhead squats as normal if you can, and if not, somewhat lighter if needed.
 
Worst case scenario, it’s a chance to get in your basic strength work and even some bro work—nothing wrong with that from time to time.


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