Keeping A Resilient Back as We Age

Pavel coached Vladimir to hang following each heavy deadlift rep.

Meeting Pavel for the first time about twenty years ago changed my life. It is a story that has been told in these pages before. I was impressed with this quiet gentleman who knew so much about training systems far from the American tradition. We discussed the eloquence of Russian sport science that produced performance and resilience. Its investigations of fundamental mechanisms, together with measurement of the effect, proved that enhanced resilience comes from the balance of strength, explosive power, mobility, stability, and movement quality as they sum together to enhance work capacity. These concepts haven’t changed over the past twenty years, but our perspective on discussing aging has.

As a younger man, I was interested in strength techniques that eliminated sticking points in various lifts with pulsing power. Now, I am interested in maintaining sufficient power and athleticism to ensure that I can recover from a stumble and catch a fall. The real risk from a fall now outweighs the real risk of musculoskeletal strain from a challenging lift. Last week, I was thankful to generate enough hip flexion power to set my foot in front of my center of mass to prevent a fall. Strength and power are still important to me, but at this stage of life it is for different reasons. As Pavel reminds me, it is my duty to remain difficult to kill.

What is the best training program for me now? The context has changed with the transformation to my white hair color. The goal is, and always has been, to train and stimulate adaptation without accumulating micro-trauma. But the sad reality is that the process of adaptation isn’t what it used to be. Life has added to my injury history and nature has reigned in some tissue elasticity and extensibility reducing my range of motion. Recovery and adaptation now take longer. The path to maintaining strength and power has changed. The balancing act needs to be adjusted.

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