by Ernest Tuff uploaded 14th Oct 2014
Training my body is a way of life to me. I started training at the age of ten and now at seventy-six I’m still training. As a Christian I believe that God gave me this body and I have to look after it to the best of my ability. So I never hurt it with tobacco, alcohol, caffeine, or drugs of any kind. This is one reason that the IDFPA appeals to me!
My knowledge and experience has increased as I progressed in years, not from any academic qualifications (although I did some training under BAWLA many years ago), but a lot came from trial and error.
I have studied resistance training, anatomy, body mechanics, and nutrition for my own benefit. Trained in stick fighting, knife defence and was a coach in Karate as a 2nd. Dan Black belt, then four years ago I returned to Field athletics i.e. Shot. Discus, Hammer and Weight throw.
So from this basis of sixty-six years in training,
hands on you might say, I’m bold enough to put
forward my ideas as tried and tested on my own
body. Now I say “my own body” for as the face
differs so does the body and it goes without saying
that the programme of training that I would follow,
might not suit someone else. If I make gains
following a certain type of training, it does not
automatically say that all who will follow that
regime will also make gains, or lose weight,
or gain muscle, or get stronger etc..
This is one thing that I have learned, that is
when helping others in training; I cannot put everyone into the same mould.
That “this is the way it’s done and there is no other way”. Their style might look awkward, but that doesn’t say it’s wrong for that person. Or “this is the right way to lose weight”. For their body might respond better to another type of exercise programme.
I remember when throwing the hammer the coaches would insist on a certain way to do it. I had trained some time on my own and was increasing my throw rapidly. Distance wise for my age, it would compete well with world records, but when I tried to remould myself to the coach’s way of thinking my distance went down 5m. + It was all right to win the Irish and the N. Irish championships and maybe the GB. But the throws were a far cry from what I had been doing, all because the coaches didn’t take into consideration my unique style that suited my body.
So it goes right across the board in all disciplines, the female powerlifter and the male powerlifter, those who are young, the older group, then there are the ones like me, a wee bit older again, but each one is unique and almost all needing a specific programme and should be treated as such.
Now although I had been doing intensive anaerobic and resistance training for many years, for example when coming up to my Black Belt gradings, six or eight weeks out I would have started training twelve times a week, Karate in the morning with a 10kg weighted vest and specific free weights training in the afternoon. Sunday being the “Lords Day” was my rest day.
BUT “Powerlifting” was quite different!
As I was to quickly learn, (started Powerlifting Oct. 2013) for although I had years of training with free weights and had different disciplines under my belt, Powertraining had to be treated differently.
How is that? Well take the Deadlift for example, there is not another discipline that will tax the body like it does. It’s a complete compound movement! Meaning that, one uses nearly all the muscles in the body in its execution.
The body is a single unit and works as a whole, so uses the ‘prime movers’, all the ‘stabilising muscles’ (muscles that stabilise the joints, vertebra), all the synergists (muscles that support/aid the muscles that are the prime movers) in the lift. This takes a lot of physical and nervous energy and the heavy muscle contractions causes the breakdown in muscle fibre. All this needs repair and this takes a lot longer to recover than usual. I need seven days to recovery from a heavy Deadlifting session.
There is of course a great need for good nutrition to aid this recovery. I try to eat organic food when I can, but even with good food, the nutrients for the fast healing that the body needs when summited to Powerlifting is sadly lacking (Owing to many factors), so I supplement with LA Whey Protein, Vitamins/minerals. Coconut oil/milk, seeds and nuts.
When I started deadlifting, I trained at it twice a week. Mondays and Fridays I would do 5x5s starting at 140kg. then added 2.5kg. each training session, so that in four weeks I was at 160kg., also intending at the end of four weeks to go for a maximum lift.
When I was at 160kg. on the fifth set at the second rep. I got a hamstring strain. As I felt it starting to go, I let the bar go immediately and I would say, got away with a slightly pulled hamstring, which took about four weeks to recover from.
I’ve tried other exercises like Power Cleans (from ground). I tried them out on the Wednesday then went to heavy in the Deadlift on the Friday. This did not work for me because the first part of the Cleans movement is akin to the deadlift, so there is too much for the Glutes and Quads to recover from in one day. With the result I strained my Glutes and lower back, which I’m not yet recovered from!
So I’m learning the hard way, I just hope I can learn from these mistakes, because it certainly puts a damper on the training, as no serious weights can be moved in preparation for competitions. When there’s a break in the competitions (i.e. after the Europeans in Sept.)I will take a few weeks from deadlifting and then restart the 5X5s again, once a week.
But now what about this training for the over seventies ???
Many say to me “how do you do it?” and “Boys if I’m as good as you when I reach seventy!” The truth is, they are not as good now at thirty, never mind their pie in the sky dream when seventy is reached! But to be serious “I am what I am, by the Grace of God, for He is my Strength!
Again it must be said that training be tailored for the individual. Yet obviously there is that technique which all must execute “Straight lower back and bringing the bar straight up from the shins to lockout”.
I want to show by illustration how I conceive the correct technique in the Deadlift for me.
Now in doing this I know I’m leaving myself open to a lot of criticism! Especially from those who have been in it for years, but if it’s good helpful criticism, I will take it graciously.
I soon realised that the Deadlift was not to wrestle the weight from the ground any old way. I had strength, but I had to learn this skill. I did that by reading, watching and listening to others and experimenting to see what suited me best. I then was able to pick out that “economy of movement” that was the secret to good pulling, which I had/have to practice over and over again.
I see it as composed of several elements; strung together to produce one joined movement. If one of the elements is weak, there the whole lift breaks down.
Practicing good form with lighter weights is good to start with and must needs be, but one cannot stop there, there has to be the practice with all weight up to maximum trying to keep this good form. For it’s with the heavies that good form goes out the window. It does somewhat with me, so I need to focus on this to correct it.
My starting position is very important. I need to have my shins close to the bar as possible and as I have short arms, I let my shoulders come down so as to lengthen my reach, so I don’t have to squat down or bend over as far. I prefer my head neutral, not looking at the ceiling.
There is also griping the bar the right way and in the right place, so as not to nip the skin in the palms of the hands and have it balanced right. So I take my time when I come to the bar to get these things right.
I believe also that taking a deep breath when down gives me greater stability in my core. I see some breathing out and in as if to oxygenate the blood (Hyperventilating and then holding the breath with pressure could make one pass out) but that’s not needed, because the lift only lasts about 5 seconds. Rather one should go down breathing normal and not exhaling extensively and then take a large inhalation to fill the lungs and diaphragm as much as possible. So as to be able to create a “tight jacket” (block if you like) for the upper body and to keep a straight lower back, of course a good Powerlifting belt helps in the “tight jacket” creation, which has to be tight on the waist to be of any use!
This tightening of the upper body aided by air volume intake and belt is a big necessity for heavy lifts, as it stabilises the column vertebra and whole upper body.
My aim is always to come straight up (on block at it were) and not allow the weight to dictate to me, it would try and pull me forward, if that happens with a heavy weight I have lost it. So I have to resist it and focus on keeping tight and back (If I come too far back I feel my knees coming under stress) and when I get the bar up over my knees I try to shoot the hips forward. My chest is already out as from the start with that deep breath then it’s easier to get the shoulders back and so complete a good lift. I keep the “tight jacket” on till I let the weight down again.
The following photos in sequence, are illustrating what I am trying to say. Now I know it’s only 100kg. I’m using and easy to keep good form with, but for the sake of illustration, I ask you to make allowance. I hope this is of interest to some!
My best lift yet was on 22 Feb 2014, deadlifting 215kg. winning the u105kg m4 class, at the NIPF Deadlift Championships in the Valley Leisure Centre.