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“The Olympic lifting has been a challenge all the way around,” says John Van Every, owner of CrossFit Longevity in Santa Cruz, Calif. He’s offering CrossFit to a specialized segment of the population: athletes 50 years of age and older.

“I think the biggest challenges faced by this age demographic for especially the Olympic lifting is the set-up, always the set-up position,” Van Every says. He notes that the flexibility required for a proper starting position is a challenge for older athletes.

“The clean has been the slowest to progress,” he says.

The deadlift is his starting point for training good Oly movement.

“I would say mechanically if we can correct the deadlift positioning and transfer that over to the start of the clean, I think that is the best way to approach it, but it takes a long time,” Van Every says.

6min 15sec

Additional reading: Seniors and Kids by Greg Glassman, published Feb. 1, 2003.

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16 Comments on “Working the Olympic Lifts at CrossFit Longevity”

1

wrote …

John,

You are doing an amazing thing there. Seeing folks in that age range do those movements is inspiring. Great name and logo too.

2

wrote …

John,

Nice work! Keep me posted on a potential 'Longevity' cert!

3

wrote …

Very cool! Would love to see more of this!

4

wrote …

This one should be free, great promo for Crossfit for seniors! Would like to send it to some friends in that age range!

5

wrote …

as an over 50 crossfitter--this was a fantastic video. i love the patience and focus on long term rather than immediate gains. Very impressive. Thank you

6

wrote …

Great video! On a side note, what brand of bumpers are those? I love the lack of bounce.

7

wrote …

John, I like your patience and communication with the "age groupers". I am myself a personal trainer with a "small box" studio and am starting my journey with Crossfit. I am 64 years old and have been teaching actively "Boot Camps" for over 10 years.....I have one motto that stands..."What has age got to do with it"!!! I firmly believe that it is never too late to start and continue with vigourous well conceived exercise programming. That is why I am migrating over to Crossfit...Good Luck with your endeavor and hope to see some updates soon.

8

wrote …

John,

Great job helping to bring attention to the needs of "older" crossfitters. I started crossfit 15 months ago at age 58. I found (and still do to a great extent) the Olympic lifts very difficult. My coaches are very good and their patience and willingness to work with me has made all of the difference in my continuing to stay with crossfit. I started "exercise" programs many many times in the past only to quit after 3 - 6 months. I was drawn to the functional movement approach of crossfit and feel it could greatly benefit seniors. What are some of their Fran times?

9

wrote …

Since I am in my late 50s and doing Crossfit for just over 1 year, I have seen since pretty amazing things happen in that year's time. I can now do 15-16" box jumps where a year ago I could barely jump up on a roadside curb. Seeing your patience working with this age group is a gift for all of us to see and your name says it for all. Longevity!

10

wrote …

I really commend you on your bravery John b/c as a trainer myself, I would be scared shitless teaching that age group O lifting for fear of serious injury.

I am a personal trainer in a health club that I have slowly outfitted with lots of crossfit equipment over the years and I do wods/strength work with almost all of my clients. I train many older adults (50-60-70-80 and yes, 90 years old) and in training them I have come to understand what their goals should be for what age. For example, I have a 60 year old lady who came to me and wanted to run races, two years later she ran 14 5km races in one season. And believe me, all the KB swings and snatches we have done have helped her stay injury free that whole time. Another 60 yr old lady, GREAT Squat form, seeing improvement, very strong midline but when she pulls 55lbs or more from the ground or does any KB swings, her back hurts the next day and aches for a few days. I have tried many different strategies to build her up and improve her mobility etc. etc. to facilitate pain free, loaded dynamic work, but have failed. However, she looks GREAT, feels great, can run, can row, can do seriously challenging wods. Her lower back is simply too far gone and that sounds bad but it is the truth, it cannot adapt to a kb swing b/c it is structurally degenerated. That is what I believe at least.

I guess in the end I am just really conflicted about teaching my older clients (65+) to o lift or do any other loaded dynamic work. I know it will improve their power and directly help them avoid falling but what if they have one bad lift. What if I tell them chest out,their set up is perfect but half way through the first pull they flex their spin suddenly and BANG, herniated disk, excruciating debilitating pain for weeks until they eventually have back surgery. As a trainer, that is very close to a worst case scenario but it is a real risk.

So from a risk/return point of view, I believe that the slow movements, with load, provide more than enough return for the typical 65+ crowd while also keeping the risk in a range I am comfortable with. Loading squats, deadlifts and tones of single leg work will give these men and women improved mobility and strength without exposing them to a worst case scenario.

This is not to say that we shouldn't let those unique 75 year old men and women swing some KBs when we know they safely can. Let them swing but keep them grounded in reality. At 75 your goal is to maintain, make some improvement yes but generally, try like hell to keep what you got and live out the rest of your days as pain free as possible. By the way, my gym has a physical therapy wing and I see all the worst case scenarios daily.

I am sorry if I am being a downer but I felt like I have to give my point of view.

11

Chris Sinagoga wrote …

Awesome video John. It is easy to tell you are doing a great job coaching them. Just a suggestion: since they are having trouble in the starting position, you could have them start from a defecit (place bumper plates under the weights on the bar so they don't have to go down as far). That works for some of the clients we train. But anyways, keep up the work man!

12

wrote …

I AM VERY, VERY, IMPRESSED!! outstanding work! geezers rule! love seeing you work with this population john! you are doing a great job!!

coach b

13

wrote …

I too hope that more articles and videos like this keep showing up. While I am in better than average condition for my 68 years I have on occasion sustained short term injuries doing snatches and other quick power movements. So I am always wondering if it is a good idea to try certain WODs. Any info on the main site or in the Journal that helps older Crossfitters understand the pros & cons of certain exercises, and the best ways to modify/scale them, is helpful.

Keep up the good work and suggestions, John.

14

wrote …

I too hope that more articles and videos like this keep showing up. While I am in better than average condition for my 68 years I have on occasion sustained short term injuries doing snatches and other quick power movements. So I am always wondering if it is a good idea to try certain WODs. Any info on the main site or in the Journal that helps older Crossfitters understand the pros & cons of certain exercises, and the best ways to modify/scale them, is helpful.

Keep up the good work and suggestions, John.

15

wrote …

I too hope that more articles and videos like this keep showing up. While I am in better than average condition for my 68 years I have on occasion sustained short term injuries doing snatches and other quick power movements. So I am always wondering if it is a good idea to try certain WODs. Any info on the main site or in the Journal that helps older Crossfitters understand the pros & cons of certain exercises, and the best ways to modify/scale them, is helpful.

Keep up the good work and suggestions, John.

16

wrote …

Great Video! Every single issue concerning flexibility and coordination in this video relates to my 23-35 yr old clients. Teaching o-lifts to inflexible people with muscle imbalances affects every age group.

Our box is 1 mile from a major university and you'd be surprised at the number of students who can't deadlift properly for months until they balance out and stretch daily. And OHS are not even feasible for 6 months or more with this group.

Bottom line, it's great to see how other gyms approach these issues and more importantly, see a group of older members dedicated and patient enough to progress. Most of my younger clients get frustrated after 60 days and quit. I'd love to have a "senior division" as I know they are a captive audience and ready to learn!

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