New Beginnings: How to Deal With Osteoarthritis As A Powerlifter

CPT SMASH has been out of action (at least on Youtube) for about 2.5 years dealing with the pandemic and an injury and an osteoarthritis diagnosis.

The Pandemic

Throughout the pandemic we tried many different forms of training, from virtual training over Messenger and Zoom, which I felt left a lot to be desired.  Personally, I wouldn't ever do that again, it's just not me.  And I feel like to do your best at something you have to really like what you're doing to do it well.  Virtual training wasn't it.

Then we went to training in peoples' homes when we could do that.  That was better.  Not like having the full gym experience, but at least it was something.  And it was live.  We still have at home sessions that we continue to this day for some people who enjoy the convenience.  And I can live with that.

The gym was opened and closed so many times, I can't even count how many times I brought the equipment home to train out of the garage gym (which is still set up, just in case)!  That alone was frustrating.  This brought me to ultimate conclusion that it just wasn't feasible to have my own brick and mortar space anymore and just focus on what I do best.  Train people!

The Injuries

That being said we also had the development of some injuries that seem to be my gift at turning 40 years old.  First, it was the osteoarthritis in every joint in my body.  Then a bad fall brought along the femoral nerve impingement.

These things were a huge setback and made me really think long and hard about training.  Powerlifting was out of the question.  I just couldn't move the same way anymore without having horrible repercussions the following days.

These were truly a mind killer for me and I was questionable about what the future would hold.

The Continued Pursuit of Fitness

So to rehash we're on a new track now, with a different set of goals.  Much as many of you will have throughout your training and fitness journey.  Sometimes it's not the way you get there, it's how you get there.

The diagnosis of osteoarthritis was a big problem for my lifting.  Certain lifts just don't feel good to perform.  Others leave me crippled the next day.  Both issues are hard for my brain to handle.  Lifting used to be the best way for me to handle stress and vent.

That has since changed.  Now, the lifting is more for helping maintain strength and muscle mass, and only a little benefit to the head.

The goal post is to now continue training with a more hybrid scheme of lifting incorporating a lot more bands, cables and alternate exercise to keep and develop muscle mass without having the joints being compromised.

What I've Learned So Far

After keeping a journal of certain exercises and how training is going overall, I must say these things are the biggest improvements that I have observed in lessening my joint pain while training.

  1.  Lose weight.  Whether it's fat or lean tissue, being overweight for your frame ( I was 230lbs when powerlifting and now at 195-200) has been a huge improvement for my mobility.  There's just no way around carrying a large amount of load when your joints already hurt.
  2. Supplement with fish oil, borage oil, vitamin D and turmeric.  I've found these to really help my inflammation and help me not be addicted to over the counter pain meds.
  3. Taking more rest days.  Whether I like it or not, when I take more rest days, I can push through more intense workouts without affecting my joints.  Harder on the brain to not be crushing the iron on a regular training cycle, but listening to your body helps you maintain what you have better and with less pain.
  4. Substituting more bodybuilding exercises and alternative exercises for painful areas.  This topic I'll get a bit more in depth on other posts.
  5. Keep a log and figure out what's going to work for you.  I found that heavy squats and leg press definitely cause me more pain than joy, so we changed it up to exercises that are less damaging and lighter to avoid the problem.
  6. Sometimes exercises may feel good while you're doing them, but later you're wrecked.  This is where finding what is going to work better for you comes into play.  Don't fall victim to the, "it has to be done this way".  There's always a way to train.  You just need to figure out how to do it better.

With those short tidbits, I'll leave you until next time.  Don't be afraid to help direct the flow of thought by adding some comments down below.  And as always, be strong, be fast, be resilient!



Jess Howland

Jesse "Captain Smash" Howland is the owner of SMASH’s Strength Lab, which offers targeted personal training to reach a variety of fitness and physique goals. A natural bodybuilder, competitive powerlifter, certified personal trainer, and nutrition coach, Jesse is often the go-to resource for personal training Ottawa. He studied Exercise Science at Oregon State University and even trained at the world famous Gold's Gym. He's a former US Army Captain with the 86th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, a former blog writer at Veterans Fitness Career College, and former Chief Executive Officer at U.S. Army Forces Command (FORSCOM). His workouts and personal training are army-inspired to help reach your weightloss, athletic, or physique goals.