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Characteristics of the Masters Olympic weightlifting athlete?

Summary of an article surveying U.S. Olympic weightlifting Masters athletes on their training habits, injuries and other complaints.

Who

958 Olympic weightlifters (521 women, 437 men) aged 35 and above in the calendar year 2020 registered with the USA Weightlifting (USA).

Design

Survey with 30.6% response rate (958 responses out of 3216 invited).

Outcome measures/tests

  • training habits and experience
  • physical, psychological and health complaints influencing training
  • live factors influencing training
  • for women: pregnancy, menstruation and menopausal complaints that influence training

Main results

Women

On average, women usually have a coach and train in weightlifting or crossfit gym for 1-2 hours. Younger women train 5 times per week and reduce their traing to 4 and then 3 days when they get older. They either have more than 5 years of experience or just one year. As an additional activity, they choose crossfit or some form of cardio training when they are younger, and later (age 60+) substitute crossfit for brisk walking.

Shoulder, back and knee injuries affect the training the most. Stress and sleep are the biggest complaints, along with autoimmune disease, work and family concerns.

35-44 age group

The biggest group. Training 5 days a week for 1.5-2 hours a day under a coach in the qym. Most have 1, 3 or more than 5 years of experience, and do grossfit or some form of cardio training additionally to weightlifting.

Shoulder complaints, stress, respiratory disease, work demands and child care are the biggest concerns affecting training. Possibly up to 13% of these athletes are affected by pergnancy, menstruation or menopausal symptoms.

35-44 age group
Training program
Training days
Training duration
Training location
Years of experience
Other activites during week
Physical complaints*
Psychological complaints*
Healh complaints*
Life factors*
Pregnancy*
Menstruation*
Menopausal complaints*
Most popular
35-44 age group
coach 88.9
Training program
5 days 40.0
Training days
1.5-2 hours 40.9
Training duration
weightlifting gym 47.4
Training location
1 year 21.1
Years of experience
crossfit 42.6
Other activites during week
shoulder 23.8
Physical complaints*
stress 21.2
Psychological complaints*
respiratory disease 1.9
Healh complaints*
work demands 60.4
Life factors*
3.7
Pregnancy*
6.9
Menstruation*
2.3
answers (%)
Menopausal complaints*
own program 6.7
35-44 age group
4 days 32.2
Training program
1-1.5 hours 32.3
Training days
crossfit gym 46.3
Training duration
3 years 16.9
Training location
cardio/running/swimming 40.0
Years of experience
back 15.9
Other activites during week
sleep 18.3
Physical complaints*
chronic disease 1.5
Psychological complaints*
child care 14.2
Healh complaints*
Life factors*
Pregnancy*

45-59 age group

Training 1.5-2 hours, 4 days per week under a coach in the qym. Have more than 5 or 1 year of experience and do crossfit or brisk walking as an addional activity.

Shoulder, sleep and stess, cancer, autoimmune disease, and work demands are the biggest complaints affecting the training. Up to 14% of these athletes were affected by pregnancy, menstruation or menopausal symptoms.

45-59 age group
Training program
Training days
Training duration
Training location
Years of experience
Other activites during week
Physical complaints*
Psychological complaints*
Healh complaints*
Life factors*
Pregnancy*
Menstruation*
Menopausal complaints*
Most popular
45-59 age group
coach 85.0
Training program
4 days 38.5
Training days
1.5-2 hours 37.5
Training duration
weightlifting gym 47.0
Training location
>5 27.6
Years of experience
crossfit 45.5
Other activites during week
shoulder 31.5
Physical complaints*
sleep 20.2
Psychological complaints*
cancer 2.6
Healh complaints*
work demands 45.7
Life factors*
0.5
Pregnancy*
1.1
Menstruation*
12.5
answers (%)
Menopausal complaints*
own program 10.0
45-59 age group
5 days 26.0
Training program
1-1.5 hours 31.0
Training days
crossfit gym 42.0
Training duration
1 year 20.8
Training location
brisk walking 40.5
Years of experience
back 19.5
Other activites during week
stress 16.2
Physical complaints*
autoimmune disease 2.6
Psychological complaints*
family concerns 12.1
Healh complaints*
Life factors*
Pregnancy*

60+ age group

The smallest group (~1/7 of the 35-44 age group). Almost all of the athletes have a coach. They train 3 times per week, for 1-2 hours in the gym. They have more than 5 years or 1 year of experience and some kind of cardio training or brisk walking additionally to their weightlifting training.

Shoulder and knee complaints, and work demands are the biggest factors affecting training. Pregnancy, menstruation and menopausal symptoms do not affect this group.

60+ age group
Training program
Training days
Training duration
Training location
Years of experience
Other activites during week
Physical complaints*
Psychological complaints*
Healh complaints*
Life factors*
Pregnancy*
Menstruation*
Menopausal complaints*
Most popular
60+ age group
coach 98.0
Training program
3 days 43.1
Training days
1.5-2 hours 43.1
Training duration
weightlifting gym 52.9
Training location
>5 years 32.7
Years of experience
brisk walking 47.1
Other activites during week
shoulder 31.4
Physical complaints*
stress 6.2
Psychological complaints*
cancer 2.1
Healh complaints*
work demands 35.3
Life factors*
0
Pregnancy*
0
Menstruation*
0
answers (%)
Menopausal complaints*
own program 2.0
60+ age group
5 days 23.5
Training program
1-1.5 hours 35.3
Training days
crossfit gym 49.0
Training duration
1 year 26.5
Training location
cardio/running/simming 45.1
Years of experience
knee 26.0
Other activites during week
sleep 4.2
Physical complaints*
autoimmune/digestive/chronic disease 2.1
Psychological complaints*
acess to facility 7.8
Healh complaints*
Life factors*
Pregnancy*

Men

On average, men are training 3-4 times per week (5 in the youngest group) according to coach or their own programming. They train 1-2 hours a day in a gym or home as they get older. 40% of men have more than 5 years of experience, and 20% 1 year. As an additional activity, they choose crossfit or some form of cardio training when they are younger, and later (age 60+) substitute crossfit for brisk walking.

Shoulder complains were affecting training the most, followed by knees and back. Sleep, cardiovascular complaints and work demands are affecting training the most.

35-44 age group

The biggest group. Most athletes have a coach, train 4 times per week for 1-2 hours in the gym. They have more than 5 or 1 year of experience, and do crossfit or some kind of cardio as additional activities to their weightlifting training.

Shoulder, sleep, autoimmune complaints and work demands affect their training the most.

35-44 age group
Training program
Training days
Training duration
Training location
Years of experience
Other activites during week
Physical complaints*
Psychological complaints*
Healh complaints*
Life factors*
Pregnancy*
Menstruation*
Menopausal complaints*
Most popular
35-44 age group
coach 68.5
Training program
4 days 39.1
Training days
1.5-2 hours 41.3
Training duration
weighlifting 50.5
Training location
>5 years 31.1
Years of experience
cardio/running/swimming 41.8
Other activites during week
knees 24.2
Physical complaints*
stress 13.8
Psychological complaints*
cardiovascular 1.7
Healh complaints*
work demands 37.0
answers (%)
Life factors*
own program 22.8
Pregnancy*
5 days 29.9
Menstruation*
1-1.5 hours 35.9
Menopausal complaints*
crossfit gym 44.6
35-44 age group
1 year 18.6
Training program
crossfit 40.8
Training days
shoulder 20.2
Training duration
sleep 11.9
Training location
cancer/respirtory disease/digestive disease 0.6
Years of experience
child care 19.9

45-59 age group

These athletes usually have a coach, train 3-4 days per week for 1-1.5 hours in the gym. They train for more than 5 years or for 1 year, and do crossfit or some kind of cardio training additionally to their weightlifting training.

Shoulder, sleep, autoimmune disease and work demands are the biggest complaints affecting training.

45-59 age group
Training program
Training days
Training duration
Training location
Years of experience
Other activites during week
Physical complaints*
Psychological complaints*
Healh complaints*
Life factors*
Pregnancy*
Menstruation*
Menopausal complaints*
Most popular
45-59 age group
coach 64.9
Training program
4 days 35.1
Training days
1-1.5 hours 38.3
Training duration
weightlifting gym 44.0
Training location
>5 years 32.9
Years of experience
cardio/running/swimming 43.5
Other activites during week
shoulder 35.8
Physical complaints*
sleep 9.8
Psychological complaints*
autoimmune disease 2.6
Healh complaints*
work demands 40.9
answers (%)
Life factors*
own program 29.2
Pregnancy*
3 days 34.5
Menstruation*
1.5-2 hours 31.7
Menopausal complaints*
crossfit gym 38.1
45-59 age group
1 year 25.2
Training program
crossfit 38.1
Training days
knees 10.5
Training duration
stress 4.5
Training location
respiratory disease 2.0
Years of experience
family concerns 9.1

60+ age group

The smallest group. Higher proportion of these athletes are programming for themselves but many of them receive programming from a coach. These athletes train 3 days a week for 1-2 hours mainly at home. Most of these athletes train for more than 5 years. Additional activities done on a weekly basis by these athletes include brisk walking and some kind of cardio training.

Shoulder, sleep, chronic disease and work demands were the most popular complaints affecting training.

60+ age group
Training program
Training days
Training duration
Training location
Years of experience
Other activites during week
Physical complaints*
Psychological complaints*
Healh complaints*
Life factors*
Pregnancy*
Menstruation*
Menopausal complaints*
Most popular
60+ age group
own program 47.1
Training program
3 days 47.1
Training days
1-1.5 hours 31.8
Training duration
home 48.2
Training location
>5 years 76.8
Years of experience
brisk walking 45.9
Other activites during week
shoulder 36.6
Physical complaints*
sleep 11.4
Psychological complaints*
chronic disease 7.7
Healh complaints*
work demands 65.5
answers (%)
Life factors*
coach 36.5
Pregnancy*
4 days 23.5
Menstruation*
1.5-2 hours 29.4
Menopausal complaints*
weightlifting gym 38.8
60+ age group
1 year 8.5
Training program
cardio/running/swimming 40.0
Training days
knees 27.5
Training duration
depression 4.8
Training location
cardiovascular 6.4
Years of experience
access to facility 6.0

Take home message

For a clinician
Men train less times per week than women. As athletes age they train less times per week and choose less demanding additional activities (replace crossfit with brisk walking). Younger Masters athletes complain more about stress affecting their training, and older athletes about sleep problems. In women, shoulder injuries are the most common, in younger Masters male athletes knees, and shoulders when they reach the age of 45 years and after.
For a parent
Younger Masters athletes complain more about stress affecting their training, and older athletes about sleep problems. In women, shoulder injuries are the most common, in younger Masters male athletes knees, and shoulders when they reach the age of 45 years and after.
For an athlete
Younger Masters athletes complain more about stress affecting their training, and older athletes about sleep problems. In women, shoulder injuries are the most common, in younger Masters male athletes knees, and shoulders when they reach the age of 45 years and after.

Original article

Huebner M, Meltzer D, Ma W, Arrow H. The Masters athlete in Olympic weightlifting: Training, lifestyle, health challenges, and gender differences. PloS one. 2020 Dec 4;15(12):e0243652.

Huebner M, Meltzer DE, Ma W, Arrow H. Correction: The Masters athlete in Olympic weightlifting: Training, lifestyle, health challenges, and gender differences. Plos one. 2021 Feb 10;16(2):e0247110.

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