For 2020 Olympic silver medalist and 2019 World Champion Kate Vibert, all setbacks are temporary. Vibert, who suffered a meniscus tear during a workout in July of 2022, has worked hard to make a full recovery before the 2023 World Weightlifting Championships (WWC) in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
On Saturday, July 29, 2023, Vibert published an all-time personal record in the back squat — 190 kilograms, or 418.8 pounds — to social media. With a little over a month until the biggest yearly competition in weightlifting, she appears to be back in fighting shape just in time.
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BarBend caught up with Vibert over text to find out more about how she got herself back into record-setting territory and what’s next for one of the States’ most decorated weightlifters.
How She Did It
“It took over a year to set another 1-rep-max in the squat,” Vibert says. In the spring of 2022 and just a few short months before her knee injury, Vibert, who competes in the 71-kilogram (156.5-pound) category, busted out a 186-kilogram personal best in her garage gym.
In July, she severed her right meniscus — a pad of cartilage within the joint capsule of the knee, which acts as a shock absorber — during a routine clean & jerk workout. The injury required a partial meniscectomy to remove about 50 percent of the tissue.
“For me, the most helpful thing we did [post-surgery] was actually BFR. It allowed me to train and fatigue my legs and limit muscle atrophy during my comeback,” Vibert says of her approach to recovering from a serious lower-body injury.
Blood Flow Restriction
BFR refers to blood flow restriction training. The methodology involves applying a tight cinch or tourniquet to the insertion point of a limb like the armpit or hip crease, which limits blood circulation — specifically, venous blood return to the heart.
Research shows that blood flowing into (but not out of) the affected area creates a surge of metabolites, cellular swelling, and increases type-II muscle fiber activation. (1) In practical terms, BFR allows even light weights to provide an effective stimulus, allowing Vibert to get a good workout in without taxing her knee too heavily.
“…it appears that low-load BFR applied within the first few weeks after surgery is effective at improving muscular size and strength over standard rehabilitation,” a study from the journal Arthroscopy, Sports Medicine, and Rehabilitation concluded. (1) Other data have acknowledged BFR’s potential for accelerating the healing process during sport-specific injuries like ACL tears. (2)
Vibert’s 190-kilogram squat is over two and a half times that of her competitive body weight. To get there, once she was cleared to gradually return to normal training, she and her coach focused on high-quality volume through the use of cluster sets.
“These cluster sets consist of several ‘mini-sets’. You perform a few repetitions back-to-back, rest for about 30 seconds, and keep going. I take 3-4 minutes of rest between the clusters,” she says.
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So, instead of doing several hard, high-repetition sets, Vibert broke up her standard workload into smaller and more manageable parts. She believes this helped keep her knee safe and secure while maintaining high power output during her workout.
Some studies have alleged that cluster-based training provides similar overall stimulation to standard set-rep protocols, but allows an athlete to maintain higher average power output without eroding speed, consistency, or technique. (3)
Onward & Upward
“Thankful for my team, Power & Grace Performance, today. Exactly one year to the day since knee surgery and [I’m] hitting a lifetime PR on a random Saturday,” Vibert wrote on her Instagram post.
The 2023 WWC runs from Sep. 4 to 17 in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. If Vibert can randomly set a lifetime squat record — and make it look easy — with over a month of training left, she’s more than ready to reclaim the top of the podium.
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- Cognetti, D. J., Sheean, A. J., & Owens, J. G. (2022). Blood Flow Restriction Therapy and Its Use for Rehabilitation and Return to Sport: Physiology, Application, and Guidelines for Implementation. Arthroscopy, sports medicine, and rehabilitation, 4(1), e71–e76.
- Lu, Y., Patel, B. H., Kym, C., Nwachukwu, B. U., Beletksy, A., Forsythe, B., & Chahla, J. (2020). Perioperative Blood Flow Restriction Rehabilitation in Patients Undergoing ACL Reconstruction: A Systematic Review. Orthopaedic journal of sports medicine, 8(3), 2325967120906822.
- Tufano, J. J., Halaj, M., Kampmiller, T., Novosad, A., & Buzgo, G. (2018). Cluster sets vs. traditional sets: Levelling out the playing field using a power-based threshold. PloS one, 13(11), e0208035.
Featured Image: @katevibert on Instagram