It will happen in some severity and form, regardless of how careful and measured we are in on our training.
If you read my article on sub-maximal training you will understand that things will happen despite our best efforts at preventing it from ever happening.
This is given proper training methodologies, and doing your best to recover. Some injuries will just occur because sometimes shit just happens.
With that said, however, when it does, it should not leave us paralyzed and incapable of doing work and our effort to keep progressing, or at least maintaining most, if not all, of our strength.
Before we move any further, let me make clear that I am referencing minor to moderate injury and not severe injury. If you have a severe injury to any part of your body, whether a severe strain, sprain, broken bone(s), or the like, get immediate medical attention, and proper treatment with proper subsequent rehabilitation.
For all the other stuff, the minor to moderate injuries, most commonly strains or sprains to different parts of the body, it is possible to work around it, and still keep your gains and even make more.
How do you do it?
Let’s explore 3 basic steps to do so.
Step 1: Understand Your Injury
The first step in working around your injury is to understand your injury.
If you do not know what is injured, or have an idea of what it is, then it is just about impossible to do any good work without making the situation worse.
For instance, if you injured your shoulder it could be host of different things. It could be a strain to your deltoid muscle, or you could have done something more severe and torn the intricate muscles and connective tissue involved in your rotator cuff. It is important to understand differences by being able to pinpoint where and how the injury happened, is it acute or chronic, and whether or not it is something severe enough that requires medical attention.
Assuming that it is not serious and requires immediate medical attention (meaning: you have no use of that part of your body and have severe sharp pain with any movement associated with that part), it is a good idea to listen to your body by understanding what movements cause pain and discomfort.
To go back to the shoulder injury, I will use myself as an example. A few weeks back, I tweaked my right shoulder during the bench press. My set up was off and while un-racking the bar my right should was in an awkward position behind me (I was reaching too far back, essentially) causing me to feel something “OFF” in my right shoulder. It wasn’t a clear crack, tear, or anything of that sort, but an awkward feeling where I knew that something was wrong in my front deltoid area. I experienced very minor pain afterwards, but nothing serious enough to effect my performance. Fast forward a couple weeks I re-aggravate it in the bench press again — same movement pattern — and could tell that something was off. A week later, my ego got in the way and I felt it strain (it got really tight and was starting to reach a clear breaking point).
Luckily, nothing tore completely. No pops, crunches, or anything of that sort, and good news is that I have worked through other injuries before, more serious than this (knock on wood, at least), so I know I can come back. That said, I need to understand my own injury.
Based on my knowledge, experience, research, and opinions of other professionals, I know that it involves my deltoid in some way because I have pain in pressing movements, and when I bring my arm in front and above me (where the deltoid is in play). I know it’s not a more serious injury because I have experienced a torn labrum in the same shoulder, and know the feeling and impingement it brings. Furthermore, I have full range of motion, but only pain in certain movements of the arm (elevating my arm in front of me, and horizontal/upward pressing motions). I can also do any rowing and pulling with almost no problem.
Based on these facts, and given I have swelling in the front part of my shoulder it all points toward my superficial muscle (muscle closest to the surface) — a.k.a. the deltoid. Thus, I can do corrective action to aid in the healing process of the muscle by doing things, like P-R-I-C-E (Protect, Rest, Ice, Compress, and Elevate), deep tissue massage (shout out to an amazing trainer at my gym named Jamie for helping me), and avoiding movements that primarily incorporate the deltoid muscle (primarily any pressing and elevating motions).
If you need help understanding your injury a simple google search on the area you hurt will help. I’m not advocating you self-diagnose yourself, and become a doctor. No. But, I am advocating you understand your body better, so some research on the area affected won’t hurt.
After you gather your research on your injury, and any evaluation from a professional, or a person with valuable perspective and knowledge of the injury, it’s time to get a game-plan going to stay in shape.
Step 2: Adjusting Your Training
Now that you understand your injury good enough to move forward and not make it worse, it is time for adjustments.
You want to adjust 2 main things:
First, is to avoid movement patterns, or exercises, that aggravate the injury in any significant way.
For example, using my shoulder injury, any pressing and shoulder elevation movements for me is a “no-go”. This will take out the bench press, overhead press, and any shoulder focused exercises, such as front raises. Do not test an injury when you know you shouldn’t be testing it. In other words, give it time to heal and come back slow and steady, which is what I failed to do. I “jumped the gun”, so avoid my mistake, and discipline yourself to let it heal (whether it’s days, weeks, or months). This is the hardest thing, at least for me, because not training a part of your body sucks. But, it needs time, so give it time.
Second, you want to continue your planned training to the best of your ability.
With my right shoulder injury, for example, I can still work legs, and pulling is not really a problem, which makes the squat and deadlift a full-go. In fact, yesterday I hit a heavy single in the deadlift at 455 pounds with no belt, which is almost my max (this week’s plan was heavy singles because I am peaking after my de-load next week). It went up the best it’s ever been, and I had no issue what soever with my shoulder.
Just because you may be compromised by an injury, in some way, it does not make you incapable at keeping pace with your expected training program, or regimen. Of course, know your limits, and gradually progress to certain thing that may cause issue for any type of injury. That said, don’t be afraid to push yourself and progress like you intend to. Keep pace with your programming plan as close to it as you can.
Step 3: Proper recovery
The last step is to do your best to perform proper recovery methods for your injury.
This includes, but not limited to:
- Proper stretching
- Low-impact exercises and movement to stimulate blood flow
- Deep-tissue massage to break up scar tissue
- Adequate rest and good nutrition to heal the injury site
- A positive attitude.
Again, not pushing your injury beyond what is capable of is important, but completely immobilizing the injury site is a big “no-no”
Remember, blood flow = recovery.
Movement helps stimulate blood flow to tissue, especially ligaments, tendons, and other connective tissue, which provides nutrients to the injured areas for healing. No blood flow equals no recovery, so don’t forget to move.
Do movement and low impact stretching, and massage, if possible, to break up any scar tissue and knots you have in the muscle and tissue around the injury. This will help increase blood flow, and allow a more efficient and complete recovery.
Lastly, you have to have a positive attitude through this whole process. It is SO easy to get discourage and not train with the intensity you normally do, so do anything and everything to stay positive. Keep your disciplines and habits of what your training consists of, like maintaining your training schedule, prepping your meals, stretching, etc., to keep you on track.
Regardless, be smart and active in your recovery approach.
No one likes getting injured and it tends to happen when we’ve been pushing to hard, or we just have unfortunate luck. However, we can continue training in other ways, and come back stronger than before if we imploy the adjustments and practices outlined above.
It’s up to us to recover and protect our injury site the best we can to give it the time it needs to heal. Ironically, it is our obligation to not “BABY” it, as well. Keep as much movement as possible to prevent atrophy and impaired mobility, and you’ll be more efficient with the recovery process.
Keep your training at the expected level and pace you have been going for what you are able to do. This will depend on the injury, of course, but don’t be afraid to train with intensity. This is also a good time to increase work in other areas that may be of concern for you, since a chunk of your workload is taken out with injury. Continue to move forward and you’ll be on your way to more gains.
Thanks for reading.
Leave your thoughts below.
Catch you next time.