If you’ve never experienced joint pain, aches, or at the very least, muscle soreness, you’re obviously not training hard enough. In that same token, pushing yourself past exhaustion day-in and day-out is not an ideal approach either.
I love lifting heavy just as much as the next person, but we have to be cognizant that not every training session is about hitting PR’s. Training is meant to stimulate, not annihilate.
A couple months back, I was doing deadlifts and I tweaked my lower back (so much for practicing what I preach). In hindsight, I should’ve backed off that day because a load I normally did for reps felt unbelievably heavy. It took me awhile to realize that it was a pretty big deal because the next day I couldn’t bend over.
Honestly, getting injured sucks — big time! It’s no fun at all. One day you’re making progress, and then the next day you find yourself limping out of the gym like you just went through war because you decided to do an extra set of heavy deadlifts.
Which leads me to a polarizing question: Is it possible to still train effectively when you’re injured? YES, ABSOLUTELY! In my experience over the past few years as a strength coach, I’ve developed a distinct perspective on how you can train around an injury. Let me be clear: this doesn’t mean resorting to yoga or swapping out your program and only utilizing 5-10lb dumbbells or resistance bands. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather watch paint dry.
The effectiveness of a training program pales in comparison to your ability to consistently put in the work.
Before I go further, I do want to caution you that getting a thorough evaluation is an absolute must. Pain is an indication that something is wrong. If an exercise is causing problems there are various ways to go about it, but seeking a professional first can get the dice rolling. If your car starts to jerk and act flaky on the road, you wouldn’t want to continue driving it. You bring it in the shop, identify the cause, and get it fixed. You only have one body, so take care of it.
The whole idea of warming up is to create a thermic effect in the muscles. I’m still dumbfounded by how many people don’t take that seriously. Alignment and how well you move is going to determine the loads and stress on your joints. Believe me when I tell you this, it’s much easier to maintain mobility than it is to regain it back. An ample amount of foam rolling coupled with 5 – 10 minutes of mobility and stability work can save you from a major setback.
Avoid What Hurts
Proper form and the effectiveness of a training program have a lot to do with minimizing the risk of injury, however, if the movement you’re doing hurts, stop doing it. I can’t stress this enough. Don’t be stubborn and continue to work through the pain. Remember: pain is an indication that something is wrong. Address the situation and adjust your training accordingly.
Tinker With Different Exercises
There’s more than one way to skin the cat. Shift your focus and utilize different exercises to induce a training effect while minimizing the risk of re-injuring yourself. If you can’t deadlift from the floor, do it from blocks. Instead of back squats, do front squats, or some single leg work. Instead of push ups, do dips. Instead of doing bench press, do close-grip bench press. Instead of chin ups, do neutral grip pull ups. You get the picture.
When things start to clear up, don’t rush into it with guns blazing. I’m a gym addict so this is probably the hardest thing for me to do, but it’s necessary. Growth potential and consistency is of utmost importance if you want continually get stronger and improve your body composition (get more “toned”). You limit that if you get injured. Knowing when to give and when to take with respect towards your training is the key to longevity, so be patient.