Training Around Injuries


Jan 18, 2023
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Injuries suck! They are painful, limit your ability to do normal activities, and can make you grumpier than a wasp hoard that just got urinated on. Injuries are inevitable if you are involved in some form of physical activity, and I have had my fair share throughout my relatively short lifting career. The best advice I can give you is to not let injuries deter you from your goals. When injury strikes, realize that you can’t do everything you want from a physical standpoint, but that there is always something you can do to work around it.

Hurt Vs. Injured

Ok so I severely strained my neck the other day during squats. I was dropping in to the bucket when someone yelled my name and I instinctually turned my neck in their direction. My neck just felt a little tight after I finished the set, so I thought that it was simply neural tension that would go away by the time I finished my workout. When I was unable to look in my blind spot on the way home and received the finger from an old lady that I almost ran off the road, I realized there was something a little more serious going on.

Now in my opinion, my neck strain was not an injury. I see an injury as something that limits the ability of one or more segments of your body to function, such as broken bones, torn tendons, torn ligaments, dislocated joints, etc. Anything else (pulled muscle, bone bruise, inflamed tissues) simply means you are hurt. Knowing the difference between being injured and hurt is important because it will determine how far you can push yourself in your current condition.

A torn ACL (injury) will have you off of your leg(s) completely for a relatively long amount of time. A pulled hamstring muscle (hurt) might force you to lower the intensity and volume of direct hamstring work, but you should still have the ability to train your glutes, quads, and adductors to their fullest capacity. Either way you will still be able to train; an injury is just going to require more caution and creativity when making adjustments to your training program.

Work around Your Injury

So after hurting my neck I was told to warm it up, stretch it (which I did), and then to sleep with a rolled towel under my neck in order to keep it in a neutral position. Well seeing as I am a guy that thinks he knows more about neck injuries and the healing process than any living person on this planet, I did not take the advice. The results; I woke up with my neck in a position that resembled something out of The Exorcist movies, and in extreme pain.

Now my first reaction was to skip my scheduled workout (heavy deadlifts) in order to stay home and let it rest. But I knew better than that. I knew that the increased blood flow and hormone release from the workout would help my neck heal faster, that laying around and doing nothing would have only made it worse, and that there were other things I could do in the gym to get a great training stimulus without adversely affecting my injury. So I went to the gym, set a leg press and hamstring curl PR (instead of doing front squats and deadlifts), murdered my upper body, and my neck felt ten times better when I left the gym than it did when I first walked in.

Training around injuries not only makes them heal faster, but it helps maintain a healthy state of mind and gives you the opportunity to work on weak points that are neglected the majority of the time. If you have a lower body injury, you can still train your upper body. If you have an upper body injury, you can still train legs. Can’t stand? Exercise from a seated position. One arm or leg immobilized? Train the other arm or leg. Can’t lift weights? Go swimming or do low impact cardio.

Experiment with different exercises, skip what causes pain, and stick with what doesn’t. It’s easy to let yourself be consumed by anger, depression, and self-pity after you get injured. When you start to go down that road, remember two things: There is always someone who has it worse, and there is someone in the exact same position refusing to let their injury hold them back from reaching their goals. It is all a state of mind, and even if you are injured, you should strive to improve in some way or another every time you step foot in the gym.

Summing Up

I am no doctor, but I have had my fair share of injuries. In my experience, finding alternative training methods when hurt or injured is much better for you than just sitting around doing nothing. The human body was made to be active and has a remarkable ability to heal and adapt. When an injury occurs, focus on what you can control, don’t linger on what you can’t, and continue to push forward no matter what obstacle is thrown your way.