Strength Basics

Getting stronger, fitter, and healthier by sticking to the basics. It's not rocket science, it's doing the simple stuff the right way. Strength-Basics updates every Monday, plus extra posts during the week.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Training Hurt

If you're injured, especially with an acute injury, you generally get advice like "rest until you are healed." It seems like sound advice, to be sure, but how often do you listen?

If you're like me, probably not often.


You don't want to miss out on training and accept the setback. But it's also possible to make good progress while injured.

Why train hurt? Just because you are injured, it doesn't mean you have to rest your whole body. A broken left arm doesn't mean you can't train your legs and right arm. A torn calf might make bench pressing with leg drive hard, but it won't affect your chinups or dips at all.

An injury is an ideal time-out if you're in need of some time off, however. If you haven't been deloading or cycling intensity, or if you've been pushing so hard that your training led you to an injury, a week or more off might be just the right medicine. But it's not always the case. Reverse the question - why not train hurt, and aim to get some training in that doesn't aggravate the injury you've got?

Think of rehabilitation - post-injury and post-surgery, you do exercises designed to restore normal function to the injured part of the body. You don't wait until everything is 100% before you start; training gets you to 100%. The same goes for weight training...only your goal isn't 100% of pre-injury capacity but to build it further.

What can I do while injured?

I've trained with a back injury (acute, from MMA training), I've seen a kid lifting with a broken hand, and I've seen guys recovering from surgery come in to work light to keep their skills up.

The main point is to avoid aggravating the injury. Fractured ribs will make rotational exercises tough, but you can still do planks and deadlifts. A broken hand will make pushups hard but not affect one-arm pressing. Even a back injury that prevents you from spinal loading (no squats, deadlifts, barbell lunges, etc.) can be trained around with glute-ham raises, dumbbell lunges, and back-supporting exercises like the bench press.

Just keep this in mind: if it hurts, stop! Don't make the injury worse. Find ways to train yourself without pounding away at the injured area.

Are there other resources on this?

There are three excellent articles that deal with training while hurt, front-and-center.

The oddly named Knife Game on Elite FTS deals with one-arm training quite well.

Dan John once shattered his wrist and made a whole one-dumbbell workout out of it. His article is called The One Dumbbell Workout and it gives you an idea of how to one-arm your way through a period of injury.

Finally, Tony Gentilcore wrote an excellent article on precisely this subject - training while injured.

Rest up, feel better, but see if you can't improve something else while you heal.

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