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How to Workout While Injured

There is never a good time to be injured and it feels like a big setback when they happen. Just when you're riding a wave of momentum towards getting stronger than ever, that nagging hip, knee, shoulder, or back pain pays you a surprise visit or there is an unexplained freak accident.

As someone who is currently dealing with an injury and has dealt with their fair share of nagging ones, I'm here to tell you that getting injured doesn't have to completely nuke all of the progress you've made in the gym. It doesn't even have to stop you from making more progress while rehabbing and healthy again.

A lot of health professionals (physical therapists, doctors, chiros) will treat the early symptoms of the injury but then they need someone to help the client strengthen the tissues and work back to pain-free movement.


I've learned how to bridge this gap by working alongside physical therapists and doctors in New York and at The Olympic Training Center and through continued education. I've continued to learn the principles of corrective exercise (Inhibit, Lengthen, Activate, and Integrate) by applying them to myself and my clients - helping them deal with little injuries that pop up.

Don't let your injury stop you in your tracks and I'm bolding this next line because of how important it is... It is easier to stay in shape than it is to get in shape! With that being said, here are some basic things to keep in mind when it comes to injuries:

1. Complete Rest is Rarely The Answer

Unless you're dealing with high-level trauma/tissue damage, then movement is almost always a good idea. The key is finding the right movement, at the right dose, that is going to help you heal without over-stressing the injured area. If you're dealing with a bulging disc that presents flexion intolerance, then doing heavy back squats may not be the best idea for the time being. That doesn't mean you can't load the squat pattern a different way. DB Split Squats, Cyclist Squats, or even Spanish Squats might be a good option to continue working the quads without stressing the spine too much. I've even seen a good friend tear his MCL and then continue to train his legs the next week. Again, you just have to know what progression to go with, that meets you where your current ability and tolerance lie.

2. Work on Other Areas While You Heal

If you are dealing with an injury that is completely stopping you from training in a given area, then focus on movements that are not limited by the injury so you can keep training hard and having fun in the gym. If you have a bum knee, focus on getting good at pull-ups or dips for the next few months. If it's a shoulder that is cranky, work on blowing up your squats and deadlifts until you can press heavy weights again. There is always a way to create a program that gets you pumping iron without affecting the recovery of the injured area!

3. Train in Multiple Planes of Motion

Most exercises in the gym involve up and down or forward and backward motion. Things like squats, presses, rows, lunges, and so on. While those are great exercises that will get you strong, you should also spend some time strengthening your body in other planes of motion. Oftentimes, small injuries occur when you try to produce or absorb force at an angle that your body isn't used to. For example, an awkward golf swing, picking up your grocery bags at a weird angle, or even just overreaching to grab something from the top shelf. Doing things like side lunges, Turkish get-ups, cable wood chops, or lateral sled drags helps to build your strength from all angles so that you can produce AND absorb force during those less common movements.

4. Make Sure You Are Dosing Your Training Correctly

Many times, injuries can occur because of chronic low-grade overuse and under-recovery. If you find yourself constantly getting little tweaks and nagging pains, it may be a sign that you are doing too much. When I work with clients who have these issues it usually stems from two reasons:

  1. They are training too hard, too often, and typically with too much volume

  2. They are not recovering adequately or fueling themselves properly  

Once we fix the program so that it gives them the appropriate amount of volume/intensity and then get their nutrition/recovery habits in a better place, those nagging pains and tweaks disappear.


I know how frustrating it can be to feel limited in what you can do at the gym. It feels like your body has failed you but with dedication, you can come back stronger.


Hopefully, this information gives you some hope and motivation to keep training hard even if you're dealing with some sort of injury at the moment. 


If you're tired of feeling stuck and alone in the whole process or don't know where to start, let me help you get your groove back and build yourself back to pain-free training! Send me an email to schedule a free virtual consult for Online Coaching and let's get you stronger and more athletic than ever before.

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