Widgets Magazine
MIGHTY FIT

The correct way to train while injured

U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Ben Farone/Released

If you are asking any variation of "should I keep training even with (XYZ) injury or condition?" The answer is yes.

Then nuance ensues. You can't necessarily keep training how you were before, and you definitely shouldn't be training at the same intensity that you were before. At least not initially.


You need to dial it back, not off

How to train with an injury

Just keep movin'

You can still bench if you injure your ankle.

You can still squat if you hurt your elbow or shoulder.

That's obvious. The body part that is injured will require some adjustment but the rest of your body is probably fine.

But if you injure your ankle or any part of your lower body you can still squat too; you just need to dial it back to what you can do with no pain.

I go in-depth on how to recover from an acute injury here.

One of my favorite sayings around this topic comes from Dr. Jordan Feigenbaum over at Barbell Medicine; it goes like this:

"...What are you gonna do? Not train?"

Not training isn't an option. You should just remove it from your list of possibilities right now.

As a military professional, you need to find another way...

You need to target the issue

How to train with an injury

Do things properly and you'll never have an issue.

Target the root cause, not the injury.

The incident/exercise that you've targeted as the cause of your injury or pain IS NOT the cause of your injury or pain. It is merely the culminating event. Your chronically bad form or overly aggressive programming is the cause. Honestly, it's most likely a combination of the two.

The most common example I see often is people doing deadlifts for time, (WOD anyone?) with sh!tty form where they:

  1. Bounce the weight and "catch" it with their low back in flexion
  2. Hyperextend their low back at lock out at the top of the rep
  3. Have a fundamental lack of understanding as to why these are bad things.
  4. These are things you will never have to worry about if you're doing the Mighty Fit Plan

This type of action with heavy weight repeatedly is a recipe for an acute injury, as well as chronic stress. The athlete deadlifting in this fashion often comes to the conclusion that deadlifts are bad and cause injuries.

That's a false narrative.

What they were doing is bad and causes injuries, not deadlifts.

More times than not, I see that poor form translate into the lifting of all things, including luggage, small children, a case of beer, and dropped pencils.

Don't let a training injury translate into you joining the sedentary epidemic.

Targeting the issue doesn’t mean you stop training

How to train with an injury

Treat the root cause

Demonizing a movement or activity like deadlifts is a red herring. Taking them out of your life will do nothing for all of those other times you have to pick something up in your life as I mentioned above.

Pain from deadlifting is just a symptom.

The root cause is poor form.

This is a good thing. This means you can do anything and need not fear any one particular movement or activity.

It also means you never have to stop training. You just need to dial things back.

Root causes are what really makes us tick or not tick.

An example: How to dial back deadlifts

How to train with an injury

There's always a way to simplify if you can control your ego.

You should regress your exercise until you get to the point of no pain. That implies that you start by dialing back range of motion, weight, and intensity.

Here's how I would do that for a theoretical low back issue as I mentioned above:

  1. Stop doing deadlifts for time. Events for time are for people that have perfect muscle memory of a movement, your injury has proved that you aren't at that point.
  2. Reduce the range of motion. If it hurts at the top of the movement, don't do that part. Hurts at the bottom? Do a rack pull.
  3. Drop weight. If you can do the full exercise at a lighter weight, do that. Use a weight in which you are at less than a four on the pain scale of 1-10.
  4. For a full run down on ALL the possible deadlift form fixes to correct low back pain check out this bad boy.

Something you need to mentally accept here is that you're not "gonna be gettin' it" like you were before the injury. BUT, you'll still be training.

Again, for a more in depth conversation on this topic, check this out.

The process of champions

How to train with an injury

Rebuild one part at a time... that's good advice.

This is the smart process. It will get you back in the saddle quickly and smartly. Three to six weeks of reducing your training on exercises that cause pain will ensure that you properly rehab your injury AND ensure that you continue the habit of training.

It will prevent you from sitting on the couch and waiting for yourself to "heal." It'll prevent you from writing off entire exercises or workout modalities for the rest of your life.

Knees hurt? Check out this article on how to get them back to 100%.

It'll flex your patience muscle. Being patient with your body is not easy, especially when you used to be able to do something. Patience is a great thing to hone so that when you get old and frail, you don't become one of those curmudgeons who hate the world for how it wronged you. (Damn, that got deep.)

It's all connected people. Use your training as a testing ground for the positive character traits you value and want to exhibit in your everyday life.

Heal smart and keep training!

If you want to train smart so that you never have to worry about this recovery process, check out my video course for how to set up your training to workout smarter and more effectively here.