Training is a beautiful thing. It keeps me strong, lean, and healthy. I still want to be in fighting shape when I’m an old codger, God willing.
Fact is though, lifting weights and throwing stuff around comes with a price. Eventually you’ll sustain injuries.
While these injuries sometimes bring things to a steaming halt, it doesn’t have to be that way. If you’re smart, you can continue to train and make progress for a long time.
The key to the above is to heed advice I’m sure you’ve heard before – listen to your body!
Learn what exercises work for you. Learn what exercises don’t work for you.
Know when to push, when to back-off, and when to change things around. This type of insight comes with years of training experience.
You do not have to do a certain exercise just because you saw you a muscle model doing it. We are all built differently, with different muscle fiber types, different limb lengths, slightly different bone structures etc. Some people take performance enhancing drugs, some don’t (an important factor to bear in mind when emulating the way certain people train).
Just remember, there are many ways to skin a cat.
As an example, I wanted a client of mine to trap bar deadlift. I chose the trap bar because it’s easy to learn and doesn’t require much fine tuning initially.
Every time he deadlifted, however, he felt a painful twinge in his upper back. He’d walk off after his set clutching his traps and wincing in pain.
We switched to the straight bar version, and lo and behold, the pain disappeared.
The straight bar and trap bar deadlift both achieve similar outcomes, just with a slightly different way of getting the job done.
In an ideal world, if a movement just does not feel good (after you’ve worked on it and addressed correct technique etc), switch to a similar exercise that will give you comparable benefits. Usually this exercise will have a movement pattern and range of motion resembling the original lift.
For example, a good morning and a Romanian deadlift are close to one another in terms of execution and muscle activation, but they are tolerated differently. I personally don’t like how good mornings feel any time I go heavy with them.
Sometimes a very minor change to an exercise, such as a change of grip can make it completely pain free. For example, turning the hands neutral (palms facing each other) in a dumbbell press often solves a lot of shoulder problems.
Below are some variations of the ‘Big 3’ lifts you can use in a pickle.
Squat variations: Back squat – Front Squat – Goblet squat – box squat
Horizontal press variations: (barbells or dumbbells) Flat bench – incline bench (varying degrees) – floor press – swiss bar press
Deadlift variations: KB deadlift – conventional deadlift – sumo deadlift – trap bar deadlift – rack pull
After you’ve found an alternative movement, avoid anything else that aggravates the original problem.
I recently developed shoulder pain during flat barbell benching, so in my case, dips are out. They made my shoulder feel horrible.
In some situations, doing nothing is the best option. Earlier this morning I was supposed to deadlift, but when I got to the gym my back felt super stiff from playing football a couple of days earlier. Trap bar deadlifts didn’t feel good either, so I canned the deadlift all together.
Stay safe, live to train another day.
It’s not ‘brave’ or honourable to train through legitimate pain – what use will you be when you’re out of the gym for 2 months, eating cheese strings and getting fat?
Stay fit, stay healthy, and listen to your body. Don’t let ego get the best of you.