Suggested Strategies for Training while Injured

Written by Dana Bushell

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Experiencing an injury could prove to be disastrous for any serious bodybuilder, power athlete, physique competitor or just your regular old gym rat. An injury means time away from the gym, a detour on your map to gains and success and a period of self-doubt wondering if you can ever get back to the form you enjoyed so much. While the types of injuries that may occur vary in degrees or seriousness, the mindset to conquer these injuries and get back to doing what you were meant to do should be very similar in nature. A no quit, never surrender and won’t settle for anything other than being better than ever once healed attitude is what it’s going to take to overcome an obstacle such as an injury. And that’s exactly what it is; an obstacle that you need to find a way to hurdle or go around to keep moving forward.

Here are a few suggested strategies to help get you through a rough patch in your training if all cylinders aren’t firing the way they should be and hopefully keep your motivation levels high so that when you can hit the gym the way you want to, the lag time to get back to where you were and ultimately past that shouldn’t be too long.


Train around the Injury

The hardcore know what I’m talking about here; just because muscle group A is injured doesn’t mean muscle groups B through Z can’t be trained. A very common injury that occurs in the gym is a shoulder injury. Now you and I both know how many exercises involve the use of the shoulder in some capacity or another so training around that can be difficult but can still be done. If pressing movements irritate the area focus on stretch type movements such as cable cross overs or dumbbell flyes. Is your lower back bothering you? Then stay away from squats and dead lifts and shift your focus to body supported exercises or machines that will still get the job done. Here’s the thing; doing something in my opinion is better than doing nothing at all. At the very least you won’t be building any new muscle in the injured area but you will be moving some blood and oxygen around which will go a long way to maintaining the mass you currently have and will give you a nice mental boost to keep you from going into a deep dark hole of no training depression.


Unilateral Training

Let’s say you have a pretty significant injury to one side of your body or one of your limbs. Are you limited in what you can do? Of course but are you in complete shutdown mode? No, not at all because you can still train your other half. Whoa, wait a second here, if I only train one half of my body for any length of time won’t it throw off the balance of my physique and make me look lop sided? Well the answer to that question is not necessarily. There is this training phenomenon known as “Contralateral Training” which is the body’s way of transferring signals through neuromuscular pathways to the other side of the body when one side is under strain or resistance. This transferring of signals to dormant muscles is basically the body’s way of asking for help or trying to recruit more muscles to help take up the strain. Studies have shown that when one side of the body is trained and the other is left dormant, the pathways that open up and transfer those signals to the other side of the body could be just enough to allow for those muscles to maintain their current state and avoid significant atrophy. So what’s the take away message from this? When one side is down, train the other in the hopes that all won’t be lost.


Light Weight Baby

If your injury is not that significant and you are experiencing a slight tear or muscle strain in any given muscle group, it may be to your advantage to lighten up the load you regularly use rather than abandoning training that muscle altogether. When you experience the “pump” in the gym that’s new oxygen and plasma rich blood you’re driving into the muscle. That blood also comes with an abundance of nutrients and healing agents. In my experience, going light and significantly increasing the rep range that I use and only focusing on getting as much new blood into the injured area as possible has helped speed up recovery exponentially. The last thing you want to be doing is tearing down more muscle around the injury but using just enough weight with the right rep speed and volume to your sets will certainly go a long way towards getting you healed up as quickly as possible.


A new approach to Training

If we could always train the way we wanted to day in and day out wouldn’t life be great? That being said the reality is that there will come a time when you have to abandon your current routine because whatever injury you incurred is just too much to deal with. Rather than shutting it down altogether maybe there is an alternative to what you’ve been doing. If you’re used to pounding it out with the weights everyday yet you’ve neglected the cardio aspect of training, perhaps you could use this time away from the weight to increase your cardiovascular health and also drop some body fat. Or perhaps your flexibility is the pits and working on increasing your range of motion is the way to go which will also help you once you’re back to the weights. Or maybe you try a hybrid type of workout that incorporates both anaerobic and aerobic exercises in a circuit type workout. What I’m getting at here is doing something is better than doing nothing at all and it is my humble opinion that regardless of your injury, as long as it is not serious or damaging in the long term if you don’t rest, there’s always something you can do.

Training around injuries is a way of life for the hardcore and veterans of this sport. It comes with the territory and is second nature to many. It’s up to you how you approach things when injury strikes and how you do deal with it will ultimately determine your longevity in this sport. Be smart, listen to your body and know your limitations.

Author: Dana Bushell

AST Sports Science sponsored Athlete/Writer, ENDEVR Athlete, SKECHERS Brand Ambassador, sponsored by Schiek Sports Inc.

Online training:

Contact: [email protected]

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