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Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Exercising with Injuries

Meniscus degeneration, ACL tear, hip replacement, disc herniation, spinal fusion, rotator cuff tear, frozen shoulder, sprained ankle, broken leg, pulled muscle, etc.

Over the years I have worked with many individuals.  Every single person I have worked with has two things in common.  First, they have an issue.  Some people may have a very minor issue such as tight hip flexors, while others experience constant pain while walking due to the meniscus degeneration in their knees.

Second, exercise will help them! 

Mechanics - Consistency - Intensity

Have a knee or back issue?  Learn proper squat mechanics.  Have a shoulder issue?  Learn proper overhead press mechanics.  Learning proper movement mechanics is essential to joint and tissue health.

Developing consistency in the movement mechanics is essential.  It is nice to be able to perform a perfect squat, but can you perform that perfect squat in any situation?  Are you squatting perfectly when you get clothes out of the dryer?  Are you squatting perfectly when you are weeding your garden?  You must practice proper mechanics over and over to develop consistency.

Only when you have developed proper mechanics and developed consistency with those mechanics, can you add intensity to your training.  This is where people get hurt while training.  They do not practice proper mechanics and perform the movement anyway, with a lot of weight or a lot of repetitions.  This is a perfect recipe for injury!  DO NOT INCREASE INTENSITY UNTIL YOU HAVE DEVELOPED CONSISTENT MECHANICS!

"That's all well and good Mike, but I am a bad-ass athlete already.  What if I already move awesome and just sprained my ankle? (This happened to a client of mine)  Or sat in a car for 5 hours, on bleachers in the hot sun for another 5 hours the next day and got dehydrated, then did a heavy deadlift workout early the next morning and pulled a muscle in my back?" (I did that to my back a couple weekends ago!)  Should I still work out or give it a rest?

You should absolutely, without question, continue training.  Exercise will speed up the recovery process.  When you exercise, your body releases hormones such as testosterone and growth hormone, which aide the recovery process.

You must be smart with your training.  Depending on the severity of the injury, you may have to revert back to the first step in the training process; Mechanics.  When injured, working on mechanics can be difficult and painful, but will help you recover faster.  Spend time working on proper movement mechanics as part of your rehab.  If the injury is severe you may have to train around the injury for a while.  I have done movements such as 1-leg squats with a client with an ankle injury.  Just because you have one bad wheel doesn't mean you can't work on the other!  The carry-over effect will help the injured leg get stronger much faster when the injury is fully healed.

Be smart when training.  Set your ego aside.  We all have physical issues.  Time spent in the gym should help improve these issues, not make them worse!


Thanks Mike!!! Finally a trainer who gets it! As a practicing physical therapist in orthopedics I preach. This to patients every day! You MUST have the mechanics FIRST. I preach to my athletes that they must EARN the right to load a movement with weight or progress an exercise. Too many poor trainers just load people without taking into account how they are that day or the past week and just burn through a workout. I highly recommend Mike and this training philosophy!

Thanks Dave! I am glad to hear the same viewpoint from a physical therapist. I have seen many therapists give the recommendation of "don't squat any more", rather than teaching them proper mechanics, or recommending them to someone who can teach them proper mechanics. You put it perfectly, you must "EARN the right to load a movement". I am going to steal that saying from you!

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