Whether you’re old(er) and have accumulated various injuries over time that simply won’t fully heal, which at minimum keep you from ever getting back to your old “100%”, or you’re just younger and got hit by a bus? Either way… if you’re stuck with some injuries that probably won’t go away any time soon, you have a few options with your training.
You could give up. It’s always an option. A shitty option, but still an option. Go lay on the couch, eat chips, watch some movies and wait to die. This is probably the easiest way to proceed.
Train Through Injuries
Disregard your injuries and continue to train like you’ve always trained. You might be okay or you might snap all your shit up in the process. It’s a lot like playing Russian Roulette really. Again, I’d advise against this option.
Train Around Injuries
This is the option I do like. You don’t give up, but you also don’t go ‘balls to the wall’ and possibly wreck all your other shit and make the lingering injury worse in the process. So how do we do this?
Step 1: Consult a medical professional.
The first stop would probably be a doctor or physical therapist in most cases. Have a medical professional assess your injury and make sure you’re able to train. You may need to have some physical therapy sessions first, before you can return to semi-regular workouts.
Step 2: Find what doesn’t hurt.
Find the exercises that do not cause you genuine pain. A little discomfort might be okay, but if it’s painful you should probably try to find an alternative.
For example, I have some slight tendinosis going on in my left shoulder, which I have been working to get rid of or at least make better, so I stopped doing overhead press because it aggravates my shoulder the most. I continue to bench press within reason and also added a landmine press to my assistance work.
So that’s my workaround. Find yours, preferably with the guidance of a competent trainer and/or physical therapist.
Step 3: Find exercises to help fix or improve the lingering injury.
In my case with the shoulder issue, this is lots of shoulder (p)rehab work and heavily outweighing my pressing movements with pulling movements.
Corrective exercises will be ones you choose to improve specific weaknesses that might be making your injury worse. This is probably the most important part of the process.
Again, it would be wise to have proper guidance from a quality personal trainer and/or physical therapist in order to utilize the right corrective exercises and also perform them with good technique.
Step 4: Increase ‘recovery’ work.
This is stuff like getting massages, foam rolling, stretching, performing self myofascial release with lacrosse balls, flossing (i.e. with a Voodoo Floss Band), etc. I wrote a full article on active recovery that you can read on the topic. Doing these things will likely improve your soft tissue quality, posture and mobility. They can also help you recover from soreness more quickly. The improved posture and mobility can allow for better lifting technique, which brings me to the next step.
Step 5: Perfect your form.
Continuously work to improve your form on various lifts. The better your technique is, the less likely you are to aggravate your existing injury or to make it worse.
Step 6: Breathe properly.
This one is very often overlooked, but proper breathing has far too many advantages to skip this. Read my Breathing 101 article for more information.
When you have lingering injuries, you have several choices. I’ve outlined them above and gave you some more information on the one option I think is your best bet to still training with an injury. Most of the steps are also great if you aren’t injured and can actually help prevent injuries from happening.
Remember that your injury might be beyond the scope of what this article covers. If you have any doubts at all, go see a doctor. Always consult a physician before taking any advice you may find on the Internet or embark on any training program.