Working Out Through An Injury While Making Progress

We're going to go over working out through injury, making progress through injury.


I'm going to go over what has worked for me & my clients in the past. This information I am sharing is from experience I have accumulated of training clients directly since 2014. Also, I have broken an arm, collarbone, separated the AC joint in my shoulder twice, suffered chronic back spasms, jammed fingers, ankle sprains, concussions, all while playing sports. I have rehabbed and come back stronger from all injuries. 

Here is my take on working out through pain. When you get an injury, that is the time to focus up and actually start thinking about how to get back to work with a new and improved routine! Don't stop everything because this wont be the solution that fixes the problem!

The first step of your new modified routine is stabilizing the injury. This means not working out, but resting with the goal to reducing the inflammation & sensitivity of the injury. You do this for a temporary time. Long enough so you can be some what functional. But not too long, otherwise you regress in other parts of your body. This can cause additional issues down the line. You want to get blood flowing through the body to create a recovery process as quick & smart as possible. Having a good attitude towards fixing a problem such as pain & injury is key.

That doesn't mean going back to what you were doing, or being reckless. That means doing new exercises to target other parts of the body or performing functions you are capable of performing pain free. You want to be maintaining your body and limiting the amount of atrophy that occurs. 

Also, just because you got hurt doing a specific movement doesn't mean it is necessarily a bad movement! You also may have been pushing it too hard at your current fitness levels! Or maybe, your form is off and you can use some coaching. Coaching with a trainer is great to go over proper form! Good form can reduce injury. There are many reasons you may get hurt when doing an exercise thats functional! 

Learning & performing functional exercises is key to not getting hurt in the first place! So finding that balance is important to being injury resistance, and recovering from injury. 

More times than not, people suffer from injury doing other things. Not the actual exercise routine. Yet people are terrified to workout when that wasn't even the problem in the first place. And if they trained correctly, maybe the injury would never have occurred.

Being optimal in squatting, hip hinging & moving your spine are all functional movements you want to get good and progress in.

Let's say you hurt yourself randomly. You hurt yourself at the gym or maybe you slept wrong or maybe you were moving something around your home. Maybe you were playing with your kid. Whatever it is, you hurt yourself.

At that point you need to begin stabilizing the injury and not letting it get worse. You have to let it subdue and not be aching all the time. You can't actually work out while dealing with the direct pain that's occurring. So if you're in pain, you have to continue to rest until it's just not hurting as much. While most would be fearful to do the thing that got them hurt in the first place. Instead going back to it with a better approach and building confidence is how you move on permanently.

I used my social media to get some data on what people were struggle with the most. I asked, what are some pains and some injuries that you may be dealing with?

The information that I got was expected and a common recurring theme I hear from people. Same things I see on a regular basis; lots of general back pain, lower back, spinal, herniated discs, knee issues, random knee pains, general achy knees, recovering from ACL surgery, meniscus, tennis elbow, elbow pains, weak ankles and weak feet. All common things I hear.

Understanding your pain threshold is an important concept to understand if you want to avoid injury during workouts. 

Your pain threshold is an invisible line for your own personal body for pain tolerance for where you presently are in your fitness journey. You can improve this over time! The overall level of the line can get higher which means you are less prone to injury and can tolerate high pain levels, which is a positive thing.

To simplify this more (hopefully) if your pain threshold is a 10 level, that means doing anything below the level 10 of intensity for a functional movement means you are not likely to get hurt at all. Your body can even handle miscue's, which mean you are not likely to hurt yourself if you fall or have an accident. The damage will be limited. 

Doing something above the 10 level is considered very aggressive. Like lifting too much weight or doing one too many sets or reps. That means going to failure even if it compromises your form. Doing high intensity workouts does not mean you will get hurt, but if you are going to get hurt it is most likely to be in these moments of high intensity. Choosing to go high intensity all the time is a choice! You make your own choices.

When you rest for too long from injury your pain threshold reduces which means it can goes from a 10 to a 7 or worse. Which means in this present moment of your fitness journey, it's easier to go above your pain threshold line.

Which means lower weights and lower intensity you would normally do is now more risky to do! Doing something at an 8 level now is above your pain threshold when before it would be below it.

So when you get hurt you want to make sure you keep that pain threshold at that 10 level the best you can and maybe even try to get it to 11 while being injured.

It comes from the mental! Your brain is so powerful, and that attitude is what gets you out of injury!

That willingness to take on the challenge that is presented and learning about your body during this injury is such a great opportunity to take your fitness to a new level in the future!

Science proves that knowledge really is gold! Your brain is inside of the body you know nothing about! Imagine what you can do, by simply understanding your mechanics at a deeper level and not taking them for granted. You shouldn't! Fitness runs deep! Functional movements are key!

In your training, you're trying to make progress. This applies to everyone! Even if you don't have injury.

Tracking your progress & workouts gives you motivation! My favorite metric to track is strength! Measuring the reps & weights that I do for a particular set of exercises. An example of some of the most popular exercises people track are Squats, Bench Press and Deadlifts, but I like to track more exercises than just those!

By making progress overtime on these lifts and an awareness of your calories your body adapts in ways you didn't even know it could! 

By tracking my clients workouts over time I am able to ensure seeing progress. This helps avoid injury because I always know what my clients are capable of. I also help my clients get out of their own heads. By having proof of record from our last workout, this eliminates doubt for the present and future workouts. 

In your workouts, you're trying to push yourself, but not in a way where you're constantly above your pain threshold. Thats not good, because you are at a higher risk for being injured because you are living above that pain threshold line. 

You want to be floating around it, in a tight progressive, stable window. A little bit below, a little bit above it, and it will overall grow in time and consistency. Training above your pain threshold is so important! This allows you to adapt and push those levels! Doing this in structure and awareness is important!

Which again is why we track our workouts over time. People don't understand how capable they are of themselves! Tracking your workouts allows you to always push those boundaries. Even on days you aren't feeling as good. This information is important so you know what the appropriate weight is to "scale back" not just a guess of what you did last time.

I am with clients and constantly they think they did or didn't do something last time, when my notes say something completely different. You cant make accurate decisions based on guesses. Similar to business, you want to have clear information before you buy a house or make a business transaction. 

Let's go in more depth about functional movements. My view of functional movements means that you are supposed to be able to do this particular movement on a functional level because of the ability of what that body part is capable of. If you arent capable of bending your knees over your toes when your knees are capable of this by design then thats not good. This applies to everything in the body. If you dont practice doing some plyometrics, and your heels, feet, knees, and hips are designed to absorb impact then over time they will lose the ability to absorb impact efficiently and you will no longer be able to have functional heels, feet, knees, and hips.

Your core, ab muscles, chest, spine, back muscles, glutes are all designed to help you keep an upright healthy posture which is a functional movement. If you neglect this over time, you will lose the functional capability to keep an upright posture. Let that sync in. 

If you aren't able to do functional movements for too long, you lose the ability to do them. What feels like you can't do them. But really, you're just rusty, and you need to grease up the wheels, lubricate the right spots and improve that dysfunction.

So with the pain you're dealing with, first you're stabilizing. Then when you are ready, you're working above and below the pain spots because you're trying to improve the movement, you're trying to make progress, encourage blood flow & recovery. Even if you workout other parts of the body, you are still triggering a recovery process that is throughout the body, and since the injury is damaged like the muscles you worked out, lots of recovery begins to happen in these moments.

Unless you're doing something completely ridiculous. It's going to be good for you to move & workout even if you are dealing with pain & injury. You dont want to be in pain when working out though.

So doing the basics in simple resistance training is more than enough. Or doing slow twitch bodyweight training. That means not doing anything that requires fast quick movements.

Calisthenics is very effective & i've got a lot of bodyweight programs for you guys to do. So if you're intimidated to go into the gym, or you don't like that environment, then you ideally want to do light weight or bodyweight stuff (highly effective) from the comfort of your own location! Then you never have an excuse, and can make gains from anywhere!

A great resource for anyone who doesn't like going to the gym is my Instagram @jaminfitnessla OR the Free Personal Training Group where I go over the explanations of these exercises. This is a Facebook group that you can find easily in my Instagram link bio!

I don't engage with people directly during the class but if there's something that you can't do that I'm doing, you can modify it to something relative or reach out after class to ask me questions. This is part of the design of this Free Personal Training.

You want to improve your movements so you dont get hurt again right? Discover what parts of your body are presently functional, and then what parts of your body are presently dysfunctional, and then begin doing movements and resistance that helps you become more functional in those places that need work. This will help create balance in the body and allow you to increase your pain threshold by attempting to work out but never getting hurt while you're working out. Making progress also requires you to be careful and listen to the signals your brain tell you.

Over time your pain threshold will grow with all the things i mentioned but also, if you dont forget the other key ingredients to optimal health which is a balance of resting, eating, sleeping, loving, not stressing, and being more happy. Those things matter. And then your pain threshold grows, your progress grows, and then you're more likely to not get hurt again.

But again, taking too much rest and taking too much time off is not the move. When you get hurt, that pain is a direct signal from your brain to stop doing whatever it is you were doing. Pain is a cue from your brain telling you to not do that again, even if it doesn't make sense to you. You can optimize that communication between your brain directly by listening to the signals it sends accurately and then making the necessary adjustments.

Working out is not usually what got you hurt in the first place! People usually get hurt just doing random things, and then use that as an excuse to not do something in the gym.

You only got hurt while working out if something is too heavy, or movements arent quality, or a little combination of the both. Maybe you're not resting long enough and working out too frequently. Otherwise, working out is not the cause of your pain.

If your pain or your injury isn't coming from a direct incident, it's probably a lifestyle issue. And that means something maybe related to your job, something at home, maybe you've got a kid, you know, young kids can cause body issues. 

People shift and take shape towards what they do for a living and what their priorities are. If you're stressed out not eating well, not sleeping well, issues can stack up.

Lifestyle choices are how you can fix some pains immediately. So if you didn't actually hurt yourself, maybe fixing some of the lifestyle things that you've got going on will help you eliminate some of the pain that you may be dealing with. Most pain and injury, you are capable of dealing with it yourself. The tools are already in the tool shed for you. That's key to understand because then you know you have all the power & knowledge you need.

Couple of examples with careers that people take shape to; if you're at a desk a lot, then you want to make sure that your hands are strong, your wrists & fingers are mobile, your forearms are loose & strong. You want to make sure you're relaxed in your shoulders not storing a lot of tension, you want to make sure your shoulders are stable. You want to make sure your glutes and specifically your lower glutes are strong, you want to make sure your deep ab muscles are strong. Surprisingly you want to make sure your biceps & triceps are loose, stretched out & strong. This can cause problems as well unless you pay attention to it. These tips will help.

If you're standing on your feet all day, making sure you're strengthening your feet, strengthening your heels, strengthening your glutes, making sure your cores strong, neck is strong, shoulders are strong, spinal control optimal, good range in motion in ankles. Wearing comfy supports is an awesome idea if you have no choice with your work but be on your feet! That being said, if you are using some type of foot cushion to help relieve or solve a pain problem you are having then this is not the solution long term. It is only the solution to actually performing the job itself on a day to day basis, or short term fix of pain. This is not the solution to fixing the pain long term. 

If you are a doctor, dentist, surgeon which are also people I work with, these types of people move a lot, but they hunch over a lot with arms extended forward, so working on those back muscles, external rotators, shoulder stabilization, glutes, wrists, forearms, and a few more things are important to be aware of to be able to fix whatever it is that's causing the pain in the first place. 

You would be surprised, but people who have PhDs don't necessarily have all the answers! Shocking right?! I have had quite a few medical professionals come to me not specifically for a pain, but for workouts and within that training program we solved a pain point they were having they were not sure how to solve. 

These type of solutions that I am able to provide even to people with higher credentials is because of the extensive experience I have with working with clients. I have had many people leave Physical Therapy or tell me that PT was worse for the injury, but when they came to me. I was able to provide highly more effective results. FYI

To optimize the comfort of your body you need to do the combination of stretching, deep tissue myofascial release and strength building, but what can get tricky is identifying what you need and what you don't. This is tricky because sometimes you don't need all three, sometimes you just need one of the 3! Sometimes you need to work on all three dynamics, but sometimes stretching can make something worse. You identify this by running tests on your self and the body. Setting goals & standards across all three dynamics.

I would say light weight resistance training is one of the most simple & effective ways to stay healthy & feel good. 

I like to collect data & run experiments all the time with my clients. I am able to effectively do this because I am tracking all of my clients workouts, reps, sets & more! By having this data over time this allows me to validate a lot of what I do!

You would be surprised but, lifting heavyweight properly for the right situations is very important to being able to reduce pain over time. So if you're trying to reduce pain and injury, mixing up your sets and reps is critical because if you do this correctly, these are ratios to the body that help promote change.

Mixing up the sets & weights of your programs allows you to adapt to what it can handle at an optimal level. Blending in all of these as well is super important, because if you're just doing the same thing over and over, it can have similar effects to feeling like walking in circles, rather then progressing up steps. You cant make progress when you dont push out of your comfort zone, and that includes during the healing process.

Think about it, you have to do sets of 4 x 3 or 5 x 5 or 5,4,3,2,1 because if you don't, then you'll never be able to lift the heavier weight at a higher volume. You cant lift the same weight of 3 x 10 compared to 3 x 5. So to eventually lift the weight you're doing for 5 reps to 10 reps you have to start at lower rep schemes with proper form. 

But on the flip side if you are frequently lifting heavy this is the most intense on the joints. So proper rest is absolutely needed from the lift itself in-order to continue steady progression!

So while heavy lifting is, in my opinion, the secret sauce that a lot of people overlook, doing too much heavy lifting without the proper rest or blend I think can be problematic, because of the damaging effects to the joints in the body! But damage is good, and recovery is better.

So with the right ratios and the willingness to learn about your body, with improving confidence, and independently doing the right things on your own, this will allow you to remove your aches and your pains. And if you ever need more help, feel free to reach out, I've got a team to help! I am also able to point you to the right Doctor who fulfills very high quality work! So if you need a reliable additional opinion I can support this.

So now, I'm gonna go over some of the stuff that you guys reached out to me about.

So first, we're gonna go over knees and what I think works well. Remember this is just my opinion on the factual manner over years of experience!

When it comes to a devastating injury to the knee that requires a surgical procedure like an ACL Tear or dislocated knee, you'll need to completely rest until you are not in severe pain and cleared by your doctor. So you're not doing anything until you've gotten your surgery, and then felt better from your surgery.

How you heal and how you feel will depend on the steps you take. There are small details that can have huge effects! Healing is about you and the habits you create. The doctor performs surgery and gives you guidance, but you are the one living with the knee and have to take care of the knee.

There are so many things you can do without moving your knees at all such as wiggling your toes, isometrically working on your toes, flexing your feet & ankles, squeezing your glutes, working on breathing exercises, doing simple things that you can get creative with! It is all forms of movement.

Then eventually you'll get to the point where you'll need to strengthen your legs, but there are ways to do that without any knee extension at all!

You can do many exercises above and below the knees that require ankle & hip extension & flexion. You can get a great workout without barely moving the knee joint at all! Then you can do upper, and abs too! All while being in the early steps of the recovery process. Activating your glutes and feet are in the best interest of knee health.

Squatting, lunging, leg extensions, leg curls, are all examples of knee extension exercises that can be difficult for people to do when returning from major knee injury. If you feel good doing them, great! But I would do more things that require ankle & hip extension & flexion because there is so much you can do! At least in the beginning of the healing process.

Eventually you're going to want to incorporate more knee movements over time so that you can get that range of motion back to its functional level.

Squatting, lunging, leg extensions, leg curls, are all things you want to be good at! These are all movements that are kosher for your body! So don't be fearful. Just pay attention to the variations that you do for these movements! 

One thing that I have realized over my years is that working out your legs is incredibly more complicated than it looks. Having that proper balance is key! So key because it effects how you feel in the upper body.

Most people with basic fitness skills or even people who have worked out for a long time make the mistake of doing 75-85% of their exercises for the lower body as mostly knee extension. The chances are everything you've ever done has been mostly knee extension so your knees just hurt in general and you hate leg day. Achy feeling legs, overdeveloped quads and dont have the glute aesthetic you desire.

So if your knees hurt in general, maybe just take a rest from knee extension exercises and still workout your legs by doing other hip & ankle exercises that require flexion & extension!

Another complaint I heard from social media was rolled ankles. We were just talking about our glutes, but having strong glutes will also allow you to have strong balance and stability. So working on your glutes will also help strengthen your ankles & feet!

But also what can be tricky is working on your feet, ankles & tibia muscles! These parts are overlooked & working on these spots directly will help strengthen the stability of your ankles! This focus in exercise selection is important to reducing ankle problems and even fixing feet! If something is above my scope I refer someone to my Doctor who I think is excellent.

Having intention and actually working on your feet properly, is going to really help with you not rolling your ankles because if your feet are strong and balanced you're not going to roll your ankles. And then also having the awareness to building the strength on the front, the back and the sides of your ankles. So working on your feet, ankles, calves and heel in all plains of motion will help reduce you rolling your ankles.

If you're rolling your ankles, it's a stability issue and requires more focus on building strength in the areas i just mentioned.

Okay now my opinion on back pain, lower back, spinal, herniated disc, etc. IMO fixing someones back is the easiest task of them all because there are many ways to work out your back that you don't even realize that are totally safe to do and will help encourage healing.

Also, most people don't know how to use their body correctly and teaching someone proper biomechanics will help relieve back pain almost immediately. This is the most frequent problem I see in people.

Again, working out your glutes, but also focusing on your deep core muscles/breathing muscles are super important to immediately providing any type of relief.  

This can allow you to engage and stimulate your back muscles without barely even moving, which will promote healing. You also want to be focused on your spine control from your neck all the way to your tailbone. Between your cervical, thoracic & lumbar spine you have muscles that run along it, and you can strengthen it all. It's fair game and you want to master this part of the body. Having masterful movement with your spine will help reduce the likelihood of getting injured, dealing with current pains and progressing forward. 

In regards to helping relieve your lower back, not sitting down in a chair all the time & literally stretching your legs will help tremendously because you are relieving the Psoas muscle from being shortened. Shortening the Psoas muscle fibers occurs when you sit. So sitting all day is not ideal and the equivalent of my arm being in a bicep flex all day. That would not make sense.

Your glutes and hip muscles help support the comfort of sitting, but when it is excessive that means your are shortening muscles you cant see for a long time which means they are under tension for too long. 

You might feel uncomfortable after sitting awhile and want to "stand up and stretch my legs". Well that also implies stretching out your psoas muscle. You cant see your Psoas muscle, which makes this tricky to understand.

Your lower back is part of your lumbar spine and this area gets neglected in isolation exercises! People are so afraid to workout their lower back, but dont be afraid! Double down on this, and you will see progress.

Also, if your mid to lower back randomly hurts, it can also be a back spasm. Most people have this problem at first because almost everyone puts excessive tension to the outside of their legs & body because of the constant sitting and pushing through the heel. Balance of muscle development is required to fix this problem, which means working out your lower Gluteus Maximus and working on your transverse abdominus & your Vastus Medialis are all very important for helping back spasms. So doing exercises that specifically activates these muscles will help. I used to have back spasms and now I dont. 

Back spasms feels like you pulled your back when you didnt actually do that. This occurs randomly, but can also occur during a workout. But a lot of the time it happens as you go about life randomly and you can feel it coming on before it comes on fully, which then can last hours, days, weeks or worse. Utilizing the tricks i said above + being conscious of not sitting all the time will help! I know this from application on many clients + myself.

So I'm writing this blog while sitting. That means that I'm shortening the muscles in my back and in my core + shoulders. I am getting tighter just from writing this blog, so having this awareness is key. Knowing when you get tighter so you can limit these actions and do things in moderation.

For fixing a "herniated disk" what I have found to be helpful is working on your hip hinge movements. Stimulating spinal control & work on stabilizing the transverse abdominus. Progressively adding weight and challenges to the spinal load while not dealing with any pain. 

You want to be able to progressively add more weight to your spine to create stimulation from your neck all the way to your tailbone, and then mastering that control. That's going to help your herniated disc but if you're too heavy or your your form is not good, you can re-injure your herniated discs.

This may feel like you are walking a tight line, and if you aren't careful, you probably are, but after reading this article & following along with my work you should have no issues in getting more confident. Being gentle with little to no weight should be no issue with gentle experimentation on the information I am providing you. 

Some exercises I recommend that are good for spinal control but people are terrified to do are; good mornings, deadlifts, squats, planks, and these are just a few. But if you learn how to do these movements correctly then you will see healing.

I have a podcast episode that goes over specific exercises that work your deep core muscles. So I recommend you going back and listening to that because this episode is more about strategy and actually going through the pains and the injuries versus those other episodes are more specific into the specific exercises and depth of those exercises.

Okay. And then lastly, I've got some people with elbow issues. I used to think elbows were difficult to fix until I understood them better.

I think a good place to start is understanding that your biceps and your triceps are attached to your elbow, then your forearm muscles below it, then your wrist and your hands, and lastly understanding your chest is part of your shoulder is all relevant information to feeling good in the elbow.

You want to make sure your fingers and your hands are flexible and strong. You want to have awareness of stretching your hands and actually building strength in that area.

At my gym, I've got a hand strength machine called the gripper. So we've got a specific hand machine to progress weight, but then also you can stretch your fingers & wrists on the gripper too. Making sure you have good ROM is very important. Also doing other exercises for the hands like some form of isometrics. An example of an exercise you can do for your fingers is a three point stance, which is pressing 3 fingers into the ground and supporting weight. Building strength in your hands, but also improving flexibility and mobility in your hands and wrist is huge. 

The best thing that I like to do for strengthening the forearm, is holding dumbbell weight with your palms facing down and curl your wrist up and isometrically hold it, feeling it in your wrists, but building strength in your elbow.

Doing resistance training for tennis will help eliminate tennis elbow. Working on your hands, working on your wrist, working on your forearm, with resistance will help. 

Then making sure your biceps and your triceps aren't tight as well. Biceps and triceps are overworked in comparison to the forearms, so your forearms, wrists and hands are underdeveloped, while your biceps and your triceps are overdeveloped so your biceps and your triceps can cause issues in your shoulders and in your elbows. You want to make sure that you're loose, you're stretched and you're strengthened in all the right areas as you play.

Also working on your shoulders, but not only working on your deltoid. Most people when they workout shoulders they are referring to their delts, when in reality your shoulders are comprised of many different muscles. Understanding the entire shoulder complex, and then strengthening the deep shoulder muscles will encourage shoulder stability and that will chain down to fixing your tennis elbow.

So for elbows if you have 1) stable shoulders 2) loose chest/strong chest  3)loose Terra muscles 4) loose deltoids 5) loose bicep 6)loose triceps, 7) strengthen forearms 8) strengthen hands, 9) good range of motion in your wrist in fingers & 10) doing resistance training to balance it all out then your tennis elbow should be eliminated.

I just named 10 tips to helping relieve any type of elbow problem. Sometimes in order to fix a body part you have to look at the other parts of the body. 

Well thats the end of the blog! I hope this helped, I hope you enjoyed. I feel like this provided a ton of great value. Hope you guys check it out and tune into the next blog. Have a great rest your day guys. Take care!

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Thanks for all you do!!


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