Ask Your Trainer: Training and Injuries

A post from Callie:

When you’re training hard, injuries can happen. With proper instruction and training progressions we focus 100% on technique and safety but often times pre-existing issues can present themselves with repetitive movements.

Another scenario is an individual may come in with some imbalances and they can feel pain in a certain area as they are developing their strength.

These cases aren’t ideal, but they do happen.

First and foremost, proper training should work to improve the quality of the muscles, joints and connective tissue, not make it worse.

But we all know, we get bumps and bruises along the way when we train hard.

I get a lot of questions related to training and injuries so I wanted to address them as a whole in this post today.

The first main question is, should you train when you are injured?

The answer is yes. Stopping activity is one of the worst things that you can do. Movement and blood flow can enhance the recovery process by pushing fresh blood and nutrients to the injured area. Plus the mental aspect of training and the release of endorphins has also been shown to help improve recovery. Basically because we all know what happens when we get hurt and can’t train, we get bummed out. Keeping your mental spirits up is invaluable to recovery.

When I was in college I had a serious leg injury, I broke both bones in my lower leg (tibia and fibula) and was in a cast up to my hip for 8 weeks. During that time I couldn’t do anything and I got seriously depressed. Once I had that cast off and I was in a cast below the knee, I was in the gym. I would do upper body exercises on the seated machines (things like shoulder presses, chest supported seated rows) and I would walk around campus on my crutches to get my heart rate up.

The other part of this is that in most cases, you can work around the injury. This is obviously injury dependent but let’s say you had a strain to your lower back. The best thing to do is keep moving and slowly do some exercises that don’t involve that area. As you’re healing up you would just avoid any big flexion and extension movements and you could focus on upper body work, Battling Ropes, Planks and potentially body weight squats or lunges.

We’d look at things the same way with a shoulder strain. You can focus on your lower body and core, you can pull and push sleds, you can swing light kettlebells. There’s endless work that can be done as long as you’re under the guidance of a qualified trainer.

While you are working other areas of the body you should also be doing some mobility and rehab work for the injured area. Get qualified instructions from a PT or a Chiropractor before you start this. (We recommend Dr. Dave Shadrick at Davis Square Chiropractic).

Taking this whole question back a step is the next part. How do we take care of ourselves so that we aren’t getting injured?

The biggest reason for most injuries is mobility issues. I always tell people, where you feel pain is not where the issue typically is. For example, if you are having pain in your lower back, you should focus your mobility work on your hamstrings and your thoracic spine (middle back).

The reason for this is that as you go up the chain of your body, some joints need to be stable and some joints need to be mobile. You will notice a pattern with these:

  • Ankles need mobility
  • Knees need stability
  • Hips need mobility
  • Low back needs stability
  • Thoracic spine needs mobility
  • Scapulothracic joint needs stability
  • Glenohumeral joint needs mobility
  • Elbow needs stability




If a joint area is too mobile and needs more stability, it will take it from another area. If a joint area is too stiff and needs more mobility, it takes that mobility from another area. This is often what leads to instabilities and injuries.

So, how can we prevent and decrease the instance of these?

Here are your quick tips and daily homework:

  • 7-9 hours of sleep per night to help the body recover and lower stress
  • Drink 1/2 of your body weight in ounces of water every day (your cells need water to function properly)
  • Perform 5-10 minutes of mobility work every day, specifically on your IT bands, low and mid back, hips and shoulders

You need to make sure you are taking ownership of your body. If you aren’t taking the time to do your mobility work, you won’t see the best results possible. If you aren’t sleeping, drinking water and eating properly, your body will get beat up. Make sure to focus on the factors outside the gym in order to stay healthy and progress on a weekly basis. No matter how well you train, if those outside factors are messed up, you will likely get injured or beat up.