In this post we discuss the difference between training around injuries or training to improve them.
Before we begin see if this situation sounds familiar to you.
You’re in the gym and performing a bench press when you feel a pain in your shoulder.
You’ve experienced this type of sensation before so you’re not unduly concerned.
You rest it for a few days but notice when you return to the gym, pressing movements now seem to cause you pain.
You get some advice and you’re told to work on pulling exercises for a while and stay away from the bench press.
A couple of weeks pass and you try some light chest pressing to see how everything feels.
Not only does this still cause pain, you’ve also noticed the pulldown exercise is beginning to bother your shoulder as well.
You’re now advised to stay away from exercises where your arms are over your head.
A couple more weeks pass without much improvement and now you’re even aware of your shoulder when doing bicep curls.
You’ve also had to stop squatting with a barbell as just holding the bar in position now causes you shoulder pain.
You’re beginning to run out of options at the gym and your shoulder is no better. In fact all that’s happening is you’re getting weaker.
So what’s going on?
This is a common situation.
Whenever you experience a painful sensation during an exercise it’s an indication your muscular system needs some attention.
Whilst in some cases rest might help, it won’t necessarily resolve the situation. Not least because this may have been building for a while.
The exercise where you felt pain is often the final straw rather than the unique cause.
The football team analogy.
Think of your muscular system as a football team and your brain as the manager. If you’re not a football fan any sports team will do.
You’re midway through the season (you’ve been going to the gym for a while) so naturally you’ve picked up some knocks as they say.
In the context of the gym these will be incidents where you’ve loaded your muscles beyond their capacity.
Interestingly when you overload muscles you also begin to get poor quality feedback from them.
So not only do you have players that aren’t performing at their best, they’re also not communicating their status particularly well either.
This doesn’t fill the manager with confidence so your brain will rely instead on the players it knows are fit.
The longer the season goes on, the deeper this situation becomes embedded.
Unlike the football season however, gym workouts tend to get more difficult with time. Most of us think we should increase the weights we use to produce further gains.
This is true to a certain extent but crucially this depends on the status of our muscles.
If half the team aren’t able to do their jobs particularly well, should you be asking more from the few that are working their socks off?
Probably not right?
This is when you first hear about the situation that’s been quietly building for a number of weeks. And how does the manager inform you? Pain.
What you can do now.
The solution is not to stop playing altogether, but rather to change how you train your team. You must meet your players where they’re currently at and progress them on an individual basis.
This may mean avoiding the particular exercises that cause you pain for the moment, but this in itself is not the answer.
What’s required is a thorough investigation to discover who’s unable to do their job.
This will be evidenced by two things:
1) Restrictions in joint range of motion.
2) Deficits in output.
Comparisons between your painful and non painful side will almost always illuminate asymmetries in one or both of these metrics.
Addressing these deficits is the key to providing a long term solution to your issue.
When physical issues strike our reaction is usually to either rest or push on regardless. The former won’t solve the problem and the latter will normally make matters worse.
A third way is to figure out exactly what’s going on.
This will not only provide a solution in the short term but also enable you to progress further in your training than you’ve previously been able to.