Recovering from Minor Injuries
By Tim Paynter, @paynterperiodization
Hey, powerlifters! We need to stop being afraid to take time off when we’re injured.
I see it time and time again. A lifter gets injured but continues trying to train, despite the injury. We’ll often say things like, “I can just train around it” or “I can push through it”. While we can all admire that dedication and drive to succeed, it is rarely effective and often causes minor injuries to turn into something much worse. So, what should we do when we find ourselves suffering from a minor injury? Take time off? No way, right?! Actually, yes way… I say this from experience. In my time under the bar, I’ve been lucky enough to never have any sort of catastrophic injury. However, I have dealt with numerous muscle strains, partial muscle and tendon tears, SI dysfunction, low back pain, rib subluxation, tendinitis, etc. So how have I overcome them? Rest.
Sometimes not going into the gym and training is harder for us, mentally, than training hard. To many of us, training is as much about sport as it is about therapy. We want to push ourselves hard because during that training session, even if only for a moment we can forget about everything else that is going on outside of the gym. It is a release of the stress and struggles of day-to-day life. But when we are injured, we must understand the difference between therapy and sport. If we want to be competitive then we must understand that we are not going to be able to compete to the best of our abilities if we’re injured.
Aside from the typical ice therapy, heat therapy, and other immediate responses, I’ve found that most minor injuries like muscle strains, tendinitis, and others are often completely healed the most efficiently by simply staying out of the gym for a short period of time, typically less than 4 weeks but occasionally up to 6 weeks. We need to let our bodies rest and use all of its resources towards healing the injury. When we continue training through or around the injury many of our body’s recourses are taken away from healing that injury and put towards muscle recovery from the continued training. This, in turn, prolongs our recovery time.
So, what should we do during that time off from the gym? We can and should do things that increase blood flow such as some form of cardio, stretching, mobility work, etc. that does not involve using the injured area. I would suggest staying away from anything that stretches the injured area, especially if it is an injured muscle. We should also spend this time evaluating what may have caused the injury in the first place and attempting to correct faulty movement patterns, poor exercise selections, etc.
Once we’ve taken a sufficient amount of time off, which is going to differ based on the injury type and extent of that injury, we can ease back into training. That is often going to involve very light training for anything that involves the injured area to access tolerance. We should not try to jump right back in where we left off. Chances are we’re going to have lost minimal strength and fitness over such a short break, especially if we keep our nutrition in check during this break. But we should still start off light to be cautious and build back slowly. In terms of longevity, we’re better off safe than sorry. Take one to two training blocks to slowly work back up to where we were before the injury and to correct the issues causing the injury. In the grand scheme of things, a few weeks off and a couple of lighter training blocks isn’t going to affect the end goal of being as strong as possible for as long as possible much at all. However, jumping right back in and going balls to the wall without addressing underlying issues just to reinjure the affected area will certainly cause a much longer set back.
I know this isn’t necessarily what we want to hear, but it is often what must be done. Sure, we can spin our wheels for a bit and possibly end up in the clear later on but it’s most likely not the most efficient way to recover. This is simply my experience and what I suggest for my athletes, it is certainly not medical advice and I have no credentials, aside from personal experience. However, I’ve seen it work many times over for myself and others willing to try it.
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The United States Powerlifting Coalition was created to provide powerlifters an atmosphere where they can be comfortable in a safe, lifting environment. We utilize a monolift on the platform in order to provide the best experience for both lifters and spotters and to promote safety and confidence when squatting; a fat pad bench with face savers and Texas squat, power and deadlift bars on the platform.