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The path to strength and size is one filled with injury and pain. Very few progress down that path, as bigger rewards carry with them bigger risks. At one point progress becomes simply surviving the workouts. If you’ve never been injured in some way while training, then I question your methods.
It’s not that injuries are badges of accomplishment, or a pre-requisite for a solid training program, but maximum training is dangerous, not healthy. It is possible to train hard and get results and avoid injury, but most people don’t even push themselves out of fear of entering that “danger zone.” This article is not about training for health and fitness, it is about how to minimize health risks inherent in extreme training. We’ll cover injury prevention and prehab as well as injury management and rehab. You’ll also get a personal story on how I overcame my knee injury. Everything written here is my own opinion, it is not medical advice and if you are injured you should see a doctor.
There are various types of pain that are normal but sharp or chronic pain isn’t one of them. Joints and tendons take a longer time to recover than muscle. They do recover and end up stronger, you just need to give them time. Be patient. A 3 week complete rest on the joint with various rehabing techniques will make you stronger rather than destroy you slowly. Following pain or injury begin the R.I.C.E protocol: Rest, Ice, Compress, Elevate. Rest we already talked about but you need to rest immediately after and stay away from painful movements until you are recovered. Ice will help the swelling and reduce pain. Apply ice for 15 minutes on, 15 off for about 1 hour or until the swelling has gone down. Follow this icing protocol several times per day for the first week or so. Compress the area by wrapping it with a bandage or sleeve, this helps cut down on swelling as well as offering support that otherwise the joint/tendon would have to carry. Elevation further reduces swelling, try to elevate while laying down rather than sitting.
The reason a lot of injuries occur, and we’re talking about chronic ones, is a lack of preparedness of the joint or tendon to handle the weight. The body doesn’t like redundancy; if a system isn’t used it will atrophy, and this applies to bones and joints in the same way as muscles. If you never get into ass-to-grass position except when you’ve got 300lbs on your back, it’s not going to be pretty. It’s essential to prepare the body with a proper warm-up, which will lubcirate the joints fully. It’s also necessary in most cases to continually work to improve mobility in the joint. The best investment you can make is buying a foam roller and just spending 20 minutes everyday, after the hot bath, stretching and rolling around. On top of increasing flexibility, this will also promote myofascial release, helping to eliminate scar tissue and improve muscle quality.
Mobility is also important for the systems around the problem area. Although hyper-flexibility can cause problems as well, most men suffer from lack of flexibility, so we’ll focus on that. A lack of mobility in one area causes compensations which in turn lead to injury in other areas. For example, lack of mobility in the hips or ankles will cause knee problems simply because your body is out of alignment, and getting into the proper positions is impossible. To combat this it’s important to stretch ankles and hips, or whatever your problem areas may be. For upper body stretching, pay attention to the wrist, elbow and rotator cuffs, areas commonly involved in injury. Increased mobility will also help you lift more, as your body can absorb more poundage with better form.
Learn the lifts. Mastering the form of a lift will allow better distribution of the forces involved, better leverage, and consistent movement that safeguards against injury. For me, it was the use of a box in squatting. This helped me in two ways. First, when I touched or did a slight deload on the box, the strongest forces were absorbed by the box. The reversal from negative to positive is almost like a collision where your body absorbs the force. Second, box squats really taught me to squat from the hips, which can take a much heavier beating than the knees. So it’s important to improve your form, but also to seek out exercises that minimize damage to a susceptible joint. Rack squats, rack pulls, various pin presses and board presses can also be used to this effect. It’s important to train full range of motion, but sometimes, if you want to keep your health while lifting heavy, you have to cut the ROM. This is not an excuse to do quarter squats but a way to work around injuries and salvage your gains.
Joints and tendons are tasked with the ability of absorbing tension and stabilizing your body. If you are training intensely, full recovery can be very difficult. Get some wraps or sleeves for the knees, wrists, or elbows to help support problem joints and ease the load: minimizing the damage and allowing them to recover. Wraps and sleeves will also help you lift more weight, more safely, by giving you better support and allowing you to focus on the movement rather than worrying about the joint.
That’s about it really. Remember joint and tendon injuries take a long time to heal and we are talking about chronic not acute injuries. Make sure to see a doctor, hopefully a specialist or someone who specializes in sport medicine. If something is aching slightly, follow some of the stuff outlined in the article before it gets worse, you will save yourself time, money and a lot of pain. Click here to subscribe to get notified when part 2 is finished detailing prehab movements, various stretches and dynamic warm ups.