I know this sounds crazy and counterintuitive, how can one make progress while they are injured? Well the answer is, yes you can.
Now I do want to exclude some injuries. If you play a sport like football where it sometimes seems like the objective is to knock the other player out for life, this blog post doesn’t necessarily apply to you. I am not talking about injuries involving broken bones, blown out knees, etc. This is more along the lines of pulled muscles or joint pain.
In my 40 plus years of competing and training to stay fit, my experience has shown me that I get injured in one of three ways. Overtraining, not using proper form, or using too much weight. All three are related to one another meaning, having one of those symptoms will bring about the other ones.
There are many side effects of overtraining. Losing focus is one of them. The other one is feeling weak or tired. When that happens, you tend to not concentrate on what you are doing when performing an exercise.
When you have lost focus, you do not pay attention to the form you are using when performing the exercise. Your body then tries to ‘cheat’ the exercise by swinging your body, contorting your frame, not tightening up during the lift or all the above. This is when you can hurt your joint or pull a muscle.
When you are trying to go too heavy either for one rep or a set for a certain amount of reps with a particular weight is another instance where you can get injured.
Unless you are a world class athlete competing at the highest levels and always going for a personal best, there is no rush to get better as quickly as possible. This is not a sprint but rather a lifelong marathon. You sneak up on personal bests only after you have proven over a period of time that whatever your max is, that you consistently hit it week in and week out. Only then do you attempt to go up.
How injuries help…
So how does an injury help you get better? For one thing, it helps you analyze why and how you got injured. Chances are, it is due to one or more of the three instances cited above.
When I was competing in Olympic lifting, if you did not use proper form you got injured as you went up in weight. Constantly injuring my back through pulling muscles, taught me the proper way to perform a snatch or clean and jerk. I had no choice but to do it right otherwise, I could not go any heavier, improper technique was going to win out every time through failure. The same was true in performing proper squats, etc.
These injuries usually came about from overtraining. Feeling tired but still pushing myself, even after I learned the proper technique would always cause me to ‘cheat’ the lift, thus resulting in an injury.
Trying to go for a record by more than a five pound increment was always risky as well. If my max was x weight, I was safer and better off to go for a record of x plus 5 pounds rather x plus 15 or more pounds. I was just setting myself up for injury.
A perfect example of this which led to this blog post is what happened to me recently. Doing something stupid in the gym and knowing that I was pushing it (plus not following proper form), I hurt my lower back severely. A very painful pulled muscle. I have had this similar injury before and thought it would go away in 2-3 days but this one was pretty bad.
I was kept from doing a serious type of workout, free weights, for about two weeks. I did machine work but very light in order not to pull it further.
Yesterday was my first day where I could lift free weights. My plan was to not go too hard. Well to my surprise the weights felt very easy. I was doing dumbbell incline presses. I normally go up to 90 for ten reps then cut back down to 75 for a 4X set of ten reps. I have been doing this weight for the past six months relatively easy.
Yesterday everything felt so good I went for 80 for a 4X set of ten. I accomplished 3 sets of 10 with my 4th set at 7 reps. I would not have been able to do this prior to may back injury. Why? I was overtraining that is why. Due to the layoff where I still worked out but held back on the weights, I had the strength to go for a record for me this year in this lift.
What this taught me was that I was going too hard every week and that what I need to do if I want to continue to progress is take it easy every other week or so.
So if you get injured, do not get discouraged. Take the time to figure out how and why, adapt and change accordingly and move forward to become…Fit Forlife!