Training with (and overcoming) a muscle injury

Training with an injury is somewhat of a catch-22 situation: on one hand, you want to continue training so you don’t lose any progress that you’ve made, but doing so can just further aggravate the injury.
Below are our top tips for training with an injury, in order to get back to your fighting-fit self!

Nutrition

Nutrition is often underrated and overlooked, but it’s likely the most important factor in injury recovery. Healing from a muscle injury can take weeks (or even months depending on the person), but this can be drastically reduced by getting adequate nutrition and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. It’s worth noting that certain foods (such as white flour, eggplants, tomatoes, and chillies) can promote inflammation within the body, while others have an anti-inflammatory effect (leafy greens, foods rich in Omega-3 such as fish and avocado, etc).

Injury vs Pain

During most intense workouts, it is normal to feel some sort of pain due to lactic acid buildup or the muscles becoming engorged with blood. However, if the pain goes beyond that of just a minor niggle, it is important to cease your workout and assess whether you are doing more harm than good. Examples of when you should (obviously) stop training with an injury and seek medical advice are acute injuries (e.g. sprained ankle, torn muscle, broken bone, etc), sub-acute injury (muscle strains as a result of working out through a niggling injury over the course of several months), or chronic injuries (shoulder bursitis, tendonitis, etc).

RICE Method

Rest, ice, compression, and elevation should be the go-to treatment for any acute injury. Damaged tissue usually swells upon injury, and treating this swelling is the best way to alleviate pain. Tip: never use heat on an acute injury, as it dilates blood vessels and accelerates blood flow, which just leads to further swelling.

Light Weights, High Reps

If you have a muscle injury that is more of a minor annoyance rather than a debilitating issue, it is possible to accelerate the healing process by getting the muscle back to 100% by training with very light weights and higher repetitions. While using correct technique and slow, controlled movements is always a priority with weight training, it becomes paramount when trying to overcome an injury.

Work Around the Pain

If you are suffering from an elbow or tricep muscle injury, for example, it is still possible to exercise your chest or shoulders – simply emphasize movements that require little involvement from the affected areas. In this instance, performing dumbbell flys and lateral raises are preferable to bench press and military press.

Warming Up Properly

As the saying goes, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”. This logic applies any time you are in the gym, regardless of what exercise you are performing. By quickly placing tension on a cold muscle, you are increasing the risk of injury dramatically — slowly raising the temperature of the muscle and surrounding joints and tendons by correctly warming up is of utmost importance. Be sure to pay particular attention to the muscle groups being worked by adequately stretching them. Not only will this help to relax and elongate the muscle, it can also help to build more muscle due to increased circulation and fascia elasticity.