We know exercise is good for us and that we should all do it. But whatif we have an injury? It turns out that more often than not, the answer remains the same: exercise is still good for us. The challenge is figuring out what we should – and should not – do. At Custom Strength, we get a lot of referrals from health care practitioners, which means we train a lot of clients who have injuries. We get these referrals because we’re good at figuring out what people should and should not do if they have an injury.

A big part of knowing what to do is understanding that there are specific do this, don’t do that, and adjust the other rules for training around in the presence of injuries. Another way to look at this is to be ready to classify every exercise as either Challenging, Supportive, or Neutral to a given joint. In the presence of injury, it’s a no-brainer that you can (and should) do exercises that are neutral to a joint. Some trainers will stay with this approach until the injury is healed. While this is better than not exercising, it is an incomplete approach as it leaves out the opportunity to support the injured joint by strengthening it and by improving its movement.

Exercises that are supportive of the joint are almost universally a good thing and should be part of a training program for an individual with an injury. With the qualifier that you should know what, if any, limitations the health care practitioner has recommended. Doing exercises that are supportive of a joint can be a huge benefit, as it allows you not only to potentially support your joint through an injury, but also to keep training and thus feel positive during a time that can leave you feeling depressed.

Exercises that challenge the joint are also an important part of training in the presence of injury. At first, these exercises should be avoided as they might be too much, but at some point, performing these exercises will help build strength and resilience for the injured area. The question is when do exercises that challenge the joint become appropriate. We follow a simple rule for exercises that challenge a joint: Avoid them until the health care practitioner gives the go ahead.

To really see what I mean, here is a sample list of a couple of exercises that fit each of the aforementioned categories in the presence of a knee injury:

Support:

  • Deadlift
  • Glute bridge

Neutral:

  • Inverted row
  • Bench press

Challenge:

  • Split squat
  • Squat

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