A Practical Guide to Dealing with Injuries

James Plumb

10 minute read

Now you’ve gone and done it. You knew you weren’t feeling great, but you kept training. Now, you are at home, trying to figure out if you are just tight, this is something minor, or if you have ruined your next three months.

Diagnosing how bad you’ve messed up. Chronic vs Acute.

One of the key issues for lifters, is we wearing being ‘bashed up’ as a badge of honour. Like most people with a long-term history of lifting, I can’t recall a time when something was off. This is our first fork in the road, is the injury chronic or acute.

Chronic is more common for lifters, caused by cumulative trauma and overuse. It also sucks hard, because if you are training through chronic injuries, you will mess your form up. For example, I have a chronic injury in my left shoulder, it’s nothing crazy, but when it's inflamed, I have to squat with my hands very wide. This causes me to lose shoulder tightness, this has caused me to hinge too much when I squat. If you are dealing with a chronic injury, you will need to factor this into your recovery.

A chronic issue is just something that bugs you, for a long time, doesn’t really take you out of lifting, until one annoying day – where it just completely tweaks.

An acute injury is just the opposite. Out of nowhere, you are limping out of the gym. You cannot miss an acute injury. You will be fine, then not fine. Likely, it will be inflamed, and you will be in sudden and severe pain.

Next Step – Going into Denial

Not recommended by everyone, but carried out by everyone. The next step is to pretend its fine, tell all your lifting buddies you just need a deload week. An important part of the denial period is not to lift for a week, definitely don’t do anything that makes it worse. Get a massage and feel safe in the knowledge the masseuse is totally impressed with your traps.

If there is swelling, tenderness or something just not right – you are going to need to see a doctor, then realise doctors don’t know much, then ask your friends for a good physio, then waste a bunch of money. This seems the only way to do it.

The most important things in the denial period are:

  1. Eat as well as you can, don’t eat a bunch of crap and get even more inflamed
  2. Don’t abuse painkillers (you baby). So, you are a little sore, destroying your stomach lining seems a tad excessive
  3. If the physio says ‘squatting is bad for you’ kick him/her in the shins, and make a google review saying they have small calves

Next Step – Be proactive.

Honestly, you are not so special that you are the first person ever with this injury. Google as much as you can and try to be sport specific. Find a forum or post that is from a powerlifting background.

Try to deal with the inflammation. Light stretch, exercise bike to get some blood moving, hot shower/cold pack combo. Its hard to figure out how banged up you are until the inflammation has somewhat subsided.

Get as much information as you can, between google, talking to other people and Dr/Physio, you should have a real idea for the next step.

Don’t be a baby, get back in the gym, program around it.

There is no injury that requires you to sit out of gym. There is no injury that you should not intelligently program around. Don’t be the guy who continually re-injures himself. It's tiring.

In the more likely scenario you have a chronic injury, write out a list of every exercise that directly hits your injury. You’re banned from then. Write out a list of all the stuff you refuse to do (like every ab exercise ever) – you now get to do them in replacement. Really try to find the exercises that left you overcompensating or misusing your musculature and take this time to try and even out.

Always, always, err on the side of caution. Life is the longest thing you will ever do, and two injuries in a row are stupid. Over time, add in an exercise or two from your ban list, and soon you will be back to full speed.

The most common issue we would see at DBS is treating an injury like an on/off switch. People would claim they are injured, or not. That is crazy, the whole thing is shades of grey. It is likely weeks, or even months before you are 100%. The last thing to add in is the major three (squat, bench, dead) – because you have an ego attached to those. Include those once you have put back in all accessories and start light.

The advantage of the above method? It's controlled, and it's measured. If you do tweak something again, it's going to be minor – not a complete re-injury.
Give it a go. Let us know if this helps with your training.

About the author

Andrew Jansen is the co-founder and a director of DBS Barbell.

He has competed in equipped and raw powerlifting, and in Strongman comps.

His current best lifts are raw 237.5kg squat, 172.5kg bench and 290kg deadlift at 105kg bodyweight.

You can find DBS on
 facebook.com/DBSBarbell or instagram.com/dbsbarbell/

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