Hey everyone! I was asked from a friend to write about how to go about training when you have experienced an injury, so here it is!
If it is a bad enough injury, hopefully you will have it checked out by your doctor first.
Last summer, I experienced this exact scenario. I was trying to run an all-out sprint and then, ‘POP’! My body was not prepared for all out sprinting and my hamstring paid the price. I ended up having to hobble to a stop and knew I really messed it up! I debated on getting so
me imaging done and seeing a doctor, but chose to see how it responded in a week or so.
I definitely did not want to stop training, so I worked around it. My hamstring was injured, not the rest of my body. There is no need to become a couch potato.
Step number one for training around an injury is to not do anything that makes it worse or causes pain! Keep moving your body and training what you can train. You might have to put some favorite exercises on the shelf for a while, but it is better for you in the long run.
For me, I put squats, deadlifts, kettlebell swings, and pretty much most other leg exercises on the shelf.
Each and every day I made sure to do some quadraped (on hands and knees position) rocking to make sure I kept movement at my ankles, knees, and hips in a very gentle way. It also felt good for my leg.
I stuck to upper body lifts, grip exercises, and added battling rope work for my conditioning.
Two weeks out I was back to walking normally and decided to test some loaded walking. I grabbed an 18lb chain in each hand and went for a walk for about 15 minutes. If I had too big of a stride, I could feel my hammy just a bit. Short strides were all good, so I stayed there. Your brain/body does a good job of letting you know if you are on the right track.
I also started crawling forward and backwards. That felt fine, so that stayed in for some strengthening. Crawling is essentially a moving plank that strengthens your shoulders and legs along with the trunk. It’s good stuff.
If there is a movement you can test with too, do so. I tested a leg raise to check what the hamstring felt like.
The red line in the picture is how far I could raise my right leg until I felt an uncomfortable feeling at the end of the first week. This picture with the leg straight in the air was about at the end of two weeks from when it happened. Progress.
Continuing to train and move in some way, everyday helped speed my recovery. Once I was ready to start testing my leg exercises again, I did so in a slow manner. You can regress your squat and deadlift movements by reducing the range of motion. I’ll give an example of how I eased back into squatting.
For squats, I did box squats. This is where you squat down to a box or bench that is raised to a certain height so that it is a partial range of motion for the movement. This is a squat variation you could use in your strength training as well as a great starting point for newbies learning form or people recovering from an injury. There is very minimal stress to the hamstrings while doing a high box squat. The majority of muscle soreness and damage generally comes from the lowering phase of a lifting exercise, so keeping the lowering phase of the squat to a minimum was a good place for me to be.
Another benefit of the box squat for me was on the mental side of things. After an injury occurs, there will be fear of doing certain exercises again. Doing a partial range of motion squat, without any pain, gave my body/brain confidence in that movement which diminished the fear of squatting.
I’ll mention another exercise that gave me a great confidence boost. The sled push. If you will remember what I talked about earlier in regards to the squat, the lowering phase of the movement is where lots of stress is placed, especially on the hamstrings. The sled push is concentric only in nature and gave me a way to keep strengthening my legs. With the sled push, there is no lowering phase, therefore the hamstrings do not absorb a huge load. You can easily control the speed at which you move during a push, so I would be able to feel any small bit of feedback rather quickly if I needed to stop. I did a TON of sled push work over the course of the following months, and I feel that had a big part in my recovery too.
Here is a little tid bit from a book I have called, A Guide to Better Movement, about movement and threat.
“Protecting the body is one of the main priorities of the central nervous system. Stiffness, weakness, tiredness and altered motor programs are ways for the nervous system to protect us against perceived threats related to movement. Training in the presence of threat will lead to habits of movement and perception that are oriented more toward protection than performance.
Accordingly, one of the quickest and easiest ways to increase performance is to reduce the perceived threat related to movement. From this perspective, all methods of training can be thought of as forms of graded exposure or threat inoculation, or a way to send good news to the nervous system about the health and capacity of the body.”
Adapting my training to my needs helped remove the threat from my brain and nervous system. I gave my body the good news it needed to help my performance and road to recovery.
You have to learn to work with your body, not against it.
Before I knew it, and to my surprise, I was back to my regular lifting in a pretty short amount of time. The injury happened May 4th, and I was back to doing some leg work by June 12. I was pretty happy about that.
That is a little bit about my thinking and the process I went through while training around my injury. I hope this helps you guys if an injury does come your way.
If an injury or tweak comes your way:
Get assessed by a Sports Med Doctor
Do not do anything that makes it worse
Continue to train the movements that you can
Slowly introduce reduced range of motion movements