If you play sports or workout, chances are, you know that injuries will happen every now and again. From minor bumps and bruises to more serious injuries; gym enthusiasts are heartbroken when it happens.

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For some people, getting injured means completely putting a stop to their training or sport until the injury is fully recovered. Recovery can often be anywhere between 4 to 8 weeks in length, and not being able to train for this extended period of time can result in a noticeable decrease in strength and endurance.

While most people assume that you should not train while injured, I am here to tell you, that is very rarely the case! The idea of not being able to train while injured is one that simply needs to be tossed out. You may not be able to train at your regular intensity. You may have limitations that you did not have before. You may not be able to flex for selfies quite the same way, but it is VERY possible to train while injured. I speak from experience!

The best way to approach training while you are dealing with an injury is by preparing a training program that works around your injury. A program which caters to your strengths, and eliminates any undo stress on your ailment.

My favorite way for people to begin working around their injury is to make a list of the exercises that they CAN do, rather than focus on the exercises they CANNOT.

For example, if you have a broken hand, you still have a whole library of exercises you can work from:

  • Unilateral movements on the uninjured side (One Arm Dumbbell Rows, One Arm Dumbbell Bench, One Arm Shoulder Press)
  • Most lower body movements (Lunges, Single Leg Romanian Deadlifts, One-sided Kettlebell Squat, Hip Thrusts/Glute Bridges, One Arm Kettlebell Swing)
  • Cardio and core movements (Treadmill, Elliptical, Recumbent Bike, Planks, Flutter Kicks, One Arm Dumbbell Carries)

By creating this list, you are able to create a full workout program to help maintain the progress you had been making before the injury.

Working out the non-injured side of the body may seem counterproductive at first because one side of the body is being completely neglected. However, it actually helps promote an increase in strength on the injured limb. Seriously, I promise! This is done through a process called cross-education, which is a neural adaptation that allows the untrained or injured body part to have an increase in strength due to unilateral training.

training while injured

A 2009 study tested 3 groups; one wore a cast and trained the free arm, another wore a cast and did not train, and the third wore no cast and did not train either over a period of 3 weeks. This study supported the idea of cross education.

The results collected over the 3-week test were astounding. The group with the casted arm that trained the healthy side showed a 23.8% increase in strength in the free arm and a 2.2% increase in strength in the casted arm! While the untrained and casted group showed a 14.7% decrease in strength. As shown in the table below there was also a noticeable difference in the change in muscle size between the 3 groups. The casted group that trained the free arm demonstrated a 1.1% decrease in muscle size, where the casted non-trained group showed a greater decrease in muscle size, at a 4.3% decrease.

Moral of the story? If you find yourself injured and are worried that you have to stop training, there is still hope! There is no need to give up all of the progress you have worked towards while you recover. It is absolutely possible to continue training, and it is advantageous to do so!

Not sure how to move forward with your injury? Don’t hesitate to reach out to me directly at anthonym@gymit.com; I’d be happy to offer a complimentary fitness assessment to help you understand your many options as you move forward.

Anthony Marrocchio

Author Anthony Marrocchio

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