How to Modify Resistance Training Programs for Aches, Pain, and Injury Management

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Resistance training such as lifting weights at the gym, bootcamp, CrossFit or BFT is an important way to enhance overall fitness and health. However, when pain or injury enter the equation it can be difficult to determine how to move forward. Being assessed by a medical professional (such as your Osteopath) to determine a safe course of action is always a great idea and is recommended if you are experiencing a new injury or episode of pain. Sometimes while rehabbing an injury or simply managing aches and pains, we advise our patients to avoid complete rest and instead modify their activity of choice to keep them active. Here are some suggestions we often use to help our patients in the short term to keep moving forward with their training goals.

1. Adjust intensity/load: reduce the weight on the bar, or the weight being used with machines etc. If reducing weight makes a notable difference in pain or discomfort, consider training with a reduced load temporarily while you gradually work back up as tolerated.

2. Adjust Volume: Reduce the amount of sets or repetitions. Perhaps, if the ache or pain only pops up in the last few reps or sets, reducing the number of sets or reps could allow you to train the movement with reduced pain or discomfort.

3. Change Range of Motion: If there is a specific point in the range of motion where you feel pain or discomfort, consider reducing the range of motion before you reach the painful point. For example, if a below parallel squat causes knee pain, yet squatting slightly above parallel or to a box or bench feels comfortable, consider training with less range of motion for a period of time.

4. Exercise Selection/Variation: Consider trying a different exercise that trains a similar body part or movement pattern. Explore a few options and you may find some exercises are notably more comfortable while you are experiencing aches, pains, or injury. For example, if overhead pressing with a barbell causes shoulder pain, yet dumbbell overhead press is comfortable, consider swapping the barbell for the dumbbell temporarily.

5. Allow for rest and recovery: Simply adding in a few rest days or spacing out workouts can help modify symptoms and reduce recurrence of flair-ups.

6. Consider Technique/Form: We all have different body shapes and sizes therefore “correct” technique may differ from person to person. Consider seeking some assistance from a strength training professional such as an Exercise Physiologist or Coach to improve technique and movement efficiency. This can help improve the biomechanical aspect of various exercises which may allow you to move with technique efficient for your specific body.

7. Make one modification at a time: Listen to your body, try making small changes from the modifications listed above and determine how they affect the way your body feels in the gym.

While this list is not exhaustive, we usually find there are many options to continue to train while navigating aches, pains, or an injury rehab process. We know that it can be overwhelming when determining where to start when making changes to resistance training programs, and we are here to help you navigate any bumps in the road, to keep you active and strong in the long run.

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