You Can Always Train Around an Injury

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Last week, during our staff in-service training, I took it upon myself to discuss programming with our batch of new interns.  Specifically, my goal was to give them a hypothetical situation and see whether or not they could come up with an effective training strategy.

In doing so, my thought process was this:  While assessment, functional anatomy, and understanding movement is kind of a big deal; having the ability to effectively write a program based off of those findings is just as equally important.  Essentially, given “x” scenario and “y” limitations/goals/needs, can you come up with a “z” program that’s not only safe, but will get results?

You’d be surprised at how many trainers and coaches out there can crank up the geek factor and quote research verbatim, or brag about how many books they’ve read, or even how many followers they have on their Youtube page, but when push comes to shove – write really, really, really sub-par programs.  And I’m being really nice when I say that.

Moreover, as I noted with the guys – and as counterintuitve as it may sound – it’s rare when I write a program and it’s followed without any interruption, 100% through.  Stuff happens and life gets in the way sometimes: long work hours, cars break down, girlfriend’s break up with you (bitch!), kids are up all night, Little League games, paper is due, tweaked shoulders, lower back is pissed, explosive diarrhea, not enough sleep, so on and so forth.

At the expense of over-generalizing, the mark of a good coach and trainer is being able to program on the fly when the unexpected happens.  If your athlete or client walks in on any given day, and he or she twisted their ankle during practice yesterday; or, quite simply, they’re just out of juice, and it just so happens they have a heavy squat session that day, can you still give them a training effect even though you may have to change up the programming?

The answer, I hope, is a resounding yes.

Using an example from the in-service talk, how would you program for a 15 year-old pitcher who was just diagnosed with spondylolisthesis (and is in a back brace), but also has a “lax” (loose) shoulder on his throwing side?

Similarly, how would you program for a 40 year-old fat-loss client with a sports hernia?

[Cue Jeopardy theme music]

The point of this post isn’t to go into specific details on what those programs should entail (although I could do that in the future).  Rather, the point I’m trying to make is that you can always train around an injury……always

And, for the record, hang-nails aren’t an injury.  Nor is a headache for that matter!

When writing programs for clients, try not to think about what they can’t do – but what they CAN do. 

Doing so will make writing programs infinitely easier and will undoubtedly make you a better coach.

Left arm is in a cast?  Well, thankfully, you still have a right arm you can train, not to mention an entire lower body.

Shoulder hurts?  Stop benching three times per week for the love of god!, incorporate more close-chain (push-ups) and horizontal rowing variations, hammer scapular stability/t-spine mobility, front squat instead of back squats, and pick up a foam roller every now and then.

Tweaked lower back?  Nix any axial loading for the near future, hammer single leg stuff and core stability, get some aggressive soft tissie work, and you’ll be back in no time.

Obviously, these are just simple examples and certainly not exhaustive, but I’m sure most get the idea.

And for those of you who have clients that bitch and whine no matter what you do with them, have them watch this video and see if they still can come up with excuses:

Outside of ebola, not training isn’t an option in my book. 

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Comments for This Entry

  • Smitty

    Definitely my philosophy as well. The program always changes and you can make adjustments.

    February 9, 2011 at 8:29 am | Reply to this comment

  • Mitch Rothbardt

    Great article! A lot of people will stop training at a moments notice if they have a hang nail, others push through stuff if at all possible. Guess which one gets better results? I'd love to hear some guidelines on the examples you presented.

    February 9, 2011 at 8:53 am | Reply to this comment

  • R Smith

    Tony, It's thanks to having read ALL of your blog posts, going back years (what can I say? I had 13 hours over one weekend to spare), and nearly every one of Eric's that I did away with the notion of ever "feeling like working out." No matter the situation, what's going on or how I feel, I get my sorry ass there, plan in hand, then get after it. Of course, there are certainly times when a lack of sleep or the demands of life have me feeling less than stellar, in no mood to, say, do 4x6 box squats. But in those instances, I make sure I get quality reps in and make sure I, borrowing your phrase, "create a training effect." So when people say, I don't feel like working out, I think, "Neither do I," as I get under the freakin' bar. RS

    February 9, 2011 at 9:10 am | Reply to this comment

  • Jon Stewart

    Great philosophy Tony. There's so many fitness 'professionals' out there with endless formal ed but when it comes to practical implementation they seem to shit the bed. I went against the grain a little bit yesterday and trained through a multifidus strain that occurred Saturday with some foam rolling, movement prep and core work and am feeling way better; and for the first time since Saturday I'm not dancing in the clouds on NSAIDs.

    February 9, 2011 at 9:14 am | Reply to this comment

  • Tony Gentilcore

    @ Jon: exactly! Even if it's just going in and doing a dynamic mobility circuit - it's better than nothing. @ Smitty: great minds think alike, eh? @ Mitch: Might put together a little sumthin, sumthin down the road

    February 9, 2011 at 9:29 am | Reply to this comment

  • Rick Kaselj

    Nice, Tony. Simple and to the point. Most times we are the cause of our injuries. Rick Kaselj of http://ExercisesForInjuries.com .

    February 9, 2011 at 12:03 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Nock

    I was trying to find an excuse to skip my workout today just b/c my back was bothering me but now after reading this I'm definitely taking my Ass to the gym when I get out of work. thanks again

    February 9, 2011 at 1:59 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Tony Gentilcore

    @ Nock: atta boy!

    February 9, 2011 at 2:23 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Ben Bruno

    Good stuff Tony. I remember you wrote a similar article a few years back and it was the first thing I read of yours and what drew me to your writing. I actually mentioned that to you the first time I came to visit CP. I completely agree with what you said. Well said.

    February 10, 2011 at 3:45 am | Reply to this comment

  • Diego

    great article! i think everyone must develop the ability to adapt to a given situation. sickness injury or just being tired, there is always a safe and smart way to elicit a training effect whether it be a all out workout or just doing some mobility drills. btw, how would you answer your own question about training someone with a sports hernia? just curious.

    February 10, 2011 at 5:15 am | Reply to this comment

  • JMJ

    Love the video ! Thx for sharing, didn't expect that ending, very moving

    February 13, 2011 at 1:55 pm | Reply to this comment

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