The Contrast

The Contrast
Lift Big, Sing Big, Look Great Doing It.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

How to Deal with Injuries

How to Deal with Injuries

*Warning: Not a Doctor, the advice I'm sharing is practical things I've noticed in my own training and have read and learned from professionals in the field. I will not advise others in injuries and how to treat them, but give practical ways to avoid it.*

Working out/physical activity in any extreme comes with the risk of injury. However, before you get all scared, people get severe injuries from typing on keyboards all day too. The injuries that people sustain in the gym don't have to be life threatening, but it certainly can be if you put yourself in circumstances for that to happen. *cough cough* cross fit *cough cough*

*Side Note: All kidding aside, I have no real experience with cross fit and thus I have no strong opinion. It is however, fun to troll and hate on them.*

I've had my small share of injuries. I've torn my hand open, I had a very bruised and raised welt on my forearm that made it almost impossible to do any pulling motions with a thumb included grip. (Partly why I still do a lot of thumbless work.) And frankly, the frequency and intensity of my injuries is almost always in direct relation to how heavy and frequently I'm hitting that particular body area. As soon as my volume in my weighted chins increased so did the aching and pain in my forearm/bicep tendons. Same with my elbow joints and the frequency and weight I pushed in skull crushers. 

Tore my hand real bad from pulling movements.

I feel like my upper back is practically indestructible, I could do weighted pull ups or pretty much any pulling motion all day every day if it weren't for my bicep tendons. In contrast my lower back falls apart very often and sometimes very quickly without warning. It almost takes nothing for it to happen. A basketball game that is a little too rough can knock me out for a week or two of good training. One of the contributing factors to why my legs lack. Squats being randomly taken out.

Over-training and Work Capacity

Over training

Some people like to claim that over-training should actually be called "Under Recovery." This is more or less the exact same fucking thing, just different nomenclature. It more or less means you've worked your body, muscles, and more importantly your central nervous system to the point where your body is starting to rebel. You're unable to recover from the amount of work you are doing.

Signs of Over Training:
  • Persistent muscle soreness.
  • Persistent fatigue.
  • Elevated resting heart rate.
  • Reduced heart rate variability.
  • Increased susceptibility to infections.
  • Increased incidence of injuries.
  • Irritability.
  • Depression.
However, you should not fear over training. In fact it's a very common training tool used by pretty much every athlete. The over reaching - recovery design is very powerful and utilized by those who want to reach the top of their competitive capabilities. It's why so many athletes will work themselves into the ground, then take a week off or do a week of light training, and destroy the competition with the rebound of their fully recovered muscles.

Work Capacity


Your capacity to work is almost entirely mental. How much you can push yourself past the signals your muscles and central nervous system are sending to your brain. They say that this is what makes champions, this idea of defying the very genetic boundaries we're born into. Pushing past the pain, "the wall", basically ignoring the signs that your body is telling you that you're in danger. The horror of it and why its so easy to abandon is that it's self inflicted. Now, whether this is the most optimal way to train...well, that's a different article.

When training long, difficult hours, you will be sore, especially if you're pushing past your boundaries. You might even experience DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness.)

You can work past DOMS, in fact you should because it will make you feel better. One of the ways to alleviate soreness is to have more frequent training of that muscle group. That's why the typical bro plan of hitting a body part one day a week is a recipe for disaster in terms of being unable to walk for 4 days, rinse and repeat. The strongest, most powerful athletes squat 2-4 times a week. However, again, more frequent training comes with more chances for injury. This is true from a basic statistical standpoint, but also practically speaking.

This idea of work capacity is a why the use of steroids is so prevalent in professional sports. It's not like in the world of body building where it's meant to elicit growth, it's to survive the sport and the training involved with something resembling longevity and to be at the level required of a multimillion dollar paycheck. Steroids certainly have their place in the world of aesthetics, just ask any professional fitness model, but in sports it's all about recovery. Recovery from the basics of busting your body up repeatedly, and from the injuries you're almost guaranteed to sustain. And it's not just from the big full contact sports, like football, (Although, the amount of steroids sometimes becomes quite visible in some of the harder hitting athletes) Lance Armstrong was busted for doping to ride a bike for extended hours.

Among the performance enhancing drugs Armstrong was accused of using were testosterone, Human Growth Hormone (HGH), and Cortisone. And Lance doesn't even look like he lifts! But, people argue that without these drugs, he would not have won the tour de France 7 times.

However, even those who are on copious amounts of drugs have to be careful about joints...

Tears, Rips, and Snaps! Oh my!

When training, more than paying attention to muscle soreness, you need to pay attention to your joints. Destroying your ligaments is gonna lead you down a one way road to surgery. Tears, rips, breaks, snaps: these things can't be fixed with just rest. More than likely you will have to have medical intervention. Which isn't necessarily a death sentence, but it could take you off of your feet, or keep you from the big compounds for a while. This has derailed people from training all together which later leads to a sedentary, and thus an unhealthy lifestyle.

*Side note: Popping in your joints isn't always a sign of distress, that's just air escaping or tendons popping over each other, but if it's accompanied with pain or distress...well, see a damn doc about that.*

Finding your trouble areas

This is more or less going to happen naturally. You'll notice some lifts that suck, where your form will degrade to complete shit the closer you get to your 1 rep max. And I'm not just talking about your 2 rep weight from it, I'm talking about 5 reps away. These are your danger lifts, the ones that could potentially bury you. The ones where you'll be pushing it and your body english will get pretty stupid looking. My Overhead press is rocking this pretty aggressively. Know your strengths, your weaknesses and adjust accordingly.

Pre-hab: The Key to Being Injury Free

I'm not gonna tell you to rice (rest, ice, compression, elevate) your injuries, that's basic shit. What I'm gonna tell you is to never get them in the first place. The way to do that is to take care of yourself before, during, and after you lift using a few of these tips...

1.) Regularly foam roll your muscles.


This is one of those things that hurts so fucking good. It breaks up a lot of that built up lactic acid that comes with high volume, high rep training. It's a good way to get rid of some soreness before getting underneath a bar. I've literally failed reps because I was so sore. It makes for a very unpleasant first few sets if you've got built up lactic acid burnin your ass (sometimes literally burning your glutes.)

Most gyms (commercial or otherwise) have big foam tubes or other types of rollers in their "stretch" or "mobility" areas, but they also aren't terribly expensive. Buy one of these and keep it in your gym bag, and you'll have instant relief. It's also something to do when you're at home watching T.V. It doesn't have to be specific to before or after training, although there is a lot of programing that incorporates it.

Here is a foam rolling routine for you to observe.

2.) Stretching


You can find a litany of evidence supporting and disproving the benefits of stretching before and after, or if your stretching should be static, dynamic or ballistic. Frankly, it's best to try out a lot of things and see what works best for you.

What's interesting is that most people who lift weights regularly "stretch," but they don't call it that. They call it "Mobility Work." (Lol. You can call a horse a banana, but it don't make that horse yellow.) The only difference is that it's more often movement specific. Here is an example of some lower body mobility work from one of my favorite YouTube personalities, Brandon Campbell. 

3.) Don't do one rep maxes


I talk about this a lot, but for real, there is no real reason to go into a gym and hit 1 rep maxes. You're not a power-lifter, and even most power lifters don't go into gyms to hit 1 rep maxes, they periodize their training and slowly build up strength till the day of the competition. You should train for strength and size, but not at the point of jepordizing every other part of your life. Going into the gym ever other week and putting your max onto the bench, squat, deadlift is just gonna drain your resources and not allow you to actually grow in those lifts. While you can stimulate hypertrophy with one good rep, you're not gonna get optimal gains in strength or muscle growth in that rep range. If you are lifting in the 90% range you should have it planned in your programming and it should have a purpose. Don't be a pussy, but play it smart.

4.) Rest


Well, let's not go that far. You actually have to put in the work. You have to actually test your muscles and your body and over reach before you can reap the benefits of rest. However, you can do more for your progress with well timed and well planned rest than you can with any lift at the gym. A week of rest or low intensity or lower volume training after destroying your body can make a person grow exponentially in both strength and size.

5.) Regular low intensity cardio


"Done at low to moderate intensities (I’ll come back to specifics at the end of the article) cardio can act as a form of active recovery.  By pumping blood through worked muscles, recovery is often hastened (and for many, active recovery actually helps more than simple passive recovery: doing nothing).

I’d note that most forms of cardio tend to be lower body dominant so most of this effect will be for the lower body.  Trainees who want to achieve a similar effect for the upper body would need to perform rowing or use the EFX or a machine that also involves the upper body to some degree." - Lyle McDonald from

Combine this with the cardiovascular health benefits as well as the additional calorie expenditure and you have a recipe for success.

Don't be a Pussy

I apologize for those of you who might be offended by such a sexist turn of phrase, but the comment stands. You can't expect to build muscle, strength and reap the benefits by always playing things safe and shying away from progress. Progress should always be planned, but when it comes time for you to take that next step, you better be able to nut up or shut up. I've done (and still do) a lot of stupid training, and I've paid and learn from my mistakes, but I'm absurdly happy that I've made those mistakes, because it means I stretched myself, felt the sting of arrogance of stupidity and grew from it physically and intellectually.

Unfortunately, more than likely you're going to have to be your own best judge on whether you need medical attention for something. If you're tight on money or don't have insurance, make friends with a medical professional who sees lots of sports related strains pains and what nots and get an initial opinion before running to the doc everytime your calluses open up on your hand. Don't cry home to mama every time something doesn't feel great. Do the stuff I talked about above: stretch, foam roll, rest, ice it and whatever, see if it recovers in a reasonable amount of time and then get back to work.

HOWEVER, don't fuck around with back injuries. If it feels severe, it's probably not good. You don't want to end up in a wheel chair or like those old folks who can barely move from their kitchen to their bedroom without crying in pain.

Until next time, watch your joints, work your legs more than once a week, foam roll, don't be a pussy, and as always...

Lift Big, Sing Big, and Look Great Doing it.

The Opera Bro


  1. Injuries are really frustrating for us, therefore, we are trying to adopt a defensive strategy while playing and while in gyms. But accident might be happening at anytime and anywhere. So it is quite better to stay preventive and take precautions to deal with injuries. I would like to follow some essential tips from here regarding how to deal with injuries. Thanks for such a wonderful article.
    Sports Injuries

  2. Literally, the best blog I have ever read. I feel bad, for not finding this blog sooner.
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