3 Rules to Follow to Work Out Safely When You Have an Injury

3 Rules to Follow to Work Out Safely When You Have an Injury

INJURIES SUCK. There's no getting around it. Especially when you're unable to use one of your limbs—whether you're in a cast, a brace, or just limited by a doctor's guidance.

The pain and trauma of getting hurt is bad enough. Then you have to recover, which likely means that you're taking time off from your standard routine of physical training, curtailing whatever goals you were striving to achieve. But just because you're hurt, that doesn't mean you need to shut down your training completely until your injury fully heals. You just have to understand how to work smart around your limitations.

If approached properly—and with your doctor's approval, importantly—there are still ways to move forward with your training plan while you're recovering from an injury, according to Men's Health fitness director

Before you go all in, just remember two ground rules:

Whether you’re recovering from surgery or other type of traumatic injury, the body needs to heal. Your physician is the best source for getting you back to 100 percent.

Take a little off the top when it comes to volume and load. You’re still in the healing process. Now’s the time to make some adjustments while still being able to train hard.

Once you check those boxes, it’s time adjust your training plan by incorporating these three rules for wise and effective training through an injury. You'll still make gains, even while you're in a little bit of pain. “You'll convert that injury into an opportunity,” Samuel says. “We're not only going to build muscle right now, but we're going to set ourselves up for greater gains in the future.”

Normally compound moves are the way to go when muscle building is your goal, but if you have one limb out of commission, it's ideal to reduce the tension in that area as much as possible. The best way to do this is with isolation exercises. For example, if heavy deadlifts and squats are no longer an option, attack your lower body with moves such as leg extensions and calf raises.

If you're worried about looking like an unbalanced weirdo after training only one side of your body, relax. You’re not going to end up with a mismatched arm or leg sizes if you shift your focus to one side of your body—that’s a fitness myth. Actually research says the opposite: Training your healthy side while your other side is recovering can actually help you avoid losing muscle on the injured limb. So, using unilateral training, it’s OK—even encouraged—to attack that side heavy no matter the exercise, from presses to rows. Load up and go.

If you skip out on lifting the heavy loads you’ve been accustomed to, you’re no longer sending those necessary hormonal signals to your body to grow. The solution: Pick up a heavy weight—like, the heaviest kettlebell you can manage—and fight through as many single-rack squats as you can. Work in Bulgarian split squats or other exercises that allow you to work with a heavy load while positioning yourself in an offset stance that allows you to challenge yourself safely.

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