In the last several years I have dealt with a dislocated shoulder, broken fingers, herniated disks, a broken ankle, a tear in my knee, and most recently bicep tendonitis. Not to mention the typical wrist, shoulder, and lower back issues that many serious lifters deal with. How do we cope? Periodization is the answer.
I think it was Christian Thibaudeau who said, “there aren’t really any bad exercises or bad exercise programs – everything will work at the right time.” This is so true. Strength coaches like Thibaudeau know that the body will adapt to any training program eventually and the results will begin to plateau. To minimize this, most coaches implement something called periodization. This is basically a fancy word that means mix up your exercise routines.
How does periodization answer the injury question?
When you have had as many injuries as I’ve dealt with over the years, you have to learn to adjust. And often the mental aspect of the injury is more difficult to overcome than the physical. A good way to deal with the mental aspect is to look at the injury as an opportunity to start a new periodization program – a new training block.
Last November, I was doing a non-functional hypertrophy program (mainly to justify my carb-backloading) and I completely overdid it. I was following a fairly traditional bodybuilding style program with powerlifting mixed in. Well my bicep started hurting really bad near the anticubital area (opposite of elbow.) The idiot in me decided I needed to suck it up and just push through. Bad idea. By January I could not lift a pile of clothes without serious pain. I was told to wear a sling, which I never did but probably should have. Things were really bad and as I write this in May, I am still dealing with this injury; although, I did start lifting again a few weeks ago. Ice is my best friend.
An Exercise Program While Suffering with Bicep Tendonitis
If you have ever dealt with this injury then you know there is not much you can do regarding strength training when you don’t have an arm. I could not even front squat (my preferred squat) because it hurt too bad to hold my arm in a proper front squat position. My solution? A several month periodization program of back squats two days a week and more leg machine lifts than I’ve done in a lifetime. The results weren’t bad either. I never would have done this program had it not been for my injury. Finding a periodization program that works for a particular injury is a mental solution to a difficult situation. (If anyone is suffering from bicep tendonitis and would like more information about my program contact me here.)
Recently a Strong Figure follower asked Steph about working out with an ankle injury. The good news about ankles is they heal faster than most injuries and braces work amazing, but I will assume the injury is bad and she can’t stand on her ankle. So what can she do?
Periodization could be her solution. Why not start a 4 week training block of serious upper body training? I do not know her goals but let us suppose she wants to be lean and strong. Suppose she is typically a CrossFitter. I believe a four week training block of Arnold style upper body movements would have amazing results on her body’s aesthetics and would likely improve her strength as well.
Three day a week lifting program:
Day One: 3×10 bench press; 3×10 incline dumbbells; 3×10 back flies
Day Two: 3×10 chin ups; 3×10 rows; 3×10 chest flies
Day Three: 3×10 military press; 3×10 seated facepulls; 3×10 lying pullovers
I think four weeks of this, even without cardio, would be good for our ankle-injured CrossFitter. But adding in work on something like a UBE machine would be good as well. A standard tabata program would be great for this machine. Here is a great article featuring Miss Fitness New Mexico, Tara Arellano, on the Upper Body Ergometer (UBE).
In four weeks, hopefully her ankle will be back to normal and she will have had great results from her training block. Obviously, injuries will always suck but there is almost always a training solution.
If you are dealing with an injury right now, my advice is to take a week off and research a program that does not use that part of your body. Then develop a four week training block around your injury. At the end of four weeks reassess your situation but chances are you will feel much better.
If you are struggling to find exercises that you can do with a certain injury, one idea that you may not have thought of is yoga. There are many yoga positions that work on certain parts of the body without affecting other areas.
Good luck to our ankle-injured follower! Hang in there, injuries suck but finding the right training period will certainly help. And here is some motivation:
If you have dealt with an injury and have training advice, or need training advice, please share in the comments section.
Featured Image by Greg Westfall