(Before I begin, I would like to point out that the idea I’m about to present isn’t original. I believe Will Ruth of r/strongman pointed out to me that Steve Pulcinella has expressed this thought, and knowing Steve it’s entirely possible. Also, I’m not that smart. That said, this is still something worth discussing to help with some perspective shaping.)
Everyone is adamant that you MUST avoid getting injured in training. Some go so far as to make insane statements such as injury prevention is the number 1 goal of training, and remaining injury free should be the top priority of any trainee. To me, these statements are unfathomable, and whenever I see them I find myself in some sort of existential crisis where I wonder if perhaps I just don’t understand how to be a fully functioning human. How could the number 1 goal of training be SAFETY rather than results? Wouldn’t you at least have results first and safety as a very close second at the most, if not even further down the line? When did all these people who text and drive, excessively drink and take showers without non-slip mats suddenly become so safety conscious?
Safety first; have a spotter
But even moreso I am baffled because it appears to me that these people don’t realize the BENEFITS of injuries. Yes, you read correctly; there is good that comes out of injuries. And this isn’t simply my normal ranting about how injuries teach you how to adapt and overcome and become tough (though those are all great things); this is about how injuries FORCE you to start training something else. Injuries are forced periodization; they are a catalyst that force you to start improving those things you have been neglecting up until this point.
And I’m not even talking about the recovery process here. Yeah, sure, if you go do some physical therapy, you’re going to bring up whatever lagging stabilizer muscles and imbalances you had that drove you to this point. But that’s not what I mean. I’m talking about how, when you blow out an ACL, suddenly you find yourself with an ABUNDANCE of time and energy to bring up your bench, press, neck and grip work. Hurt your back? Looks like you won’t be able to load it down with heavy squats and deads for a while; guess it’s time to REALLY hammer the prowler and get good at that, because it’s the only way you can hit your legs without feeling agony. Ruptured your bicep tendon? 20 rep squats with a safety squat bar anyone?
Great time to work on some circus dumbbell too
It is the great tragedy of training, in that, there are so many different ways to train that we’ll never have a chance to do them all. However, once we get passed the program hopping phase of our youth, we tend to run into the opposite problem of getting settled into a rut. We find out what works for us and just ride that out for months, if not years at a time. We grow stagnant and just sort of trickle toward progress. Well, once we get injured, that option is GONE, and our only choice is to find a way to adapt if we hope to continue training in some manner. But this adaptations don’t HAVE to be instances of triage; they can be periodization.
People have it ingrained in their minds that, for some reason, when you are injured, you are “less than”, and so should be your training. You instead need to stop associating your body with your “self”, and realize that you are not your leg, your bicep, your back, etc; you are you. If a PART of you is hurt, disregard that one part and train everything else as hard as you normally would. In fact, train it HARDER, because you have so much more recovery available to you now that you aren’t training a part of yourself as hard as before.
Plus imagine how much more aerodynamic you'll be!
Plus imagine how much more aerodynamic you'll be!
When you had a fully functioning body, you may have been training legs twice a week and upper body twice a week. Well guess what you get to do now that you have an injured leg? If you said “Train the other leg twice a week and train the upper body 3-5 times a week”, you guessed completely right. Now is the time to chase some sort of crazy stupid upperbody goal, because you don’t have your legs hindering your recovery any more. Now is the time to finally close the Captains of Crush #3, because you don’t have to worry about saving your grip for deadlifts or strongman events. Now is the time to develop a 20” neck, because the neck harness is the ONLY thing you can do that doesn’t cause you pain. Now is the time to see just how many band pull aparts you can do in a day before you catch rhabdomyolysis. Now is the time to learn how to do a muscle up and then set a record on it. Etc etc. You don’t need to do some sort of crippled, truncated, weakened version of your training; it’s simply time to do something DIFFERENT.
And this of course isn’t even addressing the immense psychological benefit of changing your training in light of your injury, in that you won’t be comparing your uninjured state to your injured one. If you just try to go to the gym and do what you were doing before you got hurt, of course you’re going to fail and get pissed off at yourself. But if you go in and decide to do something completely different than what you were doing before, you’re going to find that you are JUST as inept uninjured as you are injured. The challenge of overcoming injury will be masked by the challenge of tackling a new activity, and you’ll be able to progress toward that goal as you heal.
It worked for these guys!...kinda
Upon your return from your normal training, you will be able to experience the benefits of your forced periodization. When I blew out my ACL, I spent a LOT of time focusing on my upperbody, and I received a lot of compliments about it. I was down 10lbs due to leg atrophy but everyone was curious how much weight I had GAINED because I looked huge to them. My dad was completely blown away when he saw me a year post op, as it was the first time in my life he felt I really had achieved a lot of definition and size in the upper body. And my bench and press ended up in lifetime PR territory, while I also ended up hitting some PRs on the Captains of Crush grippers. And all of that hung around once I was cleared to train, and now I’m hitting PRs on the bench and press while having recaptured my PRs on the deadlift and squat.
Hell; it’s almost like I planned it.