Lets say 85% of people who go into the gym spent a little time online trying to find the best program to follow. 50% of those people look for “the program” their celebrity crush followed to get ready for that box office hit. They copy, paste, print and enter into the gym with high hopes. 40% of the other 50% just find something they think they can follow while the rest can be seen in the corner of the gym checking into Facebook, grabbing a tootsie roll and heading back out to their car (I really don’t have anything personal against Planet Fitness…cough)
Despite the road you came into the gym on, there is a huge piece of the puzzle most injury prone moms, dads, business men/women, athlete or average joes seem to miss when putting together there own program.
Most people don’t realize that working through any kind of injury puts you into a very specific category. It’s the most unattractive, slow paced mind numbing category to be in but its the ONLY category that really fits you.
There are tons of different styles of training programs out there but the most common is whats called a conventional periodization program. This is basically when you train for a specific goal such as losing 100 lbs or squatting twice your body weight. It’s a plan that requires a consistent increase in challenging loads or volume in order to force the muscles to adapt and develop higher performing muscles. Which is a time tested style of training but I am here to tell you it is the WORST if your dealing with back pain…..or any kind of pain or injury for that matter
What I am here to tell you about today is what is called Linear Periodization training. When it comes to injury the bases of conventional periodizing leaves most injured individuals in a constant inflamed state. Especially when it comes to back pain, increasing weight or reps too soon will force you to take 3 steps back for every 1/2 step forward. For the healthy individual sure, increase your weight and reps and always find ways to improve week by week but that wont work for the injured.
I know what you’re thinking…Well my doctor said that my lower back is weak and that I need to do lower back strengthening exercises to help with my back pain. Omgosh that doctor paid over 200k for his PhD and that’s the best advice he could give you!?
Painful muscles don’t equal weak muscles. Working injured muscles thinking they will get stronger is like wiping before you poop… it just doesn’t make sense. Injured muscles struggle to get proper nutrient and blood flow to them anyways so working them only makes them worse.
The human body, when dealing with an injury, needs more time to recover. With every workout you risk increasing the inflammatory response already at work in your body. This is the hardest part about training with an injury. You need to know when to push and when to back off. You could be a couple reps away from pushing your body over the edge to where your dealing with a flair up for the next two weeks.
So how do you do it?
Well the 1st step is take everything one step at a time. You’re not trying to maximize your strength or hit some crazy personal record. You’re trying to heal and get your body to the point where you can move without pain. This means hanging up any kind of strength training goal or weight loss goal that you have until further notice.
Linear Periodization 4 step program.
1) Understand that you’re injured and that you will NOT be “working through it or around it”. You will climb this mountain one foot in front of the other.
2) Your range of motion should be limited to what you can do without any post-pain or swelling. This means if you’re that guy/gal doing mini squats in the corner with just the bar that’s ok. Check back in two days and if you feel good take it up by 10%
3) This is not about challenging your strength it’s about recovering and retraining whats injured. Your progress is only made in 10% increments. Which means your ideal situation would be to up 1 rep at a time, each week or increasing weight 5-10 lbs at a time. It’s slow but its the only way to relearn how to train in pain free positions while reestablishing a solid foundation.
4) Start with what hurts. If your lower back hurts after sitting all day then hit the gym and stay away from flexion based exercises. Your first thought should be strengthening your core to help with poor posture and rounded shoulders.
This is how I want you to apply these step to your workout
Take the squat for example. If you can’t do a simple body weight squat without any kind of pain then you shouldn’t be doing any kind of weighted squat. Start with baby squats. These are the squats that make you look like you really don’t know what your doing. Do a couple sets of baby body weight squats and see how you feel after a couple days. If you have no pain or inflammation then take a deeper squat. If you’er pain free, you’re going to shoot to progress. NEVER progress just to challenge yourself. The only time you move forward is if your pain or inflammation doesn’t get worse.
If doing a baby squat hurts then I would focus more on hip mobility and core stiffness. Learn to brace the core in a neutral position and progress from there.
If the baby squats are too easy put a pvc pipe on your back and squat with that. Check back in 2 days and if you don’t have any pain then add 1 rep or 10lbs to the bar until you can work up to the regular bar.
One step at a time. You’re retraining your body to do things right.
Hope this article helps organize your current training program. If you’re hurt just don’t go in there trying to make those hurt muscles stronger.
Take a step back and start from scratch.
p.s Would love to hear about your current training program! Shoot me an email and ask me anything you may think needs changing!