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How to Train Around and Recover From Injury - A Scenario Based Guide

Updated: Nov 17, 2022

This blog will look at how to train around and recover from injuries of moderate severity such as an ache or pulled/strained muscle. The goal is to never stop moving or training, we want to get in to the gym as soon as possible to load the injured joint and promote recovery.

If you haven't already read 'Training and Juggling Joint Pain' check that out first to gain an understanding of how these types of injuries may occur.

Scenario 1: Sore Elbows

Adjust Your Rep Range

Using the lat pull down as an example, start with a weight that allows about 8-10 reps on the lat pull down. Does this rep range cause pain? Yes? Increase the rep range to 15-20 by decreasing the weight. Does this rep range cause pain? No? Stick to this rep range

If you find that you have to decrease the weight so much where you feel like you can do 100 reps then do 3-5 sets of 20 reps with an extremely short rest period of 15-20 seconds. This will cause what's called an accumulation of metabolites within the muscle and will make for a challenging set while promoting a ton of blood flow to the injured area.

Change The Exercise and/or Technique

If you can't perform a particular exercise without pain, then switch up the exercise. This could be something as simple as changing the bar that you're using for the lat pull down to changing the exercise all together.

Using the images below as an example, if the straight bar on the left is causing pain, then switch to the mag bar on the right. Not all gyms have these mag bars so you could try using independent handles, they allow more freedom of movement to explore techniques that feel good.

Scenario 2: Partial Pec Tear

Not long ago, i partially tore my left pec while competing at a wrestling competition, the pain was so intense that i couldn't even do one push up or press 5kg dumbells. BUT i was able to press only my arm quite comfortably and that's what i did, 3-5 sets of 50 repetitions with a 15 second rest period. it gave me a sick chest pump. Then on my good side i pressed as normal to take advantage of what's called the cross-education effect, which you can read more about here

As my chest started to feel better, i started doing some 5kg dumbell presses (yes, 5kg) which felt ok but i was still getting some pain and felt vulnerable at the bottom of the press. So i switched to a banded press. Pressing the band was easy where my chest was painful (less band tension in the bottom position), but harder where my chest was not painful (more band tension at the top). I then increased the tension (Adjusted my Rep Range) on the band over a two week period to make my chest stronger.

After about 3 weeks, i started Changing the Exercises, incorporating more variety including power, plyometric and wrestling exercises and gradually Adjusted Rep Ranges to restore full strength, power and sport confidence. It must be done gradually because all of the above is inherently more stressful on an injured joint and so you could risk re-injury if you rush the process. I wrestled with one arm behind my back during this phase because there was still plenty i could do, but i knew i also had to be careful. Once the pain had gone and functionality returned, i began wrestling as normal.

I may also add that i was using a healing peptide called BPC-157 which helps accelerate healing from muscle, tendon and ligament injuries. BPC-157 was legal up until it was banned by WADA in January. For more information on healing peptides check out

Scenario 3: Lower Back

So you pinged your back doing whatever, you're stiff and find it hard to move. You pop two vitamin V's, head to the myo for some relief and throw yourself on the couch with a heat bag to get a good night's rest. What now?

If dead lifting is in your program and it's painful, Adjust Your Rep Range and/or Change the Exercise/Technique. For example, strip the bar down to 10kg a side and extend or flex your spine a little to find a comfortable position. Get a nice lower back pump. You should feel no pain at all with these adjustments, if you do stop and Change the Exercise (eg. try a sumo stance) then try again next week. For the remainder of your workouts, pick exercises that don't hurt. Chest supported exercises, supine rows, goblet, cable and plate loaded machine variations are all great options that you can play around with. The method of exercise selection is simple "If it Hurts, Don't Do It!"

Scenario 4: Big Toe

In the lead up to a wrestling competition, a combination of hard mats, hard wrestling and narrow shoes gave me some serious turf toe. I couldn't run and walking for long periods of time was painful. My big toe was so tight from the injury that i would keep spraining it whenever it bent during bread and butter techniques. To manage the problem i spent some extra time mobilising and stretching the toe to increase range of motion and allow access to ranges of motion that i needed to perform. I have a whole blog on warming up properly here and why its so important to stretch and mobilise.

The new shoes and extra warm up made training significantly more comfortable and bearable, although eventually i needed to take some time off to let it heal properly because unlike in the gym, i couldn't just Change the Exercise/Technique or Adjust the Rep Range (Decrease the Intensity).

Most people freak out when they feel pain, yet a few adjustments to training almost always gets the job done. Although, If pain persists or worsens, see a physiotherapist to rule out anything serious.

For individualised advice, send me a DM on instragram @walidhouli or send me an email @

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