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Recovery Part 3: Injuries–What To Do and Prevention
In my last blog, I talked about quality of movement and perfecting motor patterns as much as possible. With that said, I don’t live in a pipe dream where I think every single mobility-related issue can be fixed by smashing something with a bar, LAX ball, or rolling it out until you reach a full state of functional range of motion (sorry K-Star!). I think the reality is that some people have structural limitations. Flexibility/mobility is not an evenly-distributed attribute amongst all of us, and some of us (most of us, actually) will probably never have a perfect overhead squat. The fact is, there are just some people (a lot of people) who shouldn’t snatch. There are some people who don’t have the shoulder strength, stability, and/or mobility to do gymnastics kipping pull-ups. That doesn’t make anyone a lesser person, it just means that the inherent risk with a movement isn’t worth the reward. Plus, let’s face it, there’s never a real-life instance where you need to move a barbell from ground to overhead in one fluid motion (snatch). You can absolutely still train athletes without doing movements that unnecessarily jeopardize the individual. Don’t confuse sport specificity with function—are your goals truly to compete? If not, re-evaluate why you care so much about doing a particular movement!
However, that doesn’t mean you can’t improve the hand you’re dealt. If you have tight ankles and you need to improve it as best you can to put you in the safest position possible when you squat, that just means you’ll have to spend more time on that than the average person. Some people are tighter by nature and need to really pay attention to certain deficiencies. Some people are gifted with great range of motion and don’t need to work on it. Some people can eat a birthday cake and still have a 6-pack: life isn’t fair, and I didn’t make up the rules, but not following them isn’t detrimental to anyone but yourself!
As a coach, my obligation is first and foremost to keep people safe and progressing towards their goals. If you’re interested in preventing injury, understand that it is exactly my mission to prevent injury (first) while progressing individuals onward (second)—it is a constant balance between risk and reward and your coach is in a position to make a more educated, less emotional decision.
If you are injured and working with a coach on rehabilitating, here are some takeaways that you as the athlete need to understand:
- While rehabilitating from an injury, what you need is a simple, linear, and appropriate program design paired with adequate recovery protocol. Your body is hurt and trying to repair itself, so this isn’t the time to make your body guess.
- What you DON’T need right now is a lot of volume, high intensity, and to be doing the stuff that caused the injury in the first place. You can’t out-train your injury.
- Establish and maintain good communication with your coach who is responsible for your program design. Your feedback is absolutely necessary and will help GUIDE the recovery process based on how you are doing with it. Not communicating with your coach is expecting them to hit their target while shooting blindfolded.
- However, you are in no position to DICTATE the recovery process; leave that up to the professional who is NOT emotionally invested in ‘getting back at it,’ etc…
- Related to number 4, but I need to spell this out for most: You don’t get to do whatever you want! If the goal is to be able to pull and push again at full capacity, there is an order in which I will re-implement those movements back into your program. Don’t take matters into your own hands and start doing whatever you want because you’re impatient.
To sum these concepts up in just 3 words: Respect the Process. Your recovery protocol has a dramatic impact on your recovery and healing rate, but you still have to play by the rules.
I’d like to end by demonstrating a case study that was right here in-house: Hillary Baker. Over a year ago Hillary sprained her shoulder doing a farmer’s carry.
We spent 3 months (from August 3 to Nov 2 of 2015) focusing on some pretty linear squatting and bending movements as well as some midline stabilization stuff paired with some energy system training. I decided to take the time not only avoiding the movements she needed to stay off of, but spending some time doing things she needed to improve her athletic profile anyway—building her absolute strength base. We did no pulling or pushing AT ALL for 2 months, and only slowly incorporated pulling and pushing movements in a controlled setting the third month. She’ll tell you—it was boring, it was monotonous, very linear and not a ton of variation. But that’s my argument—it SHOULDN’T be largely varied. I think that you need to give the body a stimulus it can expect and adapt to; after all, it’s trying to heal itself.
What happened? Not only did she come back much stronger than before because we got to spend some time on more individualized training (even despite the lack of pulling and pushing movements), but due to the implementation of the pulling and pushing movements as well as scapular stability stuff we did, she is now able to perform multiple strict and weighted pull-ups for the first time in her life only POST shoulder injury! Now fast-forward an entire year and she’s still continuing to get stronger, continuing to improve her gymnastics abilities in upper body pushing/pulling, and with no recurrence of injury in the shoulder.
In closing and yet again, I’ll repeat myself: Respect the Process. I think that many injuries can be prevented if one is simply aware of their quality of movement and adheres to a logical progression of things. If in the event of an injury, it is important to be patient, not get greedy, and stay the course. In either scenario, you need to communicate with and ultimately trust your coach. We as coaches ‘taking a movement away’ aren’t doing it for any reason other than to avoid something worse from happening. In just about any example I can explain in detail why in fact the stimulus was more closely achieved BECAUSE of a scaling judgement call. It is more important to master a more basic movement before progressing to something more complicated for every reason from progress to safety to stimulus. We aren’t taking anything away, we are enabling you to get your ideal training session in!
I hope you all enjoyed this 3-part blog. It didn’t initially start out as a 3-part blog and I feel in just about every area I had to cut it short due to the fact that it was so lengthy, but I hope it came across the way I intended it to be—helpful, insightful, and useful to apply to yourself. As always, I’m open to comments and suggestions for future blog topics (I’ve already received a handful of great ones, by the way!).
Respect the Process