Injured? How to Continue Training and Still Improve

Being injured sucks. Anyone who trains hard and trains often is going to deal with injury at some point in their lives, regardless of whether you’re a powerlifter, weightlifter, CrossFitter or Strongman athlete or just someone who likes to lift on their own in their garage.

But just because you’re injured doesn’t mean you have to lose all of your gains, go stir crazy on the couch or gain a bunch of weight. You can maintain your strength (or even get stronger) when you’re injured if you do it right.

If you’re dealing with a nagging pain that won’t heal or you know you have a history of the same issues, we recommend you check out the Active Life RX Bulletproof programs, as they’ve really helped us address imbalances and avoid being sidelined with serious injuries. (They’re offering Athlete Daily readers 50% off with the coupon code DAILY.)

Beyond rehabbing and learning to correct movement patterns, here are some great ideas to keep you on track while you’re working back to 100 percent.

Lower Body Injury

(Hamstring, quads, knee, ankle, foot, etc. basically anything below your belly button that’s bugging you.)

Lift it

Bench press (regular and close grip), bent over row, strict press, dumbbell row, pec flys, dumbbell bicep curl, hammer curl, push press (if your injury will allow), weighted dips and pull-ups, tricep extensions, skull crushers, floor press, weighted handstand holds, seated dumbbell press.

Conditioning ideas

For Time 5-10-15-20-15-10-5 reps:
Legless wall balls (don’t squat)
Ring dips

30 kipping muscle ups for time (or EMOM for 10 minutes: 2 strict muscle ups)

20 min EMOM:
10 feet handstand walk + 5 ring pushups workout “JT”
21-15-9 reps of:
Handstand push-ups
Ring dips
Push-ups workout “Lynne”
5 rounds for max reps of:
Body weight bench press

Key takeaway

Gymnastics is your friend, especially if you’re going to be sidelined for a while. If an exercise is easy, put on a weighted vest. A lot of the “bro stuff” should be on your radar, as it’ll make you look good and keep most of your strength.

Fix your hips:

Assess your ankles:

Upper body injury

(Shoulders, chest, wrist, fingers, elbow, etc.)

Lift it

Find a safety bar if the regular rack is an issue. Back squat, front squat, deadlift (if this won’t irritate your upper body injury), hip thrusts, glute bridges, split squats, good mornings, single leg deadlifts, lunges (using dumbbells, back rack, front rack), back extensions, hip extensions, reverse hypers, sled drags, sled/prowler pushes, banded hamstring curls.

Conditioning ideas

5 rounds for time:
200m run
50 air squats

Max distance in 30 minutes: sled drag @ 75% bodyweight

For time:
30 back squats 95/135 lb
Follow immediately with 4 rounds of:
10 pistol squats (5 each side)
20 tuck jumps

25 minute AMRAP:
10 front squats
10 box jumps
20 weighted sit-ups

Two rounds:
400 m walking lunges
400 m run

Key takeaway

Get excited: your squat is about to get massive. You also may not need to totally neglect your upper body. If the issue with your shoulder is just overhead, use straps and do heavy clean or snatch pulls. If you’re struggling with a wrist issue, switching to behind the neck press (or dumbbell movements) can help.

Fix your shoulders:

Back/neck injury

It really depends on what kind of injury you’re dealing with. Particularly with your neck and spine, any kind of loading —or jarring movement— if you’re dealing with pain is not a great idea.

Lift it

There’s too much variance between neck and back injuries. Strict gymnastics and some core work may be OK as long as it’s not painful, but to be safe see a PT you trust to find out what you can/can’t do.


5 rounds: 5 strict pull ups, 5 strict chin ups, 10 leg lifts, all without coming off the bar

10 rounds: 10 hollow rocks, 10 arch rocks. 30 seconds rest between rounds

200 hollow rocks for time. Every break, perform 10 tuck crunches

Conditioning ideas

500yd warmup (Two rounds of: 100yd free, 100yd kick, 50yd choice stroke)
5 rounds of 50 yd. freestyle swim building to a sprint by the fifth one. 1 minute rest between rounds
2x 100 yd offstroke swim working on technique for the first 75 and sprinting the final 25.
200 yd cooldown

200 yd freestyle swim warmup
4 x 25 yd backstroke resting :15 between
4 x 25 yd breaststroke resting :15 between
4 x 25 yd butterfly resting :15 between
2 x 100 IM (25 butterfly, 25 backstroke, 25 breaststroke, 25 freestyle). 30 seconds rest between each.
200 yd choice stroke cooldown

Key takeaway

Unlike most other injuries that only require some modifications, back and neck injuries can be really tough to work around. If you can swim, you can keep your conditioning up. Otherwise, it’s a good time to work on less aggressive skills and focus on quality of movement.