Training with injuries… Should you do it or not?

10 days after my boob job, I was back in the gym!

After my boob job, I was hesitant to jump back into training.

Even though the surgeon gave me his thumbs up. The doc said once I felt ready? Go for it. Avoiding the upper body to start? Yes. But as a competition-level athlete, he was confident I’d know how to listen to my body.

After 9 days, my muscles – yearning to get back to the gym – told me it was time.

I put on my stretchy pants. Donned my fave Nike cap.

And walked into the weight-lifting arena.

(Aka…The gym.)

Starting to reach for the weights, I felt a touch nervous. How much would I be able to lift? Would it even be worth it to train?


Then, I began to lift. Once I got started, a HUGE smile broke out across my face.

Not only was my body able to do more than expected, training actually felt good. My glutes and legs felt SO happy.

(Here’s me feelin hot AF after a short time gettin’ back in the lifting-squatting-sweating saddle.)

Were others/loved ones concerned?

Most definitely.

But me and my trainer, Mark Getty, were keeping it safe. I’d spend as long as 60 mins on quads and hams alone – keeping my chest nice and protected!

Injuries should not keep us down and afraid. We can still train, as long as we train carefully and listen to our body’s mindfully.

Whether you’ve had a knee replacement or suffered vertebrae issues, there can be fear around when to “train through the pain” and/or when to know it’s safe at all to go back.

Watch this video to hear me and my bad @$$ trainer Mark discuss training with injuries.

In this video I share with you:

  • When or when not to “train through the pain”
  • What you need to know about every exercise you do (When I finally did this…I went from having major back pain in squats → ZERO!)
  • A great method for adjusting a workout to your needs

Remember, amazing soul… the best conversations happen in the comments.  

After you’ve watched the video, leave a comment below and share what takeaway you got from the video!

Love Kim xo

[otw_shortcode_content_toggle title=”Video Transcript” opened=”closed” icon_type=”social foundicon-youtube”]

Training with injuries… Should you do it or not?

Kim:       Hi this is Kim Constable and welcome to this week’s episode of Strong and Sculpted.

I am here as usual with Mr Mark Getty and today we are going to be talking about training around injuries. Now one of the biggest questions that I get asked is from women who have some kind of injury, maybe a lower back pain, they’ve had a knee replacement, they have some vertebrae which have fused in their back or in their neck and they want to know how they can still get into the gym, lift heavy weights and sculpt strong bodies.

So I thought that I would come to the expert in not only all things body sculpting but also all things injury because this man has injured himself a few times I can tell you. So Mark thank you so much for being here today.

Mark:    Yeah my pleasure Kim.

Kim:       Mark, talk us through injuries. So, what I would love to specifically know is what is your experience with injuries because I know you’ve had quite a few?

Mark:    Yeah.

Kim:       And how did you a) rehabilitate yourself from those injuries and when should someone train through the pain and just get stronger and when should they back off?

Mark:    Well firstly I tore my tricep completely off the bone, the tendons of the tricep off the bone last September, so actually a year to this day, I was on prep for the Nava Universe 5 weeks out and I was doing inclined dumbbell presses with 60kg dumbbells and basically, not to go into too much detail but the dumbbell ended up on my face.

Kim:       60kg in each hand?

Mark:    60kg in each hand yes and I held them up and was about to start under rep one and my tricep snapped off the bone and the dumbbell ended up landing on my forehead, so not a nice injury. Long story short, I went for an ultrasound and it appeared that I had full tricep avulsion which means that every tendon on the tricep was torn completely off the elbow. So this basically knocked me out of the Universe obviously, 5 weeks out I couldn’t train for it, had to get surgery, got the tricep re-attached and started training. Now obviously my way of training as you know Kim, is heavy hard to failure and as a result there’s certain exercises I have to avoid but looking back it’s been a blessing in disguise because I’ve had to revamp my training, revamp especially my [0:02:05 unclear] shoulders, triceps and try to get more engagement into the muscle through [0:02:09 unclear] connection and then rebuild it back up there. So 12 months’ later here I am, back up to the weight I normally am, competing and getting ready, like I say for the next Universe. So obviously training around injuries totally is there and I am actually doing it as a professional and going for one of the most prestigious shows in the world. So if I can do it, anybody can do it.

Kim:       But how do you know how …like after you’ve had an injury like that, you know ripping the tricep off the bone, it’s not a …you know it’s not a nice thing to do, I can imagine but how do you know, like is there some kind of guideline, do you just listen to your body, how do you know how hard to train, when to push through, when not to push through, when to back off, like how did you structure your training, answer that?

Mark:    Yeah I think the first few weeks I knew that it was off. Once I got the surgery and the cast off, I kind of waited for about a couple of months and I literally went back in the gym, it was actually before Christmas and I was told not to train again until April but I went back into the gym just before Christmas and I thought I’m going to start pushing, no weight, just the machine and try to get a wee bit of stimulation in the muscle. I’d done a lot of research and reading into electro stimulation, things out there and tried to stimulate the nerve endings to come back and obviously try to push blood in through the muscle and although tendons are very, you know, they don’t hold much blood, they don’t have much blood flow, I thought if I loaded the blood in the area, then possibly some of the nutrients and things might lead to healing.

Kim:       That’s something I always teach about, get the blood flowing around the muscle, around the injury and that will heal it.

Mark:    So for the first two or three months I literally was lifting no weight, it was just stretching the tricep out, full extension in different areas and using different machines just to mimic that.

Kim:       No 60kg dumbbells?

Mark:    No 60kg dumbbells but basically just from then and listened to my body so if the tricep and the elbow got sore, I stopped. If I was able to push more and what I found was every week I was able to do that wee bit more, that wee bit more, that wee bit more and by the time April came along, I had my arm completely rehabilitated.

Kim:       Wow.

Mark:    You know what I mean, myself I went to physio once every month just to kind of keep the stimulation and break down the scar tissue but for me I just kept pushing it and upped it a wee bit, if I felt any pain that wasn’t the pain that I wanted to feel, I backed off a wee bit. So it was just patience and a bit of consistency, the same recipe I would give people that aren’t injured.

Kim:       Yes so that was my next …

Mark:    Just being patient and being consistent.

Kim:       That’s my next question, so given what you have experienced with your training, so say a woman in one of my programmes comes into the gym and she has pain when squatting, because pain when squatting is a massive one that I hear and it’s not always that someone has injured, maybe they have weak knees or they have an injury in their lower back but they have pain when squatting, so what …and a lot of women will say to me I just can’t squat, I can’t squat because it’s too painful. So just to give my take on it, sometimes I say well there may just be a little fear there so you maybe just need to push past the fear and you know build up strength as you go but what would be your take on it if someone said they can’t squat because of the pain?

Mark:    The first thing you have to do is you have to distinguish the type of pain and I’m sorry but a lot of people take pain as the wrong type of pain, people think and squat and when they go down they give it a wee tiny jolt and they find a wee bit of pain, so about 9 times out of 10 this wee pain is due to incorrect warming up, it could be pain due to tight muscles, it could be pain due to different things being out of line, pains that will come back in if you take a wee bit of care of your body, your regular sports massages, do a bit of stretching etc., etc. So with that in mind 9 times out of 10, I’ve found that most people can squat.

Kim:       Yeah do you think that people are scared of pain?

Mark:    Of course they are.

Kim:       It’s something that I find a lot, they’re scared of pain.

Mark:    People and again this is going to sound, I’m not trying to be un PC but a lot of women especially and certain things like deadlifts and squats are afraid of the damage that might occur and my opinion on that is you need to put that out of your head because if you keep thinking that I might do this, I might do this, I might do this, you’re not actually thinking about the movement and you’re actually thinking about what might go wrong and a lot of times it will go wrong, rather than thinking right it’s a squat, use the bar, use it safely, use a leg weight for starting with and then build it up. Another thing you have to remember is the best way to actually counteract pain in squatting is actually to get strong in the certain muscles, if you use your connective tissue and your muscles and things stronger around the lower back, around the legs, this will cushion any sort of exercise you do when you’re doing it. So in actual fact, getting stronger in certain exercises will actually stop the pain, will actually diminish the pain.

Kim:       That is actually so interesting because you’ve brought me back now to whenever I first started in the gym and I remember putting a 20, just the bar, 20kg on my back and squatting and then if I put anything more than 40kg on the bar, for days afterwards I was crippled with back pain.

Mark:    Yeah.

Kim:       And what I actually realised through again, researching like you said, was that it wasn’t that I had a bad back and I couldn’t squat, it’s that I had no glutes, I was very quad dominant so whenever I was …and only just from doing yoga, not because I was training in the gym so every time I squatted, I had pain in my lower back because my quads in my lower back were picking up all the slack, my glutes weren’t firing, weren’t doing the work and I didn’t know how to fire and turn them on, so therefore my lower back was picking up the effort as I was coming up and that was causing pain. So what changed that for me was learning how to fire up my glutes to get …I wasn’t squatting low enough, so squatting low enough, firing up the glutes and then using the glutes and the quads to drive up, the back pain completely left me.

Mark:    If you think about a squat, at the bottom of the movement, it’s the glutes and the hamstrings that are coming into play, so if you’re only doing a half squat or a three quarter rep squat, you’re going to build up your quads, you’re going to build up your lower back and what happens when you tend to go deeper and try to push the weight, you don’t have the muscle in the right areas to do this, you’ve created imbalances all over the body, these imbalances are going to lead to injuries, they’re going to pull the knees [0:07:23 unclear] …isn’t actually sore knees, a lot of knee pain originates because you’re IT balance and your quads are too tight, your hamstrings are too tight, your lower back’s too tight or your glutes are too tight or believe it or not, your feet. Sometimes it can be to do with being flat feet or calves being too tight in which case sometimes if you’re getting pains in the knees, like me your [0:07:43 unclear] in the ankle might not be great enough in which case putting a small plate under the heel to elevate when squatting will take this away.

Kim:       So your first tip is, you need to figure out what kind of injury it is and where is the pain coming from?

Mark:    You need to figure out what sort of pain it is, where it is and then get it sorted.

Kim:       And then work around it?

Mark:    Yes. Tight IT bands or simple stretch go to a chiropractor or go to a sports massage and get that rubbed out. From my prep last year before I tore my tricep, my knees were tight and it was just basically because of the amount of effort I was exerting in the legs that basically I needed the IT bands consistently rubbed out and my glutes rubbed out but every time I got this done, it got easier and easier week in week out and I was able to go back up to heavy weight squatting with no issues in my lower back, no issues with my knees, no issues at all and I had pains in my knees and the pains in my knees were from, you know, dorsiflexion in the ankles and tight IT bands, nothing wrong with the knees whatsoever. I would say …

Kim:       Yeah I find that a lot of people give up too quickly as well.

Mark:    Big time.

Kim:       They find a little bit of pain and they say I can’t squat I can’t do it anymore.

Mark:    They get that pain, they think they can’t do it and as a result they leave it out as an, I can’t squat when in actual fact, I would say 9 times out of 10 you can squat.

Kim:       Well let’s say someone is scared of squatting because I know a lot of women, you know they’re scared especially if they’re by themselves, what are some of your top tips for how to a) squat safely with a free bar and what to do if you really are just in the beginning so scared you can’t do it, what would you advise someone to do?

Mark:    Well obviously the first thing, make sure you’re legs are well warmed up, do you know what I mean? The second thing, you have to think about what you’re doing.

Kim:       Sorry I need to go back, how do you make sure you’re legs are well warmed up?

Mark:    You can do a few sets of leg extensions to warm up the knees. You could do a few sets of leg [0:09:08 unclear] to warm up the back of the legs. You could do maybe even a few sets of glute reps just to warm up the glutes, maybe a little bit of stretching. If your knees are really bad [0:09:16 unclear] and then go into squats.

Kim:       Okay.

Mark:    Firstly start off with a bar, make sure your stance is right, make sure that everything is ready to go, take a good deep breath in and just literally go right down to the end.

Kim:       What about the arms, do you believe in putting on the safety arms?

Mark:    You can do yeah, you could put the safety arms for a bit but the problem I have with the safety arms is most people tend to put them up too high.

Kim:       Right.

Mark:    I’m a big believer that if you’re going to do it, the best way to get over the fear of something is actually to do it and 9 times out of 10, once you do it once you love it. I know people that have never squatted, start squatting their first set and squat every week now because it’s that sort of …they get over that fear and they’re into that now trying to better themselves or trying to beat their weights and it’s one of those exercises that I believe if done correctly, that you get maximum results out of, you know, but to be fair I think 90% of what people are in the squat is it’s in their head, I really do.

Kim:       Yeah it’s fear. What about squatting in the Smith because I know whenever you and I train together, you know we do a lot of smith squats and I know there’s a lot of evangelicas, is that even a word?

Mark:    That is.

Kim:       That say, you know you should never squat in the smith, you should always be squatting, free squatting, you’re using more muscles and all the rest of it, what are your thoughts on that?

Mark:    Well firstly for the intermediate or the beginner smith squatting has a big place and like you said about the fear, the thing about the smith machine, as you know it’s hooks so at any step in the movement it’s easy to get back up because you can just hook the bar in and crawl out from under it, so it’s the safety factor. So for a beginner lifter, the smith machine squat is a fantastic way to learn how to go up and down, also it just puts the emphasis on the legs, you just [0:10:42 unclear] everything up, make sure the glutes are pushed out and your chest is high and the only thing you have to concern yourself about is on the legs. So you’ll get more positive feeling on the legs, more stimulation on the legs than you would in a free bar squat where you’re worrying about everything else going wrong. For the advance lifter, I also find the smith machine is a great way to overload the legs, in other words pile the weight up as much as you can knowing there’s the safety factor there and literally driving and trying to recruit as many muscle fibres as you actually can.

Kim:       Oh wonderful and I suppose you can play around with the position of the feet as well in the squat …

Mark:    You can put the feet out in front of you, you can put the feet out wards, you can put it in close, you can put it in front, you can do anything whereas in the free bar, if you do any of that you’ll fall on your face.

Kim:       Okay so just to sum up. So for people who are injured or who find it hard to squat, so first of all they need to squat more.

Mark:    Yeah address the problem.

Kim:       Address the problem, figure out where the problem is coming from.

Mark:    Figure out where the pain is actually coming from and 9 times out of 10 you haven’t got bad knees and your hips aren’t screwed, 9 times out of 10 the pain is coming from somewhere else that can be sorted, do you know what I mean?

Kim:       Okay so and then point two, you can find another exercise such as squat on the smith …

Mark:    There’s tonnes of exercises.

Kim:       Say somebody just can’t squat, so they just find another exercise that stimulates the same muscles?

Mark:    Yeah they can do. I would advise people just to stick at it as much as possible until they really know they can’t do it.

Kim:       Okay well that’s what I always advise yeah, I say consistency, consistency, consistency.

Mark:    I believe that once you get down you’ll be grand. I don’t think I’ve seen anyone who can’t squat on some piece of apparatus, you know what I mean and I’ve been about this game 20 years and I don’t think, I’m trying to think off hand and all my clients to some degree over the past years have squatted, whether it’s a free bar, a smith or a hack, everybody squats.

Kim:       And what about asking for help, just a final point before we finish? So should you ask for someone to give you a spot in the gym?

Mark:    Yeah the gym’s there for people likeminded people to train and I massively try to create and environment in here where anybody can come to anybody including me and asking for a spot, do you know what I mean?

Kim:       Yeah a lot of women are very scared to because they’re intimidated going into the gym anyway and so they feel when they’re there you know, they don’t want to ask somebody to help them but I …

Mark:    The people that are there are probably the nicest people. Bodybuilders within reason are probably the nicest people to ask do you know what I mean and they will, they’ll give you a hand especially if they see somebody trying to better themselves, everybody likes trying to help somebody out, do you know what I mean?

Kim:       Yeah that’s true.

Mark:    Everybody likes people succeeding within reason, do you know what I mean, so why not ask the person that knows what they’re talking about, can you correct my form, can you look at what I’m doing, can you keep an eye on me? If that’s the best way for you to feel safe in what you’re doing then why not?

Kim:       And sorry one more thing actually before we finish, it just came to mind when you said about form there. So I get a lot of women asking me well they say I can’t Glute Bridge because it hurts my back and I always say to them well a Glute Bridge should never be in your back, it should be in your glutes, it’s a thrust it’s not a tilt it’s a thrust. So like if someone says they can’t Glute Bridge, like, again for me, I think sometimes it’s just fear holding them back from really trying but if someone says Glute Bridges hurt my back what else can I do, what would be your advice?

Mark:    Glute Bridge.

Kim:       Just Glute Bridge?

Mark:    Well within reason, again distinguish the problem if there is an issue in the lower back and it is bad then there’s other exercises. There’s reverse hyper extensions, glute ham raises. I think we done them the other day, they’re a great exercise for the glutes, great exercises for the hamstrings. Leg press, high in the leg or feet high in the leg presses is a great exercise for the hamstrings and glutes but in reality, I’m not trying to patronise here but try doing the thing right, there’s a lot of bad form techniques that go on the Glute Bridge. To me when I Glute Bridge I only feel it on my glutes.

Kim:       Yeah me too.

Mark:    So for me personally, if you’re feeling it in your lower back, it means you’re doing something wrong, how to do that right, take a video of what you’re doing, take a video, get somebody to take a video of the way you’re Glute Bridging when you feel it in your neck or you feel it in your back and ask somebody to correct your form.

Kim:       Yeah well that’s actually a very good point like if you’re not feeling it where you should be feeling it, so first of all I would say as well one of my top tips would be, figure out where you’re supposed to be feeling the exercise. Glute Bridge is you’re supposed to …they’re called Glute Bridges for a reason because you’re supposed to be feeling them in your glutes, so if you’re not feeling them in your glutes, then your form could be off. So get someone to check your form and make sure you’re doing it right and also then figure out whether it’s in your head or it really is in your body because quite often it can just be in the head.

Mark:    It could be bad form or it could be you don’t know to actually put your mind on the muscle. A lot of times like you say, the fear factor, if you’re going to do Glute Bridges with the fear of your lower back, you’re consistently thinking of your lower back so therefore you’re not actually thinking about the muscle you’re working. You’re tearing through a set of 12 reps and you haven’t thought once about your glutes. The same can be said of squats, if you’re tearing through a set of squats worrying about your lower back you might not even think about your legs by the time you’ve [0:14:48 unclear] you haven’t felt it. You know mind muscle connection and feeling it in the muscle being worked is a massive part of physique or bodybuilding.

Kim:       Wonderful. Well Mark you’ve been so helpful thank you so much.

Mark:    Brilliant thank you very much.

Kim:       I hope you guys enjoyed this video, I hope it’s given you a little bit of confidence now to go into the gym and to really figure out your form and if your pain or if your fear of squatting or Glute Bridging whatever is in your head or whether it is actually in your body. So now I want to hear from you guys in the comments below. Do you have an injury that you are working through? Do you find squatting hard or do you love squatting and could squat all day? Have you ever tried a Glute Bridge or has your fear of hurting yourself held you back from really pushing yourself hard in the gym? Whatever your experience, we want to hear from you in the comments below, let’s start a conversation there. I will see you next week on Strong and Sculpted.