Training While Injured (Program Included): Lower Extremity Injury
Regardless of how well you prepare for training, you still ought to be prepared for the eventuality of an injury. A NASCAR driver can crash despite superior driving skills. A skier can hit a patch of ice and go careening downhill. Equipment failures, judgment errors, or simply being in slightly “off” in one’s mindset is playing the odds until it happens.
The cumulative injury cycle begins anywhere. Everything seems fine until it isn’t. You rest, you recover, you rehab, pain decreases, you heal, you return to activity, all is well and then WHAM! Another injury.
Dealing with the injury leads to a variety of setbacks, physically and emotionally. It gets even more intense if you lead a very active life, if your income relies on being physical, and your mood is also regulated by your activity (it’s a thing…)
THE (LOWER LIMB) INJURY
I recently ruptured a tendon, the plantaris tendon, to be exact. Felt like an Achilles tear at first, but a quick Simmonds Thompson calf squeeze test showed the Achilles to be intact, confirmed by an X-ray. In perspective, it’s good news. In practice, it still hurts like H-E-double hockey sticks upon push-off.
Oh no! I can’t surf, run, jump, squat, deadlift, swing, lunge, kick, climb, crawl! What am I going to do?
How about everything else? How about take the opportunity to prehab while I rehab?
Here’s what we often overlook when an injury occurs: yes, the injured body part is out of commission. The rest of the body takes over functionally and we set in motion a new series of potential problems by creating imbalances.
In my case, a flat-footed walk, balancing unevenly by placing more weight on my healthy leg, has created, after just one day, some tenderness in my left hip (the right leg has the injury, which radiates around the calf muscle). My knee was also starting to feel some pressure.
The ortho surgeon immobilized my ankle with a lace-up brace and gave me a heel lift. I only wore it in one shoe my first afternoon, which caused an even greater imbalance in my gait and more soreness/tightness on my left (healthy side) hip flexor. My right knee would protrude a bit more too and imagine what’s happening with the spine (imbalanced, with uneven hips, pressure on discs on the higher hip) and more…
Day 2, I put a heel lift in the healthy side’s shoe to bring more balance (and the hip pain was gone, but the knees aren’t super happy, as I’m used to minimalist shoes).
I did train, though, and had a great workout: upper body off-ground training with pull-ups and dips, a classic leg extension machine for the quads, and lots of tall-kneeling, half-kneeling, prone (on my stomach) and supine (on my back) with the ProBar.
The ProBar exercises were to ensure I maintain symmetry and alignment without bearing any weight on my injured calf/tendon. Even in the half-kneeling position, my foot was flat and no push-off was required, so I could perform chops with the ProBar without any concerns.
Prone Shoulder Press: this exercise is great for spinal stability and strength. I used a fully loaded ProBar. While it only weighs 6 pounds, we’re working by pressing it horizontally. Gravity “adds weight” (leverage). At the same time, the ProBar is distracted which adds even more tension to the exercise. It turns into a hybrid push-pull exercise with constant tension throughout the back, buttocks and quads, while working the shoulders and upper chest, as well as triceps. Feet are plantarflexed and off the ground (which helps the tendon heal).
Half Kneeling Chops: T-spine rotation and core stabilization, isolateral movement performed on both sides.
T-Twist: Another T-spine drill done in a tall kneeling stance to avoid lumbar twisting (since we all could move more thoracic spine rotation because we don’t do enough of it).
Hollow Rocking: Abdominal exercise engaging the entire musculature, a primer for stability in heavy lifts, gymnastics and any athletic endeavors.
Knee Tuck: abdominals with a hint of mobility and coordination.
Combining these with push-ups, dips, pull-ups, hip bridging and a few sets on the leg extension machine ensured I can keep my muscles working, my brain sane (within the boundaries of my personal baseline…) and my body balanced as best as I can (I can, of course, add more moves, but this is a great starting point).
We have a ton of other exercises on our channel. And if you are interested in learning more and get continuing education as well as a ProBar in the process, if you don’t already have one (shame on you!), enroll into our accredited ProBar Fundamentals Course.