Based on my previous blog posts, or if you’ve ever heard me talking pretty much about anything while I’m in the gym, you probably know I’m old and typically working around and through different ailments in my body. This post is for those of you, like me, who are looking for ways to stay active and become more fit while also trying to cater to worn out tendons and aging joints. You also might know me as the guy that loads up his blog posts with way too many GIFs, but here we go.
Some common themes I have seen around the gym are tight hips, aching knees, tight shoulders, and tight back. This is pretty normal stuff, especially when you consider that we all want to push ourselves to get more fit but we never take the time to take care of our bodies. Sometimes these problems come from a one time incident, but other times you might start to notice certain movements feel less enjoyable over time. Maybe your knee has some tendonitis or your sprained ankle from pickup basketball 7 years ago keeps your ankle tight. I hope that rebound was worth it.
Over time in dealing with these types of things I have learned that my tendency is to make things worse by trying to work through the pain.
If my body is trying to tell me something is wrong, the correct response does not include ignoring that and just trying to roll out a little extra after the workout. Or if you’re the “I’ll roll out at home” type and you keep running into these things, this might be your wake up call. As much as completely ignoring nagging injuries won’t stop the pain, avoiding movements also won’t treat pain at the root. You might find temporary reprieve from knee issues if you stop coming to any workouts that have squats in them, but you also might end up like this guy and have a whole host of other problems down the road:
So without ignoring your problems and without avoiding movements that cause these problems, what do you do? Well that’s what this post is here for.
Here is my list of suggestions for general improvement in this area, followed by my own personal experience and the best results I have seen.
Get educated. Grab an Instagram account and follow @theprehabguys, @squat_university, and @themobileathlete. From there I’m sure there are many others but these are my highest recommendations, with my favorite being Squat U.
Commit fully to your own health. You already want to be fit and workout, so make sure you’re healthy otherwise what’s the point? Spend time working on stretches, rolling, and strengthening exercises. Also, Sadie is making me tell you that your nutrition is also a very important part of this bullet point -- key supplements like complete omegas and collagen can help bring life back to your joints, and drinking enough water and getting enough sleep generally cures everything.
Modify movements. If your knee is hurting at full depth, slow down and/or shorten your squat depth. If you have tendon issues (knee or anywhere for that matter), lower your volume of repetitions using that tendon. If it hurts to put any kind of weight overhead, find some resistance exercises that will strengthen the specific part of your shoulder that is hurting.
Seek treatment. I said it before and I’ll say it again. If something is wrong, ignoring it won’t make it better. Airrosti, chiropractic care, suction cups, dry needling, massage — any of these are great options for diagnosing and fixing muscular tension. Physical therapy is also a necessary path for a wide array of ailments.
We as coaches are constantly learning and trying to get better at our jobs to diagnose problems and help prevent injuries or nagging pain. But we are humans with finite knowledge and many times an athlete will be better served researching and getting professional opinions from medical professionals about what might be going on with pain in the body. From my own experience, here are some things that I have seen or personally dealt with and solutions/resources I have found to help the most:
Tendonitis in the knee: Limit volume of jumping/launching/squatting. Keep from going full speed or full range of motion on movements that cause pain and allow rest until pain is gone. Diagnose the cause of pain (for me it is lack of glute activation). Lots of stretching/rolling of quads and IT band followed by glute activation and strength exercises help here. Once the pain subsides, slowly—and with very controlled movements—start to ramp up volume again.
Tightness in hips: Again this is often a result of poor glute activation. Tightness in one hip can lead to overuse of the other side. Best results I have seen here are more glute activation/strength exercises as well as rolling out and stretching hips.
Pinching pain in shoulder: Figure out which direction of movement hurts (pulling or pushing? One side or the other?). Limit weight used going this direction and perform resistance exercises catered to strengthening the shoulder. Roll out with lacrosse ball all around the shoulder joint.
Back: be patient.
Upper back/Neck: jolting and pounding movements like box jumps and running often make this worse. Stretching/rolling and low impact movements often help (like swimming).
Lower back: Limit weight and allow time for your back to recover. Go light weight but remain active. Lots of foam rolling and stretching.
Ankles: Just a general note about ankle mobility is that often tight ankles will cause many other issues downstream. It is really important to maintain mobile ankles.
At the end of the day, we want your health and well-being to be put above posting a score on Wodify to show off to your friends at Yard Bar. I hope each and every athlete at our gym is able to learn enough about their own body to become more fit but also strengthen every area of weakness and eliminate areas of pain. We value you and care for you.