There is always something.
Pain is clearly nomadic in nature, ever searching for new lands to conquer. If it’s not your knee, it’s your hip. If not your hip, then your shoulder. If not your shoulder, your nostril…
I’m dealing with a pain in the ass (or groin, as it were) injury right now. It’s been bothering me for weeks – here and there – but it didn’t flare up into something unbearable until I began my 90 Days Of Hell: Deadlift Nemesis routine.
One of the things I like most about our Nemesis Program (read: train super hard, as often as possible, as smart as possible) is that it forces you to deal with your shit.
- Do you have mobility issues? You’ll have to fix them.
- Do you have muscle imbalances? You’ll have to fix those, too.
- Do you have a nagging injury/pain that you have let slide, avoided, pretended like it didn’t exist? Too bad, jack. Time to deal with it!
Once you begin training (near) daily, with such a singular focus on one key movement, with daily workloads between 20 & 40 times your 1 rep max, and the majority of your volume accumulated in zones 2 and up… you learn things about yourself.
There’s a name for this kind of thing: Trial by fire!
I knew something was wrong with my right hip, but I couldn’t quite figure it out. Where was this nebulous pain coming from? I knew that it hurt to go through certain positions. But it largely went away after I warmed up. Only rarely did it stop me from going heavy on squats, pulls, etc.
Over the last week, that’s changed. I pulled 480 pounds on the sumo the other day, pushing through pain. I hit 415 two days after, but all the days in between I didn’t get much over 365. I knew going heavier would be a mistake. And now that I’m “older”, I tend to err on the side of caution.
I’m now focusing on fixing my ability to move. That is, the pain is causing me to do MORE work, not less.
If You Are Hurt, Train More?
You might say, “Dude! Take some time off, and let that shit HEAL, man!”
No. I have found that almost never works. I have dealt with some pretty massive injuries in the past, and in every case, time off made it WORSE, not better. Unless I have blood spurting out of my skin, or the pain is so bad that I can’t even walk, then I’m going to do something to the affected area that:
- Forces me to moved through the proper ranges of motion
- Increases mobility/flexibility (barbell mashing, massage, stretches, etc)
That’s the “sneaky trick” I have used to deal with any injury I have ever had, and it’s how I deal with my own lifters. First, I figure out which movement patterns are causing trouble. Then, I figure out what exercises (lifting, mobility, flexibility) I need to make those movement patterns better.
When I say “better”, of course I am including “less pain”, as well as increases in performance. But, pain by itself isn’t enough of an indicator. The body is weird, and I can’t ever know for sure what the pain “really” means. I just know that it hurts. But what does THAT tell me? Who knows…
My first line of defense is always to attack the affected movement patterns with everything I have – TNT-style – until things get better. If they DON’T get better, it’s time to refer-out to someone else. That takes it out of my area of expertise.
I am a specialist, and I take that idea VERY seriously.
What If My Athlete Is Hurt?
From a practical standpoint as a coach, you have to treat your athletes different than you treat yourself. Be more cautious. In most states it is ILLEGAL to diagnose someone unless you are a licensed medical practitioner. That means, in practice, you CANNOT tell someone they have a tear in their meniscus!!!
You are a coach, not a doctor or a physical therapist. Their job is to deal with a person once they are messed up so bad that they need insurance to cover it. Your job is to turn people from 90 pound weaklings into the next members of the X-Men. You create super heroes, ninjas, and samurai: Athletes. You don’t fix anyone. That is NOT your job!
Playing “house” doesn’t pay the rent, it gets you sued.
An analogy that might help is this: doctors and physical therapists are like teachers who deal with kids who have learning disabilities (very hard work, requires a TON of specialty to do this well); strength coaches are like professors who teach graduate students toward their PhD’s (also quite specialized, but in a totally different way. Your students are already ABOVE average when they come to you. So, that part of the job is easy. What’s hard is taking someone from average to amazing.)
I loath this new trend in the strength & conditioning world where coaches are all playing physical therapist, mock-diagnosing, and over-using scientific names for muscles.
Maybe it’s like guys with big trucks… makes you wonder what’s so small under the hood, doesn’t it?
I don’t need to “prove” how smart I am by using big words and hyper-focusing on your “dysfunction”. My degrees are in Mathematics. There is no such thing as a scientific paper in Strength & Conditioning that would be hard for me to read, for God’s sake. Ever tried reading a paper on quantum game theory, Hilbert spaces, vector bundles, Bayesian statistics… I used to read these daily. I still read this shit for FUN.
The REAL sign of a good coach/teacher is the ability to BREAK DOWN what you’re saying in a way that anyone can not only understand, but also immediately put into practice.
What you’re athletes need from YOU isn’t a diagnosis, it’s a set of activities that will help them get back to moving in a certain way under load. AKA, weightlifting!
Key Concept: Fix Movement, Not Muscles (Or Bones, Ligaments, Etc…)
You are a COACH. That is a wonderful and noble profession. Stop pretending to be a member of a totally different profession that has totally different goals and clients.
You get mighty pissed off when one of your athletes tells you that the doctor they are seeing told them that squatting should be avoided at all costs because it is “bad for the knees”. But WHY do you get pissed off? Because that doc was out of their element. They are not trained as a coach, and haven’t the faintest idea what they are talking about. They read a few bullshit articles in a magazine once and think they know everything because they ARE experts in THEIR field… so why not every field?
Don’t make the same mistake. You are an IDIOT in nearly every field on earth. You know nothing about almost everything. That is the plight of a human in the modern world. There is too much information out there, and no human can possibly become an expert at everything. The truth is that it is nearly impossible to become an expert at ONE thing, let alone many.
The tools you have at your disposal do NOT include surgery or medicine. You can’t prescribe either of those. You also don’t have access to high-end diagnostic tools, like an MRI machine. So, stop pretending like your fly-by-night, home-remedy-style diagnostic methods are AT ALL accurate. They aren’t. And even if they were, telling someone they have a tear in their gobbly-bits doesn’t do anything for them. What… are you going to perform surgery on it? Do you have a magic medicine that will target it? No, you don’t.
What you DO have is the ability to prescribe EXERCISES that you already know aid someone in fixing a movement pattern. These can be mobility & flexibility exercises to increase range of motion and flow, or weightlifting-style exercises to increase speed/strength/power through those positions.
What You Need To Know: what movements are they struggling with, and which exercises (and of what type) you are going to have them do in order to help them move better?
It is a sad fact that a good chunk of your athletes will NOT have health insurance. So, regardless of the law, and the other reasons I just gave you to avoid diagnosis of injuries, you will still be faced with helping them overcome them. You are all they got.
You are a person with a screw driver. They need a nail hammered in. You CAN hammer that nail in with your screw driver, it’s just not ideal. Too bad, they don’t get ideal. They get you. That doesn’t mean you tell them that your screw driver is a hammer, and give them a false sense of security… they will eventually sue you. Welcome to America.
Do YOUR job, not someone else’s. You fix movement patterns, you make people into super heroes, you are damned good with a whistle. You do your job, let other people do theirs.
Chip Conrad and I are running a massive 2-day Mobility For Weightlifters clinic at Asheville Strength on October 26th & 27th. We will be helping you understand all of this in much greater detail, as well as give you a ton of step-by-step, practical strategies to help you and your athletes move better & lift bigger.
To stay updated about this all you need to do is sign up for our FREE Weightlifter Starter Pack. That puts you on my email list so that we can stay in contact. It’s also a great way to get started on your weightlifting journey. Sign up here!
Now go lift something heavy,