“Just Rest It” Probably Isn’t The Answer

“Just Rest It” Probably Isn’t The Answer

January 17, 2022

Does this situation sound familiar:

You’ve been consistent with your training, hitting the gym hard multiple times per week for the last few months.

You’re building up your strength and just overall feeling great about the progress you’re making, only to unexpectedly experience an injury.

You aren’t sure what you should do about it, so you see your doctor.

He does a brief examination of the area, only to tell you to “just rest it and come back to me in 4 weeks if it’s not better.”

You leave their office without any real answers and feel frustrated that you now can’t do the training that you love to do.

This is something that so many of our clients have experienced, and this advice very rarely actually helps solve the injury that they were dealing with.

In fact, “just rest it” is probably the worst advice that lifters and athletes could be given in most situations, for a few reasons.

The first reason is that many people who find themselves in this situation simply won’t listen to this advice, and will continue training like they were just before they got injured. They will continue to do the things in the gym or on the field that aggravate their injury, potentially making it worse over time, because they don’t know what else to do.

The second reason is because of how our bodies respond to training and exercise in general. When you stop training for weeks or months on end, you become de-trained. When this happens, you lose strength, power, muscular size, endurance, and the ability to tolerate the type and level of training that you had been doing before. Then, when you try to get back to training again, weights that should feel like warm-ups now feel like near-maximal efforts. Not only this, but the injured body part hasn’t been given the chance to become stronger, resilient, and more robust, and (in the vast majority of cases) flares up to just as bad as it was initially, if not worse.

For those reasons, “just rest it” is not advice that we at Barbell PT and Performance agree with in most cases, and it’s not advice that we typically give our patients. Rest can be appropriate advice in some situations, but it should never be the first strategy given to an injured lifer.

The best way to overcome an injury for lifters and athletes is to continue to do their training but in a modified manner. This will not only give the injury time and resources to actually heal, but will prevent you from becoming de-trained in the first place, and avoid the cycle of injury -> stop training -> feel a little better -> try to train again -> get injured again that so many of our past patients had fallen into before coming to see us.

When it comes to modifying your training, there are several things that you can modify, such as:
  • Tempo – the speed that you do the different parts of the lift (eccentric, pause, concentric)
  • Range of motion – how far you move through a particular range of motion during the lift
  • Foot/hand/body position
  • Implement – what type of load you’re lifting
  • Volume – how much of a certain exercise you do
  • Intensity – how strenuous the training is
Now, for an actual real-life example:

One of our past patients is a powerlifter who was dealing with back pain during deadlifts. Instead of telling him to stop doing deadlifts, we had him start with 3-0-3 tempo deadlifts from blocks. Then we progressed him to 3-second eccentric deadlifts from lower blocks. Once he was tolerating this without pain, we progressed him to 3 second pause/5 second eccentric deadlifts from the floor, then to 3-second pause deadlifts from the floor, and finally to regular deadlifts from the floor! This progression allowed him to continue to deadlift hard while rehabbing his back but didn’t cause him to flare up his pain.

Figuring out how to appropriately modify your training is a tricky task, but is important for injured lifters so that you can solve your injury and return to regular training as completely and quickly as possible.

At Barbell PT and Performance, we are not only Doctors of Physical Therapy, we are also coaches. We are experts in helping our patients through this process, and getting them back under the bar as fast as possible.

If you need help dealing with an injury, click the button below to request a call with our team.

Barbell Physical Therapy and Performance is the premier sports physical therapy clinic in North Haven. We help lifters and athletes of all kinds solve their injuries, get back to the training they love, and leave our clinic stronger than they were before.

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