4 Tweaks to Keep You Working Out While Injured

4 Tweaks to Keep You Working Out While Injured

Most people do nothing when they get injured.

Today, I have an article from Mike Robertson.

Mike was one of the contributors to the lower body edition of Muscle Imbalances Revealed.

Mike has a few tweaks that you can make to keep working out while injured.


Rick Kaselj, MS


Injuries & The Iron Game

Unfortunately, injuries are part of the iron game.

If you push enough weight, or if you lift long enough, eventually the injury bug is going to bite you.

But does that mean you give up? Retire? Take up stamp collecting?

I sure hope not!

Even as a guy that knows anatomy, I’m not immune to injuries. However, I use injuries as feedback – they tell me what my body can and can’t do, as well as what I need to work on.

And while I firmly believe you should address the underlying cause of your injuries, with a few little tweaks you can continue training while simultaneously bringing up your weak areas.

Here are just a few simple tweaks you can use when working around an injury, as well as why they work so well.

Tweak #1 – Sumo vs. Conventional Deadlifts for Back Pain

Most people that suffer from back pain have issues with hyperextending. This is even more prevalent when they have a very inclined torso like you would in a conventional deadlift or Romanian Deadlift (RDL).


These people have issues controlling shear force, so a way to work around that is to get their torso more upright so the loading is more compressive vs. shearing in nature.

In a sumo deadlift, don’t think about pushing your hips back to set up; instead, think about opening up your groin and pushing your knees out. This will load the hips and groin while minimizing strain on the lower back.

I can’t tell you how many powerlifters thought their careers were overdue to back issues, only to have them switch to sumo deadlifts and get a new lease on life.

If you suffer from back issues, give this a shot.

Tweak #2 – Box Squats vs. Front Squats for Knee Pain

Often, people who suffer from knee pain have poor ankle mobility. As such when they try to front squat and dorsiflex that ankle, it can cause issues at the knee joint.


I’m a huge believer in front squats, but I realize you need good ankle motion to perform them correctly. To fix your ankle mobility in the corrective/warm-up section of your program, while working on the box squat in the training portion.

To box squat effectively, exaggerate sitting back. The goal should be to keep the tibia as vertical as possible, which will reduce stress on the patellofemoral joint.

Another benefit you’ll receive from box squatting is developing the glutes and hamstrings to a high degree. Front squats are great for a lot of reasons, but I have yet to see a client or athlete whose hamstrings are “too strong.”

Tweak #3 – Push-ups vs. Bench Press for Shoulder Pain

I can’t tell you the number of powerlifters I’ve worked with who have shoulder issues when they bench press.

And it’s not necessarily the bench that’s driving their pain – they have a host of other issues they need to address (t-spine posture, shoulder motion, etc.), but in the interim push-ups are a great alternative that can give them tons of benefits.

Here are just a handful of reasons I like using push-ups in my programming:

  • They train the serratus anterior, a key shoulder and t-spine stabilizer.
  • They train dynamic/active scapular stability.
  • They tie together the upper and lower body via the core.
  • The closed-chain environment is great for strengthening the rotator cuff.

Even if your shoulders are healthy and bench presses don’t cause issues, consider keeping some push-ups in your programming for the bulk of the year. Your body will thank you!

Tweak #4 – Unilateral Variations vs. Bilateral Variations for Shoulder Issues

Another common issue that you’ll find in the lifting community is asymmetrical shoulder rotation.

In other words, one shoulder has a ton of internal rotation and no external rotation, while the other will have tons of external rotation and no internal rotation.

In this case, barbell variations where the shoulders are “tethered” together probably aren’t the best idea.

Instead, consider using dumbbell variations for the short-term, while addressing the rotary issues up top.

I love the single-arm bench and floor pressing, as you get a core training element in with your upper body session. Do that for a month, and then go back to an alternating or more standard dumbbell pressing variation.

I also love dumbbell rowing early on in a program. There are tons of variations on this standard exercise, and working the arms independently will not only spare the shoulders but improve and alleviate strength imbalances between sides.


You have aches, pains, and boo-boos – welcome to strength training!

Figure out what’s causing the issues and put them to bed. A smart approach will always work on those dysfunctions and work to remedy them.

But in the interim, keep training by using some of the tips I’ve provided above. Enjoy!

If you liked the tweaks that I went through above, you can check out my new program called The Bulletproof Athlete Project:

The Bulletproof Athlete Project

Mike Robertson, MS, CSCS, USAW is the co-owner of Indianapolis Fitness and Sports Training and the President of Robertson Training Systems in Indianapolis, Indiana. Mike has made a name for himself as one of the premier performance coaches in the world, helping clients and athletes from all walks of life achieve their physique and sports performance goals.

Shoulder Pain Solved