Articles  >  Weightlifting Program Design
Training Through Injuries in Olympic Weightlifting... Or Anything
Greg Everett
May 12 2020

Injuries and pain in any sport are inevitable, from minor chronic aches and tendinitis to severe acute injuries requiring surgical repair. Equally inevitable is the enormous spectrum of responses to these things by different athletes. Some will have to be physically peeled off the barbell despite a crippling injury, while others with a little scratch can’t be forced into the gym.
Ultimately, each of us decides what we actually want and how much it matters to us, and that determines our response to injuries in weightlifting. Dedicated athletes with genuine motivation to excel will always find a way to continue training and making some kind of progress, while athletes who whose motivations are unclear or weak will use any injury as justification to quit. Neither of these situations is good or bad—the only situation that deserves disdain is the one in which an athlete’s behavior contradicts their claimed dedication.
For those of you who refuse to quit, you’re going to have to do some work. Training through injuries requires a few things:
  1. Creativity
  2. Adaptability
  3. Motivation
There is virtually no injury that will prevent you from training—what stops you is losing touch with your motivation, an unwillingness to be flexible and adapt, and both of those precluding creativity and resourcefulness.
The response of too many people when incurring an injury is that since their training can no longer be exactly what they want and need, they might as well give up.
Forgive my bluntness, but what a stupid, weak attitude.
There are an infinite number of ways to work around any injury short of full body paralysis. There are guys and gals with no arms or legs climbing mountains, and you’re going to quit and go mope around on the couch for three months because you sprained your wrist?
Eliminate what aggravates the injury or creates too much risk of re-injury. This should be pretty obvious in most cases, but in others, you may need to experiment a bit. Be conservative and test out anything new very cautiously—even if there’s no pain at the time of execution, give it a day or two after the first time to be sure it doesn’t create a delayed response.
Do an inventory of your current weaknesses, and use this as an opportunity to focus on them if possible now that you have more time and resources to invest in them. All of us fall short of doing every single accessory and pre-hab exercise we could really use—sometimes because we genuinely don’t have the time or energy, and other times because we’re just being lazy about it. This is the perfect chance to get those things done.
Wherever possible, come up with substitutes for the desired exercises that can’t be performed that achieve effects as similar as possible—this may just be modifications to the exercise itself, or completely different exercises. Look at purpose and effect rather than movement and position. If your back is hurt, you may still be able to do certain single leg exercises like step-ups or split squats, or something like a belt squat. If your wrist is hurt, you can still squat and possibly even pull—and yes, you can likely front squat by either using a handless rack position, a bodybuilder style rack, or by holding straps connected to the bar. Get creative.
Otherwise, figure out anything that will keep you active and in the gym. The biggest mistake you can make is staying away from training and that environment—that’s a guaranteed way to kill your enthusiasm. If all you can do is pedal an arm bike, then become a champion arm-biker during your rehab. If you’ve decided you can’t do anything, your brain is the problem, not your injury.
Reflect and understand your true motivation for training—that doesn’t change when you’re injured. You just lose sight of it through frustration, reduced engagement, less visible progress, and the resulting loss of enthusiasm. You either want it or you don’t—now figure out how much you want it and prove it.
Quit crying about it and being a victim, and actively pursue ways to solve the new problems.