4 steps to training with pain

7 minute read

How many people do you think currently battle pain in a day? 1? 10? 100? 1000? 100,000? 1,000,000? It is a ton each day. Another question. How many people let pain stop them from lifting? It is significantly more than the ones that are lifting with pain if I had to guess. Below, we will discuss 4 steps to training with pain.

First off, let’s think of some questions. What do we do to combat this? We learn how to train with pain! How do we do this?

We figure out what works best for us and use the principles in this post.

First off, one of the most important things to look at when you are having pain with a lift is to analyze the lift and see if technique and form is “off” or is different from your norm. If your back hurts from a deadlift, see how far out the bar is in front of you. Increasing the distance from your low back to the barbell can actually make the weight heavier. This is because of a certain thing called moment arms. (We will discuss this at a later time). ALWAYS CHECK FORM FIRST. 

If form is good and you have tried slight modifications, but still having pain? What gives?

When we have pain while having awesome form, we need to have load management. This allows us to still train and improve size and strength, all while allowing time for our injury to chill.

Load management looks a few different ways. 

First, we look at intensity. Intensity comes in the weight we are lifting. One of the most simple changes we can do is to reduce the load. If pain occurs with a set of exercises at 100 pounds, drop it to 90 or 95 where there isn’t pain and see how your body responds.

Second, look at volume. How much are you doing per week? Think about all the ways your body is using it’s muscles. If you have pain with squats, look at how many times you are using your legs during the training week. This includes main lifts, accessory, lifts, and even lifts you don’t think are influencing your legs. For example, the leg drive on bench press forces you to use your legs and create a knee extension moment. All that to say, don’t overlook things that you don’t think are related. 

Third, look at range of motion. If the bottom of a squat hurts you low back, don’t go all the way to the bottom. If going to the floor hurts on a deadlift.. raise the floor. If the bottom of the bench hurts your shoulder, don’t go to the bottom of the bench. My favorite ways to change the range of motion on these lifts are to perform box or pin squats, rack pulls, and pin bench.

Fourth, let’s look at changing things up. If a low bar back squat hurts your knee, see if changing to a high bar squat, front squat, box squat, rear foot elevated split squat, etc. is enough of a difference to allow your knee to rest. Same concept with bench or deadlift. There are a million ways to modify a lift to ensure your angry body part can calm down, while you are still making progress in the gym. 

Just because you are injured, doesn’t mean you have to stop lifting or even slow down all that much. You just have to find a rehab professional that can help you modify your training to keep you in the gym and crushing PR’s.

Will this help you train around pain? Let me know how it works for you.

*As always consult your physician prior to completing exercise and if you have been told not to exercise by a physician, please consider that. Do not mistake this advice as going against physician orders

Dr. Kaytlyn Wells, PT, DPT


Baraki, A. (2019, December 09). Pain in training: What do? Retrieved January 09, 2021, from https://www.barbellmedicine.com/blog/pain-in-training-what-do/

Kisner, C., Colby, L. A., & Borstad, J. (2019). Therapeutic exercise: Foundations and techniques. Vancouver, B.C.: Langara College.

Long, Z. (2020, August 12). Strength Training with Lower Back Pain. Retrieved January 09, 2021, from https://thebarbellphysio.com/strength-training-with-lower-back-pain/

Mash, M. (2020, November 16). Working Out with Pain: Find Your Entry Point Exercise. Retrieved January 09, 2021, from https://barbellrehab.com/entry-point-exercise/

Rathleff, M. (2019, May 16). Activity Modification and Load Management of Adolescents With Patellofemoral Pain: A Prospective Intervention Study Including 151 Adolescents. Retrieved January 09, 2021, from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31095417/

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