Training Workarounds for Injured Athletes

Injuries are an unfortunate reality for many athletes.

With all the nonstop training & playing, there a tons of opportunities for an athlete’s body to experience some tweaks.

The good news is, there are plenty of workarounds for the injured athlete, so he or she can keep training, stay strong, & keep kicking butt.

Below is a list of common ailments an athlete may experience, and what he or she can do to keep training.

#1 Workarounds for Knee Pain

Due to the unpredictable- & multi-directional-nature of most sports, athletes really do a number on their knees.

Whether is patellar tendonitis, an ACL sprain, meniscus issues, or what have you, there’s a common theme when it comes to training and keeping the knees happy.

Most athletes who have knee problems benefit from training the backside of their legs, AKA the posterior chain. The posterior chain consists of the hamstrings & the glutes (& the back too, but we’re not concerned about the back here.)

Exercises that work the posterior chain – such as deadlifts, RDLs, & kettlebell swings – are usually easy on the knees. Anyone with current knee issues shouldn’t have a problem training them and should not experience pain doing them.

Additionally, these exercises can help prevent some of these issues in the long-run.

For example, the stronger your hamstrings are, the less stress your ACL experiences in certain movements. Another example, the stronger your glutes are and the more aware you are of them, the less likely you will perform sloppy movements that bend the knees improperly and stress your MCL/LCL/ACL/meniscus.

#2 Workarounds for Back Pain

Back pain isn’t normally a huge issue athletes, but it does happen from time to time.

When an athlete has back pain, it’s important that he or she avoid heavy loads. But it’s important that the athlete still challenge the lower body at the same time.

Now, what is someone supposed to do instead of super heavy squats and deadlifts if they want to keep their legs powerful without irritating their back?

Simple. Use one leg.

Because the legs are so strong, they need heavy loads. But only using one leg at a time significantly reduces the amount of weight you need to use for a good training session.

Use lunges and step ups instead of back squats. Replace deadlifts with single leg RDLs.

Your legs will still get training and your back will thank you.

#3 Workarounds for Shoulder Pain

Shoulder injuries are tricky because they all have different characteristics. One athlete with a shoulder injury may be fine with a certain exercise while another athlete will not be able to tolerate it whatsoever.

What we have seen frequently, however, is that many athletes feel fine performing “pulling” motions when their shoulders are hurt.

Exercises such as band rows or dumbbell rows are a great movement for athletes to keep performing while they’re dealing with shoulder injury. It also gives them the benefit of strengthening their upper backs and rear shoulder musculature – an important factor for long term shoulder health.

The opposite motion, “pressing”, is usually problematic. However, limiting the range of motion and weight can make pressing possible and pain-free. A light dumbbell floor press accomplishes this and has been used by many athletes with painful shoulders.

#4 Workarounds for Ankle Pain

When an athlete rolls or sprains an ankle, the best thing to do for it is to simply lay off it.

Anything that loads it or repeatedly bends it, such as jumping, running, or even walking, can prolong the healing period. So that means no speed & agility work should be performed in the training program.

Additionally, certain lower body exercises require ankle bending, so there’s are no-no’s as well. Squats, lunges, & step-ups are a few examples.

Posterior chain exercises, such as deadlifts and RDLs, are usually fine if the athlete has no pain with standing.


With these workarounds, you can keep training despite any injuries, maintain & improve your strength, remain athletic, and keep kicking butt.

At GameChanger, our individualized programs take our athletes to the next level while addressing their specific needs. For more information on how we train our athletes, click the banner below.

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