Train Pain and Injury Free

Why do most people fail to move well?
In a nutshell:

  • Injury/pain/illness
  • Modern day posture
  • Trying to be a hero
Injured Man


Being injured isn’t nice.

Safety and speed of progress go hand-in-hand; nothing will jeopardise your progress faster than injury.

Always weigh up cost and benefit.

There are two things to consider when training with an injury.

1. Biomechanical changes

If you’ve torn a muscle, broken a bone or lost a limb there will be obvious implications to your natural biomechanics and range of movement.

As such, it’s important to find specific exercises that allow you to illicit a safe and effective training effect. This requires professional guidance from a qualified physiotherapist, injury rehab specialist and/or chiropractor.

As such, it’s important to find specific exercises that allow you to illicit a safe and effective training effect. This requires professional guidance from a qualified physiotherapist, injury rehab specialist and/or chiropractor.

2. Fear


Fear of re-injuring yourself can hold you back from getting the most out of your training, especially if you’ve experienced an injury in the gym. I tore my left pectoral muscle five years ago on the second rep of a 180 kg bench press.

It was sore prior to lifting but I ignored what my body was telling me and paid the price (eight weeks off training). To this day I haven’t dared placed that amount of weight back on the bar.  

I’ve compromised and utilised different methods to achieve my goal.

Overcoming Fear...

There's nothing wrong with fear. It's a natural protective mechanism. I say to my clients and myself that if you don't fear some of your workouts you're not training hard enough.

Fear doesn’t have to relate to a single all-out max rep. It could stem from the thought of a particular tough workout. For example, most people fear the thought of training legs due to the amount of work involved.

The body knows what’s coming…

Dwelling on fear can be the difference between hitting a new personal best, progressing your physique and, at worst, hitting a very long plateau.

The next time you experience fear, embrace it! I always visualise the weights or workout laughing at me.

Sounds crazy right? Just try it next time you’re under pressure and see who has the last laugh.

The last thing you want to do is freak out and walk away unless you’re injured, suffering from severe fatigue or lifting a weight that is unrealistically heavy in relation to your current strength.

Be realistic, not stupid. Ambitious, not lazy.

Fear is good in the right circumstances.


By Phil Graham

Pain inhibits quality movement.

If you experience pain when you exercise it is important to identify the root cause, report it to a professional and modify exercise activity.

Key Note: The saying ‘no pain, no gain’ is without doubt one of the most foolish mindsets to have when it comes to training the body.

If you want a catalyst for injury and burnout – these four words would be it.

Don’t be DAFT!

If you decide to train on, you’ll encourage the body to find alternative ways and means of moving. Think of this as compensatory movement.

The body shifts stress/load from the intended area and onto other tissues. If repeated it is likely to aggravate the problem and cause secondary movement problems if left unaddressed.

Don’t go there – if it’s sore, stop, rest and do something else.

Train smart.

Injured Man


Poor health can seriously impair your ability to recover and perform. Some illnesses have a greater impact than others.

Exercising whilst suffering from common ailments like the flu or food poisoning will have obvious implications on performance and recovery.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to work out the gym is one of the most unhygienic environments known to man.

You must learn to manage stress and listen to your body’s internal cues to avoid stressing the system even further.

1. Modern Day Posture


Modern day movement patterns are toxic to a hard-training individual.

We sit too much. We spend too much time on computers, phones and tablets.

How many times have you held your hands above your head today? Have you sat more than you’ve stood?

Many of the important muscles involved in strength and total body conditioning become weaker, tighter and inhibited with our modern day lifestyle.

Take sitting for example.

We all sit. It’s inevitable in almost everyone’s daily routine. The problem arises when we sit more than we stand.

Spending eight hours in a chair at work then another three-to-five hours on the sofa at home is not uncommon.

Sitting for prolonged periods of time can decease lung capacity, which leads to fatigue, encourage lordosis (when the spine curves inwards on the lower back) and tighten the hip flexors, calves and connective tissue.

All of these reactions can hinder movement quality – when coaching I refer to this as ‘gummed-up’ mobility. It’s exactly how I feel after sitting all day.

A standing desk can be a great way to prevent this and keep the system fresh for training later in the day.

Another issue I see that contributes to poor mobility is excessive use of smartphones.

2. How many times have you checked your phone today?


Relentlessly checking your smartphone every 10 minutes could be the root cause of your neck and shoulder pain as well as impaired performance in the gym.

According to a recent study by marketing agency Tecmark, a person looks at their smartphone on average 221 times a day for a total of 3 hours 16 minutes.

Over a year that’s 1,200 hours spent moving your neck up and down 80,000 times to stare at your phone. This can only get worse as apps and technology evolve.

How many times did you move your neck up and down 10-15 years ago? Nowhere near as much.

And, smartphones were supposed to make life easier?

Don’t Try To Be A Hero

By Phil Graham

The bulk of your mental energy must be focused on ensuring you achieve quality-loaded movements rather than fear of being crushed.

If you put more weight on the bar than you can handle, you’re simply straining your system, encouraging bad habits, limiting range of motion and increasing your risk of injury.

Looking impressive in the gym may be important to you but the reality is your best shot at making a good impression with your body is outside the gym.

Load appropriately – train your body not your ego.

Man Exercising
Sam Whitaker

About Phil

Renowned competitive body builder, Sports Nutritionist and Author Phil Graham (BSc, CSSN) has established himself as one of UK’s leading fitness educators and coaches. He has helped coach and inspire a diverse range of clientele ranging from personal trainers, everyday members of the public right through to professional athletes across a wide variety of sports.

Phil is the author of the world’s first Diabetic body building and Fitness Guide – The Diabetic Muscle and Fitness Guide

Phil educates 1000's of personal trainers each year through his seminars, workshops and attendance at some of the world’s largest health and fitness exhibitions. He actively writes for almost every major fitness publication, hosts the ever popular Podcast Elite Muscle Radio Podcast (available on iTunes) and works as Genetic Supplements resident nutrition expert for product development.

Phil’s coaching and personal training is based in Belfast Northern Ireland, he also offers online consultancy for those that cannot reach him locally.



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