How to Work Out When You Suffer From Leg Pain or Injury

STACK Expert Miguel Aragoncillo provides strategies to continue making gains in the weight room after suffering an injury.

Leg Injury

Even if a leg injury or leg pain has put you on the disabled list, you can adjust your training to keep up your strength, power and conditioning. Continuing to train in the weight room might also be good for your sanity, and it will certainly pay dividends when you return to the field.

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If you plan to work out immediately after an injury, stay off the injured leg. But take heart—according to some European studies, training on a single leg for an extended period of time can result in neurological strength gains. With that in mind, combine these exercises to effectively train on one leg. Be conservative in your approach; your injury may not allow you to take on too much.

This variation of a single-leg exercise involves a Pistol Squat focused exclusively on the eccentric portion of the lift, while aiming for the depth of a standard bench. After achieving depth, reset so both your feet are on the ground and use both legs to come back up. This is a beginner's exercise that leads to the next variation.

This variation focuses on both the concentric and eccentric portions of the Pistol Squat.

This is a more difficult variation of a Hamstring Curl, focusing on core stability and posterior strength.

Adjust Your Range of Motion

Changing your range of motion may help you adapt to exercising with an injury. Before diving into these next exercises, I recommend getting a full assessment from a health care professional or movement specialist.

If you have movement limitations in your hips, achieving full depth with a bilateral exercise such as the Squat may not be the most productive use of your time. Instead, perform an exercise that requires a greater range of motion than parallel. That way, you ensure the top end of your femur does not "bump" into the anterior portion of your hip joint (if you happen to have anterior hip issues).

Changing the range of motion can also be used with single-leg exercises.

Use Straps to Assist in Retraining

If your injury requires immobilization, the cast will certainly restrict your movement. Due to individual differences among athletes, there is generally no set number of days, weeks or months before you can return to play. After the cast or brace comes off, it is helpful to retrain motion immediately to restore strength along a continuum of movement patterns.

You can use suspended straps for assistance, holding on as much or as little as necessary to complete the movement pattern. The video above shows three different movement patterns.

Foam Rolling

Foam rolling can relieve tension in both the injured and uninjured limb. Essentially, if you compensate on the uninjured limb, it may take on extra stress. Self-myofascial release can relieve localized stress and possibly increase range of motion. If you use a lacrosse ball or similar tool, avoid the site of the injury. For example, if you have a knee injury, avoid the area immediately surrounding the knee. To be most effective, do self-myofascial release around the bottom half of the calf and the upper part of the thigh/groin.

RELATED: Advantages of Regularly Foam Rolling

Conditioning

Whether or not you are severely injured, conditioning for most sports requires some type of maintenance for an aerobic and anaerobic base. If your lower limbs are not at full capacity, perform these variations for upper-body work to return to play as soon as possible.

References:

  • Fimland, Marius S., et al. "Neural adaptations underlying cross-education after unilateral strength training." European Journal of Applied Physiology 107.6 (2009): 723-730.
  • Hortobagyi, Tibor. "Cross education and the human central nervous system." Engineering in Medicine and Biology Magazine, IEEE 24.1 (2005): 22-28.
  • Munn, Joanne, et al. "Training with unilateral resistance exercise increases contralateral strength." Journal of Applied Physiology, 99.5 (2005): 1880-1884.
  • Healey, K., L. Dorfman, D. Riebe, P. Blanpied, and D. Hatfield. "The Effects of Foam Rolling on Myofascial Release and Performance." Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research 25.1 (2011): web, 17 Sept. 2013.


Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock

Topics: LOWER BODY | EXERCISE | TRAIN | INJURY | RANGE OF MOTION | STRESS | MYOFASCIAL RELEASE | FOAM ROLLING