Injury Progression and Regression
Fundamental human movement patterns are engrained in us all from the time we are born. We learn to roll, crawl, stand, squat, walk, and run on relatively similar timelines throughout our early years. Children are not told to “squat with their knees behind their toes” (terrible advice, by the way) or “refrain from picking anything up off the floor” (aka deadlifting) because they could be putting their joints at risk. They just figure it out. Throughout our childhood, our motor competency steadily increases, and we become inherently better movers. However, it is at some point in our adulthood that we begin to decline, which heavily depends on how we choose to live our lives. Those who continue to grease the groove with daily movement through all planes of motion maintain movement competency and the subsequent health benefits associated with it for quite some time. Those who do not, however, and adopt a rather sedentary lifestyle rapidly decline.
The popularly coined “use it or lose it” term reigns no truer than in relation to human movement. If we want to be good at something and maintain what we have, we must continue doing that thing. Failing to treat and water a nice green lawn will quickly result in a dry-brown mess. All things in life require maintenance. One of the greatest issues I am confronted with when training a new athlete or client is the limitations they bring to the table prior to our first meeting. They may have heard that squatting is bad for their knees or refuse to lift anything heavy because they believe it will injure them. My absolute favorite quote to that point is by Brett Contreras, who once said, “If you think lifting weights is dangerous, try being weak. Being weak is dangerous”.
Previous injury, health issues, and paranoia are no excuses to skip training altogether. Now I must preface this by saying that your doctors and medical health care providers always know the best way more than somebody like myself, so please listen to them first.
If you have a fused spine and are told to never back squat again, that doesn’t mean to never squat again in ANY capacity (unless explicitly stated by your doctor, again listen to them, not me) it simply means do so in a more intelligent way. Giant newsflash, you will have to squat to get up and down from a chair or toilet at some point in your life again, might as well learn how to do it right.
Don’t Throw In The Towel
I often see individuals completely throw in the towel simply because they can’t perform one variation of an exercise. If back squatting with a barbell is not ok by your doctor, find out if goblet squatting, lunging, stepping, or anything else of the sort is! You must learn to be resilient and work around what ails you so that you can continue to train and be strong. More importantly, figure out what the root cause of your dysfunction is and solve it so that you can one day return to unrestricted movement training.
Ironically, the moment we give in to supposed limitations is the same moment we further decline. A severe hip injury may leave you without the ability to ever do a sprint workout again, but thinking of an alternative way to achieve a similar stimulus will put you so much further ahead rather than loathing over your misfortunes. If you can begin to view movement on a continuum with a variety of options that can best suit you you will soon find that training is possible for everybody. There will always be roadblocks, there will always be setbacks, but there will always be opportunities to better yourself along the way.