If you train with weights long enough, at some point you will experience an injury. Hopefully it’s not a bad one that keeps you away from the gym for a prolonged time. If that’s you right now, please heed your doctor’s advice and get all the way healed before you come back. The gym’s not going anywhere and it doesn’t make sense to risk injuring yourself further.
You may never suffer an injury like that though. More than likely you’ll have something that nags at you or maybe sidelines you for a week or two.
The most important thing I can tell you is: if an exercise hurts you, stop.
I don’t mean it’s difficult or you’re feeling soreness. If you feel pain, then stop. Training shouldn’t hurt. The saying “no pain no gain” is (for lack of a better term) dumb.
I used to believe it years ago. As a result, now I have to basically avoid some lifts. The good news is there is no single exercise that is absolutely necessary for you to do. “Nuh uh,” you say. “What about squats?” Or deadlifts? Or bench press?
There are workarounds. The truth is, not every exercise will suit you. Some of them you’ll like. Others you’ll love. There will be those you don’t really love but like what they do for you. You’ll probably hate one or two. And then there are going to be some that just don’t feel right.
For me, that was barbell rows. I’d read they were necessary for a strong back. I tried them for a few months and I did get stronger. I also messed up my left biceps/elbow. Not to the point where I needed a medical intervention. But definitely enough that I stopped doing them.
In a few weeks I felt better. Back to 100%. And you know what I did? Yup, I went back to doing the rows. Guess what happened? My arm started hurting again. This time it was worse. Still not badly enough for me to need a doctor. But now it affected me when I did pull-ups.
To paraphrase a famous quote mangler: fool me twice… we won’t get fooled again.
I don’t do rows any more. It’s been a couple years now. [Stares wistfully into the distance]
I learned a few things. Don’t be so hard-headed. Not every exercise is for everyone. If something doesn’t work for you, find another way.
To be clear, I’m not saying you shouldn’t do barbell rows. Not by any stretch. This is just an example from my experience. It’s common for some people to have shoulder discomfort doing dips. Does this mean no one should do dips? Of course not. But if you’re one of the people whose shoulders get ticked off by them, find another exercise to work your triceps. Make sense?
Instead of doing barbell rows, I do dumbbell rows. It turns out I really like them and they don’t bother my elbows at all. Pull-ups still don’t feel great, so I don’t do those either. That kind of sucks because I did enjoy them. I replace them with weighted chin-ups and I’m still making progress without pain.
If you’re feeling acute pain when you’re doing a particular exercise, my advice is simple. Stop doing it. Likely reasons are you may have an undiagnosed injury already, your technique is slightly off. It’s not a terrible idea to go get yourself checked out by a medical professional. It also may make sense to have a good trainer look at your form. Or maybe that particular lift isn’t a good fit for you.
No big deal. Just find a different way to target that muscle group.
Hope this helps! Thanks for reading.