Why You Should Work Around Pain, Not Through It - StrongLife

Why You Should Work Around Pain, Not Through It


When working on your health and fitness, pain can bring about times of frustration.

For many, they have heard the mantra “No Pain, No Gain” uttered by the gym warriors.


If you’re smart, you would choose to work around pain, not through it.

Dealing With Pain While Exercising

The “no pain, no gain” mantra is one I personally hate.

Pain is a warning signal from your body that something isn’t right.

It’s a warning signal to get you to stop what you’re doing.

And if ignored, will end up opening you up to more severe injury and potential longer recovery times.

Pain can also be something that you use as a time to evaluate what you’re doing.

Maybe you’ve gotten a bit too comfortable in the gym and technique has regressed.

Maybe you’ve upped the mileage on your runs without adding in mobility or recovery.

Or maybe it’s an acute sports injury.

But for many of the recreational fitness people, it’s lower backs, knees and shoulders that give the most trouble.

In the gym, I always stress to clients to “work around pain, not through it”.

So, if a client has lower back issues, we’ll veer away from Barbell Squat and Deadlifts and move towards single leg work like Lunges, Split Squats and re-working how the hinge from their hips to maximise lower back stability and ensure they engage the correct muscles.

I’d also use core work to ensure they are engaging core muscle adequately to support their back in all exercises and sports.

Knees are a bit trickier, but once again, it’s about using alternative exercises to the big barbell lifts or potentially using a bench for Squat movements.

For knees, focus is generally on tracking the knee correctly during exercises and focusing heavily on technique over weight used.

And shoulders, depending on type of injury, pressing movements may be limited to so many sets per session and instead focus on pulling movements.

Like all exercise plans, it’s client dependent.

Each client will have differing issues, so different workarounds are required.

So, it’s not simple to give a generalised plan to suit everyone.

Considerations Around Pain

If your knee gives you pain when running, then move away from the high-impact of running, and instead try cycling or swimming.

They may prove to give you a workout without increasing the force through your knee and reducing pain.

The main thing is to find ways you can continue to move, exercise and challenge your fitness without increasing the risk of injury of leaving you in bits after it.

Your entire focus when exercising is to be able to do so in the long-term.

There’s no point diving in head first, ignoring the warning signs from your body and ending up on the recovery table for weeks/months.

Be smart, train smart.

If something hurts, don’t push through.

Question as to why it hurts.

It may be technique based or you’ve been overdoing it with your training volume and minimising your recovery.

Maybe you’ve slacked off on mobility work and you’re not as loose.

Or maybe you’ve a muscular or joint issue, which I would strongly advise you seek out a physical therapist.


In closing, pain is there to warn you.

Regardless of how tough you are, or how much you need to finish the workout, it’s a sign that something isn’t working right.

Find ways to work around the pain while you also get to the root cause of it.

If you continue to keep smashing yourself through it, then you’re probably extending the time you’ll need to take off to allow it to heal.

Be sensible and keep yourself pain free so you can keep enjoying exercise, moving your body and feeling great.

None of us are ever happy when in pain, so be sure to acknowledge it and act accordingly.


Colm Duignan

Colm Duignan

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