Bodybuilding Injuries: 5 Steps to Faster Recovery and Prevention

Based on 21 years of lifting and coaching experience

Injuries in bodybuilding are not that common.

But they can definitely set you back many months. You can also get injured outside the gym, and have to adjust your lifting as a result.

In this short guide, we’ll go through the 5 steps I follow with my clients to recover faster and prevent future injury. This is based on my 21 years of lifting and coaching experience.

Before we jump in, a caveat. Your best bet is almost always to see a physical therapist or sports doctor in person. I recommend looking for one with 10+ years’ experience working with active, fit people.

5 steps to quick recovery & prevention of bodybuilding injuries

  1. According to orthopedic surgeons, normal injuries and spains usually heal in a few weeks. For example, shoulder grade 1 sprains usually begin to heal within 1-2 weeks. Grade 3 can take up to 6-8 weeks. After 8 weeks, most sprains have healed and pain is not usually due to physical damage to tissues. Most of the time, exercise can resume safely.
  2. Exercise is not always the cause, especially for long-term pain. Does your pain worsens when you exercise? This suggests it was indeed exercise that caused it. You may need to change your program to work around it (find exercises that don’t hurt). Or does it hurt when you do other activities in your daily life or work? If so, that could be the actual cause needing work.
  3. When you stop working out, does the pain go away? If yes, then it’s likely exercise is the cause. If not, then another activity in your daily life may be the cause (e.g. repetitive movements at work). In that scenario, you may heal faster by stopping or changing that activity.
  4. According to the Mayo Clinic, conservative treatments — such as rest, ice and physical therapy — sometimes are all that’s needed to recover from an injury.
  5. When you return to training, don’t go all out. Instead, we generally recommend using submaximal sets. Those are done by ending all your sets with plently of energy left. And keeping a few reps “in the tank”. You can start by keeping 4-5 reps in the tank. Then 3-4. And eventually, 1-2. While it can be tempting to push hard, that can actually slow down your comeback. And even for healthy lifters, more and more research suggests progress can be just as fast when keeping 1-2 reps in the tank on all sets. Just as fast, and safer.

This wraps up this short guide. And with that said, I always recommend you check with a local therapist or doctor. Especially if your pain or injury is not improving.

It’s your best bet for a speedy recovery.