I was deadlifting at the gym last week and was feeling strong. It was Week 3 of a 4 week program, so I was stoked and ready to break a PR or 2.
After an extensive warm-up of foam rolling, static stretching, glute & ab activation and various hip mobility exercises and 5 minutes of jumping rope, I hit the lifting platform.
First up was some power cleans (which I have been doing for the past few weeks because I've been focusing on getting my vertical jump numbers up). I warmed up thoroughly on those and finished 3 working sets of 3 reps each.
Now onto the main lift – deadlifts. Working my way up from the weight that I was cleaning, I got to 225lbs and pulled it of the floor and felt a sharp pain on my left side as I was locking out. Immediately, I dropped the weight (luckily with a lifting platform and bumper plates you're actually encouraged to drop the weight at the gym I train at).
I walked around holding my butt assessing the situation. I couldn't lean forward, I could hardly twist at my waist and I definitely couldn't bend over. I'm famous for doing stupid things in my life and in my younger more ego driven days I would have just tried to "work through" the pain. Now at 33, all I could think about was "how am I going to lift my kids on and off the merry-go-round tomorrow" as we were scheduled to take an annual amusement park trip the next day.
So I got changed, hopped on my bike and very gingerly rode home.
After getting home I booked an early AM appointment with my chiropractor.
When I got to his place the next morning he said I had strained my glute medius ( the muscle right on top of the thick part of your butt). So in the middle of his living room, with my pants down, he stuck 3 acupuncture needles in my glute.
One of his 3 young sons came downstairs and then quickly ran back up saying "Mom, check it out! There's a man in our living room with 3 needles in his butt!" … not one of my most glorious moments.
Regardless, he did an amazing job of acupuncture, nerve stimulation and then some ART (which is a form of soft tissue work) to help me get somewhat functional. He also said to lay off the weights for week and wait until the glute is fully functional again before I start squatting and deadlifting.
He also said to try to get some blood in the area by doing some higher rep/sub-maximal work like riding your bike. To speed up recovery.
So I asked myself… What can I do that's high rep with a submaximal load that will flood my injured area with blood so that recovery will speed up?
Well that's what I did the following week. Lots of upper body work and a bunch of kettlebell swings with a very light weight (16kg).
Here's what my "rehab" program looked like for the week…
1. Foam rolling & trigger point work with a tennis ball.
2. Static stretching for my glutes, hip flexors, hamstrings, lats & pecs.
3. Activation work for my glutes, abs & upper back.
4. Then I did a simple circuit that looked something like this (although it varied from day to day)…
-1-leg split squat (with one hand on my VMO & the other on my glute)
-KB Swing or KB 1-arm Snatches w/16kg kettlebell
I did a few rounds of that (3 to 5 rounds) and then I finished with…
-plank x 2 minutes
-side plank x 1 minute per side
-hip bridge x 2 minutes
-prone cobra x 2 minutes
I think the key to the program above was 1) I kept it simple and 2) I used a KB that was relatively easy. Remember, the goal of the program was to help me recover from pulling/straining my glute. So using a submaximal weight was exactly what I needed. I just had to flood the area with blood to accelerate healing (blood transports the bad stuff out and brings the good stuff into the affected area).
The result… I went back to the gym yesterday and cleaned and deadlifted with no issues. In fact, I was able to pick up exactly where I left off without having to drop the weight. And then I finished the workout with Chin-Ups and TGUs.
Can I attribute being fully recovered to the kettlebell swings? Probably not. Having a great chiropractor, taking some time off lifting heavy, applying a topical all-natural ointment (Traumeel) and riding my bike helped too, I'm sure.
But being able to still workout (and doing it intelligently) while I was injured made a HUGE difference in my recovery and allowed me to maintain momentum towards getting great results.
-Chris, CSCS, CTT