Post Injury Training With Your Client


Is your client struggling to return to fitness after a sports injury? You can help. Post-injury exercise means carefully designing routines to accommodate and maximize your client’s recovery. The right approach can help them return to full strength safely and quickly.

Common types of sports injuries include:

  • Bone fractures
  • Ligament strains
  • Back problems – slipped discs, fractures and strains
  • Shin splints
  • Hamstring strains
  • Bruising and lacerations

Things you can do to assist your client:

  • Develop a training regime that suits their schedule
  • Develop exercises that strengthen their injured area safely and effectively
  • Offer 100% enthusiasm and commitment to your client
  • Help guide your client in their personal diet and nutrition plan
  • Offer guidance on the best supplements and products to use
  • Work their cardiovascular system and take their overall health to a new level


Train Unilaterally

One overall principle when starting your clients’ post rehab training is to train each limb separately. When you lead your clients in bilateral exercises such as bench press or squats, the stronger side will take over the movement and try to protect the weaker side. This reinforces the strength imbalance that usually accompanies an injury. If you do not force the weaker limb to work just as hard as the stronger limb then you will never fully address the strength imbalance, making it practically impossible to return to pre-injury performance levels.

Elbows, biceps and triceps:

If your client has experienced a strain or pain within a particular range of motion (often the fully extended or fully contracted part of a curl when exercising biceps), it is a simple matter to avoid that part of the motion. Try quarter reps, half reps or three-quarter reps with a light to moderate weight. Cable press downs allow you to easily select different weights and ranges of motion for your client. If your client cannot perform at least a partial rep without pain, you probably shouldn’t be exercising the injured area.

A power rack or Smith machine is a great way to limit the range of motion on exercises like shoulder presses and shrugs that work multiple muscles in the shoulder girdle. You can also utilize light dumbbells to perform lateral raises through a partial range of motion with your client.

Chest and pectorals:
Again, the power rack and Smith machine will allow you to adjust the range of motion on a bench press so that your client can avoid pain and strain. Cable crossovers can be performed with one arm at a time using light weights.

Lower back:
A seated cable row using straight arms and the power of the lower back muscles is a very good rehab exercise. By adjusting the seat and the bend in your clients’ knees, it’s possible to work a specific range of motion that avoids pain.

Knees, quadriceps and hamstrings:
Adjust a leg press, hack squat or similar leg machine so the range of motion is limited. Try light to moderate weights that work the joints and muscles without going into a range that causes discomfort.

These techniques allow you to train your client so they can begin building the muscle, tendons and ligaments back to their previous pre-injury condition. Ligaments and tendons respond to the same stimuli as muscles. A progressive intensity from one workout to the next is what builds these supporting elements. Remember to start slowly.

Nutrition and Supplements

Whenever your client is trying to repair tissue damaged through sports injuries, it’s important that they eat the right foods in a balanced, healthy diet, and make sure they’re getting the right vitamins. Supplements can help support the repair process and get them back to feeling fit and healthy.

Recovery is Priority #1

Expectations of what your client can achieve in the gym will be more reasonable when they realize that full recovery from an injury is their body’s first priority. It only makes sense that before their body packs on another five pounds of new muscle, it gives priority to repairing the existing muscle, bone, tendons, and ligaments that are needed to support what they already have.

It’s easy for your client to lose enthusiasm and positive outlook when trying to regain their previous fitness level after a sports injury. Help them stay focused on the end goal. Emphasize to the importance of maintaining a long term perspective regarding their fitness. Full recovery must occur first, and there is no need to return too quickly to the amount of weight, sets and reps they may have been working with prior to the injury.

Utilizing these ideas and working within the clients’ physician recommendations, you’ll help them to get past their injury and push to new levels of strength, fitness and health.






These resources are for the purpose of personal trainer growth and development through Continuing Education which advances the knowledge of fitness professionals. This article is written for NFPT Certified Personal Trainers to receive Continuing Education Credit (CEC). Please contact NFPT at 800.729.6378 or [email protected] with questions or for more information.
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