Bodybuilding Common injuries, fixes and how to break plateaus

Jul 22, 2019

Is Bodybuilding the final frontier to utilize sport science?

Bodybuilders know the grind, thousands of hours of pain and sacrifice all in the pursuit of physical perfection. Like most athletes, body builders typically started their journey with love, love for the sport and its physical and mental benefits.

This hobby became an obsession and the quest for physical perfection the goal. But when did this hobby become a purpose? Who should I seek for advice? Why am I plateauing? All great questions, but unfortunately all tend to be answered by gym “bro-science” or instagram research.

At the English Institute of Sport I was one of a six man Sport Science team who’s sole mission was to help our athletes be the best in the world.

So what is a Physiotherapist and how does it differ from a sports or massage therapist? 

A question I get asked all too often and the answer is simple… its knowledge. 

Physiotherapy is a degree in human mechanics i.e. a deep understanding of how the body works.

Using this knowledge allows us to identify “how” and “why” something is dysfunctional and not simply what is sore.

Bodybuilding requires you to push the envelope and squeeze out every ounce of potential. As a result injuries are part and parcel of constantly working at the limit of your ability.

The key to a good therapist is not simply using their knowledge and experience to “fix the injury” but identify why it happened and adapt your training to prevent it happening again (make a weakness a strength).

This is how we seek to achieve a performance impact. The mantra of a true “Sports Physio”; “Can we help you smash plateaus, reach new personal bests and provide clarity improving physical performance?”.

If you are experiencing pain or noticing a muscle isn’t firing properly, that’s dysfunction. It means that the muscle/ joint/ tendon isn’t working properly. So yes, it’s causing pain, but it will also be hampering your training. 

And this is why it’s critical we break the loop of train… get sore… release and repeat.

To get new outcomes your need to modify your input… i.e. you can’t train the same and expect different results.

Three common injuries and fixes;

  • Anterior (frontal) shoulder pain.

Often due to trapping the Supraspinatus or bicep tendon and inflaming the bursa.

This typically occurs because Pecs and Upper Traps are over active and Serratus Anterior and Lower Traps are weak.

This tilts your shoulder blade forwards and traps the tendons between the ball and socket joint.

FIX: strengthen Serratus and lower traps, increase Pec mobility, take topical anti-inflammatories (Check with GP), review your rotator cuff and try and include free weight pressing when symptoms allow strengthening shoulder stabilisers. 

  • Golfer’s and Tennis Elbow.
    Likely because you are curling a weight too heavy for your wrist to hold… 

These are most commonly a break down issue and an acute injury… i.e. only a tendon that can’t cope with the stress placed upon it breaks down and becomes tendonopathic.

SOLUTION: avoid preacher curl as this promotes excessive wrist flexion and although it can allow a heavier curl it can over stress your wrist. 

Add in some wrist rehab. Slow, negative wrist curls or Olympic bar twists (to load the common flexor and extensor tendons.Go to free weight bicep curls, set your shoulders back, imagine tucking your blades into your back pockets, and avoid full wrist flexion. Don’t worry if the weight goes down… your body responds to load so if it’s hard work it’s still working.

  • Back Pain… typically because of weak and tight hamstrings, poor mobility with squat/ deadlifts and weak core… i.e. you are bending in the middle.

Address but wink with sissy squat, avoid smith machine and go technical phase (lighter weight but addressing compensations) … achieve good depth pain free without adapting and then increase weight. 

Technique is key here. You don’t have to be “text book” perfect but you do need to be efficient in your lift. Imagine squatting on a trampoline, you can’t achieve as heavy a lift because your base is unstable… well butt wink, forward moving bar and collapsing knees are simply another form of instability… tighten these up and you’ll be able to lift heavier because you aren’t wasting energy dealing with a wobble.

  • Don’t be afraid of sport science! 
  • Athletes don’t rest… they adapt.
  • Build a team and seek advice to help steer your journey.
  • Ask questions; “why is this sore?”, “why have I plateaued?”
  • Remember, problems made in the gym are fixed in the gym.

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