15 Clever Exercises To Workout Around Pain

Chances are if you’ve gone to the gym long enough you’ve probably experienced some sort of nagging pain while you were lifting. Whether it be a little tweak here or there, pain is never a good thing. But, just because you have pain, does not mean you shouldn’t work out.

This article is an excerpt from one I wrote on The PTDC that was meant for coaches. But, if you want to workout when something is tweaked, then this is for you.

15 Clever Ways To Workout Around Pain

So you have nagging injuries and pains and aren’t sure what to do in the gym? Here are some of the most effective ways you can get a great workout in while injured.

Disclaimer: If you have been in pain for a while, I highly recommend getting checked out by a licensed medical professional. 

Shoulder Issues

As a massage therapist, it’s safe to say that most of the shoulder issues I see stem from soft tissue restrictions in the upper back, poor scapular mechanics, and past injuries. If you have shoulder issues, try performing some of these mobility drills on a daily basis to see if the pain subsides.

Shoulder Mobility Drills

Acumobility Upper-Back Release 

These little guys are a game changer. Instead of just roll around on stick spots, acumobility balls help train stability whole simultaneously mobilizing those tricky areas.

If you want to get these bad boys and learn more about them, check out their website Acumobility.  They have a ton of cool videos for free. Like what you see – grab a pair using my code (georgek) at checkout.

Side-Lying Windmill 

This is one of my favorite drills to do on a daily basis. Don’t let the simplicity of this drill fool you. When done correctly, you’ll get a good combination of a pec stretch, thoracic extension ( upper back mobility) and good shoulder movement.

At first, you may not be able to get your arm all the way around and that is fine. Just try it out for a few weeks on a daily basis and you should see improvement.

Side Lying Rib Roll

If you think that the windmill may be too tough for your limitations, then try the rib roll.

Shoulder Strengthening Exercises

The landmine press is my go-to exercise for shoulder issues, as most people can perform the exercise without problems. Still, not completely foolproof. Start in the kneeling position, and progress as needed.

Dumbbell Chest Supported Row 

I see a ton of rowing variations performed incorrectly at the gym by pulling their arm too far back and rotating their shoulder forward. Too much range of motion can often lead to shoulder problems.

The chest supported row can limit that risk, although it does not eliminate the problem altogether. Make sure when you perform this exercise that you don’t go past the midline of your torso, and focus on squeezing the shoulder blades together.

Kettlebell Front Squat 

When shoulder issues arise, putting a bar on your back may be troublesome. The double kettlebell squat is great for those with restrictions in the upper body.

Knee Issues

Knee problems are the trickiest of them all. Most of the time it is often misdiagnosed and stems from a lack of movement in the hips and weak glutes. The following exercises will allow you to workout in the gym without putting stress on the knees.

Mobility Drills 

Strengthening Exercises 

Goblet Box Squat 

The box squat tends to be more posterior chain focused which places a lot less stress on the knees. In order to keep the focus on the hamstrings and glutes, make sure you don’t rock forward on the way up and really drive through the heels.

Hip Hinge Variations 

If the goblet box squat still gives you issues, then try these variations.

Slideboard Reverse Lunge 

Instead of doing a typical reverse lunge which may cause issues with the knees, try using a slide board or towel to recruit the hamstrings and glutes more. Be careful not to lean too far forward on this drill.

Two Arm Single Leg Deadlift To Deadstop 

Low Back Issues 

Around 90% of people will experience low back pain at some point in their life. In fact, many low back injuries occur from lifting at the gym.  But, just because your low back is giving you problems, that does not mean you should wait it out.

Core Strength 

Some of the safest and simplest exercises will take you far when it comes to low back pain. Plank variations, bird dogs, and dead bugs work great to re-hab bad backs. But, instead of hit you with the boring stuff try these loaded carry variations.

Strengthening Drills 

Barbell Glute Bridge 

When it comes to low back issues, I’ve had a lot of success incorporating barbell bridges with my clients. With good slow movements, and proper form the bridge works wonders. Make sure to move the glutes and hips rather than arch your back to get the motion. If you have had low back issues for a while, this might now be the best drill for you.

Dumbell Step-up 

Lunges and step-ups work well with low back issues. Holding the weights at your side minimizes stress on the spine without sacrificing strength.

Get a Great Workout In Even While You Have Nagging Injuries 

In the end, there are a handful of ways you can train around injuries. Use your judgement wisley, and if something has been giving your problems for a long time, make sure you go see a licenses professioanl for a quality diagnosis.


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