One of the most well-known marketing slogans is “no pain no gain.” While the pain of burning muscles is a necessary reality for getting stronger and fitter, don't train through pain that is associated with an injury because this will cause more trouble than it’s worth.
Don’t Train Through Pain
Don't get in the habit of training through pain. Pain sends an inhibitory signal to the brain to shut down contraction. This lowers neural drive while raising cortisol. Training through pain is a big no-no, especially working with athletes who require high amounts of speed and power.
Pain Changes Movement Patterns
Research shows that training through injury-related pain can lead to faulty movement patterns and less efficient adaptations in muscle activation. In this study, a research team from Australia found that when people train in pain while injured they modify exercise technique, which leads to altered motor skill patterns that continue after pain is no longer there.
Simply, people continue to use inefficient movement patterns and do not fully recruit targeted muscles even though movement compensations are no longer necessary. The study authors acknowledge that taking time off from training when injured will lead to a decrease in strength and loss of muscle. However, this drawback isn’t worth the development of poor movement.
Downsides of Training Through Pain
Faulty motor skills will put you at risk of developing imbalances between muscles and it increases risk of future injury. It also compromises force production, leading to reductions in strength and power, which can have long-term implications for athletic performance. Finally, chronically poor movement causes degeneration or inflammation in the joints, putting you at risk of arthritis down the road.
There is a difference between the pain you feel from an injury and that which manifests during physical activity you aren’t accustomed to. The pain associated with burning muscles occurs when you are working hard and your muscles experience a buildup of hydrogen ions that lead to a burning sensation in the muscle. When this happen, muscle loses strength capacity and exercise intensity decreases. It’s worth pushing through this type of discomfort because doing so will improve your muscle’s ability to buffer the acid so that you can train at a higher intensity in the future.
It you are new to exercise and haven’t experienced the discomfort from working out intensely, the “pain” can be disconcerting. The key is to develop confidence by working with an experienced trainer who can teach you proper training technique while helping you push through the physical sensations as your body adapts.
Strategies For Maintaining Muscle During A Layoff
There are strategies for maintaining muscle and reducing strength loss during a layoff. You can train a healthy limb, which will transfer into strength and muscle maintenance in an injured limb. For example, if you have a left shoulder injury and have to take time off from presses and rows, training the right shoulder with single-side exercises can reduce the muscle atrophy and loss of strength that would normally occur.
Training through injury-related pain can lead to the development of faulty motor patterns that persist once the injury has healed.
Taking time off so that an injury can fully heal is worth it. It will allow you to maximize performance over the long-term.
Protein supplementation and training a healthy limb can minimize muscle and strength loss during an injury layoff.
It’s important to differentiate between injury-related pain and the discomfort that arises when exercising. The first should be avoided. The second is a normal part of the adaptation process and is where the phrase “no pain, no gain” came from!