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Fighting fit: 8 alternative exercises to overcome injury pain

Belfast trainer Alan Waterman demonstrates potential pain-free alternatives for your exercise routine.

By Alan Waterman

As much as I hate to admit it, the majority of us will likely experience a form of training injury at some point during our lifetime.

It's likely too that we'll start to notice more niggles and joint irritation as we get older (especially if we were a little over-zealous with training in earlier years.)

Unfortunately, it can often have huge implications in our training. We may find that there are certain exercises we can no longer perform pain-free, and certain movements might have to be ruled out, sometimes permanently.

But when there's a will, there's a way! Although conventional forms of some exercises may no longer be appropriate, substituting them for other variations may allow us to still perform the movement pattern, but in a way which won't cause us pain.

If your training has left you a little bashed up, or you notice some aches and pains when performing certain movements, check out the eight exercises below for some potentially pain-free alternatives to your favourites.

1. Landmine Deadlift

Landmine Deadlift

Deadlifts are one of the biggest, most effective full-body movements we can do, but the conventional Barbell Deadlift is not necessarily the best version for everyone.

The Landmine Deadlift is a great alternative (particularly for those with lower back or knee pain) as it forces the hips to move back and "hinge" into the movement, recruiting the powerful muscles in the hamstrings and glutes, rather than the lower back.

If you find yourself struggling with the technique of a conventional Deadlift, or you find it causing you pain, substituting it with the Landmine version may allow you to still perform the movement, but in a pain-free way.

Landmine Deadlift

2. Dumbbell Floor Press

Shoulder pain is a killer when it comes to the traditional barbell version of the Bench Press.

The required overhand grip locks our shoulders into a compromised position, which can cause irritation over time, whilst our wrists can take a pounding from handling continuous heavy loads.

Dumbbell Floor Press

The Dumbbell Floor Press can alleviate shoulder irritation by reducing the range of motion (while still allowing us to effectively work our chest) and enable us to position our wrists more neutrally, reducing strain on the joint.

If you find your shoulders getting beat up from conventional Bench Pressing, give this shoulder-saver a try.

Dumbbell Floor Press

3. Front-Loaded Reverse Lunge

Single-leg movements are a great addition to a training routine, but many people find that they can often place stress on the knees (especially when performed incorrectly.)

Front-Loaded Reverse Lunge

The Reverse Lunge is a great way to be able to incorporate single-leg work, as it typically reduces knee stress by engaging the mucles of the hamstrings and glutes more than many other single-leg exercisesn while front-loading the movement gives us the added benefit of greater core activation too.

It's a two-for-one win!

Front-Loaded Reverse Lunge

4. Landmine Press

For those who struggle to perform the regular Barbell Overhead Press, the Landmine Press is a great alternative.

Landmine Press

The angled movement of the bar, rather than strict vertical path of motion, is great for those with poor shoulder mobility, while also putting the lower back at less risk of injury.

It still effectively targets the muscle of the deltoids (shoulders) and triceps, but removes some of the limitations imposed by the more well-known Overhead Press.

Landmine Press

5. Banded Glute Bridge

Studies have shown Glute Bridges to be one of the most effective exercises for helping develop the muscles in your backside, and are a great lower body movement for those who struggle with low back pain when performing other big lower-body exercises.

Banded Glute Bridge

However, we often forget that the muscles in the glutes extend right round the side of the hip, and become more active when we move the leg out to the side (abduction.)

Placing a resistance band just above the knees forces us to work harder to keep the legs driven out (to prevent them caving in) and will help see greater activation in those often under-worked glute medius muscles, rather than just targeting the largest glute muscle (your bum!)

Banded Glute Bridge

6. Rack Chin-Ups

Hammering away at developing our Chin-Up strength can often lead to elbow irritation, particularly through trying to handle our own bodyweight, and as they require a great amount of core strength, lower back pain sufferers may experience pain while attempting to perform them.

Rack Chin-Ups

The Rack Chin-Up can be a great choice for helping to continue to build strength in the same muscle groups of the upper and mid-back, posterior shoulder, and biceps, while enabling us to hit out more reps and reducing elbow strain due to not working against 100% of our bodyweight.

Rack Chin-Ups

7. Pallof Press

Many lower back pain injuries are the result of unexpected movement or twisting through the spine, and as a large number of core exercises are based around movement and twisting, they can be a total no-go for lower back pain sufferers.

Pallof Press

The Pallof Press is an "Anti-Twist" exercise, focusing on resisting rotation through the trunk and low back, and helping us to build the stability in our core to resist the forces that may push our lower back into rotation, which can help prevent further injury.

Pallof Press

8. Chest-Supported Dumbbell Row

A fantastic exercise option for those who suffer with lower back pain, as the added chest support will help keep the tension and strain that can accompany some standing versions of the exercise.

Chest-Supported Dumbbell Row

Using dumbbells allows us to get a larger range of motion and a greater degree of muscle activation through the mid-back and rhomboids (those muscles which are often underdeveloped and weak,) as well as taking us out of the overhand grip required with barbell training (which can lead to shoulder issues.)

Imbalanced training routines often lead to overactive and tight pectoral (chest) and shoulder muscles, so we should make sure to include at least one "pulling" or upper-back exercise for every "pushing" one we perform.

Chest-Supported Dumbbell Row

Want more ideas as to how to continue to improve on your training, as well as nutritional guidance and lifestyle advice? Make sure to check out the Facebook page for daily tips.

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