Training Log

Starting Strength in the Real World

Something Always Hurts

by Zachary Millunchick | November 07, 2023

lifter locking out a press

I began training seriously in January 2020. I live in Israel – an authoritarian “democracy” – so all gyms were locked down for most of that year. I got in-person coaching from Zohar Yermiyahu in June of the same year and have been working with him weekly since February of 2021. I now work for him as an online coach, and have begun the process of learning in-person coaching. You could say I have about three years of training history under my belt. That short time has been enough to understand something basic and simple about strength training: Something always hurts.

Part of being a human being is living in this mortal coil. A sack of flesh, bones, fascia, tendons and muscles, and somehow some aspect of this amalgamation of parts always hurts.

When I first began training, I had terrible pain that radiated just down my forearm. I did nothing about it. To this day, I have no idea what caused it – growing muscles pushing up against the fascia? Maybe nerves that were unaccustomed to the pressure of the new tissue? Who the hell knows. Really, anything could have caused it.

For quite a while – I honestly have no idea how long – I’ve had lingering elbow tendonitis because of holding the bar too low on the squat and jacking up my elbows in the ascent. It comes and goes and is mostly gone now. It never hurt enough to do Rip’s pull-up protocol so I just trained anyway. And hey, it went away.

I had a pretty bad shoulder injury because of a bad hand-off on a bench press that almost killed me. It took an already extant shoulder tendon issue and exacerbated it excruciatingly. This was maybe about seven months ago, in February. Couldn’t squat, bench, or press properly.

I combined an accidental discovery of the ibuprofen protocol (the full protocol is 800mg every 6 hours, I did 600 every 6-8 while sick with a fever for a week) with basic rehab stuff, starting with pressing a broom overhead and doing partial-ROM bench presses. The pain subsided and I’ve been PRing all my lifts weekly or bi-weekly for about 2 months now. I was predisposed to that injury because of irritation that probably came from the bench press.

Minor Pain is Part of Life and Part of Training

I could go on, but the point of mentioning these “injuries” isn’t to share Zach’s Injury Log with the general public. Minor patellar tendonitis, SI joint pain, shoulder tendon inflammation etc. – these are all things we all experience. Pretty much everyone I’ve talked to who trains always has some sort of nagging issue. These aren’t catastrophic injuries – those are vanishingly rare in the weight room, as Rip lays out in the Blue Book. These aches and pains come and go usually, whether we treat them or not. There are general guidelines on when to “train through” pain [1] and when to use various rehab protocols [2], but usually – time and continued training is the best healer.

The pain is caused, likely, by any combination of several factors: 1) form errors, 2) genetic imperfections that make even perfect form cause unfavorable stresses on various structures, 3) simple overuse, 4) under-recovery, 5) shit happens (a bad hand-off on a bench, for instance), and 6) Life. There are probably more, but these six pretty much make it so no one will go any significant amount of time without some irritation popping up. As I noted at the outset: we are imperfect beings, trapped in a biological wonder of spectacular complexity that evolved over billions of years. This means that nothing will ever be perfect.

This brute fact of human existence makes the alternative even worse: Why not just not train? Won’t that make these pains not appear or go away? Well, no. You’ll develop back pain and bad knees anyway. You’ll throw out your shoulder or pop a hip. In fact, these are all much more likely if you are sedentary and do not do anything to make yourself stronger. Certainly, things like running won’t help protect you from injury. You will be more fragile and thus more predisposed to injury and chronic disease. And anyway – you’ll be weaker and less useful in general.

The upshot is simple: These nagging pains – they come and go. Sometimes, maybe for a month at a time, you feel like a Greek God. You look good. You’re healthy, pain-free, strong – but then something happens. It might just be a nagging annoyance that doesn’t affect your training or your life too much. It might be something a bit more serious, but something will happen – it always does. If you are a human being, and you probably are, your assumption should be that something will always hurt.

And when “something hurts,” if it isn’t intense pain or a catastrophic injury, the answer is just to keep on keeping on. You can try things to rehab – new exercises, minor modifications to programming, whatever – there are endless resources here and through coaches to help figure something out. However, what you must understand is that time and continued training are what will make things better, not a layoff, and not something like “functional training” which is just another version of a layoff. Training means pushing through minor issues, and we train to be stronger, more robust and more useful overall. For people like us – people who know what it means to run an LP and change our bodies extensively, people who know what being stronger means – not training is not an option.  

[1] A Clarification on Training Through Injuries
[2] Shoulder Rehab; Rehabilitating a Severe Adductor Group (Groin) Tear

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