I always tell people when they are injured to keep exercising – to do what they can! Some injuries are easy to work around like a broken hand or a broken foot but others are not so easy to deal with. I am a firm believer that exercise helps you heal much faster, even when the exercise doesn’t seem related at all to the injury.
Having a healthy mind and body helps your body heal! When you are injured, don’t just sit on the sofa and wait till it heals – you will get fat, lose muscle, get demoralized, and heal slowly! Do what you can! In my book, number one in importance to help you recover is getting cardiovascular exercise. If your leg is broken, use a hand bike. If your arm is broken use a stationary bicycle. Very few injuries are so bad that you cant find a way to do some form of cardio.
Many people whine and say there is nothing they could *possibly* do because their injury is *so* bad. Well back this summer when I filmed this video, I couldn’t lift or push with my arm – at all. I couldn’t tie my shoes, put on my shirt, or scratch my head. I could still run and ride a stationary bike though which I did an hour daily to get that important cardio.
With many joint problems, an important part of the healing process is keeping them free from stress and limiting their range of motion. Many people incorrectly assume that a joint problem means that have to stop working out completely but there are many possible options that can keep the muscles strong without interrupting the healing process occurring in the joint:
- Electro stimulation – This device artificially flexes a muscle by using an electronic device connected to your muscle via conductive pads. The device provides electrical signals which to the muscle, look exact like the signals the brain sends to cause the muscle to contract. Because this causes the muscle to contract without the movement of any joint, it can be uses to maintain muscle strength with severe injuries.
- Isometric exercises – isometrics are a type of strength training in which the joint angle and muscle length do not change during contraction. Isometrics are accomplished by pushing against other body parts or immovable objects. Although there is no joint motion during isometrics, there is still significant forces applied to the joints which may be problematic for many joint injuries.
- Flex-R-cise – this is my own creation designed out of desperation. It is basically the same as electro stimulation (#1 above) but we use the brain to flex the muscle rather than an electronic device.
Lets talk about Flex-R-cise. Like electro stimulation, flex-R-cise can slow the loss of muscle mass and strength when you are not allowed to workout. This is a good place to point out that I am not a medical professional and if you are injured, you need to see a doctor before attempting electro stimulation, isometrics or flex-r-cise!!! You think this is silly and that flexing couldn’t possibly be a legitimate form of exercise? Flexing can be brutal and leave you just as sore the next day as a weight workout! Ask any bodybuilder who has done a show how sore they were the next day. Below is a video showing the flex-R-cise workout I did when my shoulder was so bad that I couldn’t lift a cup of coffee. Some things to consider when doing flex-r-cise:
- Doing flex-R-cise requires good muscle control, don’t be discouraged, keep trying.
- In some cases, it requires simultaneous flexing of opposing muscles. For example, to flex the arm without making it move requires flexing the biceps and triceps simultaneously.
- Find some way to make this entertaining and fun. Get some good music. Try to make some silly routine, pretend you are on “America’s Got Talent”. Work on your ‘routine’ till its perfect, this can go a long way to keep it from getting boring. If you can wiggle your ears or raise your eyebrows independently, add that to your routine too.
Flex-R-cise is great when you are injured but its also appropriate for people who are so busy that they “don’t have time to work out”. If your job at work or home is so demanding that you never have a single second free during the day, you can still get in shape using Flex-R-cise! Although an advanced bodybuilder could never gain strength or mass from a flex-r-cise workout, a beginner certainly can – and you can do it anywhere, anytime. You can do it on the bus, while waiting in line at the grocery store, or waiting to pick up the kids. Please note that gains using Flex-R-cise are very limited when compared to what can be accomplished with traditional weight training but Flex-R-cise is infinitely better than nothing!
research now shows this works!
The purpose of the study was to remove the influence of an external load and determine if muscle growth can be elicited by maximally contracting through a full range of motion. In addition, the acute physiologic and perceptual responses to each stimulus were also investigated. Thirteen participants completed 18 sessions of unilateral elbow flexion exercise. Each arm was designated to either NO LOAD or HIGH LOAD condition (70% one repetition maximum). For the NO LOAD condition, participants repeatedly contracted as hard as they could through a full range of motion without the use of an external load. Our results show that anterior muscle thickness increased similarly from Pre to Post, with no differences between conditions for the 50% [Pre: 2.7 (0.8) vs. Post: 2.9 (0.7)], 60% [Pre: 2.9 (0.7) vs. Post: 3.1 (0.7)] or 70% [Pre: 3.2 (0.7) vs. Post: 3.5 (0.7)] sites. There was a significant condition×time interaction for one repetition maximum (p=0.017), with HIGH LOAD (+2.3kg) increasing more than the NO LOAD condition (+1kg). These results extend previous studies that have observed muscle growth across a range of external loads and muscle actions and suggest that muscle growth can occur independent of an external load provided there are enough muscle fibers undergoing mechanotransduction.
Physiol Behav. 2016 Jun 18. The acute and chronic effects of “NO LOAD” resistance training.