November 9, 2023

Just like clothing is rarely one size fits all, every exercise is not for everyone. Part of the job of a good coach is finding the right things to fit each person and their individual needs. In some cases, though, great planning can hit a snag when a chosen exercise or activity brings unexpected obstacles like pain, discomfort, or dizziness. When this happens there are two major options, change the plan or manipulate the exercise to fit the person.

Manipulating exercises to fit an individual requires a level of understanding of the exercise itself and what it is trying to accomplish while also understanding how the body operates and moves. Sometimes the adjustments that make the difference between painful and painless are large changes and others times they can be invisible changes like balance or tension in a certain spot.

To illustrate, we can look at two specific examples of exercises and the adjustments that might be made to make them more comfortable. 

Example 1: Knee Pain when Squatting

Many people have knee pain when they squat down and there are some very simple adjustments that can be made to the exercise to help with this problem. If the person squatting has good form and there are no major mechanical corrections to be made but they still have pain this could be a result of the added tension across the knee as it bends. One small manipulation, that may be effective for some, is to reduce the amount of tension across the knee by shifting more tension to the hips. Sitting more into their hips as they squat down reduces the range of motion and the amount of demand placed on the knee. In many cases, this can reduce the amount of discomfort felt in the knee joint and make squatting movements more enjoyable.

Example 2: Shoulder Pain when Pressing Over Head

Most people by the time they reach their 50s have picked up some sort of shoulder ache or pain along the way and these can rear their heads when they attempt to press a weight over head. In this situation, changing the angle can be a big relief. Lowering the angle that needs to be achieved for the press either by leaning back on something or opting for a more horizontal press is one option. The other is to rotate the angle of the wrist, most people will have at least one comfortable angle they can work in that will allow them to press with limited discomfort. As a rule of thumb begin by rotating away from the pain, if their is pain in the front of the shoulder rotate the wrists out and try that.

To be clear, these are not suggestions for quick fixes and forever solutions. They are simply ways of working around pain and discomfort that anyone can use while a proper solution is found. Often times, we will use these adjustments for weeks to months at a time while we attack the root of the problem with something else.