Why the Phrase, "I Need to Rest" is a Misleading Excuse

“My (name a joint) is bothering me, and I think I’m going to take some time off to let it rest.”

I think it’s safe to say all fitness professionals have heard a variation of the above quote before. Bum shoulders, stiff lower backs, and achy knees are things we see every single day. Time on the shelf is frustrating for all parties involved, but it shouldn’t inhibit you from training altogether.

Movement is one of, if not the most, important factors of healthy living. I don’t want to step on toes, but I don’t consider you healthy if you’re unable to bend over and put your socks on without pain. Sorry, but moving your body from point A to point B shouldn’t hurt.

Regardless of the extent of your injury, force is necessary in the rehabilitation process. Internal force (movement) and external force (manual therapy) both aid in repairing damaged tissue while improving its overall tolerance to force. There’s a proper dosage for everybody based off diagnosis, which should be assessed by a credible physical therapist. In my experience, the best physical therapists treat their patients like athletes, not cadavers. If you’re performing exercises during your PT sessions, what’s the justification for resting and avoiding movement outside of a clinical setting?

Even if you are currently battling injury, exercise is a wonderful thing. Proper resistance training improves multiple physiological qualities - better connective tissue tolerance (bones, ligaments, tendons, muscles, etc.), mechanoreceptor stimulation, joint lubrication, improved neuromuscular system efficiency and overall strength - that correlate with everyday life. If we can enhance these characteristics, the more resilient to injury we could become. Underlying mobility restrictions and poor motor control will simply not correct themselves with ibuprofen and laying down on the couch.

Now, this doesn’t mean you should be feeding your injuries with exercises that could cause more harm than good. Banging out a ton of pull-ups with a cranky shoulder that can’t reach overhead properly should not be in the deck of cards. Your training should enhance the way you feel, not hinder it. If you’re not improving, it’s in your best interest to go back to the drawing board and figure out how to accomplish this. In the case of the shoulder, here's an example superset you could use to deadlift heavy, improve core activation, and engage the muscles of the scapula in a controlled environment.


In cases where the injury present isn’t serious, you need to ask yourself, is this something that you can work around? Just because your knee hurts while squatting, doesn’t mean you should avoid training altogether. Work around your issues while your rehab professional figures out what’s causing your pain.

When you completely shut down training for a week, you’d be surprised how quickly one week turns into two. Two weeks soon turns into three, and before you know it, you haven’t engaged in physical activity in six months. Once you fall off the bandwagon, it’s tough to get back on. Make sure you continue being consistent, especially if your sustained injuries are minor.

Working around injury while improving the constraints present is the best for preventing derailment of your fitness progress. While it may be frustrating, sitting at home and doing nothing about your injury will not correct the issues at hand. Ditch the over-the-counter drugs; they’re only masking your movement deficiencies. One day you’ll be glad you didn’t give up on training due to that minor elbow irritation. Trust me.

Action Steps:

  1. When in pain, consult a medical professional before judging the course of action you should take.

  2. After evaluating the situation at hand, find ways to maximize your training capabilities while further minimizing injury. It’s in your best interest to find a good coach that could help you with this.

  3. When dealing with more procedures like reconstructive surgery, you could always find variations of exercises to train the joints that haven’t been effected. You can find ways to tailor upper body exercises while rehabbing a torn ACL, for example.

Have a question? Drop a line below and we could further discuss!

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