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Do What You Can.

If you have achieved a competitive physique, you are most likely in pain! Shoulders, knees, elbows, lower back, somewhere you have regular pain. This is what sets the true athlete and competitor apart from someone who merely wants to be in shape...

We all struggle with pain and or injuries from time to time. The occasional set-back is an unfortunate reality and our sport has more than it's share. There are times when you just need to take a break to let your body fully recover and to get re-energized. For some of us, taking time off from the gym is considerably harder than working out. Once the Iron gets into your blood you just have to have your regular fix. But what do you do when you have a pain that quite frankly isn't going to go away.

Let's face it, a competitive physique is an extreme level of physical conditioning and to achieve it you had to put your body through some extreme conditions. The odds are that your muscles, joints and tendons were never intended to encounter the amount of resistance that you require of them on a regular basis. What am I saying? In other words, if you have achieved a competitive physique, you are most likely in pain! Shoulders, knees, elbows, lower back, somewhere you have regular pain. This is what sets the true athlete and competitor apart from someone who merely wants to be in shape.
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I have been playing the iron game for more years than some of you have been alive and I can't begin to tell you how many people I have seen come and go. Some of them for legitimate reasons. After all, there are other priorities in life such as raising young children or working on a troubled marriage. But it's the lame, wimpy poor me excuses that I get tired of hearing. "I hurt my shoulder", I pulled a muscle in my back", "I sprained my ankle". I'm sorry but I just don't have any sympathy here. These are the same people that I will see 1 to 5 years latter who claim that they would have been competitive bodybuilders if only they hadn't met with such misfortune.

Give my condolences to the family. When you encounter one of these people don't let their excuses rub off on you. Brush the dust off of your feet (an old biblical term) and hit the gym immediately. People like this may actually have gone on to become competitors if only they had practiced a philosophy that I have maintained for years.

In other words, if your shoulder hurts and you can't bench, find another movement that works the same muscle group that doesn't hurt (or at least doesn't hurt as much). There are so many variations of the press that you will likely find an acceptable alternative. It can be depressing but it's better than sitting at home on the couch watching what other people are doing. Squats are probably the biggest obstacle here. Some people avoid the squat rack like it's going to give them a venereal disease. "I'd squat but I hurt my back in a freak train accident 20 years ago". Well then do Hack Squats or Leg Presses, or Leg Extensions.
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Do Something! I have little tolerance for excuses. For those of you who know what I am talking about, I leave the list below ...

[ 1 ]
DON'T BE STUPID! A good lifter is an educated lifter. Know the source of your pain. See a qualified professional who understands and respects your lifestyle. There are too many fat and out of shape doctors who are far too quick to say that if it hurts to lift, don't lift. A good sports physician will hopefully understand your drive and ambitions and work with you.

[ 2 ]
If your problem is correctable, GET IT CORRECTED! It may mean time off for recovery but it's far better than an immobile joint or worse.

[ 3 ]
Find an alternative exercise that works the same muscle group that is being affected. I have dealt with chronic elbow inflammation for years. Many days I simply can't curl or do wide grip lat pulls. It sucks because I love to work back and bi's. I DON'T GO HOME FEELING SORRY FOR MYSELF! I put on the grips and hit the seated row for a few heart breaking sets and follow it up with enough pullups to make an Olympic gymnast proud. Pullups hit the back and bi's at the same time and as a result my biceps will still beat the majority of people out there. I also vary the grip
from narrow ( to focus on the bi's) to wide (to bring in the lats).

[ 4 ]
If you understand and relate to what I am saying, take a break! You are an extremist (as am I) and may just be overtraining. Muscle growth occurs during the recovery process and the word recovery implies REST! Your pain may be due simply to not getting enough recovery time. If this is the case you may find that by increasing the number of days before you work the same muscle group you will not only reduce the amount of pain that you experience but that your strength and growth will improve as well.

The bottom line is that we all have excuses for not doing something. As I sit here writing this I feel pain in my left elbow and lower back. But it's mine, I EARNED IT. Nobody kicks my ass like I do. But after the final word is written, I'm going to take a couple of aspirin and hit the gym. See ya there.