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Something Always Hurts

by Zachary Millunchick | November 07, 2023

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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