Preserving Muscle Mass After an Injury

Weight trainers often face the frustration of an injury just when they’ve built the muscle mass they’ve been seeking. Here are some ways you can preserve muscle mass, even if you have an injury.


The best way to maintain the muscle mass you’ve worked so hard for is not to get injured in the first place. That’s easier said than done, since you’re pushing your body and testing its limits as you work out. But most weight training injuries are caused by poor form, so make sure that you’re in the perfect position in every rep, every time. Bad habits can be hard to break, so check your form regularly.

Exercises That Can Help

Some injuries will heal faster with exercise. Check with your physician and your trainer to determine which exercises you should or can do with your injury. Here are three of the most common injuries weight trainers suffer, and the exercises that can help them.

One of the prescribed treatments for a herniated disc is to exercise, but you need to do it carefully. The first thing is to reduce the pain. Holding a yoga pose like the sphinx may be helpful. Then you can begin to add light exercises. If your pain increases, stop the exercise and consult your doctor. Eventually, you will be able to add weight and increase your flexibility.

Achilles tendonitis is common in runners, and in those whose workouts include running and jumping motions. The treatment includes rest, limited activity, anti-inflammatory medications, stretching, and heel lifts. It’s important to recover fully from Achilles tendonitis as it can easily reoccur, and recovery can take several months. During this period, you can still work out your upper body.

Hamstring injuries are the most common sports injury. A hamstring injury has a very high rate of re-injury, indicating that many athletes try to return to their routine too early, without giving the injury sufficient time to heal. The Nordic hamstring exercise has been found to significantly reduce the chance of a hamstring injury, and to help with rehabilitation should an injury occur. Adding this exercise to your workout may keep you from being sidelined by a hamstring injury.

If You Can’t Work Out

Some injuries will require that you take some time away from the gym entirely. If this is the case, there are some things you can do so that you retain your muscle mass during a hiatus.

Take in enough calories to maintain your weight. You don’t want to gain weight at this point as it would be fat and not muscle. And you don’t want to lose weight because that would reduce your muscle mass.

The only exception to this rule is if the injury is minor and you expect to be back in the gym within a week, and you were taking in surplus calories to build muscle mass just before you got injured. If this is the case, you can continue taking in a slight surplus of calories.

No matter what your caloric intake is, make sure you eat enough protein every day. If you want to maintain the muscle mass you have built, you have to give your body enough protein. Do not decrease your protein intake when you’re injured.

Check with your physician and your trainer to see when you can resume at least a partial training regimen. Don’t go back before the experts say you’re ready and you feel you’re ready. Resuming training too soon can cause you to re-injure the affected area and miss even more time in the gym.