Load & Stressor Management For Training Around Pain

Load & stressor management and training around pain

Before we start let’s make sure that we’re all on the same page here, and cover some basic terminology that will appear throughout this guide

Basic physics-

Force: a physical phenomenon that has both magnitude and direction. Meaning, when unopposed, will create motion towards the direction it pushes or pulls the object it interacts with in a linear fashion (in a straight line).

A good example that is highly relevant to the subject would be the force of gravity, pulling the weight back towards the ground, while we try to resist and pick something up.

Moment arm: moment arm shows us how much force is being applied  on a given subject, the amount of force, it’s direction and its distance and angle from the “balancing point” (fulcrum)

For example, if we were to tie a weight to our arm and hold it out to our side. the greater the distance from the shoulder joint, the bigger the moment arm would be, and the more force the muscles involved would have to produce to maintain position.

Injury: for the purpose of this guide we will be defining injury as anything that causes a loss of functionality for more than a couple of days.

*Note from Sam – this is a definition from the author specific to this blog.

Pain: a subjective, emerging experience that is meant to be protective, and has physical, emotional, cognitive and social component. Meaning, that the presence of pain does not necessarily indicate tissue damage

Chapter 1: stressor management- volume and load

One of the most common ways to manage stressors in training to handle or avoid pain and injury, is to reduce either training volume, working weight/load or both. This makes sense, since we’re looking to decrease the total work and stress the given area has to do to, and that work is reduced through the most available and straight forward way we can.

                            Pros                                                                   Cons

Simple, easy to handle, very intuitive         because this is the first option people

and a good way to be preemptive               turn to, it’s often missed that it’s not

without to many complications.              the only way the mange stress, and pain.

so how do we use it in a practical way?

It’s hard to put a rule of thumb on this when you’re already experiencing pain, so tracking how much volume and intensity would be key. If you’re just doing a a deload, droping the volume by 30%-50% and intensity by about 30% or bump up a couple of reps in reserve

it’s a nice and simple preemptive and reactive strategy to reduce some of the stress and fatigue you’ve accumulated during a period of hard training, but it’s important to remember that we have more tools at our disposal, that might be more relevant in some situations.

Chapter 2: stressor management- range of motion

another good way to deal with pain/injury in training would be, to limit the range of motion in some exercises to avoid the actual spot that hurts or that is injured, to reduce the likelihood of an irritating response and to avoid loading to problematic area.

                            Pros                                                                   Cons

Also simple and fairly easy to grasp                it’s very easy to get comfortable

But it gives us another option to load             and linger with the partial range

Movement patterns, we otherwise             and on the flip side to load too much

wouldn’t be able to                               too soon with an increased range

-Practical use

the way to use this is quite easy. find out what part of the range of motion can you safely and painlessly preform and stick to it


Limiting range of motion can be a good way to keep honing the skills of certain lifts/movements without rolling around in pain after each set, but it’s important to get back to the previous range or even further (depending on the goal and context) and of course not to get ahead of yourselves, and (literally)  jump into deep waters too quickly.

Chapter 3: stressor management- moment arms

We can look at it like a derivative of range of motion because, in a sense we are limiting range of motion, but through a particular plane of motion of a certain joint. The goal here is to keep training the same movement patterns and elicit the desired training adaptation, despite having and injury or feeling pain, but we minimize the exposure to part of the movement that gives us problems

                             Pros                                                                   Cons

Allows us to keep training effort                 this might be a useful but can’t

and specificity quite high, in spite             always be very reliable, especially

of irritations you might have                  at early and more aggravated stages

-Practical use

I want to use the landmine press as an example for a “vertical” pressing exercise, that can be used when full range shoulder flexion causes problems, to avoid eliminating pressing all together.


 This is absolutely one of my favorite go to methods of reducing stress and constraining an task in a manner that is still manageable, but it does require some assessment and further knowledge about the the options and exercises you have at your disposal

Chapter 4: stressor management- variations and accommodating resistance

Yes, this is a long title, but it’s worth it. Sometimes, switching up the variation or the type of loading we use (such as bands, chain etc.) can shift our focus or change the dynamics of weight distribution throughout the lift, that may result in less pain.

                             Pros                                                                   Cons

Novelty can always be a fun thing.               Other that the fact that not everyone

fun that can be utilized to                              has access to this equipment, it also

improve adherence or to work on       not be a suitable enough solution for

skills we otherwise wouldn’t have                some cases. then again so is everything

                                                                          else here (maybe except the last one)

Practical use-

Take an exercise or a movement you’re experiencing your symptoms with and modify it to your liking, as long as you can comfortably perform it and overload it.


This is a really fun option for some people, especially if they had a lot of pressure on them to improve a specific task and they start to buy in, this would be like working outside the office for a while to keep things fresh.

Chapter 5: stressor management- Tempo

Tempo means that we are going to manipulate the amount of time we’re going to spent in each phase of the lift, whether it being the eccentric, a hold at the bottom, the concentric, a hold at the top or any of these in conjunction with one another .this allows us to keep effort high, while keeping the load fairly low, as well as giving us move control and awareness of our movement.

                             Pros                                                                   Cons

As I’ve previously mentioned, it helps     let’s address the elephant in the room:

hone you technique as well as                     it sucks! And what I mean by that

 build movement awareness                         is that it’s fairly hard especially if

and usually lowers the usual                          you have a tendency to lose focus

pain response in the movement

Practical use-

There aren’t too many situations where I’d say tempo work wouldn’t come in handy, and it’s completely up to you and your imagination. You can combine tempo work with anything mentioned up above for maximum suffering


Tempo sucks, but it’s great and it’s better than being injured, being in constant pain or having sloppy technique

Bonus: the psychological factor

Like I said at the very start of this blog post, pain does not necessarily mean tissue damage. Things like mental fatigue, expectation to the sensation of pain or even sleep deprivation can largely effect this. pain is the result of perception and sensation of our nervous system and the brain that sometimes can miscommunicate and misinterpret signals.

The forth chapter addresses this issue by changing up the variables of the lift to also alter expectation and fear of a certain exercise or movement pattern.

Working with a professional to guide you through is also a fantastic option addressing the topic of psychology behind injury, that way you can have external feedback preventing you form freaking out if something doesn’t go as smoothly as expected, and trust me it usually takes a few educated guesses and some trial and error.


So now we’ve learned that there is much more nuance to programing and structuring a training protocol than conventional wisdom might have us think, a lot of variables we can manipulate. and while being a bit confusing on which choice is “the best one”, I think that having such a large array of options is fantastic due to the fact that if something doesn’t go as planned we can always abandon ship and go to a different route (or even walking on 2 different paths at the same time) until we find our groove.

It’s important for me to note two things: the first is that these ways to manage or reduce stress in our training program, isn’t exclusive to someone who is already injured as a reactive strategy, but also as a means to reduce the likelihood of anything like that to occur, and the second being the fact that these modifications aren’t here to stay for the rest of your life. The goal is graded exposure to more and more stress as time and your rehab process do their thing.

I hope this has been helpful, and I thank you for making it through the whole thing. Good luck in your training, and may you have more PRs than aches and discomfort.

Author: Igor Shvartsman

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/igorshvartsman/

Podcast: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCa8MFhVJ53kGA2a7huAKx5A

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