T Nation

Exertion-less Training


I know you guys read the title and are wondering what the fuck this is going to be about.

Well almost a week ago i was doing deadlifts. (high reps, low rest periods) On my last set as i put down the weight i got a wicked headache in the back, right side of my head. It was so strong that i keeled over in pain for a few minutes. Eventually it mostly subsided and i made it out of the gym alright. the next day i decided to test the waters with training and within 5 or 6 sets i got the same pain( a bit less intense this time, but still fucking painful). Now it seems anytime i exert myself a lot i get that same pain.(hell even got a little bit of a headache while rubbing one out a few times) Besides that i feel great during the day. When i saw the Doctor about this the other day she told me i could go back to gym and exert myself to 50 percent of normal. I also have an MRI booked in 2 weeks to check for anything serious.

Anyways of course there is no telling how fast something like this will go away( Im guessing anywhere between 6 days to 6 months...who knows really?) I figure i should get back in the gym and do what i CAN without aggravating the problem.

I was thinking i could do a basic type split which would incorporate lots of pre fatiguing and a lot of isolation work. focusing on feeling the muscle work, rather than upping the weight.

Maybe something like this:

Chest and triceps
Pre fatigue with flies
Bench press (guilotine style, slow tempo focuss on the contraction and using only pecs)
incline machine
dumbell extions

I think i could handle this without causing the headache to come back (wont know till i try though) just sucks because since im still a beginner i SHOULD be focusing on upping the weight.

So wondering what you guys think of this? Am i crazy for trying to train around this? or am i pussy for not training right through it?

I think this routine would be effective for maintaining size (wouldnt expect to add much) but would it maintain my strength when for when i go balls out again?

Last but not least im wondering if anyone here has experienced this before? how did you deal with it? I know this can happen when you fail to breathe right through a lift (probably what happened to).

Any advice is welcomed, there aren't any experienced lifters around my area who i can ask really. Posted about this in the injuries forum but no one really reads there it seems

Spark notes:
Got serious headache after deadlifts
Any serious exertion now causes headache
saw doctor and they said i could go back to gym at 50 percent exertion
Trying to figure out a strategy to train around this
What do you guys think?


If it were me, I'd go ahead and take it easy until the MRI. Instead of training balls heavy, just do a shit load of pump work just to get blood to your musclez. Like... 10-20 rep ranges or what not. Again, just what I'd do.


Dude these are called exertion headaches i got these last Tuesday at the end of my leg session for the first time ever. Long story short next day i show up for chest and bam first warm up the back left side of my head starts to throb like a mother trucker. I decide to call it a day. Like you mentioned the next yew times i "rubbed one out" it returned and hurt so badly i couldn't finish, the pain peaked almost immediately and took hours to taper off until returning to normal.

I did a little research and apparently some anti inflammatory medication is all you need. I went to the clinic on Sunday anyway and got some examines done, in the end it turns out my internet diagnoses of exertion headaches was correct and he simply prescribed taking some Advil or Aspirin, NOT Tylenol or any other pills either Advil or Aspirin. I tried Tylenol prior and it didn't do shit all.

Anyhow by Monday night i reattempted to "rub one out" and i managed to finish up with only a very slight throbbing right at the end that went away after a few minutes. By the next day i was able to get a blow job and have some full throttle sex with no headache. I'm going to still take this week off and return to training Monday just to be safe but so far so good.

Moral of the story try taking Advil regularly and report back to me. Hope this helps.


I've gotten this before a few times. It wasn't severe but it did hurt, but I just pushed through it and eventually it went away after a few days. But during the time even warm ups with just the bar would bring the pain back.


thank you for your input, i was hoping to get some people who had the same experience

anyways ive been taking some IBprofen the last few days but no advil, so ill pick some up today and see how that works. im gonna up my fish oil as well.


Just tested the waters in the gym

I was able to do a chest and triceps type workout like i mentioned above, it was super light and super gay, but managed to get a good pump with making my head feel like its going to split in half. Pretty pleased about that.
head is feeling kind of funny today, hopefully the advil is helping...

Matthaeus, when you go back to gym on monday it would be sweet if you could report back to this thread, im curious to see how you're feeling after almost two weeks rest. judging from what you've posted it sounds like you got it a lot worse then i did.


Ya it does sound like i got it worse cause even doing some high intensity cardio on the elliptical set it off. Heck i remember getting a minor one when i was on the pot squeezing out a stubborn number two lol. I'll let you know Monday i don't plan on taking it easy either I'm going all out since i have nearly two weeks to make up for.


The first thing I think when people complain of recurring headaches in the same spot, is 'tumor'. I always recommend getting checked out by a doctor, so I'm glad you did that. Reason being, a friend of a friend was always getting headaches, pain in the same spot, and after a while, she couldn't deal with it anymore, went to a doctor, and they found a tumor on her brain.

Hopefully this is not the case, but just be aware, it happens.



lol, didn't see that one coming.


had a pussy-back/biceps training session tonight

realized my mind muscle connection with back needs to be improved still, had trouble feeling even the lightweight. Even went close to failure on pullups and felt fine. generally i think i put more effort into this session then i did the chest/tris one and still had didnt get a headache, but i think had i gone balls out it would of for sure come back. probably need another week or so


Maybe train your lighter stuff for this week. I am sure more of a pump bodybuilding style workout could be fun (not) lol jk.

Regardless..sets of 10-15 should be alright...but next week just take the week real easy I'd say. Go for a jog, get things done you havent' before...take a week off of training...if the doctors prescribe something and the MRI says your good to go you'll be surprised with your added aggression to get into the gym.


trained pussy quads and shoulders today and stepped up the intensity a little bit for quads, not much but i did back squats with 2 plates (light for me, but more exertion then anything else in the last week) then some front squats, didnt feel any headache at all. starting to feel things less and less throughout the day as well.
I might try going around 85 percent intensity on Monday and by Friday try 95-100 percent intensity


Reporting in after my first day back in the gym. Gave it 110% and did shoulders today. I didn't get any pain and i felt stronger then i was before the headaches, set a couple of PR's even. Seems like taking the week off and the Advil really did the trick with these exertion headaches.


i was feeling better today as well and trained to about 85 percent intensity

felt great and didnt get a headache what so ever

yes it seems like the healing period for these headaches last about 7-14 days, anyone else who experiences these take notice. I still plan to go to my MRI just to be certain but in the mean time im going to train.

as far as the advil, im not sure its healing anything but rather keeping a steady dose of it keeps away the headaches from doing every day tasks like walking up stairs, and rubbing one out hahah


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no idea man, but im going in tomorrow to get it done

so now that a few more days have gone by,

i was pain free for a while, however upon returning home for thanksgiving ive started to get brief shots of pain when doing things like sitting down and standing up. only like a second, but its strange. It's very consistent but doesnt last long. for example if i shake my head from side to side i can feel it, but as i continue to shake it goes away and does not come back until i back off for about a minute and shake again...kind of weird explanation but its true. Exertion seems to not be a problem, i just did 45 pushups with no headache at all. kind of weirded out with the sudden return of the symptoms i described though. wonder if it was somehow caused by sleeping on a different mattress /pillow setup at home.


I dealt with this about a year ago. It was basically the same situation that you had. After a hard leg workout, I got a severe headache in the back of my head. I thought I just pushed myself too hard, but my next workout, I got another bad headache and it lasted longer. I got scared so I met with a neurologist who had me get an MRI to rule out an aneurysm. It turns out I had a severe sinus infection and didn't even know it. The neurologist didn't think it had anything to do with the headaches. He said some people just get exertion headaches and it's not really known why. He suggested I take two Aleve and hour or two before a workout and that should help. I started doing that and didn't have another headache for about 6 months, regardless of how hard my workouts were. Then all of a sudden, they came back. I went to the doctor and I had another sinus infection. When that went away, so did the headaches. Hopefully yours is something just as simple. It's been another 6 months and I haven't had any problems. I now only take Aleve prior to a leg workout and sometimes I forget and I've still been fine. Another thing that has helped is making sure to breathe, especially during high rep squats, deadlifts, leg presses, etc.

If your MRI turns out okay, my advice would be to take it easy for a few weeks, ease into some tougher workouts, take Aleve, make sure you're hydrated prior to your workout, and remember to breathe during longer sets.


Still fighting these headaches...although as i said now they are not caused by exertion anymore...I Pmed BBB so hopefully he can help me further!