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Maintaining Muscle Mass During Injury?


What is the best way to maintain muscle during a period of injury and recovery?

I think I have a form of elbow tendonitis and I haven't trained in about 4 weeks. It's getting better but I'm worried about losing muscle because I'm not sure when I will be able to go back to training heavy, especially since I was in the middle of a cut when I had to stop.

I've read you need extra calories when you are injured to help with healing, but I don't want to undo all my diet progress. Any ideas?


Do heavy lower-body and core work. I'm pretty sure you can maintain your muscle mass by working out some legs in the mean time.


Keep your calories up and do what you can whilst still resting the injury, basically. That's all you can do.

I'm in the same boat. Fractured my ankle 3 weeks ago and in the 3 weeks between doing it and them putting a carbon fibre cast on it that can take weight (rather than the several plaster casts the put on and had to keep taking off to check the swelling) I have lost an inch on my right quad. That's only in 3 weeks, quite freaky how quickly muscle can atrophy without everyday use. In my case I can do leg extensions and leg curls and nothing else for legs, so that's what I'm doing.

As someone has already suggested, there shouldn't be anything preventing you working your legs, so do that and keep calories up and hopefully add some lower body mass in the meantime.


So does muscle actually atrophy from not working out for weeks or even months? I can understand that muscle atrophies if you do not use the muscle at all(like being bedridden for a month), but if you just go about normal activities(shy of working out), will muscle actually atrophy in the short term?


it depends on how long you've been carrying the muscle and the person...my training partner is always amazed by how quickly i shed muscle and strength if i ever take any time off due to injury or illness, whereas she could actually diet and still probably get stronger or atleast maintain...if my weight is not going up, my strength is Probably going down (hoping this will get better once my body gets used to the extra weight..?)


fast metabolism?


tw0scoops2, yes...but i didnt think it would make That much difference but like i said, i'm just hoping that once i can get heavy enough (haha, whatever enough turns out to be) and hold it, that it wont always be such a struggle to avoid losing! but i'm sure i'm not alone in that


yes it will, its happened to me a lot...over the last 8 months my training was pretty inconsistent mostly due to injuries and i lost muscle and lbs even while still keeping food intake and protien intake fairly high.

to the OP the trick with dealing with injuries is to keep training! find movements that don't hurt you and work the hell out of them, elbow tendonitus sounds shitty, i can think of tons of excersizes it would affect, however there's definately a good amount of movements that i can bet would not irritate it. you have to figure those out for yourself though.

I learned this when i hurt my shoulder this year, i couldnt do any benching, back or front squating, or arm work because of it. obviously that sucked but instead of taking time off here's what i ought to have done

-to maintain pressing power and strength, i could of done neutral grip floor presses

-Most back movements would of been fine, should worked really hard on row variations and got strong on them (deadlifts and rack pulls hurt though)

-for legs i could of done any single leg work, bulgarian splits, lunges, step ups etc

-Abs...i could of trained abs for once in my life, haha

i know injuries can be really demotivating, but you gotta get back in the gym as soon as possible and do your best to train around it, even if it means training in ways you don't enjoy as much.


GrindOverMatter , so true. I think injuries are the one true test(at least for me) of drive and motivation and to try and stay positive. Injuries are majorly depressing especially with the thought that you could lose months of progress.

I'm going to go back to squats, lunges...sigh abz... today. It will probably be a huge mental boost that i need after weeks of coming home and plopping on the couch after work. That and a nice shipment of supps is arriving from Biotest :-D.


Apparently creatine is very effective at keeping up muscle mass and strength during a period of forced inactivity. Not sure if I am allowed to post links but he study in question is at pubmed PMID: 19130643.


Interesting...I thought about that cuz they use creatine in patients with muscular distrophy I think, or one of those muscle disorders.


I'm currently recovering from a pec tear(no surgery) and I'm working the heck out of leg presses. I worked them so hard that I had to take extra time to recover.

Since my right side is still uninjured, I'm working it hard with heavy rows of different variety, overhead presses, and arm work. It's been about two weeks and I'm feeling a little better, I may be able to add some moderate arm work for the injured side and some very light overhead presses and rows next week.

I remember reading somewhere that maintaining strength on the non-injured limb/side of your body actually had a carryover effect to the injured limb. Does anyone else remember reading this?


Ted Arcidi (bench presser from back in the day) talked about that effect. As have other people.

It makes plenty of sense physiologically.

Make sure you read what dave tate has to say on training after pec tears. I think it's here at T-Nation.


Tried to find more than passing mentions and I gave up. T-Nation search=fail.


Couldn't find it either. Dave's written extensively on rehabbing, and he's torn both pecs. So probably worth a look.

Oh in addition to getting rest, making sure to get soft tissue treatment as much as you're able and doing stretching, start loading the hurt muscle(IMO) as soon as feasible without feeling like you're going to kill yourself. Pushing through too much pain is coutnerproductive, but once a tear starts to feel more like a strain, it's time to do high rep band work etc.

Walking is also nice. Gets some blood flowing.

I also like the pool for rehabbing an upper body injury. Just getting in there and moving in a low gravity, low pressure environment. Plus the healing benefits of being in the water itself.


I found alot of info in his article here http://www.T-Nation.com/free_online_article/sports_body_training_performance/the_road_to_600&cr=

One thing I've noticed is that my ROM is very good and I've been working on massaging the muscle every day. I think it will be a couple of weeks before I feel like I can put any real light resistance in any pressing or pulling movement. Until then I'm working on gaining leg size and working my "good" side. I'll try the pool, I think it would be very beneficial.


Fight the Injury Blues: Keep Lifting!


Page 2 mentions the carryover from unilateral movements.


Good find!


I can only give you the advice to rest your inury. After my severe wrist injury I made the mistake and started training too soon.

I took the muscle relaxant Flexeril to be able to workout because I was in heavy pain.

I should have asked a doctor instead of taking it without permission but I wanted to workout so I thought I would be better not to contact my doc.

Take your time, do some exercises that do not affect the injury and try to eat healthy. You can build the muscles after your injury is fully healed.