Dealing with Pain During a Workout

What to do when you are having pain during a workout?

Have you ever just left the gym or class when pain starts to occur? How annoying is that?! First off, you didn’t get a workout in, second, you might have hurt yourself… I hope not, and third, what do you do now? Should you go back to the gym tomorrow? Take a week off?

I really would like this post to come across the right way. I am by no means, telling you it is okay to push through any significant pain while exercising.  What I would like to do is to provide a guideline of what to do when pain comes on during a workout.

Before I get into the guideline, there is one major exception:

*If you actually feel like you had an injury, as in, there was an EVENT that caused your pain, please stop exercising and seek medical attention*


  • if you fall off the treadmill, and feel a pop or snap in a joint followed by severe pain
  • if you hit your head
  • if something occurs and you notice immediate swelling and pain

…you get the point

What this guideline is NOT…

  • A way to treat your pain
  • A way to continue to exercise multiple sessions in a row without seeing guidance from a medical provider
  • A way to avoid formally dealing with your injury

Point being… please seek medical advice to really help your issue!

In the meantime, I want you to be able to have some understanding of how to allow training to continue despite some pain vs taking time off.

First… reduce the weight

  • Try using a lighter weight, but continue the movement as prescribed.
  • If the reps continue to be painful…

Next… slow it down

  • Keep the weight and try using performing the movement slowly.
  • If the reps continue to be painful…

Next… change the range of motion

  • Keep the weight,  return to a normal speed and limit how far you go into the movement being performed.

Finally… vary the movement

  • There are various ways to perform different exercises.
  • You can continue to get the same training effect while performing the movement in a slightly different way.

Here are a few examples of how you can vary the workout if you are experiencing pain during specific movements:

Knee pain with squatting?

  1. Reduce the load
  2. Alter the tempo – 3 seconds down, 3 seconds up
  3. Reduce the range of motion – Squat to a box or a bench
  4. Change the movement – go from front squats or goblet squats to a back squat

Back pain with deadlifting?

  1. Reduce the load
  2. Alter the tempo – try a quick lift from the floor and a slow lower
  3. Reduce the range of motion – Lift from an elevated surface (blocks or plates)
  4. Change the movement – go from a barbell to a hex bar or kettlebell

Use this to help keep yourself training, but PLEASE… also seek medical advice. There are many other things to be done in order to get you back to being pain-free during workouts… most of the time, it’s more exercise! Not rest.

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