6 Steps to Coaching a Client Recovering from an Injury

10 minutes of fitness with James FitzGerald, Lean Mass is misunderstood

10 Minutes of Fitness: 6 Steps to Coaching a Client Recovering from an Injury

If you’ve ever watched a client struggle to return from an injury you know how heartwrenching it can be for both you (the coach) and the client. In this week’s 10 Minutes of Fitness James FitzGerald and Michael Philhofer discuss six coaching steps to help a client recovering from an injury. You can watch the full episode for yourself here.

Injuries, Fitness Coaches, and Scope of Practice

James begins this episode by emphasizing that working to fix pain falls outside of the scope of practice for a fitness coach. “We work to influence people through our words and punching of keyboards, not through physical manipulation,” adds James. When working with a client that is recovering from an injury you need to make sure that you are staying within your scope of practice.

The Sample Client

Michael sets the scene for this conversation by describing a sample client that is recovering from an injury. This client was previously competitive, got injured during a lift, and has aspirations to get back to a competitive level.

The Process of Working with a Recovering Client

The first step when working with a client that is recovering from injury is to talk about it. “You need to have a conversation about their goals,” says James. The goal of this conversation is to get the client to the point where they say, “‘I want to do whatever caused the injury again without pain.’ This will start the process of healing. But this can only come from them, they really have to believe that they will get better or they won’t.” This is only the first step in the recovery process, but ultimately the most important. Learn how to understand your client’s goals here and start helping your clients recover faster today.

6 Steps to Coaching a Client Recovering from Injury

  1. Visualize and verbalize the outcome
    • As stated above, the client must first believe they can get better.
  2. Reverse engineer the movement
    • Define an end goal and start a progression that works towards it, beginning at whatever level the client needs. For example, if the goal is a 200lb snatch, the first part of the progression may be a PVC pipe, followed by an unloaded bar, then adding weight over time until 200lb is reached.
  3. Do what you can to avoid pain
    • This is part of step number two. In the progression, you must make sure you are not causing pain. “I’m even talking about 24 hours later, we don’t work with pain” says James.
  4. Use Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) with verbal feedback
    • This step highlights how you need to talk to your client as they work through the progression. This includes checking in on them and challenging any negative, unhelpful, or untrue distortions or behaviors they might have about their injury. 
  5. Get as close to the movement as possible
    • Towards the end of the progression, the coach needs to get the client as close to the exact movement as they can without pain.
  6. Overcome the movement
    • The last stage of the progression is overcoming the injury by reaching the end goal. If the goal was a particular movement, this stage is where the client not only performs it, but does it at a heavier weight or with better expression.

Develop the Skills Need for the Consultation

As highlighted in this episode, physical manipulation of the client is outside of the coach’s scope of practice. As the coach, a key part of your role in injury recovery is offered through outstanding relationship and interpersonal skills. This is one reason why OPEX Fitness teaches coaches to conduct monthly client consultations with their clients. Learn our professional method of conducting client consultation for free in this introductory course.

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