When you injure yourself, one of two things will happen in your mind. On one hand, it might fire you up to come back even better than you were before. On the other hand, you might get depressed and sink into the depths of self-loathing that you have never reached before. If I had my way, everyone would skew closer to the first option.

If you do find yourself fired up, you know you still need to train. And aside from finding a competent physical therapist if needed, you have to be smart about your training. In being smart, we will not only avoid pain, but we will also take a look at the parts that make up the whole as it relates to the big three lifts.


Anatomical terms of motion

To make this easier, let’s define a few basic movements first:

  • Flexion—to make an angle between a joint smaller. For example, look at your elbow. When you do a double bicep pose, you’re making that joint angle of your forearm and humerus shorter by way of elbow flexion.
  • Extension—to make the angle between a joint bigger. Back to the elbow example, the end of a push-up requires elbow extension to help finish the movement.
  • Abduction—to move away from your midline. Imagine there is a line dividing you into your left and right half. If you raise your left arm out to the side so that it’s parallel to the ground, that is shoulder abduction.
  • Adduction—to bring back to the midline. Return your arm to your side, and you have shoulder adduction.
  • Rotation—when a joint revolves around an axis. For example, if you point your foot straight forward, and then you point it at an angle, you are rotating. People who have “duck feet” are in external hip rotation.

When you injure yourself, one if these motions will become difficult to perform. In the simplest of terms, it makes specificity more difficult, if not impossible. So if we look at our exercises in terms of a hierarchy, it would look like this:

  1. Specific
  2. Component Specific (Parts of the Whole)
  3. Contra-specific (Oppositional movements)
  4. Non-specific

For clarification, number three on that list would be as simple as doing a pull-up as a contra-specific movement to a barbell military press. In relation to the pull-ups, sprints would be considered non-specific.

Having said that, let’s break down the big three.

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