1

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Strength training for a novice with finger and toe injuries?

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created June 24, 2010 at 1:49 PM

I am still a paleo novice--I don't quite have the food down and certainly don't have the exercise component down. I have a history of doing way too much cardio and have stress injuries (right now almost all of my toes have stress fractures) as a result. I have osteopenia and this is not the first time I have had this type of injury. I know I need to focus more on strength training. Over the past few months, I have also developed pain in my fingers and I now suspect stress injuries in my fingers...so here is the question:

What type of strength training or adaptive training/equipment is available for someone who can't grip a weight, bar, etc.? I am currently swimming, but that is primarily cardio--although I am trying to use the water for some resistance...but it doesn't feel like much of a real workout. Any ideas? Thanks.

1a8020e101199de55c1b3b726f342321

(1973)

on June 27, 2010
at 04:20 PM

Oh, also look into receiving ultrasound treatment from a local physical therapist. There is a fair amount of research showing ultrasound speeding the healing of fractures and soft tissue injuries.

24868bf5aa2c49e269392765932d9dc4

(510)

on June 27, 2010
at 02:23 PM

Thanks for the advice.

24868bf5aa2c49e269392765932d9dc4

(510)

on June 26, 2010
at 06:59 PM

Joe, I actually did not know that calcium was fat soluble...I'm serious. Thanks for the information. No sense arguing over walking or running on a t.m.--can't do it. I don't even walk well. The fractures occurred USING an elliptical/rower...thus, the pool to rehab for now. Thank you all for your help...many good suggestions for me.

8063ffc4fa6b60a1275171659f8a14f0

(155)

on June 26, 2010
at 04:35 AM

I'm not sure why everyone assumes treadmill means running you can certainly walk on it, my post edited to reflect the obvious

Dfd71315b44a74520ead7d6752e70fc7

(678)

on June 25, 2010
at 09:37 PM

The best thing to heal a fracture is time and alleviating the stress. Running is a horrible idea. If you need some cardio work, the elliptical could be another option. If you are Vit D deficient and you are looking for more calcium AND, most importantly, you are lactose tolerant, dairy is a great option. If you are intolerant then yeah, cut it out. But don't read too much into having a "pure" paleo diet. There is a lot of good in dairy. Just remember that calcium is fat soluable so go with whole milk. Also, eat cholesterol filled foods (like eggs) and a ton of sun to produce more vit D

Dfd71315b44a74520ead7d6752e70fc7

(678)

on June 25, 2010
at 09:34 PM

One thing you can try when lifting and using the rowing machine is don't actually grip. Try cupping your hands at an angle or into a C shape and use the working muscles to pull. I do this with some rows and when I do pull-ups. You MAY be putting pressure onto your carpals but you'll be taking pressure off the metacarpals, which is your present concern. Bone fractures are no laughing matter, nothing "wussy" about protecting your long term health.

24868bf5aa2c49e269392765932d9dc4

(510)

on June 25, 2010
at 01:14 PM

I've been doing what you have just suggested in the pool--I'm getting mixed advice about actually HEALING the fractures. I'm going for another opinion next week. I'm frustrated with my current doc. I supplement vit D (was deficient) and think I get adequate calcium...but have thought about eliminating dairy to go to a more pure paleo diet...haven't done it yet, in part, due to concerns over calcium. I know there are lots of nondairy sources, though. Thanks for your help. I appreciate it.

24868bf5aa2c49e269392765932d9dc4

(510)

on June 25, 2010
at 01:10 PM

I used to use a rowing machine for cardio--I think I WAS gripping too hard and this probably contributed to the finger issues. I'm now swimming--there is no chance of me getting on a treadmill or stairmaster anytime soon. I'm not a pain wimp (nautral childbirth x2!) but I also don't want to have long-term problems. By the way, the fractures have been confirmed by MRI...no doubt about 'em. Thanks for the good suggestions.

24868bf5aa2c49e269392765932d9dc4

(510)

on June 25, 2010
at 01:31 AM

Thanks for the suggestions. My only fear about using the palms versus the fingers is that I will then develop carpal fractures. Given my history, I don't think I'm being overly paranoid...I will look into wrist straps as well. Thanks.

03aeff8d87a3b53a449b5b8e9158da98

(3268)

on June 24, 2010
at 06:55 PM

This is pretty good advice, IMO. You can also get wrist straps that can improve your grip on pulling movement.

8063ffc4fa6b60a1275171659f8a14f0

(155)

on June 24, 2010
at 03:52 PM

also can easily spilt up upper body/lower body or even all push exercises one day pulls the next etc if time constraints or you find you are getting too sore

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6 Answers

1
8063ffc4fa6b60a1275171659f8a14f0

(155)

on June 24, 2010
at 03:51 PM

Hmmm Pretty tricky if you cannot grip a bar but this might work. Since you are just starting out with fitness training I think you should do some really basic strength work to build a firm base and this will also hopefully give your injuries some time to heal. I know Paleo is all about intense workouts but when starting out this is just another way to injure yourself. If I was you I'd try to incorporate as many of the push-pull exercises you can. ie

Push away from you (chest press) if your gym has a 'pec-dec' that will allow you to do the exercise without gripping (use the flat of your hand)

Pull down towards you (Lat-pull or pull-up/chin-up)- hard if you have grip issues

Push up above you (shoulder press) machine again due to injury.

Pull horizontally towards you (row-machine or horizontal pull ups) difficult with injury but HPU will allow you to use a wrist-over bar grip sim to one used for muscles-ups that will aviod finger issues- again not ideal but not too many options I can think of.

Push away from you vertically- (body weight dips or use cable machine [both sides and adjust so you push from armpit to waist] much easier when just starting and lower weights will causes less stress for your hands/fingers

Pull from below upwards- ie hold a bar at arms length and raise it up towards your chin with you r elbows going out to the sides (sorry cannot think of the name of this exercise (sort of a really beginner clean)

For legs I would again stick to the machines for now due to injuries etc and use the leg press and hamstring curl machines. however, you can easily use Body weight squats and add some light weights (bar or medicine ball as you progress and your injuries improve. Also consider lunges split squats etc these will allow you to increase difficulty without having to worry about holding more weight etc.

Try the 5 sets of 5 reps (5x5) or maybe 4x8 with as for weights you really need to carefully figure that out on your own or with a fitness pro. Remember you can always add more so start light.

This will help you build strength through all the Major plains of motion safely and should be very adaptable to your injuries once you have built some strength and injuries are healed up maybe look at a 'Starting strength' type program

Hope this helps

Ps 10min warm-up on a tread mill (walking) or eliptical and some (or lots if you have time) stretching afterwards.

Good luck

03aeff8d87a3b53a449b5b8e9158da98

(3268)

on June 24, 2010
at 06:55 PM

This is pretty good advice, IMO. You can also get wrist straps that can improve your grip on pulling movement.

24868bf5aa2c49e269392765932d9dc4

(510)

on June 25, 2010
at 01:31 AM

Thanks for the suggestions. My only fear about using the palms versus the fingers is that I will then develop carpal fractures. Given my history, I don't think I'm being overly paranoid...I will look into wrist straps as well. Thanks.

8063ffc4fa6b60a1275171659f8a14f0

(155)

on June 24, 2010
at 03:52 PM

also can easily spilt up upper body/lower body or even all push exercises one day pulls the next etc if time constraints or you find you are getting too sore

0
24868bf5aa2c49e269392765932d9dc4

(510)

on June 29, 2010
at 01:30 PM

Chris--I am seeing an orthopedist later this week and was planning to ask about a bone stimulator--I'll add ultrasound to my list of questions. My feet do seem to be getting better, but I'm quite sedentary--much to my annoyance and dismay.

Vmary--both feet were looked at on a triple phase bone scan--only area of "major" concern was the metatarsal head with avascular necrosis (came up "hot" on the bone scan; avn diagnosed on MRI). I'm kind of getting the run around now on my hands--no one wants to deal with them. Well, no one wanted to deal with my feet, either. When I finally insisted on the MRI, it came back with stress fractures in 7 of 10 digits (maybe 8--I gave my copy of the report away), AVN of a metatarsal head, and some other stress fractures (don't remember the details at the moment). And I was crazy? You can sense my frustration...

Hope your finger gets better!

0
77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on June 28, 2010
at 10:22 PM

i think i broke my finger way back in april or may. a basketball hit my ring finger straight on with force. i could bend the finger, but it hurt. i thought i just sprained it. now it is the end of june and i noticed a hard growth on the side of that finger by the main joint that was hurting. later while i was with my husband in an orthopedist's office today, i saw a pamphlet with diagrams explaining how a fracture heals. it gets a soft growth on the site of the fracture, which then hardens, and eventually evens out when the bone finally heals. so i guess i'm on the way to healing. the pamphlet noted that some bones do not follow this process, and that's when you have to get special treatment to stimulate healing. so i went from april or early may til the end of june, about 2 full months, till i got to stage where the growth (probably the wrong word- swelling?) hardened. when did you injure yourself? has it been 2 months? with that many injuries i would look into getting a bone scan to see the strength of my entire skeleton.

0
1a8020e101199de55c1b3b726f342321

(1973)

on June 27, 2010
at 10:22 AM

Take a couple weeks off, low intensity swimming sounds great for recovery.

With multiple stress fractures, seemingly injured hands and osteopenia your recovery abilities are probably better shunted into healing existing structural problems rather than recovering from intense workouts.

Test your vitamin D levels at http://grassrootshealth.net/, it is only about quick, easy and almost painless.

Get at least 1/2 hour sun mid day if possible without much clothing or sun tan lotion.

Make clarified butter and add D3/K2 drops, my favorite brand http://www.iherb.com/Thorne-Research-Vitamin-D-K2-1-fl-oz-30-ml/23517?at=0

Make soup stock with grass fed marrow bones, freeze it and make a dish with it every day.

24868bf5aa2c49e269392765932d9dc4

(510)

on June 27, 2010
at 02:23 PM

Thanks for the advice.

1a8020e101199de55c1b3b726f342321

(1973)

on June 27, 2010
at 04:20 PM

Oh, also look into receiving ultrasound treatment from a local physical therapist. There is a fair amount of research showing ultrasound speeding the healing of fractures and soft tissue injuries.

0
77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on June 25, 2010
at 12:57 PM

i myself would not do any exercise that involved pain. swimming can be high intensity if you go all out for 30 seconds, and do that 3 times. what about swimming all out on your back just using your hand to propel you? or you could hold a paddle board and your legs would be doing most of the work. what does your doctor say about healing the stress fractures? finally, for healthy bones you need calcium plus vitamin d. do you feel you are getting enough?

24868bf5aa2c49e269392765932d9dc4

(510)

on June 25, 2010
at 01:14 PM

I've been doing what you have just suggested in the pool--I'm getting mixed advice about actually HEALING the fractures. I'm going for another opinion next week. I'm frustrated with my current doc. I supplement vit D (was deficient) and think I get adequate calcium...but have thought about eliminating dairy to go to a more pure paleo diet...haven't done it yet, in part, due to concerns over calcium. I know there are lots of nondairy sources, though. Thanks for your help. I appreciate it.

24868bf5aa2c49e269392765932d9dc4

(510)

on June 26, 2010
at 06:59 PM

Joe, I actually did not know that calcium was fat soluble...I'm serious. Thanks for the information. No sense arguing over walking or running on a t.m.--can't do it. I don't even walk well. The fractures occurred USING an elliptical/rower...thus, the pool to rehab for now. Thank you all for your help...many good suggestions for me.

8063ffc4fa6b60a1275171659f8a14f0

(155)

on June 26, 2010
at 04:35 AM

I'm not sure why everyone assumes treadmill means running you can certainly walk on it, my post edited to reflect the obvious

Dfd71315b44a74520ead7d6752e70fc7

(678)

on June 25, 2010
at 09:37 PM

The best thing to heal a fracture is time and alleviating the stress. Running is a horrible idea. If you need some cardio work, the elliptical could be another option. If you are Vit D deficient and you are looking for more calcium AND, most importantly, you are lactose tolerant, dairy is a great option. If you are intolerant then yeah, cut it out. But don't read too much into having a "pure" paleo diet. There is a lot of good in dairy. Just remember that calcium is fat soluable so go with whole milk. Also, eat cholesterol filled foods (like eggs) and a ton of sun to produce more vit D

0
Dfd71315b44a74520ead7d6752e70fc7

(678)

on June 25, 2010
at 03:38 AM

Fitness can be pretty complicated but it doesn't need to be. Here is the Joe Collins Fitness Model in a paleohack post. If you are doing more than 4 things at the gym at once, you are wasting your time. You need a lower body movement, an upper body push, an upper body pull, and a conditioning drill.

Lower body: Deadlifts and Squats. You are having issues with your hands right now so you can work on the leg press machines. Some gyms have the ones where you lay on a sled and push yourself or the weights and then there are the machines that have shoulder pads where you push up while standing. Either works. The wrist straps would work out very well if you want to do deadlifts. You can get the gloves with the straps on them. I don't like them long term but if you are having issues with your bones presently, it can help distribute the weight more evenly so each bone feels less stress.

Upper Body Push: Bench Press and Overhead Press. These exercises usually have machines at the gym and while I abhor using machines with all my soul, it would be a good first step for you because of your bone issues to just get into a strength training routine. Eating a proper diet and getting some strength training in might help your bone density and allow you to get off the machine and onto free weights.

Upper Body Pull: Pull-ups and Rows. If you can't do pull-ups or are having grip issues, the lat pull-down cable machine works well and you can use the wrist straps as well. Same as rows, especially if you are doing dumbbell rows.

Conditioning could be some rowing or swimming, some tabata intervals or Crossfit MetCons or something short and intense of the sort. If you have issues in the past with chronic cardio, keep to these guys and keep them brief. It will do your heart better anyway.

I would avoid the treadmill to warm up. If you have stress fractures in potentially all your toes, running sounds like a horrible idea. Rowing might be tough on your hands but the wrist straps can come into play at first and you don't need to grip that hard. Swimming is a great work-out because it works both conditioning and strength and it has some pretty practical skillsets as well. Unless you work on the 29th story with a broken elevator, the Stairmaster doesn't have much of a real work skillset to it. Use some mobility drills, Scott Sonnon has some great work on it, to get your joints healthy and muscles warmed up. Do that instead of running to get going.

Right now, my "splits" are deadlift/overhead press/ pull-up/lat pulldowns one day and bench press/front squat/rows on the next day. I wish you all the luck and please ask more questions if you have them. Haven broken my foot before, I know how frustrating things can get so I really hope that your change in lifestyle will lead to a longer and much happier life.

Dfd71315b44a74520ead7d6752e70fc7

(678)

on June 25, 2010
at 09:34 PM

One thing you can try when lifting and using the rowing machine is don't actually grip. Try cupping your hands at an angle or into a C shape and use the working muscles to pull. I do this with some rows and when I do pull-ups. You MAY be putting pressure onto your carpals but you'll be taking pressure off the metacarpals, which is your present concern. Bone fractures are no laughing matter, nothing "wussy" about protecting your long term health.

24868bf5aa2c49e269392765932d9dc4

(510)

on June 25, 2010
at 01:10 PM

I used to use a rowing machine for cardio--I think I WAS gripping too hard and this probably contributed to the finger issues. I'm now swimming--there is no chance of me getting on a treadmill or stairmaster anytime soon. I'm not a pain wimp (nautral childbirth x2!) but I also don't want to have long-term problems. By the way, the fractures have been confirmed by MRI...no doubt about 'em. Thanks for the good suggestions.

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