How to quickly and effectively heal muscle tears.

We’ve all heard of the standard “RICE” method for treating injuries; Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation. But what if complete rest is not the answer for all injuries? For muscle-belly tears, there is an old school, tried and tested “in the trenches” method to safely and effectively speed up the rehabilitation process of minor muscle strains and tears.

It was invented by Bill Starr, a pioneer of strength and power development during the 1960s and a true legend of Strength & Conditioning who popularised many effective training methods that were only scientifically validated years later. However, his rehab protocol will likely never be scientifically validated as it goes against conventional injury rehabilitation methods and would be a difficult study to carry out. Nevertheless it has proved effective time and time again.

It involves returning to low intensity activity as soon as the acute injury phase passes, and the initial bleeding and swelling begins to subside. This usually takes between 2-4 days. At that point the lifter will then resume training with an empty barbell (or sufficiently light weight) for 3-4 sets for between of 25-50 reps. Great emphasis is placed on perfect technique, and using a slow comfortable tempo (lifting speed).
The goal of these sets is to promote healing by increasing blood flow to the muscle and stretching it under gentle load and tension using light weights.
Stretching and working the muscle in this way promotes healing of individual muscle fibres that can contract as normal. As opposed to conventional methods that let the muscle rest completely where it will lay down a layer of scar tissue over the injury. Scar tissue cannot contract or stretch, and so this greatly increases the chance of re-tearing the muscle in the same place once normal training resumes.
The real magic of this protocol will be felt when the injury actually begins to feel BETTER as you lift and the sets progress.

I was (un)fortunate enough to experience this first hand. I was bench pressing 170kg, when on my 3rd rep I felt a definite “pop” in my left pec, thankfully I was able to press it up and finish the rep (I was training alone) I knew instantly I had sustained a pec tear, I also knew after some poking and prodding that the tear was in the centre or “belly” of the muscle (as opposed to a tendon) and so it would be possible to rehab using the Starr method.

Here is how I implemented the Starr method, and a typical example of how to do it yourself.

Day 1: Empty barbell (20kg) 3×20
Day 2: 22.5kg 3×20
Day 3: 25kg 5×20 (here I felt comfortable enough to increase my number of sets)
Day 4: 27.5kg 5×20
Day 5: 30kg 5×20

I gradually worked up to 40kg using this method, when the pain began to get worse during my set, and so I reduced the weight again and used higher reps (50) and gradually began increasing weight and lowering reps again until I was at 80kg x 10

After week 1 on the advice of my physiotherapist I also began gentle daily dynamic stretching of the muscle after my light barbell work.

After 2 weeks, I began using a slingshot twice per week which I found very useful to preserve strength and the CNS’s ability to handle heavier loads, whilst still almost completely deloading the pec at the bottom of the movement (For context I was unable to touch my chest with 80kg when wearing a slingshot)

I continued light and cautious bench press training for 5 weeks before returning to weights above 100kg. 7 weeks after my initial pec tear I bench pressed a lifetime PR of 200kg in competition, pain free!

This method can be successfully implemented with most muscle tears however there are some rules:
1. Wait 2-4 days after the initial injury before starting.
2. Start LIGHT, the pain should feel BETTER as you progress during your session, NEVER WORSE! If the pain increases, STOP!
3. This method will only work to help promote healing of mild muscle tears, it absolutely will not work in the case of a tendon or ligament tears, nor will it help joint pain.
4. During the first 2 weeks, do not do any heavy, or high intensity training of any sort, regardless of whether it hurts your injured area or not. This is to not excessively stress the body and to promote recovery and healing.

Note: I am not a medical professional nor has this rehab method been scientifically or medically validated. Use solely at your own risk and always seek professional medical help when dealing with pain and injury.

Nutrition For Pain Free Joints

There isn’t a lifter on the planet that won’t run in to joint pain at some point. It can hinder your progress physically not to mention get you down mentally when you are limited in your training by pain rather than a lack of strength.
Joint pain in lifters is most commonly caused by tendonitis. ‘Itis’ in medical terms refers to inflammation, so in this case we are specifically referring to inflammation of the tendons.

Thankfully, there are some super simple nutritional interventions that you can use to lower inflammation, helping you to feel better, move better, keep your joints healthy and ultimately lift more weight.

Here are my top recommendations:

Turmeric + black pepper. This duo make for a powerful anti-inflammatory combination. Turmeric has long been known to have a host of health benefits, curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric is a powerful anti-inflammatory and when combined with black pepper the bio-availability (your body’s ability to digest and utilise a substance) increases dramatically, studies have shown by up to 2000%.
Piperine in black pepper can also trigger the protein ‘TRPV1’ in the body. This triggering has been shown to reduce pain.

My recommendation:
Season your meat lightly with both
Add a half teaspoon to a protein shake or smoothie

Fish Oil. High in omega 3, which helps to lower inflammation and counteract the damage of the excess of omega 6 fatty acids most of us eat too much of. It is also high in EPA/DHA which has been scientifically proven to help relieve the pain and symptoms associated with rheumatoid arthritis.

My recommendation:
1-3g taken daily with meals

Green Vegetables. Not specifically one food, but a family of foods that provide a host of benefits.
Green, leafy vegetables such as broccoli, spinach, kale, and green beans are loaded with antioxidants like vitamins A, C and K, which protect cells from free-radicals which are known to cause inflammation and attack joints.Broccoli also contains sulforaphane. Research shows some evidence that sulforaphane blocks the inflammatory process, might slow cartilage damage and even prevent rheumatoid arthritis.

My recommendation:
At least 2 palm size servings daily

Mixed berries. Extremely high in anti-oxidants, which we now know fight the free radicals that cause inflammation, berries are particularly high in anti-oxidant known as flavonoids which have been scientifically proven to protect cells against damage caused by inflammation in adults.

My recommendation:
1 large handful daily blended in a protein smoothie