Hurting during exercise? Fit the exercise to your body and no one else.

Have you ever been working out and had the realization that some exercises are making your joints extremely irritated and unhappy? How many reps of these uncomfortable exercises should you do? How far do you keep going? What would Arnold Schwarzenegger do in this moment of glory?

We can assume that each person’s body is made very differently when it comes to how they move and function based on the fact that none of us have the exact same structure of the skeleton. A common example of skeletal structure differentiation can be seen in female pelvic bones vs. male pelvic bones. Females are biologically designed to have a baby and to give birth, having a wider pelvis than males which allows a little one to pass through and come out into the world. Because of their wider pelvis, there is a greater angle at the femur than most of their male counterparts.

This one single difference of pelvic width alone causes each person to squat differently, to pull weight differently, to walk and jump differently… you get the idea. The differences of the size of the bone structures and the length of each of the bones in your body have a huge influence on how you move and can even put you at a mechanical disadvantage during certain exercises. In some cases, these mechanical disadvantages created by structure can make a certain exercise extremely challenging or sometimes almost impossible to execute properly. On the other hand, the exact same exercise can be rather easy for a different individual simply because their bones are different. Click the link below for a specific example of how different structures and bone lengths create different scenarios for individuals performing the same exercise. This could be the answer to why you hate squats or love squats!
[Have you ever looked at the ratio of your femur compared to the length of your tibia?]
[Thigh bone to shin bone?]

So each of our uniquely different skeletons causes mechanical disadvantages and advantages during exercise, but there are many other factors that could create pain. As a human being, we are bio/psycho/social/spiritual whole beings. This means, on a given day, you will feel differently based on what you ate the day before, what circumstances are going on in your life, who are your closest friends, and if you are living out your purpose in life.

When a person walks into Muscle Activation Fitness, we cannot just look at the person as a mechanical robot (though it would be cool to work out with a robot). There are other factors, besides mechanics/structure, and some of them change by the day. Therefore, if someone is experiencing pain during an exercise, it may be due to their emotional stress of the day, inflammation based on their food consumption that day, or the range of motion they are moving through during the exercise.

When pain is present, it can be based on multiple things, but pain always communicates that what you are doing is clearly not a good fit for your body and/or abilities now.

Maybe some of your muscles are not functioning to their greatest ability (hint, hint: MAT).

  • You may have to modify the exercise.
  • You may have to abort the exercise for that day.
  • You may be dehydrated.
  • You may have to abort the exercise for life.
  • You may need to go relax, regroup and then come back.
  • How has your eating been the past week?
  • Have you been doing that exercise too many times over the past week?


Typically, the easiest way to stay out of pain is to stay within the range of motion that is pain free. This may only be a few inches. Is there still benefit to your body? Yes! Totally! Arnold Schwarzenegger, here we come! If you are taking your arms all the way back during a row and your shoulders are hurting, then try limiting that range a bit. Once you finish that movement, change to a lighter weight and then try going all the way back. See if that makes a difference. You still may not be able to go through full range of motion and that is totally fine!

Your muscles have a long, medium, and short range to them. The short range is usually the weakest and most unstable. When your elbow is bent all the way due to a bicep curl, then that is the shortest contraction for most of your bicep muscles; one of your biceps is a shoulder flexor, but we won’t go there.

Don’t forget that other things such as stress and nutrition can play a role in how your body functions as a unit.

We are here to fully assess and maximize your body. With every repetition of any exercise, we take into account structure, range of motion, and stress level to ensure that you are getting the most benefit possible while also negating any negative outcomes, such as joint wear and tear. At Muscle Activation Fitness, the goal is always to pursue better. Let us know how we can help you!