We've all been through this. A client sprains an ankle or hurts their shoulder, sees a doctor and gets told to stay out of the gym for 4-6 weeks to rest the injured area.
As trainers, we get frustrated with the doctor and think “why do they say foolish stuff like this."
The reality is that unless the client has a serious accident they are at best partially injured. When a client or athlete gets injured I tell them you are generally 25% hurt and 75% healthy. I encourage them to focus on the healthy parts. If it's an arm, you still have another one and, two legs. If it's a leg, you still have two arms and one leg. In any case, training shouldn't stop.
The big key is how we as trainers react. People tend to trust doctors. If the doctor says “ stay out of the gym and rest," the assumption is that this is the right thing to do.
You need to approach a situation like this with tact. Saying something like “ the doctor just means to rest the injured area, not to do nothing” usually makes sense to the client. Describe what you think they can do and, then be prepared for the next objection.
The objection will be something like “but, wont I get out of balance?” “If I just work one arm (or leg), won't that cause more problems?”
This is when you explain the idea of cross transfer.
Explain that exercising the non-injured side actually speeds up the recovery! Take a positive approach. Print out the article above and, give it to them to read.
You are actually doing them a favor by encouraging them to stay active. Just be smart with your exercise choices. If the injury is a lower body one use seated versions of your basic exercises. If the injury is an upper body one, make sure that anything you select will not negatively impact the injured area.
Just FYI, core can be tough with a person who is lacking a point of ground contact, so be prepared to have very few core options, particularly with an upper body injury.
With lower body injuries we still do seated chops, seated lifts and seated anti-rotation presses. We generally seat them on an 18” plyo box.
This is also a great time to develop relationships with local PT's and, perhaps to learn a bit. If the client is going to physical therapy, ask if you can tag along.
Just a warning. Even if you think the PT is horrible and a waste of time, keep your mouth shut and learn. You might learn that you don't want clients seeing that PT but, you still learn something. Visits with PT's will help you build your network and may even get you a few more clients. Every physical therapist likes a trainer that likes to learn.