3 Steps To Pain-Free Strength & Muscle Gains

I almost didn’t write this because who cares about Pain-Free Strength and muscle Gains and joint health, warm-ups, and mobility?

I don’t think too many do. The only time I looked into it, besides when I learned about it for my education.

Is when I have gotten hurt or banged up. I bet you are the same way.

But, Pain-free training is something, that has been on my brain more and more these days

Since, turning 36, I want to be strong and do BJJ for a very long time, hopefully until I die.

Pain-Free Strength & Muscle Gains

I like to train in a way that will help me with that goal.

Here are the 3 steps I do to make pain-free gains.

They are mobility, pump, and joint-friendly exercises for Pain-Free Strength & Muscle Gains

Step 1 Mobility

Mobility is how much range of motion you have control over a given joint.

Often it is when we are forced outside our mobility, where we don’t have strength and control.

Where we end up getting hurt.

Certain joints in our body need more mobility than others.

These are our ankles, hips, T-spine, and shoulders.

When we don’t have it, it can not only beat up that given joint but the joint next to it as well.

A good example is if your ankles and hips are tight, that could beat up your knee joints.

Mobility exercises


Any exercises that will help increase our mobility, are where you want to start.

These can be

  • Soft tissue work like rolling out your muscles with a foam roller or lax ball
  • Stretches to release tight areas like pec stretch for your shoulders
  • Corrective drills, that help open these areas like 1/2 knee T-spine rotation.

Here are some of my favorite mobility exercises by joint


  • Rolling out feet and calves
  • Calf stretch
  • wall ankle mobility
  • Heel Walk
  • Toe raises


  • Rolling out quads, hip flexors, glutes, adductors and hamstrings
  • Couch stretch or hip flexor stretch
  • 90-90 hip stretch
  • frog stretch
  • hip switches
  • pigeon stretch
  • adductor rocker
  • Hip capsule stretch
  • Squat and Pry


  • Roll out the T-spine
  • windmills
  • T-spine extension against a wall
  • 1/2 kneeling rotations
  • Torso twist stretch


  • Roll out pec, lats and traps
  • Bar hang
  • Pec stretch on pole
  • Y pec stretch
  • Lat stretch with bands or straps

Getting A Pump For Pain-Free Strength & Muscle Gains

The next step for Pain-Free Strength & Muscle Gains is to get a pump on the weaker muscles.

We usually have tight and overdeveloped muscles, and on the opposite side, the other muscles tend to be weak.

A Common one is really tight pecs with a weak upper back or tight hip flexors but weak glutes and hamstrings.

We want to pump and strengthen these muscles.

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After stretching or mobilizing the tight one, we are going to go right into pump work. In most cases, these are the muscles on the back side of our body upper back, glutes, and hamstring.

Here are some of my favorite drills for each area

Upper back pumps

  • YWT iso holds
  • Band pull parts
  • face pulls of all kinds
  • Any horizontal row

Lower body pumps

  • Bridges
  • Band walks or banded abductions
  • Banded pull throughs
  • Frog pumps
  • Banded leg curls
  • Sled dragging of all kinds

These first steps are, what you should do before you work out or can be done daily as a way to increase mobility and reduce pain.

The next step is going to be, what you want to do in the gym, improve your mobility as well build strength/muscle.

But, without beating up your joints and undoing the first two steps

Joint Friendly Exercises for Pain-Free Strength & Muscle Gains

This is my favorite part we are going to lift and put in some serious work.

Pain-Free Strength & Muscle Gain as well as Joint friendly doesn’t always mean easy, boring, and lame.

We want exercises that have a high upside and very little downside.

This is what personal trainers learn in every course the risk-reward ratio.

Most of the time we want to stay away from exercise that :

  • Compresses or beats up our spine
  • Too many pronated or elbow flared-out upper body exercises
  • Limited overhead exercise
  • Less barbell work and more strength work with DBs and KBs
  • Less hip-dominant exercise if you have trouble with your hips and low back
  • Less knee dominant exercise if you have trouble with knees
  • Less pushing exercise, if we have shoulder pain(at least for a little while)

Pain-free upper body exercises

Too much benching or pressing with a barbell is going to cause trouble.

Overhead stuff as well, as most people don’t have the mobility to do it safely.

In general, a neutral grip is just going to feel better on your shoulders, elbow, and wrist.

Here are some options I love for upper body

Pain free upper body option

  • Db bench press variation ( flat, incline, decline, floor alternating 1 arm)
  • Push-up variations, I love ring push-ups and weighted push up
  • Landmine presses
  • Pulling option
  • Ring rows
  • Banded pull parts or face pulls
  • Bench rows
  • 1 arm db or kb row
  • neutral grip lat pull down
  • Plus, loaded carries are a great option for farmer walk and rack walks
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Pain Free lower body exercise

With the lower body, we want to pick exercises that don’t compress the spine , and leg exercises that will activate your core .

You want to work leg-dominant exercises, that are opposite of your trouble area.

If your knees are beaten up, focus on hip and hamstring-focused lower-body exercises

If your hip or lower back is beat up , focus on knee-dominant lower body exercise.

Here are some of my favorites, I’m putting them in 2 different categories, knee-dominant and hip-dominant.

Knee dominant

Goblet Squat

  • Box squats
  • Back squat
  • Front squat or Zercher squat
  • split squats
  • lunges
  • step-ups
  • elevated split squats
  • Backward sled drag
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  • BB deadlifts
  • DB/KB/Trapbar RDL
  • Good morning
  • Trap bar deadlift
  • Single leg rdl
  • staggered stance rdl
  • hip thruster
  • leg curls
  • Back extension
  • Reverse hypers
  • Forward sled drags

This is not an exhaustive list of every exercise you could do, but a good list of the ones my clients and I had great success with.

Let’s review to get tout pain or less pain

  • Address mobility
  • Pump the weaker muscles
  • Use joint-friendly lifts when you strength-train

Any questions, be sure to reach out and sure to check my Instagram for daily Strength tips for BJJ

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