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Training around elbow pain

I have one question: I slightly strained my elbow, the pain is only felt when I attempt to lift anything heavy without first unlocking the elbow. Should I continue lifting weights but stick to lighter ones until my elbow is fully recovered or should I stay away from lifting any weights at all? I have a feeling you are going to tell me that you are not a doctor, but I was hoping that perhaps after all those years of weight training, you might at least know whether or not it would be safe to continue lifting weights provided it doesn’t hurt the joint.

I’d continue to train and work around the injury. Often once the body is warmed up and the spirits are aroused and a few endorphins are afloat, you can carefully investigate a variety of exercises that recruit the triceps and bend the elbow, though this might require limited range of motion, light weight and specific warming up.

Listen to the pain, focus on the muscle’s action and be hopeful and patient.

Here are some possibilities:

Dips performed on a machine

Pulley pushdowns with elbows closely tucked into the torso (try a rope handle)

Abbreviated (top half of movement – don’t lock out) close grip — 12″ space — bench press on the smith machine, bringing the bar toward the bottom of the chest or sternum

Use dumbbells in any pressing to provide a more flexible groove.

Don’t be too aggressive, but by all means don’t be passive.

Not training is a loss of time, is bad for the spirits, provides fertile ground for an extended training gap that plunders and slows the healing process as injury-repairing, life-giving nutrients (oxygen, vitamins, minerals and other metabolites) are stalled and arrive in limited supply.

God’s speed,


Breakfast on the tuna and water diet

When doing the three-day tuna and water plan, what exactly would be the best option for breakfast? Straight-up tuna as well?

Straight-up tuna is the breakfast choice when intentionally practicing stoicism for disciplinary purposes.

For getting lean and dietary goals and strong training, your first meal could be Bomber Blend and water. Coffee without cream and sugar works. As you become more familiar and intense with your training endeavors, Bomber Blend is a great and inexpensive dietary resource — quick, energizing and nutritious breakfast, pre- and post-workout meal and interlude meal.

But the straight-up answer to your question: Tuna and water means tuna and water. Done.

Carry on… God’s speed… Dave

What to do about biceps tendinitis

There is quite a lot of pain in my right forearm and elbow. It doesn’t go away when I rest it, so there is no doubt that I am going to continue curls and triceps pushdowns and ignore it. Strangely enough it actually feels better after the first set and gets to be no real problem by the fourth set. After a day’s rest it starts to be very tender again. I think I’m just going to have to live with it. What do you think about this?

Sounds like typical tendinitis (not a doctor speaking). Always warm up, keep warm, take ibuprophen when appropriate, ice if necessary.


Don’t overextend or overload the biceps for a while.

Start very, very light and proceed slowly with focus. Go for a pump instead of weight. Use a bent bar and dumbbells to avoid aggravating the injury. Work around it.

Sometimes deadlifts or rows or chins with full extension are the source. Be careful. Rest and TLC are good. Don’t forget minerals, protein – – – – sometimes it just goes away when you’re not looking.


Persistent pain across the forearm and elbow

I have persistent pain across the forearm and elbow (the brachialis area). Rest is not the solution (tried that!) and continued workouts are possible as the pain diminishes with each consecutive set. What’s up?

Starting with the legit disclaimer that I’m not a doctor, this sounds like typical tendinitus to me—inflammation of the bicep tendon. Here are 10 dos and don’ts to work around the injury.

1. Always warm up: slow, light weight and meticulous reps, focused on the pain. Increase weight carefully, do not overload, work in the 10-rep range for a smooth pumping action.

2. Keep warm and avoid quick temperature changes. Wear warm clothes and avoid drafts.

3. Don’t do preacher curls. Notorious for causing this mean condition….bench position is too rigid for natural skeletal/muscle function. Eventually this catches up with you.

4. Abbreviate curl movements. Don’t overextend the long head of the biceps.

5. Use a bent bar and dumbbells to avoid aggravating the inflamed tendon. The straight bar curl is irresistible, but rotates the hands and consequently elbows and biceps outward, overstressing tendons and dangerously altering joint tracking.

6. Don’t exaggerate the curl by rotating the weight up and over the deltoids.

7. Sometimes deadlifts or rows or chins with full extension are the source of the injury. Be attentive as you train your other bodyparts.

8. How’s your nutrition? Minerals and complete proteins play a big role in joint and tendon health.

9. Are you overtraining? Look for other overtraining symptoms. Rest and TLC are miracle ingredients that some of us deny. Take ibuprophen when appropriate, ice if necessary.

10. Some hope for you: It’s not unusual to wake up one morning and find the pain gone, like a fever that runs its course.


Injuries after 30 years of lifting

i am 52, in reasonably good shape and have been lifting for 30 years. I have a rotator-cuff injury—no tear. MRI says I need some surgery. I have since developed pain in my other shoulder, both elbows and pretty much both wristst. Today benching is intensely painful. I know the difference between the right type of pain and the type of pain that warns your body of potential injury. Therefore, I have stopped benching. Can good results be maintained and possibly increases be made using mostly machines vs GOOD OLE free weights?

Be strong. Take heart. It’s time to give the shoulders, elbows and wrists a rest. They are designed to work hard with proper care and respect. Think of all the stress they undergo workout after workout while we push them beyond their healthy capacity. Over my history, I see it as obsession, insecurity, self-centered-ness, ignorance and meanness. That doesn’t make me a bad person; just a poor sap who needs to give his joints some peace while he reconsiders his purposes.

How about light dumbbells, warming up and going moderately heavy… flat and differing levels of incline? Moderate-weight flys supersetted with stiff-arm pullovers of medium weight. The change is smart, recruits new muscles that support the structure as the joints get relief, stimulates novel interest and broadens your training understanding. You’ll come back strong and encouraged instead of leaving torn and discouraged. Those impressive numbers will be around for a long time.

The machines work well (Hammer chest press, etc) but get off the heavy trip and commit to moderate weights with form, pace and supersetting as a substitute for heavy-weight intensity. Not for a day but for the season… live and learn and grow… nothing to lose and everything to gain.


Thick handle training

I read that you are an enthusiast of thick handle training. I’ve never tried thick handles and am thinking of buying one to try. Why do you think they are better than regular thickness bars and handles?

I was introduced to thick handle training with the Apollon Axle I purchased from Ironmind.com, liked what I experienced and carried the thick-handle concept to other bars and handles in the gym (including some I designed that are no longer in production.

The desirable feel, comfort, psychological effect and mechanics of a thick handle are immediately evident. The resistance is distributed more advantageously over a broader area and the grip’s strength and requirements are altered favorably.

This is especially important if one’s hand or wrist is injured, bruised or limited in capability. Over the years, I became somewhat restricted by joint-overuse from the accumulated years of battle — Rats — and found new freedom and improved performance with thicker handles.

The fullness of the handle alters the action of the exercise being performed: engages muscles powerfully, improves muscle targeting, requires less weight (translates as less overload on joint; wrist, elbow or shoulder) to achieve a maximum muscle intensity and is easy on hands. It’s in the physics of thickness.

Worth your purchase… try them.


Elbow tendonitis

I seem to have developed elbow tendonitis. From what I’ve read, it’s probably from preacher curls. Do you do preachers and have you had problems from them? Do you have any suggestions?

Tendonitis is a drag. Work around it by avoiding those movements that excessively aggravate it, by altering the groove of exercises to accommodate the injured and painful region, by warming up extensively and using lighter weights when you must, and by wrapping where and when you must (wrist, elbow or knee)

Use dumbbells instead of a bar for pressing.

The preacher curl is notorious for instigating this condition. Lose the preacher curl and go with standing bentbar curls and dumbbell work (inclines, seated alternates).

Be careful not to hyperextend the arms in triceps work. Warm up with light weights (a lot) and consider wrapping the elbows during triceps work and pressing. Use dumbbells or a bent bar when curling instead of the straight barbell.

That about covers it. Wish I had more.

God’s speed… Dave

Elbow pain

I bought your Brother Iron book a while back, and it was very good. I thought that maybe if anyone would know what is going on with my elbow, it would be you. I lifted a stockade fence about five months ago, and two days later I had a pain in my left elbow. It is not debilitating, but I have been afraid to lift weights all this time because of it. The doctor said arthritis, but I know different, since the pain was from lifting the fence. Please let me know if I should chance lifting weights or doing curls?

Elbows and shoulders can drive us nuts. Could be all sorts of things a good doc would have difficulty diagnosing — bursa inflammation, joint overload, pinched nerve in back region and such all requiring different therapies, including ice, heat and rest… possibly deep tissue massage. There seems to be value in acu-pressure and acupuncture.

Once familiar with the pain and my limitations due the injury, I continue to train around it by warming up with light weight and inching my way along with crazy guts and pain endurance and, perhaps, Advil.

Those exercises that are wrong and abusive are obvious (pain is acute) and I avoid them. I wrap my elbows regularly to enable me to perform with extended intensity and more weight. Try wrapping with an elbow wrap available, or some version thereof, at gyms, drug stores or on-line weightlifting gear suppliers.

My problem is chronic — many years in the act of lifting and often without brains — and I’ve come to know, understand and accept the nasty intruders, and carry on the good fight. The gym is full of us guys and gals, both afflicted and stubborn.

I don’t know medicine and I tell you only what I do and those of my level of fitness around me do. Too often a gap in training only adds to our plight.

Push on… God’s speed… Dave

Elbow tendonitis

I have tendonitis in both elbows. As I’m getting older, it doesn’t go away. What can I do about it?

This my usual tendonitis spiel:

Various approaches: wrap elbows for relief during activity, avoid or diminish repetitious movements or heavy loading responsible for the condition, rest, take Chondroitan, Glucosamine, MSM concoction and hope for aid, try anti-inflammation treatment, administer painkillers, ice and heat therapy, see a doctor…

I think you’ve been there and done that. Beyond improvisation…try another doctor. I wrap regularly — on-and-off, on-and-off as needed and it helps to get the extra percentage of intensity in weight or reps to be effective. My wraps are customized knee wraps — cut in half, looped and fitted with Velcro. I seek maximum muscle exertion as I manipulate the pain. Fun stuff!

We can only try,


Thick handles for benching

You wrote that you gave up heavy bench pressing in exchange for pressing with a thicker bar, or using a thick-bar attachment… wondering if you thought a thick-bar attachment would be beneficial to someone like myself with shoulder pain from benching, and if so, where do I go about finding one, or making one of my own…

I find in my training — and I’m not alone — that good custom handles for the pulley system or bars for curls or presses make all the difference in the world in performance, effect, likability, attaining the perfect groove to work the muscle your favorite way or for protection from injury. These are the basic gizmos I’ve relied on for years to keep me motivated and training hard with interest and eventual results.

I gave up benching due to shoulder injuries sustained from an accident, hard work and from excessive barbell bench pressing. Beware, young man. The benches will eat you up. It’s a neat exercise (dumbbell flats and inclines are safer and better musclebuilders) and I miss it, but with a thick bar, or Appelon Axle as it is called (see the IronMind site), you are caused by the thick-grip mechanics to use a lighter weight and achieve an outstanding muscle action.

Same with thick handles on the pulley system… very accommodating, easier on wrists, more control, more powerful feel. These can be found online with some searching (I haven’t bought handles in awhile and don’t know where to send you). With some logic and mechanical ability these gadgets can be duplicated.

Have fun… God’s strength… Dave

Pushing through elbow pain

Bench pressing and push exercises have always come pretty easy for me, but ever since I turned 49, man, it’s excruciating to lock out! I’ve been using elbow support bands on both elbows. They kinda help, but I hate wearing them. What the heck is going on with my elbows?!?

The good news is you’re only 50, a wonderful time in ones life. You train, you’re in shape, healthy and strong. I can only remind you that things are getting older and wearing out a little, particularly joints, and it’s time to apply good old commonsense.

I’m thinking to myself, ‘good luck with that,’ cuz you’ll probably push it till the pain grows to unbearable proportions and convinces you I’m right.

Obvious things to do: warm up – wrap or wear a snug pull-on elbow sleeve – eliminate or modify major causative movement – cut back on weight handled and volume of reps – arrange workouts to allow elbows sufficient rest time (especially under pushing stress) – avoid heavy right angle arm extensions.

Did I mention rest? Rest.

Resisting elbow pain becomes a wrestling match.

Heat or ice or rubs or anti-inflammation meds are not part of my MO.

Rock on… God Speed

Forearm pain

Lately I have been experiencing a great deal of soreness in the belly of my forearms. I ice the area often and get some relief, but it continues to be a nuisance. I have also tried wearing Velcro straps on each forearm, which helps with tennis elbow. Any ideas? I am 53 years old and train five days a week.

Weird. Elbow pain I can understand, but belly of the forearm is a new one. An ache from a solid pump is good, but it’s not on-going. Tendon or ligament damage would be felt near or in the joints.

I’m thinking: Any bruising from impact or weakness in handling the iron? Are your workouts and exercise choices arranged to complement each other rather than aggravate? How about out-of-gym overuse?

I have top-of-forearm pain that aggravates me periodically and it’s ligament overload that requires rest or let-up. Be sensible, stick to the basics. Rid your routine of the most irritating movements. Consider training 3x a week, or 2 days on – 2 days off for more rest and repair time.


Forearm and biceps pain

The top of my forearm and bottom of the biceps hurts after I train. Does that happen to you, and what do you do about it?

In whatever movement you choose, always start with a very light weight for thoughtful 6 to 8 or 10 reps and work your way up. You might find partial reps (not fully extending or fully contracting) agreeable and non-antagonizing. Reverse EZ bar curls or thumbs-up dumbbell curls seem to reduce a direct tendon hit. Focus on the area of pain so you can modify the exercise, its groove and your body position accordingly.

Remember — all your pulling and back work place a demand on the bis, too. Light stimulation might be all you can hope for hope for and need for awhile. Bis can survive this treatment, as they are not a large muscle group and are worked often. Direct load is not absolutely necessary… they rebound quickly as they heal.

You will learn from the biceps battle and discover you knew best what to do — exercise, modifications thereof and changes in intensity.

Carry on… God’s speed… DD

Is this pain normal?

I’ve been training consistently for several years and can tell how much good it’s doing. However, my question is about pain. I seem to have more pain that I did before I started training with weights. Is this normal?

Pain escorts us through life, a loyal companion that refuses to desert us or leave us alone. On the contrary, pain in its many costumes crowds us, surrounds and consumes us. Isn’t it a joy to be so well attended in a world where so many often go unnoticed? Some folks say to know pain is to stand on death’s doorstep. Others say we know life only to the degree that we have experienced pain; endure the thing and we are enabled, cower from its claws and teeth and we are reduced; embrace pain and we live forever.

Personally, I like the kind of pain that I can control, the self-inflicted hurt that comes from the sets and reps of presses, curls and lateral raises is addiction of a primal nature, bliss hovering at a ragged edge, a high place in paradise looking down upon the burning gloom.

You know what I’m saying here? Putting your time in this terrific, enlightening and life-preserving occupation teaches you the good and bad pain better than we can. Pain in the joints and attachments is bad — knarly and throbbing … overload, overuse, abuse, wrong grip, wrong angle, too much weight, too explosive, that stuff… back off, warm up, lightweights, alter exercise and groove as the pain dictates, layoff if bleeding or fainting. Muscle pain is great if its the burn we pursue while pumping and bombing… take it to the max and grow. If its deep and nagging like a bruise, you might have a tear. Be very careful, work around it, more warm up, add TLC and it’ll heal. Of course, there are the famous and highly publicized DOMS about which we have been illuminated over the past few days.

Yes, you will continue to have pain as and when you grow older (I think you were suspicious of this all along). Isn’t it comforting to know there are some things in life that are predictable?

Keep up the good work.


Elbow pain and aging

At age 68 and having trained for many years, my elbows ache all the time. Do yours? How do you train around it?

I share your pain. I insist on training, warm up slowly, wear an on, then off elbow wrap, avoid the exercises that aggravate the region excessively and apply modified grooves or ranges of motion to improvised movements that get the job done.

The above procedures enable me to seek maximum muscle contraction with limited resistance on the rebellious joint. We do our best.

God’s speed… Dave

Aching forearm

A couple of weeks ago I started having a pain at the top of my forearm and in the biceps. I’ve had this before, too. I was doing reverse wrist curls. Do you know what this is?

Sounds like you’re suffering the pain of inflammation from common tendonitis across the brachial region. That area is engaged often and must be treated kindly.

Train tenderly and humbly around the region and learn its lessons well. That pain may return occasionally — the way of the lifter and lifting.

Work around the injury, around not through it. Warming up is critical. Try wrapping the area. Take Aleve for the inflammation.

Abbreviate and lighten curling movements, or better yet, skip them entirely. Pressing should be okay if you don’t go heavy or grip too tightly.

Use instinct and commonsense. Be patient and realistic.

Godspeed… Dave

Long term elbow pain

I lifted a stockade fence that I was putting up in my yard, and two days later I had a pain in my left elbow. It has lingered there for about five months and feels like a pinched nerve. It is like a toothache type of pain. The doctor said arthritis, but I know different, since the pain was from lifting the fence. Have you had this happen to you?

Elbows and shoulders can drive us nuts. Could be all sorts of things a good doc would have difficulty diagnosing — bursa sack inflammation, joint overload, pinched nerve in back region and such, all requiring different therapies, including ice, heat and rest… possibly deep tissue massage or chiropractic treatment. There is value to acu-pressure and related treatments.

Once familiar with the pain and my limitations due to an injury, I continue to train around it by warming up with light weight and inching my way along with crazy guts and pain endurance and, perhaps, Advil. Those exercises that are wrong and abusive are obvious (pain is acute), and I avoid them.

I wrap my elbows regularly to enable me to perform with extended intensity and more weight. Try wrapping with an elbow wrap, or some version thereof.

My problem is chronic — many years in the act of lifting and often without brains. I’ve come to know, understand and accept the nasty intruders, and carry on the good fight. The gym is full of us guys and gals afflicted and stubborn.

I don’t know medicine and I tell you only what I do and those of my level of fitness around me do. Too often a gap in training only adds to our plight.

Push on… God’s speed… Dave

Arthritis pain

I’m currently coping with a mess of arthritis. For years I’ve been able to train around it in my lower back and elbows, but now, I’m having significant neck pain and weakness in my left shoulder, arm and hand (C5-C6 degenerated). I’m undergoing physical therapy and doing some easy Pilates stuff. I’m wondering if you can provide direction regarding training around arthritis problems.

So sorry for your cervical deterioration and pain and resulting limitations. Rats!

I’m an L2-L5 degeneration sufferer and I endure the pain and stiffness with occasional yelps. Limited range of motion and stiffness are friendly to warming up, and focused and precise form and light weights. At 72 and a body weight of 190-195 I maintain my sanity and sense of well-being with two 45-minute workouts a week (if the stars are carefully aligned). They hurt and feel great simultaneously.

A crappy bench, a short 5-pound cambered oly bar and a pair of girly 25-pound dumbbell — combo moves of curls, tri-extensions, stiff-arm pullovers and chest presses — flys and sidearm lateral raises – three sets of this and that x 8-12 reps.

Smiling strain, cutesy pain, little drain on bad heart.

Hallelujah… D

Slow glide down

Detached my biceps, elbow’s sore from gravity’s pull and shoulder is tired from pushing to the moon. I’ve hit my peak at 42, I hope it’s a slow glide down. Realizing you’re not in your 20s hits you the hardest.

I was just about 42 when I dragged my pathetic self off the floor and made a muscle-headed comeback. That was 30 years ago.

Of course today at 72 there’s no comeback, just a go ahead with a prayer and a pair of cute dumbbells.

God loves us, this I know… DpD

Wrap for inner elbow pain

I have pain in my inner upper elbows that seems to run thru the biceps to the upper forearm. I can’t afford to go to the doctor and go thru the run-around. I know to back off. I’ve switched to reverse curls — they hurt less and the pain seems to be biceps or forearms. Have you heard of this?

To support the elbow and alleviate the pain of a similar problem, I fashioned a wrap from a standard leg wrap. Basically I cut the leg wrap in half, sewed in place a loop at one end to fit snugly around the elbow, and wrapped appropriately the remaining two feet of elastic strap around the joint. I fastened the end with Velcro sewn in the proper places.

Worked great for me. The wrap was on for the set, and off when the set was completed. No hassle, you become skilled and fast and accurate in no time. I wore out the gizmo over the years: over-stretched, dirty, ugly, almost threadbare. I wore out about the same time.

Nothing on the market like it that I know of.

Go, Godspeed… Dave

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