Ugh, you thought it wouldn’t happen to you.
Another week of training hard has passed and you can feel the buzzing feeling in your elbows.
It’s not the good kind of keep-going buzz. It’s more like the it feels-like-someone-is-stabbing-me-with-needles kind of buzz.
The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.
Deep down you know the diagnosis is one you don’t want to give yourself.
But you need to face the truth. And nothing hurts like the truth.
You have elbow tendonitis and it’s bad.
You can’t help, but force yourself into another training session, feeling even worse after it.
How did you get yourself into this?
But more importantly how can you get yourself out of this? There are 3 general steps you should take.
1. Improve Your Technique With Patience
The elbow joint is a fairly simple one, contrary to the wrists and shoulders.
Without proper technique and strength the elbow tends to compensate for other joints and as a result gets ‘loaded’ under angles which it isn’t prepared for.
This results in micro tears -which if not given enough time to heal- proliferate, leading to severe pain.
Before you know it, you have a serious case of elbow tendonitis which keeps you from training for weeks.
The first thing you need to do is to take a critical look at your execution.
Are you choosing quantity over quality?
When you do a chin up, do you touch the bar with your chest? Or are you just flapping up and down like a seagull that had a few shots of vodka?
When you do a push up, do you slowly go down, chest to the ground and keep your elbows close to your body? Or are you trying to mimic an earth worm?
Generally the culprit lies in doing chin ups/pull ups incorrectly.
Pushing yourself too hard, which results in bad form and being too impatient to allow your body to recover from your calisthenics workout through proper rest.
Which is actually when your muscles grow.
I’ve seen 50 year old women -who couldn’t even hang- do chin ups without any elbow pain within a relatively short time frame.
Not because they are stronger than you, but because they use the right biomechanics.
Take a good look at what you are doing versus what you need to do.
Read the post How To Learn And Clean Up Your Chin Up for more information.
2. Increase Your Blood Flow
Recovery requires nutrients and nutrients reach different parts of the body through your blood.
In order to speed up your recovery you therefore need to make sure plenty of blood flow is being allocated to your injured areas.
How do you achieve this?
Through ‘blood flow promoting’ movements in the right dosages.
Turning, compressing, twisting, squeezing and especially shaking are highly useful to increase flow of blood.
Here are a few effective exercises which take your elbow, wrist and shoulder through a wide range of movements.
Keep in mind that the actual cause of elbow tendonitis rarely is the elbow.
The tendonitis itself is just a symptom of other issues, which these exercises also help with.
Amount Of Repetitions For These Recovery Promoting Exercises
Make sure to do this exercises for high amounts of repetitions.
You aren’t necessarily doing them to get stronger, but you are doing them speed up your recovery.
How? Through high volume reps.
All of these drills can be done for 50 to 100 repetitions a day and throughout the day when you have the time and space to swing your arms like a mad man.
There is no limit on how often you can do these, just keep in mind that the pain should decrease over time.
If the pain increases you need to lower the volume. In this case it’s a matter of experimentation.
As longs you keep moving those elbows, blood will keep flowing into that direction.
And that’s exactly what you want.
3. Consume Recovery Promoting And Anti-Inflammatory Nutrients
Just like you need a bar to workout.
Your body needs building blocks to repair ‘damaged goods’.
These building blocks come from your nutrients. Plenty people without proper nutrition walk around with inflammation.
And it’s not because they are working out hard, it’s because their body is in a constant state of malnutrition.
Their body just doesn’t have the building blocks to heal and prevent the perpetual damage.
When Hippocrates said: “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food”, he knew what he was talking about.
So what nutrients can you consume to reduce inflammation?
It starts with water. Yes, you need to consume plenty of water throughout the day.
In addition to that you want to restore your minerals.
In most cases magnesium will be highly beneficial.
Not only because it helps in recovery, but also because you are most likely already deficient in it.
Which means your body needs to deplete other areas of your body as a compensation.
Make sure you get the right type.
Read more in 2 Supplements You Might Need 100%.
Thirdly use the power of roots.
There are two roots which are widely recognised by not only ‘high level athletes’, but also by science as being potent anti-inflammatory agents.
Just as potent as the best ‘pharmaceutical drug’ on the market.
But without the adverse side effect.
I’m talking about ginger and turmeric of course.
Read more in Two Potent Roots To Supercharge Your Recovery
4. Bonus: Program Your Training Around Connective Tissue Instead Of Just Muscle Tissue
This might come as a surprise, but the tissues in your body don’t regenerate at the same rate (study).
While the cells in your eyes might take an ‘entire lifetime’ to regenerate.
Cells in your stomach might take just a few days (study).
The metabolic rate of connective tissues for example (tendons and ligaments) can be up to 10 times slower than of that of muscular tissue.
Now comes the big issue.
If your muscular strength increases 10 times faster than your connective tissues, guess what happens when you jump into a more advanced exercise?
Your muscles catch up, unfortunately certain tendons -such as those in your elbows- do not.
Yes, over a 30 day period one single session that leaves you with 3 days of soreness might require your tendons up to 30 days of healing.
Now this doesn’t mean you need to completely stop using the joint.
The opposite is true, but you need to be aware that muscle strength is not the same as the strength of the tissues that keep those muscles and your bones in their place.
The connective tissues.
The catch? Build your training and calisthenics programs around connective tissue strength.
Give yourself 4-6 weeks of ‘connective tissue’ adaptation, before you move on.
If you are working on a muscle up and bust one out all of a sudden after 2 weeks in your 4-6 week training phase, don’t start doing just muscle ups.
Yes, you have the strength, but it’s short-lived.
Focus on finishing your training phase, before you fully transition to just doing muscle ups.
It might take you a bit more time to get to your goals, but an injury won’t get you there at all.
Cure Elbow Pain By Attacking It From All Angles
Injuries such as ‘elbow tendonitis’ require a multifactor approach.
Cover all angles, leave no stone unturned. Address both the cause AND the symptoms.
Usually only the latter is covered and the injury never resolved.
You’ll end up becoming that old guy who once injured his elbow 50 years ago and has never done a chin up ever since.
Don’t be that guy.
Improving your technique, increasing the flow of oxygenated blood, adding recovery promoting minerals and anti-inflammatory nutrients to your diet and programming correctly are general recommendation for any type of injury.
It might not be the ‘one-click’ solution and I know that’s not what you are looking for.
If that were the case, you’d already have clicked away.
Keep your spirit willing.
Your flesh will follow.
Beast mode ON!
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