3 Steps To Cure Elbow Pain

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.

 

Chin-Up-For-Calisthenics-Beginners-Routines

 

 

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%.

 

Calisthenics-and-bar-brother-Supplements

 

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

 

calisthenics-ginger-and-turmeric-against-tendonitis

 

 

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!

 

Now I’d like to hear from you:

Did you like this post?

Or maybe you have a question.

Either way, leave a quick comment below right now.

 

 

17 thoughts on “3 Steps To Cure Elbow Pain

  1. I have recently managed to get rid of my inner elbow pain. I had to workout with only push and no pull movements due to the burning pain, pull ups being more painful than chin ups. Physiotherapist (health service) didn’t know what was wrong, but like Rich has just said, my form wasn’t amazing which I have now rectified. I have found using rings takes the strain off the elbow using proper form, control and full range of motion. I also changed my diet, I now feel I have overcome the injury and am stronger than ever. Never give up.

    1. Hey David,

      That’s great to hear.

      Indeed generally elbow pain is caused by lack of quality!

      But happy to read that you are fully healed and stronger than ever.

      Lessons learned and progress well deserved.

      Beast mode ON!

  2. Can’t believe the timing of this blog post. Started callisthenics about 6 weeks ago and have been slowed down by the pain in my elbows caused by pull ups / chin ups. I’ll definitely be using the advice given here. Thanks again.

    1. Hey Mike,

      Thanks for your message.

      Haha, I’m happy it came at the right time ;).

      I’m sure these tips will definitely help you in your road to recovery. Your body will reward you for that little extra bit attention down the road.

      Stay strong and if there is anything I can help you with let me know!

      Beast mode ON!

  3. Hi Rich, great post and many thanks for the videos! You know, many folks jump right into the workout without dedicating precious time in priming and warming up the muscles and joints for the forthcoming workout. Although a difficult lesson to learn, injuries furnish an invaluable lesson on the importance of building a strong pre-workout warm-up, and post-work out stretch/cool down regime into our workouts. Additionally, I recommend folks take micro-breaks for walking around and stretching throughout the day, especially if they are chained to sedentary jobs requiring a substantial amount of sitting. For desk jockeys, I recommend a 30minute hour glass in front of you to be mindful and stand up and get moving every half hour to keep blood flow in your legs.
    Thanks again!

    1. Hey JR,

      Thanks a lot for your great comment!

      Completely agree with what you are saying there. A warm up is a hugely underestimated part of training.

      Every injury teaches a lesson indeed, haha those microbreaks are key. I like it!

      “Movement is life”, as a friend of mine likes to say. If we don’t move, we die.

      Keep up the good work and thanks for the support.

      Beast mode ON!

  4. Hey Rich, just like Mike said, timing is impressive on your posts! Not the first time something going on my head and then getting a great post from you.

    A long time ago I had this thing, but wasn’t too bad and didn’t last for more that three days. But a couple weeks form now I’ve had this elbow pain again and it’s getting worse. I’m pretty sure my form isn’t bad. I have focused and get informed on performing every single exercise as well as I can a good time from now, and recently (before this post) read about elbow pain and that bad form caused it, so I’ve performed the best way I can, but the pain won’t go away.

    I have a medical appointment for this week, hope they tell me anything else that would help and that I can get any examination to see if it is going too bad (hope not). I’ll comment any important information.

    Still, this is a great post, I’ll follow your advice and attack it from all angles.
    Thanks a lot!

    1. Hey Juan,

      Honoured by your message, I’m happy it came at the right time.

      It’s a very common problem amongst beginner unfortunately. Even if your form isn’t bad, it can be a few millimeters off which puts extra strain on your connective tissues. Over time, just like water can cut through rock, these strains accumulate into injuries.

      In all honesty form can ALWAYS be improved, no matter what your level is ;). Still, I’m sure you are doing everything in your power to cure this injury and to have good form, so this could also just be a case of bad luck.

      Definitely a smart idea to contact a professional, I hope they can give you some more insight.

      Once again thanks for your message, it truly means a lot.

      Wish you a speedy recovery and I’m sure you’ll be back on track in no time.

      Beast mode ON!

  5. Great timing for myself as well.

    Have been following your program since the start of the year, have noticed some great improvements in terms of strength and how my body looks, but the elbow pain has been the one consistent flaw recently. I’ve looked up all the causes and improvements to be made and tried to change my form to help with this but I think I need to heed your advice and get back to trying to perfect one rather than struggle through a few. I “feel” like I’ve improved from not being able to do any to doing 9/10 chin ups and 5 pull ups but if my elbow’s are feeling like this every week then it’s pointless.

    Like i say I’ve been roughly following your program, adding in some variations and increasing some elements as time goes by, have really been enjoying it, this elbow pain the only drawback.

    Thanks for everything,

    B

    1. Hey Barry,

      Thanks for your message!

      It’s great to read that you’ve been getting results, in the end it’s all about your time and effort. Congratulations on slowly, but surely getting the body you want.

      Yep, it’s really a lot about the connective tissues too. Those need significantly more time to adapt to new loads. Pay a little bit more attention to your elbows and you’ll be find over time.

      Keep up the good work and stay strong.

      Beast mode ON!

  6. Hey Rich,

    I like your post very much and it is so helpfull and informative, like always. 🙂 I read a lot of the stuff you write and i learn many new things from it!!! Thanks for that!!!! I really appriciate that.
    I have one question regarding the post:
    What is meant by “Program Your Training Around Connective Tissue Instead Of Just Muscle Tissue”? How should a training around connective tissue look like?
    I’m looking forward hearing from you!

    Thanks for your effort!!!

    1. Hey Stefan,

      Wauw man, your message speaks volumes. I’m really honoured to receive such wonderful feedback.

      It’s why I started this blog in the first place.

      Great question, it basically means that you need to do most of your training in 4-6 week phases. So let’s say you can do all the progressions for the muscle up after 1 week and you decide to bust out a muscle up on a Monday. BAM, you do your first muscle up, so you have the muscular strength to do so, but since you haven’t taken the time to allow the connective tissues to adapt to those new levels of strength, you develop an injury. So instead of doing muscle ups after you’ve done just one, keep working on the basics leading up to the muscle up for 4-6 weeks to make sure you are stronger than you need to be, this provides you with an extra layer of protection against injuries.

      I hope this make sense!

      Once again, thanks for you message my friend.

      Beast mode ON!

      1. Hey Rich,

        thanks for the answer.
        This makes definitely sense and it is another very important information at the right time. 🙂
        I’m just about to train for the muscle up and i think i already have the strength for 1 or 2 reps, but now with this information i will stay by the basics for a while, to prepair my muscles and my connective tissues for a clean and injury-free muscle up!!! 🙂

        Thank you very much.

        BR

  7. Rich,

    you are my savior! I was trying to make those joints move again, but it was causing more pain. Those moves you showed are awesome!

    *Fist bump*

    1. Hey Disu,

      Thanks for your message! I’m happy it’s useful to you. Haha, I’ve had elbow pain many times over these past few years, so you can say I’m a bit of an unwanted expert due to experience ;).

      Keep up the good work!

      *Fist bump*

      Beast mode ON!

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