Let’s talk about the worst enemy of every athlete: injuries. I think that we can all agree that nothing feels worse than having to slow down your training because of an injury.
Sometimes you can feel powerless. You want to train and progress, but it’s simply impossible due to the pain you’re feeling.
Maybe you’ve already went to conventional physiotherapists and keep getting useless advice like ‘taking 2-3 weeks off’.
One of the injuries that’s way too common these days is tennis/golfers elbow, which is a form of tendonitis around the elbow.
I too suffered from this for a long time.
It felt like someone put a knife in my elbow everytime I lifted weights.
I simply couldn’t enjoy my workouts anymore. And hell, even if I did manage to workout without pain, I was always scared to push hard because I was afraid to get injured again.
I was told by my physiotherapists that I ‘overtrained’ my arms, and that they now needed rest.
So that’s what I did. I rested.
A few weeks of just leg days and ab workouts went by and I figured it was time to try and hit the gym again for an arm workout.
Then there was the pain again. How much rest was I going to have to take?
Then I started thinking.
How could I have ‘overtrained’ my arm with a pretty standard 4-5 day gym routine, when I saw arm wrestlers like Devon Larratt, Levan, and many others absolutely annihilate their forearms muscles during each workout.
Clearly they were putting their arms through way more training than me, yet they weren’t injured. How was this possible?
I started researching a bit more and noticed that they were actually doing lots of things that I wasn’t.
One of the things I noticed was that they were training their forearm through all of it’s different functions. Flexion, extension, pronation, supination, ulnar and radial deviation, the opening of the hand, it was all there.
At the same time, I was also following the program of Kneesovertoesguy to fix my bad knees. In this program there’s a huge focus on hitting every angle of the knee joint, but also on getting strength through length. So basically taking the muscle through it’s absolute full range of motion, so that you’re also getting strong in the weakest parts of the motion.
This program worked like a charm for my knees, and I got them injury-free and stronger than ever in no-time.
So I started to think back of my own upper body workouts.
How could I apply principles from the elite arm wrestlers and the experience I had from recovering my knees?
Then it hit me.
I had some huge imbalances in my forearm. In my workouts, I was basically only training 1 function of my forearm: flexion.
Every workout I was squeezing my hands on the barbells, while flexing my forearms at the same time. This happened during almost every exercise.
Deadlift, bench press, rows, pull-ups, bicep curls, etc. They all require a hard squeeze of the hands, and usually involve forearm flexion as well.
Now of course it’s not bad to have strong forearm flexors (quite the opposite actually), but I realized that I very rarely trained my forearm extensors, and absolutely NEVER trained supination, pronation, or ulnar and radial deviation. Also looking at the hand, I was always squeezing and closing my hands, but I never trained my pinch grip or the muscles that opened my hand.
On top of that, I was also never really putting my elbow and wrist through it’s full range of motion.
Simply put, except for the flexor muscles, my forearms were weak…
When muscle groups get out of balance, we’re opening the door for an injury and – importantly – we leave easy performance improvements on the table.
Inspired by these new insights, I implemented lots of new exercises that all targeted specific muscles in my forearm. I bought a sledgehammer and got my hands on some grip tools, and started training all the functions of my hands, wrists, and elbow.
Also, I was making sure that whenever I trained triceps or biceps, I was taking the muscle through the maximum range of motion. This meant doing bicep curls on an incline bench, and doing tricep extensions where my hands would touch my shoulder on the eccentric.
While I was doing these exercises and getting stronger at them, a cool ‘side-effect’ was happening: I was pumping massive amounts of blood into my forearms.
And that’s also one of the overlooked factors when physio’s advice you to take complete rest. BLOOD HEALS. Literally.
Within a month I was back to training 100% and my arms felt better and stronger than ever!
Another cool benefit: my forearms also looked better than ever. Some new veins started showing up that I’d never seen before, and I was seeing a decent amount of muscle gains in the smaller areas from all the specific exercises I was doing.
Even my forearm flexors and upper arms felt better and stronger than ever, since they were now being worked on a base of well-developed surrounding muscles and tendons.
This is a bit of a catch-22 as well, because the more developed the muscles and tendons in your arm are, the more resilient they become against injuries.
And if you do get injured, your recovery will be much faster since there is more blood flow to your arm because of the large amount of tissue.
All-in-all, I cannot look into your specific situation, diagnose you, and promise you with 100% certainty that this approach will give you the same results as it did for me.
However, if you’re dealing with any tendonitis in your elbow I highly recommend you to try it, and I’d advice you to be very hesitant to take complete rest. Remember, blood heals, and doing nothing will only atrophy your arms.
The only thing I would add is to not train through pain. Start light with high reps and work through the movements that you CAN do without pain.
See if you have some weak links in your forearm and fix them! Build up your strength from there. Missing out on these areas is most often the reason that you’re dealing with tendonitis.
Best of luck!
Team Golden Grip