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irongymnast

Elbow pain after ring workout

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irongymnast

I'm experiencing pain in both of my outer elbows, I believe it's the ligament.

I haven't trained for 2 months and I started working out again 3 days per week. The pain I believe was primarily caused by performing sets of rope climbing (legs at L position), BL on the rings and bulgarian pushups on the rings.

There was also a minimal paralyzation meaning that it was difficult for me to lift my arms high during that time.

The pain was fortunately going away after 1-2 hours.

I've trained my elbows enough all these years and never had any problems before, except minor pain from overtraining I guess.

Cause, treatment, solution, ideas?

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Joshua Naterman

It sounds like your elbow flexors from the exercises you describe, but what do you mean by outer elbow? When I hear that I think tricep area hear the elbow, which doesn't make as much sense to me.

Regardless, you are probably doing too much too soon. Either scale back the intensity or the volume, and perhaps just do 2x a week for a few weeks to get your body back in shape for all that work! In the meantime, use lots of moist heat on your elbows. Heating pads + damp towel = moist heat. The water transfers heat faster, so you might want to warm the pads slightly less than when you use them dry. The heat therapy will help heal whatever slight damage you've done and minimize the risk of building up a chronic injury. Fish oil and tumeric can also help.

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Blairbob

You haven't trained for 2 months and now you're back going balls to the walls. This is why your elbows are screaming.

From a personal ego perspective, we want to go back to doing as much as we can. However, it's a good idea to ramp back up to there.

Just because we can work at our maxes, doesn't mean we should-always.

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irongymnast
When I hear that I think tricep area hear the elbow, which doesn't make as much sense to me.

I mean the area where the arrow ( with the "Triceps muscle and tendon" caption) is pointing at, in the following picture:

elbow_anatomy06a.jpg

I'll lower the intensity of my exercises and see how it goes.

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Jason Stein

Elbow and wrist prehab exercises can help: club-bells, dumb-bells, rubber bands. I believe you can YouTube some of Scott Sonnon's elbow stuff with clubbells, and then use a frying pan or whatever.

I have noticed at my gym that there are many guys who can lower into and hold a back-lever first try and with no gymnastic experience whatsoever.

They have the muscular strength to do it but --- this is speculation --- they would destroy their elbows if they were to train the BL consistently at the hold they can first demonstrate.

My experience so far with this training is that one needs to condition the connective tissue of the elbow and the joints above and below in a linear, progressive, and patient manner.

None of the steps can be skipped without paying a price down the line --- to borrow a phrase, each progression transcends and includes the previous one.

best of luck,

jason

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Joshua Naterman

Jason, it's not speculation. I too have the muscular strength to easily hold a back lever. My elbows get painful in short order when I do. You MUST go through the progressions with palms facing down to be able to hold full BL without causing serious inner elbow problems.

I think that my body weight has a lot to do with it, since my tissue is under a LOT more stress than lighter guys. Even so, the lighter ones will be at a highly elevated risk. I don't know that I could say they would have elbow problems for SURE, but I think it'd be a safe bet in Vegas.

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Blairbob

Jason, were they doing BL with the palms up? I have seen a lot of people nail BL this way the first time who were fairly strong. Yet they cannot do it with palms down. As well, they tend to try to want to skip to Cross work and they always bend their elbows, sometimes a lot. I know one young college who tries to compete a cross with bent arm, shoulders rolled back, possibly high but yet cannot do BL (he also tries to perform swing to BL which sometimes they give him credit for but the BL is lacking) The body form with hands up tends to be a bit arched more than I'd prefer as well, but I think it has to do more with lacking body control.

One of my little guys always likes to tell the story of how he once held a 45s BL. However, he did it with palms up. He's yet to hold it nearly as long with palms down and we are struggling to retrain it. Typically in meets, he will compete it palms up. It's not specified which way to hold it during competition but we know which way Coach Sommer prefers it.

As well, when I came on; while he had the ability to hold a BL this way for a long duration, he had yet to master basic ring supports, ring dips, L-sit on rings, etc. He had not been working these enough (though he could do a fair amount of dips with a cheating ROM) nor was he prepared for the strain on the elbows.

He now can do dips on PB properly besides a decent support. We haven't tested ring dips with him yet, but we should. He still is a bit better at pulling than push work but it's gotten a lot better.

Oddly enough, he had good straight arm push strength like planche ability but had yet to take it to rings. With some work, he learned how to lock out his elbows and transition the straight arm planche work to PB. He has on occasion press to straddle planche to HS. Then again, his best press is very planche-y do to a stiff straddle-L. (He can straddle-L press HS on PB but barely straddle-L on floor).

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Jason Stein

Blair,

You are right, it is palms up. Check out Brock. He's in his fifties, never touched rings before:

http://www.crossfitportland.com/archives/3822

I feel strong enough about this that it should be mandatory for everyone to spend a set amount of time in each progression, regardless of initial strength, from frog stand and tuck FL and BL to ring support. Maybe active climbers and boulderers could get away with skipping progressions, but that might be about it...

best,

jason

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Philip Papandrea

Hi Jason,

I guess you kind of answered this question already by saying the clubell and band prework but what would you do if the basic act of lowering down into a tuck BL with palms down makes your elbows scream? I've been doing the tuck BL with palms up until I realized that this was not the perferred method but since I switched to palms down my elbows are killing me. The simple act of hanging in an inverted tuck and turning my hands past parrallel really hurts. Should I just do them palms up or Is there another way to eventually be able to do it palms down?

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Jason Stein

Phillip,

I have no idea what Coach Sommer would say to you --- but my first thought is that if tuck BL is making your elbows scream, you must stop doing tuck BL. Joint pain cannot be trained through or overcome, it is not the ''sweet pain' of muscle soreness. It will only get worse.

Wait a period of time on the order of 2 weeks/1 month ... or longer. Then the next time you pass through a German hang/skin-the-cat and it is pain-free, wait ANOTHER 2 weeks to even try a tuck BL.

Different body tissues have different metabolic rates. Sommer wrote about this a bit in BtGB: connective tissue receives very limited blood flow, 1/10th that of muscle tissue. So a tweaked muscle that would take 10 days to heal means a comparable ligament/tendon injury could take 100 days to heal.

Once your elbows are pain-free (avoid kipping pull-ups, too), I might suggest beginning methodically and patiently from the base of the pyramid with skin-the-cats, inverted and support holds on rings.

Regardless if you could knock out high reps in skin-the-cats or long durations in supports, commit to 2-4 weeks (or longer? I don't know) of training in both.

From there move up to the next progression, tuck BL, tuck FL, XR L-sit.

You have to understand too that many male gymnasts start as adolescents or pre-teens --- by the time their bodies hit puberty they've accumulated hours of time spent in hand-spot-assisted holds. It is a different physiological story at 25, 30, 35, etc. This stuff is not impossible, it's just got to be approached very carefully, very patiently, very progressively.

There are a couple very very money elbow prehab exercise that Coach Sommer showed at a seminar last May, exercises that feel like immediate elbow medicine, and I've been practicing some good wrist exercises that help, too. Maybe I can dig up some videos on YouTube, or god forbid make one.

Finally, maybe just rotate BL to the back of your goals list for the time being, focus on FL, PL, press HS, or manna.

Best of luck with your elbows...

best,

jason

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Philip Papandrea

Thanks Jason, appreciate the detailed answer. I will stop trying to work through it and give what you said a try.

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Joshua Naterman

He's right. I'm going all the way back to frog stand for my planche work! Sometimes you just have to start at the beginning and take your time.

When my elbows started giving me trouble I tried to just dial things down a little and keep going, and I ended up being pretty much out of commission with straight arm work for 5-6 months. I'm just now able to do some stuff without pain, and I'm taking it reeeeeeeeal slow! :P Don't be a fool like I was!

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Amebix138
Phillip,

I have no idea what Coach Sommer would say to you --- but my first thought is that if tuck BL is making your elbows scream, you must stop doing tuck BL. Joint pain cannot be trained through or overcome, it is not the ''sweet pain' of muscle soreness. It will only get worse.

Wait a period of time on the order of 2 weeks/1 month ... or longer. Then the next time you pass through a German hang/skin-the-cat and it is pain-free, wait ANOTHER 2 weeks to even try a tuck BL.

Different body tissues have different metabolic rates. Sommer wrote about this a bit in BtGB: connective tissue receives very limited blood flow, 1/10th that of muscle tissue. So a tweaked muscle that would take 10 days to heal means a comparable ligament/tendon injury could take 100 days to heal.

Once your elbows are pain-free (avoid kipping pull-ups, too), I might suggest beginning methodically and patiently from the base of the pyramid with skin-the-cats, inverted and support holds on rings.

Regardless if you could knock out high reps in skin-the-cats or long durations in supports, commit to 2-4 weeks (or longer? I don't know) of training in both.

From there move up to the next progression, tuck BL, tuck FL, XR L-sit.

You have to understand too that many male gymnasts start as adolescents or pre-teens --- by the time their bodies hit puberty they've accumulated hours of time spent in hand-spot-assisted holds. It is a different physiological story at 25, 30, 35, etc. This stuff is not impossible, it's just got to be approached very carefully, very patiently, very progressively.

There are a couple very very money elbow prehab exercise that Coach Sommer showed at a seminar last May, exercises that feel like immediate elbow medicine, and I've been practicing some good wrist exercises that help, too. Maybe I can dig up some videos on YouTube, or god forbid make one.

Finally, maybe just rotate BL to the back of your goals list for the time being, focus on FL, PL, press HS, or manna.

Best of luck with your elbows...

best,

jason

I actually rehabed my elbow tendonitis by doing lots of pull ups and ignoring the pain. Well, not completely ignoring the pain, but ignoring it until it just got too bad and then cutting back on the volume. I would cut back, the pain would subside and it would be a little stronger then the last time I had to cut back. I tried a layoff, took a long one actually, 6 months, and it just made the problem worse. Zero benefit. I also had elbow pain when beginning to extend out from a tuck front lever and it went away after about 2 weeks. BL elbow pain I had when doing tucks, it never went away through training, and finally did when I got stronger in the FL.

So basically what I'm saying is that training through the pain works sometimes and layoffs arent always productive. In my experience. Although, there is the question of whether or not this was the ideal approach, and if I wasnt unnecessarily risking something like a tendon rupture when a more gradual, moderate rehab would have been as effective. It wouldn't have gotten me as strong as fast though.

I also did alot of foam rolling and messaging during that period, which also helped alot.

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Jason Stein

Amebix,

I have no idea regarding the particulars of your pain.

However, training through increasing joint pain is pure stupidity.

Also, repeating the ROM of an exercise that causes increasing joint pain is pure stupidity.

I suggest that you have no idea what brought about your elbow healing. Perhaps if you had trained more intelligently, your pain would have healed in 6 weeks rather than 6 months.

But what the hell. They're your wrists. elbows, and knees. They'll let you know when they've had enough.

best,

jason

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Joshua Naterman

When it comes to inner elbow pain and straight arm work, you can't follow the same logic.

When I was in Virginia Beach training for BUDS I ended up getting tendonitis from rope climbing. I was using just my arms because it was faster than arms plus legs for me, but my inner elbows weren't ready. I ended up with the worst tendonitis you can imagine. My vision would literally go white for a moment every time I was done with rope climbs, even when using my feet. I couldn't talk beyond grunts for up to 10 seconds after pull up sets because my brain was overloaded with the pain. I did train through this because I had no viable options at the time. Lots of hot + Cold showers, physical therapy 5 days a week( benefit of being attached to seal team 4) and massage. foam rolling, cross-frictional, you name it. The biggest part of my rehab, which was what eventually got me healed, was going all the way back to 2.5 lbs on bicep curls. I didn't do any bicep/forearm flexor work that was avoidable, but we hit the o-course twice a week so there was always twice a week rope climbs. Anyhow, I would do sets of however many reps didn't hurt. When it hurt, I stopped. It took me almost two weeks of 2.5 bicep curls 4x a week to be able to do one set of 10 without pain. After that I went up 2.5 lbs at a time until I was back up to 50 lbs, which took about 3.5 months. If I hadn't done those, who knows how long it would have taken. I did this at the suggestion of the therapist, and it really worked wonders.

Elbow tendonitis is no joke, don't screw with it. Unless there is absolutely no way to get out of hard work, don't do any hard work with the movements that hurt. Start off with band equivalents, work VERY light bicep curls if you have inner elbow pain, or very light overhead standing, sitting or supine tricep extentions. Do two sets of as many reps as you can do without any discomfort. At the first sign of discomfort, stop. Do this 3-5x a week, with at least one block of 2 rest days back to back. When you can do 2 sets of 10 with no discomfort, go up in weight by the smallest increment available. Keep doing that until you get back to whatever your normal capabilities are, and then consider easing back into whatever positions are hurting you. It may help to use a pulley system at first to take half the weight off.

There are a bunch of things that CAN work, but to ensure success the first time, in the shortest period safely possible, you need to be slow and incremental in your rehab. I have had problems for YEARS because I never truly took the time to completely rehab. It is maddening to reach peaks time and time again only to run into the same old injury. Be smarter than that. Take your time with rehab.

Be DOUBLY sure to do so when you're dealing with straight arm movements. The forces acting on the connective tissues are extremely high when compared to bent arm movements, and should not be compared to them without taking this into account.

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Neal Winkler

I don't know if this will help anyone, but here is my recent experience with elbow pain.

Around last March I was doing BJJ and someone hit down on my locked out elbow while I was on top. For a few months I couldn't use it at all for any exercises, and for the next few months after that I only could only do FBE's, FSP were a no go. Pretty much 6 months wasted on FSP. But hey, I can still legitimately say that I have yet to hurt myself doing gymnastics. :lol:

After I finally got to the point where I could do FSP's again, I stayed with the advanced frog stand for a LONG TIME because to this day my elbow still feels a little tweaked (popping, ect.) and I was afraid of re-injuring it. I got to a point where I could feel absolutely no pressure on my elbows while in the advanced frog stand. It was only a month or two ago that I finally went to tuck planche. When I went to tuck planche something happened that I didn't expect. I still felt no pressure being exerted on my elbows, and yes, my elbows are locked out. I think this extra time I spent in the advanced frog stand (5 or 6 months) really did a lot for my connective tissue strength in the elbows.

Yes, it's taken me much longer to progress than I would of liked because of the BJJ injury, but perhaps it will end up being a blessing in surprise.

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Joshua Naterman

I think it is a blessing, triangle. I'm going to do the same thing. It's definitely smart to spend a long time on the basic conditioning. That's the only way I'm going to make it to the full planche at my size.

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irongymnast

I think that rope climbing is too much strain for the elbows. I'm doing a 30ft rope 2x up and down (feet in L-sit) and then I'm like dead. Is that normal?

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Joshua Naterman

What do you mean like dead? What does that have to do with elbow strain?

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Philip Papandrea

I agree with being cautious which I always have been. This is the first time i've actually experienced pain doing any of the gymnastic moves. I know coach says to do the BL with palms down but I think I will just continue to do the movement with palms up or at least parallel this way I can include the BL in my training. I don't know if its worth driving my self nuts trying to figure out why that movement pattern hurts since i've been able to work on all the other FSP and FBE progressions without any pain. Maybe when I get further along on the other progressions I will revisit palms down.

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irongymnast
What do you mean like dead? What does that have to do with elbow strain?

Well it's correlated to elbow strain because I can't bend my arms at the end of the workout (includes other stuff also, not just the rope climbing). But also physically exhausted from the power needed. I just find rope climbing very difficult and I also lack pulling strength (yet I'm 150lbs).

Now I have access to a much larger rope and I don't know if the elbow strain is caused from the larger rope or that I'm going too fast with my training after a somewhat long pause.

Haven't hit the gym yet, will go this week and see how it goes after 5 days of relaxation.

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Blairbob
Once your elbows are pain-free (avoid kipping pull-ups, too), I might suggest beginning methodically and patiently from the base of the pyramid with skin-the-cats, inverted and support holds on rings.

Bingo. All of this is fundamental before you get to the more advanced ring strength.

IronGymnast, a thicker rope can be more taxing on the grip and joints. However, I think most of your problem is too much, too soon. I call it one hit wonder syndrome.

For instance when I started with one of my guys he had the ability to hold a straddle planche for a short hold. However, after that he was done and could not repeat it again. With some strength moves, I've been the same way. The strength to hold it or do it a few times but without enough capacity to work it repeatedly (so you typically have to scale down some or a lot because that One Hit Wonder effort crushes you).

Irongymnast, are you elbows in pain after the rope climbing? Pain as in OWWWWWW?! If they are sort of just flexed it means they are not in pain but just sore from the flexion. This can be common when doing a lot of pullups/pull work.

Amebix, the fact that your BL elbow pain went away when you got stronger in the FL tells me it was some sort of muscle imbalance issue (that is beyond my field of knowledge).

Jason, I happened to work with a lot of amateur climber/gymnasts last summer. They were part of the gymnastics collegiate club and besides doing gymnastics, climbed quite a bit and competed in climbing (they were part of the climbing club, too).

While they had some impressive pull strength and strength overall, they had yet to master RTO support and this always made their supinated BL work a bit painful. As is common with climbers, they also had some very tight shoulders. I hear this is because they often enough don't work any shoulder mobility or push work.

As well, many of them wanted to work crosses but continued to work them with slightly bent arms. This was an attention to form but also, IMO, a natural reaction to the pressure on the elbows that I see many people feel when starting BL and cross work even when it's scaled down.

One of the things I'm doing to my programming is adding some dedicated ring turned out support holds at the end followed by holding my 25lb dumbbells and standing and turning the DB in and out as if they were rings. As well, I do another the popular elbow in the ribs, rotate the hand palm up to palm down with a stick (longer the better=longer lever) or an 8lb DB. Reps are pretty high right now. 20-25x for the DB, and 10-20 for the stick, light DB.

As well, I have shied away from working PL work with my DB instead of parallettes since I was generally doing them on the DB with them turned out. I prefer it this way, but it's too much for my elbows as it aggravates them slightly.

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Jason Stein
I happened to work with a lot of amateur climber/gymnasts last summer. They were part of the gymnastics collegiate club and besides doing gymnastics, climbed quite a bit and competed in climbing (they were part of the climbing club, too).

Blair,

Well there you have it, even climbers should cautiously approach ring work. They were the only group I can think of (except perhaps circus performers or trapeze aerialists) who might have conditioned arm joint (wrist, elbow, shoulder) connective tissue just by virtue of practicing their skills. The professional climbers/boulderers I have met have tremendous tendon and ligament strength in fingers, hands, wrists, and forearms --- though perhaps not enough in the elbows.

best,

j

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irongymnast

Well today I trained really hard and was only mildly sore (nothing like last week). So I must have been overtraining. I feel much more conditioned now.

Irongymnast, are you elbows in pain after the rope climbing? Pain as in OWWWWWW?!

Well, pain as in extreme SORENESS. Except from the rope climbing, most of the others were pushing exercises, like HeSPU, bulgarian dips, ring flys etc.

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Blairbob

Most of the issues with those climbers is guilty of all amateur gymnasts. Improper form besides a lack of shoulder mobility and press work. Heck, I'm not sure I've met any serious climber that didn't have shoulder problems- but I haven't met many.

Honestly, when I was at my strongest, I did not really do anything organized as far as strength work. Heck, I had to MU to get on top of the rings to work crosses.

There is a difference between extreme soreness, DOMS, and pain. Again it sounds like while you have the strength to accomplish some movements, but you should scale back a bit to work a bit more volume. You'll recover faster not working out to max efforts and get more work in over a shorter and longer period of time.

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