Some years back, I decided to take up tennis.
Although I love playing the game, it can be brutal on your joints. In fact, the first year I started playing, I ended up with tennis elbow (in both elbows), as well as a very painful and stiff achilles tendon.
When my achilles was really bad, I’d get out of bed in the morning and hobble down the stairs like I was 102 years old. It would take an hour or so before I was even able to walk normally. Even just taking the dog for a walk was painful.
Things weren’t any easier in the gym either.
Any sort of pressing movement caused this hot, sharp pain in my elbow. Same when I tried to grip the bar during the deadlift. Rows… pulldowns/pullups… direct arm work like pressdowns and curls… all of it hurt.
At first, I thought that simply resting for a few weeks would solve the problem, but it didn’t.
So, I decided to take an aggressive approach, and tried everything – short of cortisone injections and surgery – to get things sorted.
Friction massage… icing… stretching… contrast hydrotherapy (the alternating application of heat and cold)… none of it made any difference.
At this point, I feared that it was “game over.” Tendon pain can hang around for months, if not years. For some people, it never seems to go away.
Plan A (rest) hadn’t worked. Neither had plan B. So, I moved to plan C – rather than trying to get rid of the pain, I decided to work around it, and got back in the gym to see if there was anything I could do that didn’t hurt.
Eventually, I came up with a number of exercises that allowed me to stimulate my muscles without causing my joints to flare up. And while there are certain exercises that I miss doing, I certainly don’t miss the daily aches and pains that made my life miserable.
Injuries can be a real pain in the arse, especially when you enjoy training as much as I do. But they don’t have to keep you out of the gym completely. In many cases, there are ways of working around an injury that let you hit your muscles just as hard without causing further pain or discomfort.
For a joint-friendly approach to muscle growth, check out my MX4 training program at the link below.
If your lower back, knees, elbows, shoulders or wrists are giving you grief, but you still want to keep on training hard, many of the exercises in there saved me from injury hell, and may well do the same for you.
Christian Finn, M.Sc.
Founder of Muscle Evo