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Pain After Workout Holding Me Back

I’m in my late 30s and have always been a skinny punk (6’1", 170, 6.75" wrist) with knobby arms and legs.

I have been trying to get some more bulk on my body but am having difficulty with the workouts.

Now, when I workout I experience many pains. These aren’t the normal post-workout lactic acid pains. After upper body workouts (benchpress, curls, etc.) I have pain in my elbows (and sometimes wrists). After a couple of weeks of working out (3 days per workout, each body part essentially just once per work, so I’m not overtraining) my elbow pain starts growing. If I continue it will get to the point where it is very painful to hold anything with my arms straight out to the side (think something as light as say a gallon of milk). Nothing worse than working out and feeling like it’s making you weaker :).

After lower body workouts, I get pains in the area where my leg, groin and hip meet (actually this starts during squats). My knees also get a bit sore and start to really crack a lot and make a grinding sound everytime I squat down (with or without weights) or walk stairs. And, my lower back aches (but I’ve always had a small amount of back pain and issues) Basically, I just become a walking pain and feel like I’m really messing myself.

I’m going to see a physician soon to see what he can determine, but I wanted to know if anyone else has experienced this phenomenon and what they do about it.


How many calories a day are you getting? And what ratios of protein/carb/fat?

Do you supplement with fish oil?

What’s your program look like?

All of this sounds very familiar. I got all these symptoms when I simply wasn’t taking in enough calories or was trying to do too much or both.


lots of people here have pain, I have a good deal of pain in both elbows- forearms.
whit out knowing antying about your training, diet, or work life, and there are lots of people here
who know more than me about physiology etc.

I can still suggest the very basics-

warm up
soft tissue work
re pre hab
fish oil.

for warm ups I mean dynamic stretching or mobility work

soft tissue can be as simple as a base ball or a foam roller

pre- rehab- this is to off set and compliment big strength training

fish oil seems to be the magical supplement for joint health, insulin management
and plenty of other good stuff.

check out the mobility thread sniff around some of the authors on this site in particular
Eric Cressey, Mike Roberts, Nick Tummelino who write about this all the time.

Dave Tate wrote something in one of the mythbusters articles on this site about building a bridge-
with training- easing into specific movements to avoid damage to detrained or under trained body parts.
To be clearer he is suggesting transitioning into some of the work that reaps high benefits.


I’m certainly not doing too much right now. My workouts have pretty much ceased until I determine whether I’m doing myself harm. I have been doing regular pushups and pullups, occassional HIIT (1-3 times per week). My job is a desk job so not overly taxing physically.

Two weeks ago I did a light workout with (if memory serves me correctly), 3-4 sets of bench press with (lighter weight, higher rep, I think last few sets were 15 reps at 105). I also did a few sets of deadlift (again same thing, light weight, higher rep) and some dumbbell presses.

Afterward, my elbow began to get that tingling feeling. It went away after a couple of days and never got to the point where it was a lot of pain but I assumed that was because the workload was very light.

My diet right now is about 2,800 calories per day with about 40-50% carbs, 25-30% fat and 20-30% protein. I try to target between 1-1.5g per pound of bodyweight (or 170-250 grams of protein per day), about 30% fat and the rest carbs.

My meals generally consist of three shakes (made from 1 cup milk, 1/2 cup cottage cheese, 1/2 cups oats, 1 scoop protein powder, 3 cups strawberries, 1 cup blueberries, 1 banana, 4-5 cups of spinach and some greens+). I have two of these shakes as meals (1 first thing in the morning on drive to work and 1 on drive home from work in the afternoon), the other is split and drank usually with my breakfast and lunch.

Breakfast is 1/2 - 1 cup oatmeal, 1/2 - 3/4 scoop protein powder and a banana (plus part of the shake mentioned above). Lunch varies (today will be tuna and a pita), sometimes a chicken panini sandwich (2 slices wheat bread, 4-6 oz chicken and a light mayo aioli sauce that I make, plus some cheese and a little bacon). Dinner is whatever the family has but usually consists of a chicken meal, a steak meal or something like spaghetti (9% ground beef and wheat pasta) or tacos occassionally.

Then, before dinner I usually have one more shake made from cottage cheese, protein powder, natrual peanut butter and some UDO’s choice oil. In the morning I take two fish oil tablets, a vitamin C tablet and a antioxidant tablet. At night I take a multivitamin and two glucosamine tablets (thought they may help but don’t seem to be).

I had been exercising (lifting weights) pretty regularly most of last year. I was also trying to do stationary bike work (10 years ago, I used to mountain bike a lot) but I was getting some pretty strong pains in that area where the groin, hip and and legs meet up–I don’t think it was actually groin pain, just to the right of that).

I also noticed that same pain to occur during squatting (I notice it now if I even do no weight squats, after about 10 I start feeling it creeping in). Then, at some point, I don’t know exactly when, I started getting more pain (the usual pain was always my back and knees). But, then my elbows slowly started getting pain (first one then both). I just worked through it, but noticed it became more persistent.

Then, I noticed that my wrists started aching more as well. I went on vacation over the Christmas holiday and then fell out of my workout routine. I basically have done very little weight lifting this year but everytime I do a bit to ease myself back into it the pain starts to creep in and I stop. I have done much more cardio this year (20 minute HIIT on a treadmill 2-3 times per week usually).

My biggest fear is that I’m creating more damage and long-lasting injuries. If that is what the pain is signaling than I don’t want to continue. But, if it’s that it needs more stretching or warmup or whatnot, then that would be great.

My plan is to do a very simple routine 2-3 times per week. I was thinking of what Csaey Butt wrote about which is day 1: incline, barbell row, seated DB and squat, day 2 is mostly stretching, grip, neck, abs and calf and day 3: overhead press, pull-up, dips and deadlift. I also try to do a small ab workout nightly.

Up your healthy fat intake alot.( I take 4 fish oil caps a meal - 5-7 meals a day)
Are you getting enough water? Most people expierence this kind of thing when dehydrated.
Can you do push ups with out wrist pain?

Try seeing a good PT or a person who knows how to lift with good form and have them check out your form.

hope this helps.

ps: kmnyc posted a mobility sticky - read it. Then read it again. Apply to yourself.

for the most part I can do pushups without much wrist pain. However, say I do 6-7 sets of 25 throughout the day, by the end of the day my wrists are a bit sore.

Thanks for the mention of the mobility sticky. I had just found it earlier and have been reading through it.

Great advice so far. As we age general and specific warm ups and mobility become more involved and more important.

I’m curious about your training. You state you backed off the weight and did high reps to avoid overtraining. Even if it’s one body part per week. A common mistake is taking those sets to failure and thinking it is taking it easy. I’ve done it myself and seen lots and lots of people make that mistake. Although I am a huge fan of unloading weeks, it may not be necessary if you schedule your training in a way to prevent burn out.

I watched a Dave Tate video where he talks about people telling him they know how to bench. He watches them and sees that they really don’t.

When I hear of joint pain that progressively gets worse with lifting, I first think some type of overtraining or an inflammatory condition. I don’t think it’s the latter.

Yes, I had been taking my sets to failure. I was doing a routine that was a few sets structured like this. Set 1 was 8-10 reps, set 2 was 6-8 reps, set 3 was 4-6 reps and set 4 was 2-4 reps. I would basically take each set to failure and progressively raise the weight for each set.

However, I’ve really only lifted weights a few times in the past 8 months. Last week was the first time lifting in a while (many weeks at least) and I noticed the pain starting to come up. I was lifting heavy and I wasn’t really going to failure. I intentionally stopped before reaching failure. If I didn’t feel I could do another rep, I didn’t attempt it.

I am going to do some light lifting over the next couple of weeks with some good warm up and stretching and try to start doing some of the mobility exercises mentioned above. I’ll see if the pain still shows up.

If you’re taking all of your working sets to failure and not scheduling in deloading weeks, IMO you are definitely burning out.

For a little while at least, try finishing your working sets of the exercises that have bothered you with a rep or two left in the tank. There are tons of studies that support training with weights that are 65% of your 1RM and greater will create strength gains. Prelepin’s chart has suggested sets and reps with certain intensities. It may not be the best, but given your present state maybe something to try.

Take to heart everything mentioned by KMC, Fischer, and Danjo. Lifting is in part pain, but it should be good pain. And with your stats I don’t think the bodybuiding style of pyramiding to failure is a good approach. A more basic 5 x 5 approach, working with moderate weights that are challing for 5 sets of 5, and making sure your diet and other recovery items are intact. And to reiterate what Fischer said, find somebody really knowledgable to check your form.

Thanks for the suggestions so far guys. I understand the pain part, but this is definitely the wrong pain. It is not post-workout pain from the lactic acid buildup. I’ve also been reading about the 5x5 routines which I will try with fairly light weight.

I will look into a trainer but any suggestions on how to find someone of high quality? There are a ton of personal trainers but how do you know if they know there stuff and can help others or if they took a two-week class at 24-hour fitness?

I’m also going to work on my mobility stretches.

[quote]miksnake wrote:

I will look into a trainer but any suggestions on how to find someone of high quality? There are a ton of personal trainers but how do you know if they know there stuff and can help others or if they took a two-week class at 24-hour fitness?

I’m also going to work on my mobility stretches.[/quote]

Ask to check the Trainers references (past clients) and ask to watch them train a clent.

Go to elitefts.com and look through exercise videos and then video yourself and see if it looks the same.

You stated earlier you are going to failure(alot) don’t.
Start your 5x5 as 3x5 and slowly go up from there. I would do a 2xweek routine with just doing basic exercises and slowly increase work capacity.

deadlift 3x5 not to failure or even close like with a 8 rep max
leg press 3x8 not to failure
bench press 3x5 same parameters as dealift
1 arm row 3x8 not to failure
ab exercise 4 sets of 20

sqaut 3x5 same parameters as deadlift
leg curls 3x8
military press 3x5 same parameters as deadlift
chin ups 3x8
ab exercise 4 sets of 10

every 2 weeks go up 5 pounds on upperbody lifts 10 on the lower body.
every 4 weeks take 1 easy week (deload)
Add 2-3 days cardio 30-45 min. steady state
do warm ups as needed.

Hope this helps.

Thanks Fischer for the detailed advice and suggestions, I really appreciate all the help.

One other question for you: you mentioned 4 fish oil caps per meal. Are those 1200mg caps?

Yes they are 1200mg caps from Origin.

Us old guys got to help each other out.

[quote]PeteS wrote:
And to reiterate what Fischer said, find somebody really knowledgable to check your form. [/quote]

Post a video here, and get your form critiqued by the resident experts for free.

Not sure if this will help you but the couple of times in my life that I’ve had chronic joint pain, glucosamine/chondroitin have helped immensely. These supplements are generally safe so it could be a good idea to try.