T Nation

Sinewy Issues When Chinning


Started some wild ass chining regemin by Christian Thibaudeau and I'm unable to repeat the program very often because of persistant tendon/ligament soreness in my inner forearm/elbow area. Similar but less severe in the upper lat area. At most I can complete the routine twice per week. Making progress but very slow. Is there a magic suppliment or is it to be expected with age? I'm 42, 190lbs, I can rep out 7-8 chins but I try to stay with as many sets of 2 reps as possible (7-8).


Many supps-will they work for you?-who knows. Stretching is the only way to combat these pains that I have found to work consistently. Stretch on off days especially. Put your elbow by your side with fingers up and hand facing away and pull back on the fingers toward the top of your forearm-like when the bar rests on your chest while doing power cleans. Keep doing it even when the pain goes away. I also push down on the top of my hand in the other direction. Stretching is a basic concept but one that is mostly ignored outside of organized sports.


Be very, very careful if you are feeling elbow tendon pain during or after chinning.

Several years ago, I got into doing weighted chins. I kept adding weight week to week to where I was doing 8-10 reps per set for five sets twice a week with 75 lbs at a bodyweight of about 140 lbs. Then I began noticing a pain in my elbow on the first rep of the first set, but nothing after. I ignored it, and in about two weeks it became the first rep of every set, and then shortly after that I noticed it when doing any kind of pulling or curls.

It was tendonitis, and it put me out for 8 months. I saw doctors, they sent me to PTs, they gave me a brace and other nonsense that did nothing to help. I couldn't understand what could be so wrong that months of rest could not solve.

Finally, I saw an athletic trainer, and he explained right away that the bitch of tendonitis is that the inflammation leads to weakening of the muscle, which leads to more strain on the tendon, which in turn creates more inflammation. So when, after resting, you return to training, the tendonitis returns immediately.

The key to beating elbow tendonitis is, after an initial period of rest and icing, to start doing very light forearm exercises to pump blood in the area to promote healing and to gradually strengthen the muscles around the tendon. Rehab is critical.

After that experience, I swore off heavy chins. This past fall, I got back in to doing them again. One month ago, I noticed elbow problems again -- this time on the outside of the other elbow. But it still hurts to grip things; too many weeks of too much heavy pulling and chinning. It was not the chins or the pulls per se, but rather stupidity on my part. Even before I started to feel any pain I knew I should back off for a bit and change my exercises, but I was stubborn. And now I am paying the price.

When I return, I will be doing regular forearm and grip work. Relative to my back in particular, my forearms and grip are weak, and that imbalance has led to this problem. Live and learn, but better to learn from others' mistakes than your own.

Here is a link to a page that explains something about rehabilitation:


Oh, and yes, age makes a difference. Older athletes get tendonitis more often.


Are you "chins" or "pull-ups" when the pain occurs? There is a difference. The pain around your elbow may be your biceps tendon if you're doing pull-ups.


What Ajax said. I got mine from rock climbing... bouldering actually. I read that it happened because my muscles got stronger so much faster than my connective tissue. Backing off was the only thing that helped.

As for prevention, in the same book (Rock Climbing 5.12) the author prescribes reverse grip curls to balance out the pulling. Since I read that, I've been doing them, and haven't experienced any problems, but I also haven't been climbing as hard.

Food for thought at least...



I think that I suffered from the same pain which you are describing. I had to use a wrist wrap hook on my left hand in order to ease the gripping pressure if I was going to continue to train. I resumed training after about 7 days, but it was far from healed.

A few pieces of advice:

  1. Do more Pull-ups than Chin-ups. Pull-ups are performed with you palms away, Chins with palms facing you, "supenated."

When you do Pull-ups the tension in the area you describe is far less. It switches to the brachialis tendon on the opposite side of your arm. That is not to say that you will not feel pressure on the other side, but it is far less.

In fact, I have repeatedly told anyone asking for Pull-up/Chin-up advice: do more Pull-ups than Chin-ups. Firstly, they are more difficult. Second, they work the Latissimus dorsi (lats) better. Third they take "some" pressur off the Bicep and the tendons on that side of the arm and onto the Brachialis tendono on the reverse side as previously mentioned.

The ratio that I use is 65% to 75% Pull-ups and the rest Chin-ups.

  1. Work with a "hook" for a while on the arm where you are having pain. It took me almost 6 months to be 100% pain free. However, I trained regularly thanks to the "hook." You can purchase this on the Internet. It is simply a metal hook with a cloth strap which wraps around your wrist. It really comes in handy when you want to continue to train through the type of injury you have.

  2. Stop training weighted Pull-ups (or Chin-ups) three times per week. If you want to train Pulls and Chins three times per week (which is fine) train one day with weights, low heavy reps, about four or five sets. One day high reps only body weight. The third day is the day you place in the middle which is a light day. Do several mid range sets with no weight. Work on your technique.

I made my best progress performing Chins/Pulls three times per week, but I always made sure that I had heavy, medium, light days for the long haul.

By the way I don't think the age of 42 has anything to do with it. I have 7 years on you and I just hit the 40 straight dead hang chin mark. Before anyone tells me of a friend, or relative who can do 60 or 70 in a row, I know that 40 is nothing. It is a poor excuse for a set of Chins, but for me it is a personal best and I'm happy with it, for now.

As far as supplements; Glucosamine will not do a thing for your tendons (which is the problem you currently have). Neither will MSM help one bit.

My prescription for tendon injuries, and I have had my fair share, is:

  1. Ice- As soon as you feel the pain place ice directly on it. Do this for the first few days.

  2. Rest- Take at least 5 days off to asses the problem. Don't be in a hurry to get back to training until you know what you are dealing with.

  3. Heat-After the first week or so it's time for heat. I placed a hot water bottle (you can use a corn bag as well) directly on the area each night before bed. I think it made a huge difference.

  4. After the first 10 days or so, try to massage the area. This sends blood to the area, loaded with nutrients. It also breaks up any scar tissue (from nearby muscle) which might enter into the picture and complicate things. Make sure the massage is not too deep, or long, you don't want to make matters worse.

  5. Drink plenty of water. This was told to me by a massage therapist who has treated tendon injuries in the past. I have no idea how much the extra water consumption helped (I drank an extra 4 glasses per day, but I do know that I am currently training very hard and pushing fifty years of age.

Speaking of fifty, that's my new goal for successeive dead hang Chin-ups! Hmm 50 by 50?

Take care, and best of luck!



Try ART. I had the same issues when chinning repeatedly, and I went through PT/rehab, and it came back almost immediately after I resumed training. Then I went to an ART provider and it's been a-ok ever since.

By the way, I have to disagree respectfully with ZEB. I had the same pain in the same inner forearm/elbow area you describe, and only chin-ups (palms supinated) provided me the ability to carry on training momentarily. Palms away from me hurt too much.

Also, try getting some dit da jow. It's a Chinese liniment that I've found extremely useful for healing bruises,cuts, ligament/tendon soreness, and soreness of the bones, as well as general inflammation.