T Nation

Somewhat of a Beginner Looking for Input

Well guys I went from being a long time reader and lurker to finally making an account and joining.

Quick bio is I’m a 30 yr old ecto who has been training just over 3 years. In that time I’ve gone from skinny fat at 165 to just skinny at 150 to adding 25 lean lbs on to that (I’ve been up over 180 before but that was from over doing my bulk).

Anyway I’ve tried many of the popular programs out there with 5/3/1 and PHAT being my hands down favorites.
I am currently back on 5/3/1 after a 3-4 month break of doing other things (tpyical BB split for a month, PHAT for the rest of that time). This time around I’m finding my joints to be my biggest limitation.
Specifically my left shoulder but also occasionally elbows and wrists (my knees have been a long time issue but this is a genetic thing I’ve dealt with since my teens).

What I’m wondering is what I need to do to get past this. I foam roll once a week, do at least 2 warm up sets, and do stretching between sets. My diet is sound but could be better. Hitting ~1g protein per lb of bodyweight, lots of veggies and general healthy eating all while tracking my macros. Only exception is the weekends where I drink (beer) and eat generally whatever I want so long as I hit my protein requirements. I also haven’t been doing much cardio lately.

I’m just wondering what I could do to get my joint problems under control so I can go back to making progress again.
More mobility work? Conditioning?
I haven’t been very well about remembering to take my fish oil lately, maybe this is a factor?
So far every bump I’ve run into I’ve been able to get by but these joint problems are a new animal that I haven’t been able to sort out on my own.

Any help would be much appreciated, thanks guys.

Besides the obvious option of seeing a doctor and taking advantage of modern medicine to identify and fix your joint problems, you can always just do stuff that doesn’t hurt your joints.

[quote]twojarslave wrote:
Besides the obvious option of seeing a doctor and taking advantage of modern medicine to identify and fix your joint problems, you can always just do stuff that doesn’t hurt your joints.[/quote]

Doing so would leave me with little to do in the lifting department though.

As for seeing a doctor I’ve considered it but if I can solve this issue with a change in my behaviors instead I’d rather do that. At the very least I’d like to exhaust my options in things I control before going there.

Assuming you don’t have any serious medical issues causing this pain, which you should get checked out, your best course of action is going to be trial and error. You need to find out what is causing the pain and eliminate or modify those movements that are to blame. Your form should be perfect for the major lifts, and if not get with a good trainer that can help you there. A major source of joint pain in the shoulders and elbows is the bench press, and modifications to your grip width and/or elbow angle can have dramatic effects.

Curls can sometimes cause wrist pain, and changing the bar, grip, or dumbbell rotation can sometimes eliminate the pain. These are just examples, however, and you will need to find out what works best for you. The best approach is eliminating movements you suspect causes you pain for a period of several weeks and reevaluate. If the pain is still there, they were not the cause, if the pain is reduced or eliminated, you need to look at modification or replacement strategies. Over enough time you should be able to understand your limitations and design a program around them.

There are some exercises that cause more harm to joints then others. When this happens it’s best to avoid them . Don’t keep doing the same exercises if they continue to aggravate a joint as the problem will only get worse.

A classic example is Barbell Bench Press. It’s wrecked many a shoulder. The solution is as simple as switching it out in favour of Dumbbell Bench Press or Low Incline Dumbbell Bench Press.
Barbell Overhead Press is another that can cause havoc on shoulders. Solution is dump it for various forms of Lateral Raises.
Narrow Grip Upright Row can cause shoulder impingement but Wide Grip Upright Row seems to be fine. If it is for you then use it as it’s a great overall Deltoid builder.

Pullups from a straight bar can cause elbow problems however from parallel bars or rings can be fine.
Skull Crushers kill elbows whereas PJR Pullovers are fine.
Bench dips are horrendous whereas Parallel Bar dips can be fine. If they do hurt then don’t do them.
Even heavy Bar Pushdowns can cause elbow pain whereas Rope Pushdowns don’t.

If Squats are hurting your knees then switch to Trap Bar Deadlifts, Leg Press, Lunges etc…

The basic thing here is don’t continue with an exercise that puts strain on your joints. There will always be a good alternative.

[quote]Angus1 wrote:
There are some exercises that cause more harm to joints then others. When this happens it’s best to avoid them . Don’t keep doing the same exercises if they continue to aggravate a joint as the problem will only get worse.

A classic example is Barbell Bench Press. It’s wrecked many a shoulder. The solution is as simple as switching it out in favour of Dumbbell Bench Press or Low Incline Dumbbell Bench Press.
Barbell Overhead Press is another that can cause havoc on shoulders. Solution is dump it for various forms of Lateral Raises.
Narrow Grip Upright Row can cause shoulder impingement but Wide Grip Upright Row seems to be fine. If it is for you then use it as it’s a great overall Deltoid builder.

Pullups from a straight bar can cause elbow problems however from parallel bars or rings can be fine.
Skull Crushers kill elbows whereas PJR Pullovers are fine.
Bench dips are horrendous whereas Parallel Bar dips can be fine. If they do hurt then don’t do them.
Even heavy Bar Pushdowns can cause elbow pain whereas Rope Pushdowns don’t.

If Squats are hurting your knees then switch to Trap Bar Deadlifts, Leg Press, Lunges etc…

The basic thing here is don’t continue with an exercise that puts strain on your joints. There will always be a good alternative. [/quote]

Excellent reply thank you!

The thing I’m finding strange is that I have not incorporated any new exercises into my routine. While I’m not a veteran I’ve been at it long enough to find work arounds on lifts that obviously do not work for me.
Skull crushers have never agreed with me so they’ve been out for a long time.

Using bench as an example in the past I’ve never had issues with bench giving me trouble but this time around on 5/3/1 I am usually feeling the hurt in my left shoulder by the end and thats using weight I could handle this past winter. So much so it becomes a hindrance to my assistance work.

Do you guys think that maybe its just the overall wear I’ve put on my body over the past couple years accumulating? Or is this just what happens as you get older?
I’m definitely all for replacing if need be and have in the past, I’ll try to be more conscious of this in the future but in the meantime I think you guys are right that it’d be smartest if I went to a doc just to be sure and not cause myself further potential grief.

It’s builds up over time and gets worse as we get older.

For example during a Barbell Bench Press the shoulders are internally rotated and overtime this can cause friction of rotator cuff and bursa. If we continue on with further BB Bench Pressing then this friction can start to create more serious injuries such as bursitis, supraspinatus tear or even a labrum tear which is part of the joint capsule.
Now if you are Barbell Military Pressing as well you are adding even more fuel to this already out of control fire as during this lift the bursa and supraspintas are pushed into the acromion which is the bone that sits on top.

Other problems can arise with the bicep tendon as well. There are lots of structures in this area so inflammation to this region can lead to more serious injury. Heavy Incline Bicep Curls when incorporated with the above 2 exercises can also lead to even more inflammation and result in injury. Bicep tendon injuries often feel like shoulder injuries but under a scan it is not uncommon to see a tear to supraspinatus and bicep tendon.

None of these exercises are necessarily bad but the point is if you do have a problem then continuing on will most likely result in further injury. It doesn’t just go away if it continues to be aggravated.

So what to do?
Well you can program your training so you don’t stay on the same lifts for any extended length of time.
Perhaps if you like the above 3 exercises don’t do them all during the same block of training. So switch one out and the other in after 6-9 weeks etc… just not at the same time.
It has been shown that just by going to a slight incline in the bench press can put the shoulder in a safer position. Using dumbbells as I stated earlier works because it takes your shoulder out of a forced internal rotation. Some lifters can’t bench with a bar at all but find dumbbells don’t worry them .

Some lifters find a push press is fine whereas a Military Press is aggravating. The reason for this is it’s the lower portion of the lift in the MP which causes the impingement. Push Press uses momentum to get through this nasty phase of the lift.
Some lifters work Rear delts first then Mid Delts with lateral raises etc… then do their Overhead Press work right at the end once deltoids are fully warmed up and pre fatigued. Some lifters just dump overhead pressing altogether .

The same applies with elbow injuries. Some people find prolonged use of wide grip pullups aggravates the elbow. This doesn’t mean you can never do them though. It just means it makes more sense to periodise with different grips and intensities (% of 1 RM). So this could mean Body Weight Wide Grip Pullups one session. Weighted Neutral Grip the next then Supinated grip the next.

Smart programing is the way to work around joint injuries.

Oh and 30 isn’t old. Wait till you hit 45 :slight_smile:

Another great reply thank you!

I’m not saying 30 is old but it is older than the 26 at which I started.
Regarding benching specifically I always have MORE pain when I do DB presses over bar and feel like weight wise I’d have to do significantly less than I can with a bar.
However every time I’ve done DB presses in the past 6+ months I’ve done them after BB pressing already so that may be the issue. I’ll start there and try to swap different movements in and out one at a time so I’m not messing with too many variables at once.

My main strength goal for the year has been a body weight mil press, hopefully I don’t have to shy away from mil pressing and find a new goal but will if I have to.

Again thank you for the post, I truly appreciate it.

Your main goal should be to get better. Nothing else matters.

And yeah, do what doesn’t hurt. Lots and lots of variations for exercise. If all you can find is one exercise, then see your main goal.

[quote]JFG wrote:
Your main goal should be to get better. Nothing else matters.

And yeah, do what doesn’t hurt. Lots and lots of variations for exercise. If all you can find is one exercise, then see your main goal. [/quote]

That is always a main goal. Never ending constant improvement is something I try to focus on it all areas of life so I definitely agree.
It just every year I try to set a specific strength goal to work towards. Helps me stay focused and driven having finite numbers and dates I’m trying to acheive. Last year I hit my 405 deadlift goal for the year on Decemeber 27th.
This year I thought a body weight mill press would be a good thing to shoot for, guess we’ll see what my body wants to let me do in that department.

[quote]kbiz wrote:
My diet is sound but could be better. Hitting ~1g protein per lb of bodyweight, lots of veggies and general healthy eating all while tracking my macros.[/quote]
Healthy fats in general, particularly fish oils like you mentioned, can have some noticeable anti-inflammatory properties. Make sure you’re getting plenty of animal fats each day.

[quote]I’m just wondering what I could do to get my joint problems under control so I can go back to making progress again.
More mobility work? Conditioning?[/quote]
Mobility work is almost never a bad idea, especially doing a little every day instead of longer sessions only on days you train, but also consider some higher rep work. Wendler’s also discussed the idea of 100-rep sets being restorative.

Specifically, I like thick-grip rope pressdowns (grabbing both sides of the rope in one hand, for sets of 15+) for the elbow joint and face pulls and/or the LYTP series for the upper back/shoulder-support structures (for sets of 12-15).

[quote]kbiz wrote:

[quote]JFG wrote:
Your main goal should be to get better. Nothing else matters.

And yeah, do what doesn’t hurt. Lots and lots of variations for exercise. If all you can find is one exercise, then see your main goal. [/quote]

That is always a main goal. Never ending constant improvement is something I try to focus on it all areas of life so I definitely agree.
It just every year I try to set a specific strength goal to work towards. Helps me stay focused and driven having finite numbers and dates I’m trying to acheive. Last year I hit my 405 deadlift goal for the year on Decemeber 27th.
This year I thought a body weight mill press would be a good thing to shoot for, guess we’ll see what my body wants to let me do in that department.[/quote]

Yes, CANEI, I get it.

You got 405 deadlift and now you hurt.

I stand by my original goal. Get better, THEN get the BW thing.

Or keep getting hurt. It is your goal after all.

[quote]JFG wrote:

[quote]kbiz wrote:

[quote]JFG wrote:
Your main goal should be to get better. Nothing else matters.

And yeah, do what doesn’t hurt. Lots and lots of variations for exercise. If all you can find is one exercise, then see your main goal. [/quote]

That is always a main goal. Never ending constant improvement is something I try to focus on it all areas of life so I definitely agree.
It just every year I try to set a specific strength goal to work towards. Helps me stay focused and driven having finite numbers and dates I’m trying to acheive. Last year I hit my 405 deadlift goal for the year on Decemeber 27th.
This year I thought a body weight mill press would be a good thing to shoot for, guess we’ll see what my body wants to let me do in that department.[/quote]

Yes, CANEI, I get it.

You got 405 deadlift and now you hurt.

I stand by my original goal. Get better, THEN get the BW thing.

Or keep getting hurt. It is your goal after all.[/quote]

Sorry I misunderstood what you meant by get better. I thought you meant I shouldn’t have a singular goal, that I should be working at everything all at once.

FWIW I didn’t get hurt doing deads, that 405 pull was in December. I don’t regularly go for PRs.