What Kind of Injury Do I Have?

Around 5 weeks ago I was doing heavy weighted pullups and I felt a sharp pain in my upper forearm near the bicep. I’ve put a picture below to show where the pain is. It’s now been 5 weeks and whilst I HAVE been recovering and the pain is going away, I’m actually finding it impossible to even do ONE pullup, using just bodyweight. I used to be able to do sets of 12 full range of motion pullups, with 30kg (66lbs) attached to my belt, and it’s making me feel as though I’ll always have this injury. The funny thing is, it’s just when doing pullups and hammer curls, whereas I’ve actually set PRs on all my other lifts, including exercises which use the biceps, which is strange. I only feel pain when doing pullups or hammers.

I went to the hospital about it and had a doctor look at it, but he said that it didn’t have any swelling and seemed fine, but just needed rest. My question is, what kind of injury does this seem like and how long should it take to recover on average? 5 weeks seems quite long and it’s still not fully healed. As mentioned, I can’t even do a single pullup anymore and it’s playing on my mind big time, as it feels like I’ll never be able to go back to my previous pullup strength. I may be being overdramatic though, I don’t know.

Thanks for any help.

Stop trying to do pull ups or it will never heal. If its more on the outside near your elbow, its tennis elbow, if its right where you circled, its probably a muscle strain.

Thanks alpha. Yeah it’s pretty much exactly where I circled, not on the outside as would be the case with tennis elbow. I’ve had to stop pullups since the injury occured, but I’ve been playing mind games with myself over the past few weeks about losing pullup strength. Took me several years of consistent pullups to reach the stage I was at, and whilst it’s not amazing, I was proud of the progress I’d made.

On that note, is there an alternative exercise to pullups which will perhaps still allow me to keep my pullup strength for when I eventually heal properly and can do pullups again? I’ve been switching to lat pulldowns for the time being in place of pullups, but if there’s a better alternative that won’t mess up the healing of my arm that’d be great.

I wouldn’t get so stressed about it. Shit happens, you just need to let it heal. I have “strained” that area before, and it just needs some rest. Just avoid activities that aggravate as best as possible and train around. ICE ICE ICE.

Dan John has written about this before. Middle-age-pullup-syndrome…MAPS. He indicates it comes from doing pullups on a straight bar, and is aggravated by the fixed position of the bar. His solution is to have the hands facing one another, slightly supinated, which means less stress. I would also add rhomboid and lower trap strengthening to the mix. Even though your injury may not be golfer/tennis elbow, it wouldn’t hurt to hedge those bets and strengthen the mid back. Prone T’s and V’s to isolate them, and stick with it, adding reps and weights. Begin to introduce pullups gradually with palms facing one another. Hope that helps.

How do you tie


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EDIT: looks like the link isn’t working. I tried googling the article and the IP address was unavailable. Would you mind copying and pasting the relevant text from the article? Cheers

If your mid back is whack and your shoulder blade doesn’t move right it’s hard to use the lat and pull up properly. You end up pulling with all arm, maybe a cocked up wrist and it’s rough on the elbow. I swear a felt my arm bones banging together, right underneath were dude has circled at the top of a pull-up before.

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Interesting, but if I wanted to control my scaps for pull-ups I think it would make more sense to check serratus function and ribcage curvature first

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So use the rib meat to pull the forearm/elbow forward, and under the bar Vs back muscles that would pull the forearm back, behind the body and cause elbow issues?

Get the elbows in front of the body, kinda like the semi supinated grip that Benny Hayes/Dan John mentions?

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To be honest, I’m not even thinking about the elbow, more the ribcage and shoulder mechanics.

The way I see it, the number one priority for correct pull-ups is being able to get fully overhead cleanly. The two things we need to get a good overhead position is good roundness/curvature of the thoracic spine and posterior ribcage, and a serratus that can drive us into upward rotation.

In my eyes, once we’re in deep upward rotation, the rhomboids are stretched and will thus be able to drive downward rotation of the scap, which we need to be able to execute a pull-up. I wouldn’t want to be doing lots of scapular retraction exercises, since driving lots of scapular retraction will take tension off the lats and low trap, and will flatten the T-Spine and posterior ribcage.

Pull-ups/chin-ups are primarily an up-down motion of the thorax and scaps, so I think it’s best to cue them as such. That’s just my opinion though, and I couldn’t give any real evidence to back myself up.


I thought about it more, and keeping elbows somewhat in front of my body is something I’ve done for a while. I’m pretty certain it applies better tension to lats, seeing as the lats don’t really extend the shoulder past the plane of the body.

What the article, and some of the other articles that I have seen, is suggesting that you put some focus on the lower traps and rhomboids. Not during pullups, but separately performing exercises to strengthen the mid back. For example, prone T’s and V’s, affecting the scapular adductors and depressors. Comparative weakness in this area can result in lateral/medial epicondyle irritation. Straight up and down pullups don’t hit these muscles much, since the lats are really firing.


Fair enough, I can follow that logic. Thank you for the reply