If you have any nagging aches or pains in your elbows or shoulders, then pay attention. If you want to prevent aches or pains in your elbows and shoulders but still want to train hard and get results, then pay attention.
My goal with this article is to share with you two very affordable training tools I have been using in my training, and with my clients, to take unnecessary stress and strain off my elbows and shoulders while still allowing me to train hard and frequently.
Over the past few weeks I’ve increased the frequency of my training, and I started to notice my left elbow acting up; this happened in the past when I increased my training frequency so I was hardly surprised.
My left elbow started to feel achy. I believe my left elbow was affected not only because of the increase in training frequency, but also because I’m left handed and, therefore, use that arm for more daily tasks.
Two Great Tools
First, I should note that I was performing a lot of chin-ups (supinated, neutral, and pronated grips) and pressing with a straight bar when I noticed the dull ache in my left elbow. These movements, straight bar chin-ups and barbell pressing, can put a lot of stress on your elbows and shoulders because they are forced into a fixed position.
To understand what I mean, compare a barbell overhead press with a dumbbell overhead press. When you use dumbbells, you’re able to naturally rotate your hands, but with a barbell they are in a fixed position throughout the movement.
Here are the two simple changes and tools I put into practice that alleviated my elbow pain:
1) I replaced the vast majority of my chin-up variations with a Jungle Gym. I also performed inverted rows exclusively with the Jungle Gym as well. You can also use rings, TRX, or any other suspension trainer. I prefer the Jungle Gym because it’s quite affordable (compared to a TRX) and allows you to perform a greater variety of exercises than rings.
By performing movements such as chin-ups and inverted rows with a suspension trainer, the stress on the elbows and shoulders is reduced. The reason is because, as with dumbbells, the Jungle Gym (or rings) allows the hands, elbows, and shoulders to move naturally. Watch this video to see what I mean:
2) In addition, I started to use Fat Gripz for all of my pressing movements. Granted, I’m stilling using a straight barbell for all of my pressing, but the use of Fat Gripz reduces the stress on the shoulders and elbows because you’re not squeezing a small barbell. Gripping a one inch handle puts more stress on your elbow than a larger handle, as provided via Fat Gripz.
Here’s a video of me pressing with Fat Gripz:
These two simple changes – using the Jungle Gym for chin-ups and inverted rows, and the use of Fat Gripz for pressing – immediately caused the pain in my elbow to subside.
I should note that the Jungle Gym is also a great tool for push-ups and dips and you can use the Fat Gripz to increase your grip strength. As an example, I’ve started to use the Fat Gripz with the inverted rows to increase my grip strength.
Take a Preventative Approach
If you currently don’t have any aches or pains in your elbows or shoulders, can you still benefit from these two tools?
In fact, I’m taking more of a preventative role in my own training and with my clients. To keep your shoulders and elbows healthy, I suggest you incorporate the use of the Jungle Gym (or similar suspension trainer) and Fat Gripz into your training.
You don’t have to perform all of your chin-up variations with the Jungle Gym or use the Fat Gripz for all of your pressing, but simply using them with your accessory work can definitely be beneficial.
Please keep in mind that you can experience shoulder and/or elbow pain for other reasons. Using the tools above is not a guaranteed fix for any problems you’re experiencing because there could be something else going on that’s causing your pain (insufficient thoracic mobility, etc). While these two tools are excellent, they’re not the end-all-be-all for elbow and shoulder issues.