Joint pain is probably the most common injury a bodybuilder struggle with. And the bad part is, as you pass the 40 y/o mark the challenges increases drastically to walk the narrow pain-free road with your joints.
In this article I will explain how to train to avoid /minimizing joint pain and then also give some options as a last resort for effective treatment considerations.
When we speak about joint pain then we generally refer to any of the following:
ARTHRITIS, BURSITIS (aka Tennis/Golfers Elbow), TENDONITIS
The good news is that all three can be nearly fully avoided, even for us older folks. (I am not taking into account genetic predisposition to arthritis or similar conditions)
A very effective avoidance principle
Few of us employ the basic training principles required for avoidance. It is so simple but our aim and eagerness to grow is the main culprit here.
The human body CANNOT take increasing punishment month after month for an extended period.
IT WILL BREAK! And the first to go is your tendons, joints and immune system.
Younger guys can get away with it to a certain degree but as you age your body has less testosterone and growth hormone available and the healing and repair slows down = breaking easier.
The avoidance principle is as follows: A Three month Building Phase must be applied and followed by a three-month Cutting Phase in a very specific way and repeated.
During the Building phase you will punish your body severely and consume higher calories. This is where growth occurs. You will increase the weight sizes (sets of 8 reps) with a maximum of 10% every 14 days. NOT MORE THAN 10%! Even if you feel you have to power, DON’T! Your tendons and joints need time to strengthen in a structured gradual approach. Bypassing this step-up gradual approach and you WILL run into joint and tendons problems. This I guarantee you.
The Building phase will be continued for a 3 month period.
At the end of the 3 months you will enter the Cutting Phase. This Cutting phase’s purpose is to allow for tendon and joint healing and to cut the body fat down for a shredded look with fewer calories consumed daily compared to the Building phase. You will cut the weight sizes lifted on ALL exercises by 30% and increase the reps per set to be 15-20 for all exercises (from the 8 reps per set on the Building phase). You do NOT train to failure in the Cutting phase. Your body needs time to repair and strengthen the tendons and joints after the hammering of the Building phase. This is a CRITICAL approach for joint health and the moment you bypass this alternating Building/Cutting phase approach you WILL run into problems.
The Cutting phase is NOT a phase for growing muscles but simply to maintain them while allowing the body time (3-months) to heal and strengthen tendons and joints.
Three months is considered the safest and best approach for the length of the phases. If you lengthen the time of the Building phase, the risk for joint/tendon injury will skyrocket.
I again emphasize: Do NOT underestimate the importance this approach is playing for joint health. It is also a method employed by most successful bodybuilders.
Just a short note on TENDONITIS
Tendonitis is inflammation/damage of tendons and can sometimes be dealt with an over the counter medication like aspirin or ibuprofen (ask your health care worker).
Tendonitis can be fairly easily avoided/managed by applying the following basic principles:
- Warm up thoroughly, gradually building the intensity level of your workout. Cool down after the session.
- Train for a new sport before you start it. Start building strength and flexibility in the muscles you will use a few weeks or months in advance.
- Learn the proper method/technique and use the proper equipment for any exercise or activity.
- Work out regularly, not just once a week (4 to 5 days a week)
- SLOWLY increase weight sizes (not more than 10% every 14 days)
Short note on Bursitis (Tennis/Golfers Elbow)
One of the primary reasons for tennis/golfers elbow is bad form/technique. The critical aspect that must be avoided is bending the wrist up or down when handling any weight. The wrist and hand must be 100% in a straight line with the forearm. The bending of the wrist inwards and outwards places severe stress on the elbow and it’s workings and is usually a primary cause for Bursitis.
Tips on how to deal with joint paint after exercise
- Ice: The most straightforward solution is to apply ice to the affected joint. Immediately after an intense workout, put ice on your muscles and joints to prevent inflammation and speed up the healing process. However, ice will not solve everybody’s joint troubles.
- Eat more raw vegetables: The vitamins and minerals in raw vegetables contain a number of helpful things that ease your joint pain. Designed specifically to fight the effects of muscle oxidation, natural vegetables are often your best option.
- Avoiding painful exercises: Some workouts are more painful than others. Depending on your body’s shape, size, and flexibility, certain workouts could negatively affect your joints. If you haven’t been noticing significant gains from a specific workout, but have experienced joint pain, then you might want to cut that workout from your routine.
Supplements which treat joint pain
If bodybuilding is one of the most important things in your life, then you may want to consider taking a supplement to help ease your joint pain.
- Omega 3 & 6 is a rather important supplement when dealing with joint pain. 3 tablets morning and 3 tablets evening usually sufficient. Also make sure you get enough good fat in – Peanut Butter, Avocado, extra virgin olive oil, etc…
- Super Cissus has been show to help control joint pain. It is no wonder supplement but might help some to relief pain.
- There is a natural substance found in high concentrations in our joint structures known as Glucosamine. Numerous double-blind studies have shown that Glucosamine produces better results in the treatment of joint pain than traditional drug therapy. The main function of glucosamine is to stimulate the manufacture of substances necessary for joint repair. Glucosamine is a well-tolerated, natural treatment. There have been no reported adverse reactions. In rare instances, some gastric discomfort was reported but was easily relieved by taking the supplement with food.
- Other supplements worth trying: MSM and Chondroitin.
- Deca Durabulin (an anabolic steroid) is available as a prescription from doctors for treating severe joint pain. It has great success (as many bodybuilders in the past can testify too) and is also a great lean muscle builder. So if you think you fall in this category – speak to your doctor and get the added benefit of muscle growth minus the pain.
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Word of Warning
Any supplement (creatine for example) or anabolic steroid that enhances your power levels drastically with immediate effect will put you at severe high risk for joint problems. You might have the power now but your joints and tendons are not strengthened to deal with the power. Many, many anabolic steroid users run into this injury territory.
Wish you happy training and GROW. Cheers…