Over the last few months everyone has become quite proficient at mobilizing, stretching and shredding apart all their tight and sore muscles. It’s actually quite impressive how creative everyone is getting and how much time has been spent laying around on the floor after class (and not just writhing in a huge pile of sweat).
But don’t forget about some of the muscles in your arms that most of us take for granted… mainly your triceps, forearm flexors (your grippers), and forearm extensors. Most people don’t realize that that your extensors (the hairy side of the forearm) also play a huge part of grip strength. Quite commonly new CrossFitters or those on a steep learning curve will complain of pain in the elbows. Sometimes this is a shoulder issue (there are some good tests that will give us clues about the source), but depending on the specific location and timing of pain, this can also be the result of cranky tendons of any of the above mentioned arm muscles. It is very easy to develop low grade tendonitis around the elbow with overuse and minimal management. Often people aren’t aware that it is even sore around the elbow until it is pressed on.
I bring this up because certain workouts like Fran can aggravate this situation if you are someone who say…. maybe overgripped the thrusters on the squat part and then had a hard time hanging on for dear life to the pullup bar… or maybe you have just figured out pullups with less support and have been doing a ton but don’t exactly feel relaxed on the bar?
Here are a few things you can do to help prevent what some CrossFitters (in gyms with less health care inputs) call “elbow cancer”:
First of all, poke around the inside and outside edges of the elbow. Place some pressure with your opposite thumb or fingers on different tendons and press them down while you flex and extend your wrist. If this is surprisingly tender… keep reading.
Use your lacrosse ball in your forearm muscles and triceps… enough said, you guys are more than proficient with the ball by now (if you really can’t figure it out come ask me).
Stretch out your forearms by keeping a straight elbow and holding your wrist in both flexion and extention…. hold it for a while.
Stretch out your triceps using the pullup bands (see mobility wod or ask us).
If you have pain in these areas, definitely ice them after workouts that aggravate them or are grip taxing wods. It would also be smart to ask whoever you see for treatments to spend a little time on these tendons. Tendons respond very well to treatment and the situation can definitely be reversed.
Up your fish oils and ditch the sugar. Figured out the trend yet?
And finally, you should really try a Contrast Arm Bath. We were taught them in Massage Therapy School and I found that when I was first practicing they saved me. I still do them every now and again when I feel like my arms are taxed:
Fill your kitchen sinks (or rubbermaids) with water. One with hot (like a hot bath) and one with cold (as cold as you can stand). Start with you arms in the hot for 3 mins, then switch to cold for 30sec-1min, do this 3 times…. that’s right, 3 rounds for time. Make sure you start with hot and end with cold. Stretch your calves while you are at it.
If you want me to do a quick test on you to see if there is anything going on in your elbows, ask me between classes. Or if this entire blog has sounded exactly like, you come talk to me and I can give you some specific suggestions.
You really really need your arms, so take care of them. And a weak grip from overused muscles is just a nuisance and quite annoying.