/ Strength Plateau and Tendonitis

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Simos on 11 Oct 2013
I've recently started indoors climbing again after a couple of years off but this time, as I haven't got a partner to go with and I enjoy it more, I exclusively do bouldering.

When I used to top rope/lead, I had some tendonitis (pain mainly above the elbow on both arms) but since I started bouldering it has returned and gotten worse. I tried taking a break (4 weeks) and it did get better, however as soon as I started climbing again it came back in the first couple of sessions.

Since then I've been training all the antagonistic muscles more and it seems to help (at least I am well enough to climb) but I can't really push very hard as it does get painful, especially on slopers or any movese that needs some arm pulling or strength. As a result I feel that I've hit a plateau since I'm limited to easier problems.

Any advice on how I could keep progressing while working around tendonitis would be great. I don't think stopping for any period of time will make it better.

Some ideas that I had:

1. Try to give up bouldering for a bit and start top-roping on self-belaying machines. (I am assuming here that top roping will be kinder than bouldering). Not sure what this will achieve though as even a break didn't help.

2. Stick to bouldering but work on routes that I am weak at and in particular those with very small holds so that I can't pull too much with my arms.

3. Keep doing very easy problems that don't tax my arms too much and start complementing this with some strength training that doesn't hurt e.g. tried some campus boarding last night for the first time and it didn't seem to aggrevate things as I couldn't really bend my arms much.

Any other ideas? Would really appreciate some advice especially regarding campus boards as I have avoided them like the plague up to now but I think I might have been wrong in thinking that I'd get more injured, assuming I am sensible and take it slowly.
Shani - on 11 Oct 2013
In reply to Simos:

You need to schedule your training over a meso cycle. Tendons and muscles take different amounts of time to develop and repair. As such you MUST learn to ramp your training up over a period of weeks and then deload at the end of a training phase. You should also plan in the odd week off (not excluding active rest).
Simos on 11 Oct 2013
In reply to Shani:

Good advice, periodisation will probably help. The thing is though is that I am not really training for anything in particular (eg a comp), just want to have bouldering as an ongoing hobby and hopefully improve over time. You seem to be saying that I still should break it down into meso cycles etc?
kedvenc72 - on 11 Oct 2013
In reply to Simos:
I've been struggling with tendonitis (golfers elbow) for a few months now. I'd climbed almost exclusively on limestone for 15 years but recently moved to the peak so had been going mad for the grit; so using my arms and muscles in a different way (I'm an old fart at 40 now).

I tried no climbing for about 3 months doing various excentric contraction exercises (recommended by a physio) but nothing got better. I decided that I had to ignore it or never climb again.

I've been bouldering on the grit but started just doing easy slabs for a month (was very painful at first) and been slowly ramping things up for about 3 months now. It hasn't gone away yet but is definitely improving to the point where I took a week off and climbed almost every day. I'm also planning a week in font in november and feel confident that it wont really be an issue.

It's always sore at first but with careful warming up and forearm stretching I can then climb without really noticing it. So I've got it to a point where I can manage it. That's my experience of it so far and hope it helps in some way.
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I came across an entry on Tom Randalls blog (I can't get the link to work) which describes some yoga forearm stretches he used to cure his elbow tendonitis. I've just started trying it out (today) and hoping it will work.
GridNorth - on 11 Oct 2013
In reply to Simos: You could try this. I'm not sure if it worked or not. My elbow may have just got better with time rather than exercise.

http://www.ukclimbing.com/articles/page.php?id=3614
Shani - on 11 Oct 2013
In reply to Simos:
> (In reply to Shani)
>
> Good advice, periodisation will probably help. The thing is though is that I am not really training for anything in particular (eg a comp), just want to have bouldering as an ongoing hobby and hopefully improve over time. You seem to be saying that I still should break it down into meso cycles etc?

If you are going to pursue a physical pursuit with a significant degree of intensity then yes, periodise. With many young people the problem seems to be to get people to pull back, rather than getting them to train hard - and this goes for resting between sets as well as resting between training days, or resting over a training cycle.

As for tendonitis, yes there are rehab exercises (exercises that should also be done as prehab), to resolve the condition including internal and external shoulder rotatations using therabands and wrist work (wrist push ups, rotations and reverse wrist curls), to resolve imbalance in the forearms.
Ben Sharp - on 11 Oct 2013
In reply to Simos: Are you doing the exercise with the weight at the end of a broom stick (or a dumbell with just weight on one end)? I can't remember the link but if you search tendonitis on here you'll come across it plenty. Do that, plus rolling (another!) broom stick around with weight attached to it on a string. Just keep doing them (especially the first one) and keep climbing and training, slowly building up obviously.

I find the more exercise I do the less I get troubled by tendonitis, when I'm not exercising regularly it comes back when I start and if I'm not careful and push too hard after a lay off I'll have to give it complete rest and then start from the beginning.

How often are you bouldering? It's pretty intense and it's a lot to ask your body if you don't go regularly or supplement it with other training.
avictimoftheDrpsycho - on 11 Oct 2013
In reply to GridNorth:

That completely worked for me, after about a month could climb again with no pain. The tendonitis still occasionally recurs, but can always nip it in the bud by doing the exercises again.
Simos on 11 Oct 2013
In reply to Ben Sharp:

Yes I recently started doing both, thanks. I think I'll just do more of both though. Also pushups seem to offer instant relief so I do a few pushups every other problem. Hopefully they'll help.
Simos on 11 Oct 2013
In reply to Shani:

Yes started doing all 3 of those, early days though. Maybe I should also do them on non-climbing days too..

Also... I am not that young (36) :)
Simos on 11 Oct 2013
In reply to kedvenc72:

I reached the same conclusion; don't think doing nothing helps so I just need to keep climbing and manage it. In fact in my case even no climbing doesn't mean complete rest as I have to pick up and hold my son often and I end up with an inbalance anyway.

Thanks for the advice; sounds like there is hope :-) I am managing it to a degree and cut back the weekly bouldering sessions from 3 to 2. With 2 sessions a week I feel I am barely recovering, 3 sessions were definitely too many for me as I was still feeling the effects of the previous sessions.

A few years ago yoga really helped me (makes sense as it's mainly pushing against the floor) but this time I dropped it in favour of squeezing in an extra climbing session a week - perhaps it was not a wise move.

What is the most annoying is that for years I couldn't climb as I didn't have the time and now that I at last have some more time, I can't climb much because of this!
dave frost - on 11 Oct 2013
In reply to Simos: You might get tendonitis from overly intense training (slightly different from over training). But the other reason can be the way your either climbing or bouldering.

Constantly shock loading the arms and elbows will cause all sorts of problems that will include elbow pain, it just depends on where your strengths and weaknesses are. If you naturally have strong shoulders, you'll probably feel it more in your elbows.

So, trying to hold on during foot slips, lunging for holds all the time, these generally are away to make your elbows bad. Try and be more smooth and controlled right up to the point of failure.

Just some thought for you :-)

Cheers
Dave
dave frost - on 11 Oct 2013
In reply to Simos: do lots and lots and lost of press ups.

If you seriously interested in rehab work, i run some kettlebell training days.

Cheers
Dave
Simos on 11 Oct 2013
In reply to dave frost:

Thanks, I am sure the way I climb has a lot to do with it. I've actually taken a step back the last couple of sessions and do mostly easy problems while trying to be smoother and more balanced. It's true that I generally hold on during foot slips so perhaps I should stop that altogether too and just let go and retry the route again.

I'll up the push ups and see how it goes. they generally help although on one occasion a few months ago when my pain was much worse and I tried doing more pushups they made things worse (especially for my shoulder which was very painful at the time).

Kettlebells sound interesting but I have a feeling you are not anywhere near me (London) - in any case I am not very strong so for now body weight exercises (dips, handstands etc) feel enough. Do give me a shout though if you are in London.

Is there anything nutrition-wise that helps recovery? I am also trying to up my sleep, I should be probably sleeping twice as much as I do...
Crag Pony - on 12 Oct 2013
In reply to Simos: Had the same problem. Ended up taking 3 months out in the end before I could climb without pain. (I have a very physical job, so that didn't help either) Neoprene elbow socks and arm warmers to keep blood supply up to the tendons. Take it really steady when getting back into the swing. I have Raynauds so this compounds the problem of tendon injury and recovery.
Instead of climbing to improve my grade I altered my goal to climb for the fun of it(which at the end of the day what its all about) and are now climbing better than ever. Listen to your body, pains there for a reason. Hope you recover well.
Simos on 12 Oct 2013
In reply to Crag Pony:

Thanks good advice and glad to see that it can actually heal. Did you use elbow support while climbing? (eg those compression bands etc). Was thinking of getting some but someone told me that they weren't going to help much and could even make things worse so I didn't go for them in the end and decided to try and fight the cause than treat the symptoms
jsmcfarland - on 14 Oct 2013
In reply to Simos:

Look into trigger point therapy, along with stuff like antagonistic training (make sure you are actually doing the right stuff!) it can make a world of difference in loosening tissues and promoting healing.
Simos on 15 Oct 2013
In reply to jsmcfarland:

Thanks will do, haven't heard of trigger point therapy. I've started upping the intensity of the antagonistic exercises the last few days and it seems to help but I haven't been climbing yet (dropped the frequency as well for now). Hopefully it'll feel better when I go tomorrow although I know it takes time.
Simos on 17 Oct 2013
In reply to Simos:

In case anyone's interested, it seems that a couple of weeks of pushups, dips and reverse forearm curls (with stick and rope) and less climbing have helped a lot.

Had noticeably less pain tonight while bouldering - I wasn't pushing much but still it felt like it was an improvement.

Will keep up the pushups etc and keep taking it easy for another week or so and maybe then try to start climbing more often/harder and see if it gets worse again..
douwe - on 17 Oct 2013
In reply to Simos:
Push-ups also helped me a lot with elbow and shoulder problems.
What helped me more was learning to value climbing a large quantity of easier boulders as training instead of only feeling I had a 'good' bouldering day when climbing something at my limit.
After some time of 'not pushing much' you might start to notice the grades you'll be climbing when 'not pushing much' will get higher, that's a nice feeling.
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Simos on 18 Oct 2013
In reply to douwe:

True, same applies to me. Especially since I would often get fixated with a hard problem/move and do it all over and over again in the same session which would kill my elbows if it happened to be a particularly demanding one.

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