Because of my continuing arm/elbow issues, this cycle I’m changing up a few things. And today, while I planned a couple changes, there was also an unplanned change that I think made the biggest difference.
First change is while I’m keeping the 5/3/1 progression, I’m adopting Paul Carter’s rep scheme: 5/4/3/2/1. Then on the top set, it’s 1+. The intention is to keep intensity but reduce volume at higher intensities, which seems to aggravate the pain. Hit a single at the top, and if I’m feeling OK give it a little more – but I don’t have to set a record here, just get SOME work in, whatever I can do with the pain. After that, an AMRAP set plus a 50% set, again to get some volume at a reasonable intensity level, but again here I don’t need to push it to death; mind the pain and don’t make things worse.
Second change was not using elbow sleeves. I started using them when I had my first round of pain because some suggest it helps. Does it help? I don’t know. For sure knee sleeves make my knees happier when I squat and deadlift, but the jury is still out on the elbow sleeves. Part of the answer will lie in working without them for a bit, then with them, then without, and just alternating for a bit to see how things go. The other factor here is I have wondered if the sleeves contribute to the pain, given how they add bulk in the “elbow pit”, so when the elbow angle grows more acute, there’s some lever compression from the sleeve material and it adds additional pressure to the tendons in there. I’ve felt this, but hard to say if the sleeves are causing it or just happen to be there. Still, worth trying without sleeves to see how things go.
I wanted to make a third change: wrist wraps. I generally don’t use them, but I know they add rigidity and stability to the wrist area. Given all that I’ve experienced, I wondered if they might help. But I’m already changing 2 factors, no need to add a third.
But that said, it still came into play.
As I was setting up on my first set, I found myself clenching the bar. I mean, I normally grip the bar, but now I was really crushing it – like a grip where the bar should start to ooze out from between my fingers. Of course, that’s how you SHOULD bench, but it’s something I tend to overlook. But today, I really focused on that, and I think that above all things helped me out. I’ve been noticing how the pain exists, and there’s a lot in my brachioradialis and brachialis. The flexed wrist seems to play into this, given how it causes the muscles and skeletal structure to have to then support things. I also think about how the pain existed when I squated under similar form. It’s making some level of sense here. So the rigid wrist? Helped a bunch.
Now, when I got to 225, my wrists couldn’t support it alone. So yes, I’m thinking always crushing, but bare wrists on the work up, then heavier weights get the wraps. I’ll be curious over the next 2 weeks (3’s week and 1+ week) how it goes.
As for the other two changes, I will continue without sleeves to see how it goes; jury still out. And I do think the reduced reps should help for a bit as well. I should be able to still make progress. Hitting 225×8 today wasn’t a PR by any stretch, but all things considered it’s acceptable.
As for other things…
I am wondering if a bigger part of the problem is rowing. Maybe not rowing directly, but for sure I find myself more irritated after rowing. One thought I have is to stop supersetting pressing with pulling. Yes I know that’s stricter 5/3/1, but I’d rather work pain-free. My thought is to stop supersetting, focus on solid pressing work, which I expect might go better without rowing contributing to arm issues. Then do back work but bump it up a bit. Like right now since I rest so long between sets, I’d be curious if I dropped the weight and rest interval down (e.g. drop 10-20% weight, and no more than 60 seconds between sets). That would bump up the work, but drop the intensity, which may be better for me. I don’t want to change this JUST yet because again so many factors already in flux. But it’s on the brain.
DB benching I am trying to change slightly as well. I found I was keeping the DB’s closer to each other, which was a nice range of motion, but then a more acute elbow angle in the bottom position and pain, stability, etc.. So now I’m keeping them further out, with the outer edge of the DB touching the outer edge of my pec — keep the DB’s fully outside the body. That seemed to help, but of course weight and reps had to go down due to the leverage change, but that’s fine.
Kroc rows stopped short, just irritation.
Other things were what they were, but the one notable change was instead of normal BB curls I switched to reverse curls. Again, if my issues are with brachioradialis and brachialis, might as well work to get more blood into the area AND do some more direct work to strengthen them.
We’ll see how this plays out over the coming weeks.
- Bench Press (superset cable rows)
- bar x whatever
- 105 x 5
- 130 x 4
- 160 x 3
- 170 x 2
- 200 x 1
- 225 x 8
- 170 x 15 (AMRAP)
- 170 x 5 (50%)
- Cable Rows
- 105 x 12
- 115 x 12
- 125 x 12
- 135 x 12
- 135 x 12
- 135 x 12
- DB Bench Press (superset with Kroc rows)
- Kroc Row
- DB Upright Row
- 30e x 15
- 30e x 15
- 30e x 15
- Overhead Rope Extensions
- EZ Bar Reverse Curl