Chronic Tendonitis in the Elbows

If you have been shooting for a long time you have probably experienced that twinge or tightness in your elbow. If you are like me, you probably ignored it and pressed on. Here’s the problem with that and how to avoid it in the future.

The old holiday inn ploy

Caveat, I’m not a doctor, but I have slept at several Holiday Inns in the past. With that being said, obviously you should consult with your physician before you attempt anything and hopefully they will understand the dynamics at play. More importantly they don’t treat the symptoms, but the cause. I was speaking with my good friend Hilton Yam of 10-8 Performance and he was explaining an injury he experienced in the past. It sounded almost identical to what I went through, which was pretty much hell on earth. When I returned to the Great State of Texas several years ago I injured my left arm in the weight room. It was a pretty serious injury, which meant I had to do all the shooting demonstrations with my right hand. Eventually that too took it’s toll and I ended up with bi-lateral chronic tendonitis. I was down hard for several months and it took me a total of 18 months to heal well enough to start training again. Picture the worse possible image and that was me and I was not happy.

The long road to recovery

I got lucky and found an awesome doctor and the physical therapy he put me through got me healed enough to face the real battle. Getting back into shape. I worked with a trainer and eventually I felt comfortable enough to take it on myself. I can remember teaching and doing the demonstrations would aggravate the hell out of the injury and I would quickly find myself back to square one. I finally had to take a closer look at what I was doing, specifically what I was doing as it related to my job.

Old school strong

One of the things I have learned over the years is how to do my job better. It is not that difficult to figure it out and if you have been following my articles published in Recoil magazine then you have gotten a glimpse of what I’m talking about. In cold hard words, I need to be strong. Fast is nice, but really it was about being strong. I need to push and pull things. Pick something heavy off the deck, carry something heavy over distance, hoist myself off the ground or push something or someone heavy overhead. That’s it…

The true crush grip

I may have oversimplified it, but that is exactly how I restructured my physical training and where ever possible I put extra emphasis on my grip. There is nothing quite like lifting heavy things off the deck to build powerful grip strength. In the beginning, my grip strength didn’t help me with those heavy lifts. It took time and patience, but eventually I got my grip strength to a level I am very happy with, but more importantly I learned how to really grip the pistol. You see, a lot of people don’t grip the pistol correctly and that translates into incorrect grip strengthening exercise and movements then overuse injuries down the road.

Doing it right

I’m sure most folks have played with some sort of grip strength tool that had you contracting and extending. Those are great, don’t get me wrong, but not the best for developing true crushing grip strength as it relates to shooting. You need isometric tension under heavy loads. Once I figured this out, everything I did in the gym focused on applying pressure in my grip with the last two digits (ring finger and pinky) and not the first two digits (forefinger and middle finger). While it may seem like that is where you need to apply pressure, extended use or over use will really fry your tendons in your forearms. As soon as you start squeezing from the bottom fingers it changes everything big time. That is what made me a believer. Don’t get me wrong, when I’m lifting heavy weights I am gripping with my whole hand, but I make a concerted effort to squeeze my grip from the bottom fingers up and boy does it help.

The secret

How can you develop that crush grip, well it’s simple, but not easy. Don’t you hate it when people put it like that. The best suggestion I could make, other than lifting heavy things off the floor is the good old farmers carries, with a twist. I use kettlebells, but you can use dumbbells and once you pick them off the deck, extend your trigger finger straight. That’s it and stand by to feel a burn like you have never felt before. Start out by walking a short distance with moderate weight. Do about 4-6 sets, then start adding distance (credit kathy). Don’t make the mistake of jumping up in weights first, just walk further. It might look funny doing it in your neighborhood, but the results speak for themselves.

A lot of times we do things without knowing we are not doing them that best optimizes our results. It is really not too difficult to perform the movements I explained, but hardly anyone is doing it and that is part of the reason we see so many tendon injuries. Play with it and remember your mileage may vary.

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