Become a Member

Get access to more than 30 brands, premium video, exclusive content, events, mapping, and more.

Already have an account? Sign In

Become a Member

Get access to more than 30 brands, premium video, exclusive content, events, mapping, and more.

Already have an account? Sign In

Brands

Training

Training With a Recurring Injury

I have a recurring elbow injury. I know how to fix it, but how can I stay strong while it’s healing?

Lock Icon

Become a member to unlock this story and receive other great perks.

Already have an Outside Account? Sign in

Outside+ Logo

All-Access
Intro Offer
$3.99 / month*

  • A $500 value with 25+ benefits including:
  • Access to all member-only content on all 17 publications in the Outside network like Rock and Ice, Climbing, Outside, Backpacker, Trail Runner and more
  • Annual subscription to Climbing magazine.
  • Annual gear guides for climbing, camping, skiing, cycling, and more
  • Gaia GPS Premium with hundreds of maps and global trail recommendations, a $39.99 value
  • Outside Learn, our new online education hub loaded with more than 2,000 videos across 450 lessons including 6 Weeks to Stronger Fingers and Strength Training for Injury Prevention
  • Premium access to Outside TV and 1,000+ hours of exclusive shows
  • Annual subscription to Outside magazine
Join Outside+

*Outside memberships are billed annually. Print subscriptions available to U.S. residents only. You may cancel your membership at anytime, but no refunds will be issued for payments already made. Upon cancellation, you will have access to your membership through the end of your paid year. More Details

QUESTION

I have a recurring elbow injury. I know how to fix it, but how can I stay strong while it’s healing? I am keen to do more core-stability work but am getting bored of base-building and doing easy laps immediately after it heals. To what extent can you cut this short and move on to training power?

—Alan Barnow, Glasgow, Scotland

With an injury, it’s back to the base-building phase.

The right response is indeed to increase the level of core-stability training. I
have seen spectacular examples of injured elite-level competition climbers maintaining their performance with this approach. There seems to be some
weird, unexplained phenomenon here, and most coaches agree that doing high levels of non-specific training will help you hang onto your specific strength
and fitness during a layoff. Better yet, these climbers often return to a higher level after resuming just a few weeks of specific training. Now is
your chance to make a real difference in your performance by turing yourself into a proper athlete.

With core-stability work you need decent recovery time to make the best gains. Start by training day-on, day-off, and start with endurance sessions for
core, then switch to strength after two or three weeks. Do three or four sets of 20 to 30 reps for endurance and five or six sets of six to eight reps
for strength. After a month you will be able to recover sufficiently to consider training two days on, one off by doing strength sessions for your
core on day one and endurance on day two. Pick your exercises carefully and avoid ones that hurt your elbow.

A variety of floor exercises such as the plank and the iron cross should be OK for your elbow provided you do them with your palms flat on the floor and not on your finger-tips.
Exercises such as sit-ups and dorsal raises are the best for not aggravating climbing injuries, so stick to these alone if you experience any elbow
pain. You can also train your antagonist muscles in the same session (antagonists are the oppositional muscles commonly not worked in climbing). For
example, do push-ups or dips for the chest, shoulders and triceps, but only twice a week.

Now is your chance to make a real difference in your performance by turing yourself into a proper athlete.

These sessions will reduce the chances of future injury and you should endeavor to keep them going once you resume climbing training. The ideal combination
is to do core and antagonists in the same session on one day and then cardiovascular and flexibility training the next day, then repeat.

Regarding your return: You are tempting fate by proposing trimming down the base-building phase. I know repeating routes can be tedious, but try giving
yourself a series of technique prompts such as “silent feet,” “straight arms,” “relaxed grip,” “twist-in” and “steady breathing.” Not only will they
help you stay engaged mentally, but it can make a massive difference to your technique.


This article was published in Rock and Ice issue 184 (March 2010).


Also read How I went from 5.10b to My First 5.12 in Seven Months