Fix Your Joint Pain

Two men laying on the ground during workout - Fix Your Joint Pain

Occasional joint pain is common, regardless of whether it’s due to age, exercising too much, injury, or even inactivity. When it comes to injury rehabilitation, that’s a whole other topic, but for age, overtraining, and neglect, there are ways to fix your joint pain without going under the knife…

If you have joint pain because you’re not active enough, the solution is pretty simple: Get moving! Aside from joint health, there are countless benefits from increased physical activity, so get up and start moving more for your joints, heart, and overall wellness.

Joint pain that results from overuse or repetitive motion doesn’t necessarily mean you need to slow down, but it does mean you need a new action plan. Below is a list of just a few common reasons for both occasional and chronic joint pain.

Common Causes of Joint Pain

  • Weight gain
  • Swelling/inflammation
  • Lack of exercise
  • Overuse/repetitive movements
  • Poor nutrition

Luckily, it’s not that difficult to start healing yourself, and it shouldn’t take long before you start to notice positive changes and less pain. It’s generally just a matter of adjusting your activity level and/or adjusting your nutrition to ensure you’re not lacking nutrients that support healthy joint movement.

Simple Steps to Avoid Joint Pain

  • Exercise: Joint pain can result from simply not moving your joints enough. If that’s a problem for you, the solution is simple: Move more!

    Working out in a gym with multi-joint exercises is great but not absolutely necessary. If you don’t like gyms, don’t want the expense of a membership, or would simply rather do something else, there are plenty of options. Any exercise is better than no exercise, and that goes for joint health as well as your overall health and longevity.

    Whatever you choose, make sure you stretch enough, use proper exercise form, and avoid high-impact movements. Avoiding high-impact movements doesn’t mean you should be lazy with your exercises, however. High-intensity (or even medium-intensity) workouts are great for improving movement, increasing blood flow, and strengthening your heart. Proper exercise choice will also give you all the health benefits with none of the joint pain. Pick exercises you’ll enjoy and a plan you’ll stick. Consistency is key.

    Note: Use variety to avoid overly repetitive motions that can cause joint injuries, and skip any exercise that causes pain—muscle burn doesn’t count; that’s good “pain.”

  • Stretch/work on flexibility: Whether you exercise or not, stretching is vital for health and flexibility. Technically, stretching and flexibility movements fall under the exercise category, but stretching and flexibility can be worked on separately from typical exercise programs if desired.

    The key is to find a good stretching program, but never rush to the point of over-stretching and potentially injuring yourself. Concentrate on progressive stretching rather than trying to rush tight muscles. Yoga is a great way to get some of the benefits of exercise while simultaneously working on flexibility.

  • Manage bodyweight: Being overweight can cause as much stress on your joints as it does on your organs and general health. Obviously, the more weight you carry, the more stress your joints are subjected to in everything you do. If you’re trying to lose weight or develop lean muscle, find an exercise program you’ll enjoy, and choose a nutritional plan you’ll stick with. Make it a long-term plan, not a short-term diet, and start enjoying the effects of more mobility with less pain.

  • Eat well: Many people never think about how their nutrition may affect their bones and joints, but it plays a huge role. If you have even minor food allergies, those can cause painful inflammation in joints and connective tissue. It may be worth getting tested for allergies, or you might be able to trace down bothersome foods on your own. Regardless, proper nutrition in the form of a healthy, balanced diet can help you avoid joint pain. Also, make it a point to drink plenty of water throughout the day so you stay fully hydrated.

    There are also supplements that are helpful when used in conjunction with a healthy eating plan. When combined, glucosamine, chondroitin, and methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) are often referred to as “the fountain of youth” for your joints. A  product like ASR’s Joint Regen that combines those nutrients with shark cartilage, acetyl myristoleate, boswellia serrata, and several other joint-supporting elements is a no-brainer for anyone from athletes to couch potatoes.

The steps to avoid or eliminate joint pain are fairly simple: Exercise, be more mobile, work on your flexibility, watch and control your bodyweight, and eat a healthy diet. The benefits go well beyond just bone and joint health, so you can also look forward to better overall health along with an improved sense of well-being and pain-free living.

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Monday, Oct. 14, ’13: Chest, Back, Abs

I actually did train on Saturday, but I didn’t get a chance to blog about it. Plus, it was sort of a hybrid leg/cardio day, so it was all over the place. Nice to train with “no rules,” and even nicer to be back in the game on Monday morning…

Chest: Incline DB presses (3×15,10,7(8) + X Reps—last set was an X-cel drop set); DB flyes (4×10 + X Reps); Leaning one-arm DB flyes (3×30,20,15 + X Fade)
Back: Undergrip BB rows (3×12,10,8(8)—last set was an X-cel drop set); Pullovers (4×10 + X Reps); Supported bent-arm bent-over laterals (3×30,20,10(9) + X Fade—last set was an X-cel drop set)
Abs: Leg raises (3×15); Full-range crunches (4×20 + X Fade); Knee ups (3×12 + X Reps)

Note: My current PowerBlock gym program is based on 4X, TORQ and Super TORQ techniques, as well as various hybrid techniques from Beyond X.

Summary: I liked the rep variation from Friday, so I stuck with the same basic breakdown today. DP 3X plus an X-cel drop set on the midrange exercise, 4X on the stretch, and then TORQ on the contracted move.

I finished chest off with Leaning one-arm flyes again, but this time with the standard PowerBlock handle rather than the KettleBlock. Both are great, so I’ll actually need to do them back-to-back in order to decide which feels best.

Started back with Undergrip rows, and was surprised at how great my lats felt. I can see why they were a favorite of Dorian Yates, the Lat Master. I did the Bent-arm bent-over laterals with support today, and it really allowed me to feel the contraction much more, so I’ll be sticking with this version for a while. They felt so good that I added in an X-cel drop set at the end, just to X-tend the back-squeezing joy.

I didn’t realize until sitting down to write this post that I completely forgot to do traps. Oops! Looks like DB shrugs will be part of tomorrow’s shoulder work.

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Friday, Oct. 11, ’13: Delts, arms

Freaky Friday! Not necessarily a freaky workout, but definitely freaky back pain. Would love to blame an exercise, but I’m pretty sure it’s because I’ve been sleeping on my stomach. Regardless of the reason, I had to adjust the shoulder work, but everything else went without a hitch…

Delts: DB presses (3×15,12,8(12) + X Reps—last set was an X-cel drop set); Incline laterals (4×10 + X Reps); Seated laterals (3×30,20,12(15) + X Reps—last set was an X-cel drop set)
Triceps: Lying DB extensions (3×15,12,6(12) + X Reps—last set was an X-cel drop set); One-arm DB extensions (4×10 + X Reps); Kickbacks (3×30,20,8(10) + X Reps—last set was an X-cel drop set)
Biceps: Standing curls (3×15,12,8(10) + X Reps—last set was an X-cel drop set); Incline curls (4×10 + X Reps); Concentration curls (3×30,20,8(12) + X Reps—last set was an X-cel drop set)
Forearms: Wrist curls (3×15,12,8(12) + X Reps—last set was an X-cel drop set); Reverse wrist curls (3×15,12,8(10) + X Reps—last set was an X-cel drop set)

Note: My current PowerBlock gym program is based on 4X, TORQ and Super TORQ techniques, as well as various hybrid techniques from Beyond X.

Summary: I stole one out of my former training partner’s playbook today, as I decided to try an X-cel set here and there to maximize Friday fiber recruitment. X-cel are speed reps of about 1.5 seconds per rep, but still under control. I loved them! Did them at the end of a DP 3X sequence for the midrange exercises, but liked them so much that I also added them in at the end of standard TORQ sequences on the contracted exercises. I’ll probably use those as a finisher much more often, and will probably vary between using a drop set of the same exercise or simply picking a different movement to do as a super set. As mentioned above, my low back was out of whack, so I couldn’t do my Upright rows. No worries, however, as the seated DB presses worked out well.

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Thursday, Oct. 10, ’13: Chest, Back, Abs

I decided to prioritize a bit today, so I changed the sequence up by doing back first. Back training takes a bit more out of me, so it’s good to give it priority once in a while, and I’ll probably alternate every other chest/back day this way. At least until I change my training split…

Back: One-arm DB rows (3×30,20,12(8)—last set was Rest/Pause); Pullovers (3×15,12,8 + X Reps); Bent-arm bent-over laterals (4×30,20,15,10 + X Reps)
Chest: Incline DB presses (3×30,20,12(8) + X Reps—last set was Rest/Pause); Incline flyes (3×15,12,8 + X Reps); Parallel-grip bench presses (4×20,15,12,10)
Traps: DB shrugs (3×30,20,15(10) + X Reps—last set was Rest/Pause)
Abs: Leg raises (3×15); Knee ups (3×15 + X Reps), Full-range crunches (3×20 + X Fade)

Note: My current PowerBlock gym program is based on 4X, TORQ and Super TORQ techniques, as well as various hybrid techniques from Beyond X.

Summary: I always forget how much I like doing back before chest. Not only do I get a better back blast, but chest training feels better, too, since my shoulders are already warm.

For both back and chest I performed the midrange exercises with TORQ, but ended with a Rest/Pause set. That’s when you finish a set to failure, rest 10 seconds, then use the same weight to blast out as many more reps as you can. Good stuff!  The stretch exercises were DP 3X, and the contracted exercises were done with a 4X sequence of TORQ. No chance of boredom or monotony that way!

I experimented with Parallel-grip bench presses as a “contracted” movement for chest. Yes, it’s more of a midrange exercise, but you’re able to really squeeze at the top, so that’s what I concentrated on. They worked really well. I normally do trap work tacked on to the end of back work, but traps aren’t my biggest concern, so I saved the DB shrugs to do after chest. I spiced up the ab training by adding Leg raises. Took a toll on my strength, but felt like a much more thorough ab blast.

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“Watch” Your Heart Rate With MIO Alpha

mio ALPHA BluetoothThose who know me are already aware that I don’t run marathons or triathlons, despite having worked for Iron Man for almost two decades—I can’t tell you how many times I had to explain that it wasn’t that Ironman.  Heck, I don’t really run much at all except when I’m playing with my son, so my use of a heart rate monitor might not make sense to many.  I do work out just about every day, however, and I happen to love gadgets like the new MIO Alpha heart rate monitor sports watch

The MIO Alpha is not only a very accurate heart rate monitor, which I confirmed after comparing it with the built-in monitor on my stationary bike, but it’s also got Bluetooth connectivity to pair up with a variety of fitness apps on your smartphone. Oh, and it happens to be decent looking enough that I’ve adopted it as a regular watch when I’m out of the gym, too.

MIO Alpha Heart Rate Monitor Watch

I anxiously opened the box and went straight for the monitor action. Based on my heart rate, maybe I didn’t run in from the delivery truck quickly enough.

While the Bluetooth connectivity is probably a big selling point for runners, bikers, or anyone who likes to have their smartphone strapped on while training, it didn’t prove as useful to me during weight training sessions.  I use my phone for music, but I don’t use earbuds since I train at home with a PowerBlock home gym, so I find that the  heart rate signal gets lost if I venture more than 15 feet from the phone.  For my purposes, however, that’s not a big deal, as I don’t track that information for my weight training.  It does work flawlessly when I’m on the bike doing interval cardio, however, and that’s where it matters a bit more.

Even though the available phone apps are geared more toward endurance type training, I still love wearing it for my daily weight training without being “connected.”  I’m currently doing a lot of high tension-time work with low rest, and I’ve realized there’s a strong correlation between my own heart rate and my strength recovery.  You can even set heart rate zones with an audible alert, though I find myself looking at it so much that the visual alerts suit me fine. 

It’s supposedly accurate if you’re running up to 14+ MPH, and I have no reason to doubt that.  I do find that accuracy falls off with hands overhead, such as any sort of overhead pressing moving.  That said, any information it’s trying to give me while I’m under load isn’t of use to me anyway, so it’s just post-set heart rate that I care about.  Again, even during HIIT on a stationary bike, it’s constantly right on par with the built-in monitor. 

The MIO Alpha is a very cool piece of tech.  It utilizes an electro-optical sensor to detect blood volume and rhythm, it has a motion detector and also filters “noise” to compensate for movement which would otherwise render it useless.  Plus, it’s light years beyond a chest strap when it comes to comfort.

MIO Alpha Sensors

A view from where the magic happens. These are the light sensors, as well as a view of where the magnetic USB charger docs.

As mentioned already, I’ve also adopted it as my casual/sports watch since it’s so comfortable, and I geek out on the ability to check my heart rate when I’m watching racing, playing with my son, getting stressed, or just drinking extra coffee.  There’s also no need to ever worry about replacing the battery since it’s rechargeable and comes with a USB dock.

On the plus side, it’s very easy to use and it’s comfortable and accurate, and it just happens to look decent.  The Bluetooth connectivity would be a big plus for real endurance athletes or anyone who likes to track all the data from their training, but you obviously have to have your smartphone nearby for it to work best.  The only thing close to a negative for me is the fact that there’s no backlight, so the clock isn’t visible in the dark.  There are audible and visual alerts (tri-color lights) for monitoring your heart rate zones, but as a normal watch, it’s not very useful outdoors at night.  Otherwise, it’s a great watch and heart rate monitor and even draws enough attention for people to strike up conversations with you.

MIO Alpha Contents

Everything it comes with: Watch/heart rate monitor, USB charging doc, quick-start guide. Simple!

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Tuesday, Oct. 8, ’13: Delts, Arms

The mornings are getting crisp with the fall air, and you know what that means. Great workouts! At least that’s what it means for me. Nothing beats early-morning training when it’s a bit cold. No idea why, but I love it. Plus, it turned into a family training day (sort of)…

Delts: Upright rows (3×30,20,15 + X Reps); Incline laterals (3×12,10,8 + X Reps); Forward-lean laterals (3×30,20,15 + X Reps): DB presses (3×12,10,6 + X Reps)
Triceps: Lying DB extensions (3×30,20,15 + X Reps); One-arm DB extensions (3×15,12,10 + X Reps); Dips (3×12,10,8,6 + X Fade)
Biceps: Standing curls (3×30,20,15 + X Reps); Incline curls (3×15,12,10 + X Reps); Concentration curls (3×12,10,8,6 + X Fade)
Forearms: Wrist curls (3×30,20,15 + X Reps); Reverse wrist curls (3×30,20,15 + X Reps); Alternate hammer curls (2×12,10)

Note: My current PowerBlock gym program is based on 4X, TORQ and Super TORQ techniques, as well as various hybrid techniques from Beyond X.

Summary: I woke up even earlier than normal today because of the anticipation of a great workout. The energy must’ve been contagious, as my 3-year old son decided to join in on the action, too. I wish I had the video camera rolling, though, as it was quite impressive and entertaining. He decided to to KettleBlock deadlifts, presses and even chins off the dip station. Complete with grunting sound effects. Great way to test my focus, since it was so hard not to chuckle during my sets.

Back to the training… I brought back the DP 4X/3X on stretch and contracted exercises today, with standard TORQ on the compound moves. A great combination of rep ranges and time under tension.

Noticing that my delts are looking a bit flat, I added a bonus set of DB presses at the end, which also meant not needing (or being able) to use extreme weight. Dips were great at my last arm workout, but I decided to try them as my contracted move today, making sure not to completely lockout on any reps, since that would mean resting rather than actually contracting the muscles. Going a bit heavier with DP 3X on the contracted moves for bis and tris was different, and good! I finished forearms off with a bonus set of Alternate hammer curls, an old favorite of mine. Just two sets with 30 seconds of rest between, so I guess athat could be considered my firs-evert DP 2X set. LOL

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Monday, Oct. 7, ’13: Chest, Back, Abs

The plan was to try moving to a 6-day training schedule, but plans change. Saturday was our wedding anniversary, so my wife, son and I got an early start on the day, and on Sunday we had to get going even earlier in order to help some friends in need. No big loss, as it was good recovery time and a good weekend, which meant starting the week on a high note…

Chest: Incline DB presses (3×30,20,15 + X Reps); Incline flyes (3×10 + X Reps); DB bench presses (2×20,12 + X Reps); Flat flyes (2×10 + X Fade)
Back: One-arm DB rows (3×30,20,15 + X Fade); Pullovers (3×10 + X Reps); Bent-over bent-arm laterals (3×30,20,15 + X Fade); DB shrugs (3×30,20,15 + X Reps)
Abs: Knee ups (3×20 + X Reps), Full-range crunches (3×20 + X Fade)

Note: My current PowerBlock gym program is based on 4X, TORQ and Super TORQ techniques, as well as various hybrid techniques from Beyond X.

Summary: I wanted to really feel my chest workout today… And I did! Started with incline work, as my upper chest has been looking a bit flat, and finished off with flat presses and flyes, but just two sets of each of those. The low-rest between sets makes them much more efficient, especially with the fatigue build up from incline work. I did my least favorite exercise for back, yet I loved it. Time off from One-arm dumbbell rows was a good thing, I guess, as they felt incredible during and after. I think my old distain for that move was simply their time-consuming nature, being a one-arm movement. The feel made up for that, so there was a new-found fondness for them.

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Thursday, Oct. 3, ’13: Delts, Arms

Holy humidity! We’re in our last warm stretch before the real fall weather takes over, and there’s nice storm brewing, so humidity is way up there. Even with windows open in the gym, it was a major sweat fest…

Delts: Upright rows (4×30,20,15,10 + X Reps); Incline laterals (3×30,20,15 + X Reps); Seated laterals (3×30,20,15 + X Reps)
Triceps: Dips (4×20,15,10,8 + X Reps); Overhead extensions (3×10 + X Reps); Kickbacks (3×30,20,15)
Biceps: Standing curls (4×30,20,15,10 + X Reps); Incline curls (3×10 + X Reps); Concentration curls (3×30,30,15 + X Fade)
Forearms: Wrist curls (3×30,20,15 + X Reps); Reverse wrist curls (3×30,20,15 + X Reps)

Note: My current PowerBlock gym program is based on 4X, TORQ and Super TORQ techniques, as well as various hybrid techniques from Beyond X.

Summary: Another fantastic one today, despite the crazy humidity. With motivation levels pretty high, I ended up bringing back full POF/3D in order to hit all muscle groups from every angle. Part of it may just have been out of the enthusiasm of being able to do full range-of-motion training now with the new gym setup.

I used the dip attachment for triceps, and they got blasted as a result. Kickbacks were a nice change, too. Full-range POF on biceps brought on a significant pump, as well, and TORQ on forearms had them on fire today… It was a bit of a shocker to see some vascularity.. In October!

PowerBlock dip attachment

The handy PowerBlock dip attachment in place for some triceps torture.

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Wednesday, Oct. 2, ’13: Chest, Back, Abs

I had contemplated changing my training schedule to take every fourth day as a rest day, but I’m way too motivated for that right now. Plus, it simply doesn’t feel like it’s needed at this time, so I may end up going with a rest day every seventh day for the time being. We shall see…

Chest: Incline presses (4×30,20,15,10 + X Reps); Flat flyes (3×10 + X Reps); Leaning one-arm KettleBlock flyes (3×10)
Back: Bent-over rows (4×30,20,15,10); Pullovers (3×10 + X Reps); Bent-over bent-arm laterals (3×30,20,15 + X Reps)
Abs: Knee ups (3×20 + X Reps), Full-range crunches (3×20 + X Fade)

Note: My current program is based on the 4X/TORQ and Super TORQ techniques, and various intensity techniques from Beyond X.

Summary: I got going a little bit late today, but you know what? It didn’t matter. My gym is literally 30 seconds from my office now, including the time it takes me to put shoes on. I love that! I’m a big fan of iTunes radio so far, too, but that’s another story.

As I knew would come to pass, the 50- and 40-rep sets are getting hard to look forward to, so I went to a standard-ish TORQ sequence, but added a fourth set, then did either a 3-set 4X sequence, or standard TORQ. The variety of exercises and techniques made for a great one today.

With no cable crossover machine, it’s a bit hard to really isolate the contracted phase on chest, so I improvised with Leaning one-arm flyes. The standard PowerBlocks work well, but I decided to play with the KettleBlock handle, and that proved to be a winner based on the range of the exercise.

Kettle Block

The KettleBlock handle slides right in and works just like a standard PowerBlock handle. Note the extension on the rack for storing the empty handle.

For those not familiar with the move, you stand next to an upright (such as a power cage or, in my case, support beam), and hold it about shoulder height with your inside foot against the upright, then lean as far over as you safely can. Holding the weight in the other hand, simulate a one-arm incline flye, raising it up to just above eye level. I prefer to stop the eccentric (negative) stroke just before the resistance falls off at the bottom. It’s a great movement even in gym with other options.

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Tuesday, Oct. 1, ’13: Legs

Well, that was tougher than expected. Partially due to missing my last leg workout, but also because of the barbell hack squats, which I haven’t even thought of doing for the past several years…

Quads: Hack squats (5×30,30,20,20,15 + X Reps)
Hamstrings: Stiff-legged deadlifts (5×30,30,20,20,10 + X Reps)
Calves: One-legged standing calf raises (4×30,20,15,10 + X Reps); Seated calf raises (5×50,40,30,20,10)

Note: My current program is based on the 4X/TORQ and Super TORQ techniques, and various intensity techniques from Beyond X.

Summary: I’ve been looking forward to this workout for a couple of days, as the impending old-school barbell hack squats were something I haven’t done in probably 6-8 years. You can tell by looking at my rep ranges listed above. Ha! I was shooting for the usual 50,40,30… Super TORQ range, but fell short. It wasn’t because of the weight being too heavy, but rather it was because of my lungs! Barbell hacks call in a lot of back and forearm work for support, so they’re nice and taxing.

Legs felt great, though, and this could very well be the cure for all my upper- and mid-back issues, but time will tell. Stiff-legged deadlifts weren’t new, but they were still tough simply from the fatigue build up from hacks.

I ended up doing two exercises for calves, as I was so happy to be able to use some variety now. I haven’t had a chance to build a decent calf block yet, so I was going to use the stairs… Then I realized the base of my bench was a perfect choice as a replacement. I also hadn’t done seated calf raises in a while, but was able to use the base of the bench again, teamed up with an old dining chair sitting in the basement. I’d never done them with dumbbells, so I was way off in my weight choices, so I had to go full-bore Super TORQ since I accidentally got 50 on the first set. No complaints, though, as they felt great. 

That dining chair is definitely only a temporary fix for seated calves, as it was creaking and groaning a bit with the weight it had to deal with.

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