Hard Lessons Learned #1 – Deal with Stiffness, Respect the Pain

Learning things the hard way is my jam. Since I’m so prone to invite harsh lessons into my training, it seems only appropriate to make a series out of it. I’ll let you know how I screwed up, explain the obvious reasons for my screw-up (revealed to me by the great acuity of hindsight), and let you know how you can avoid walking down the same ill-chosen path.

Yeah, it turns out that heaping tons of handstand volume on top of stiff forearm muscles is a bad idea. I’ve been painfully aware of my lack of wrist mobility since I started integrating more gymnastics progressions into my training this summer, but I assumed the measures I was taking to improve it (which I can now see were rather half-assed) were enough.

Not quite. I now have the pleasure of dealing with a fiery right wrist ( the sparks of tendonitis starting to catch), which has rather gotten in the way of my handstand and hanging work.

I think the main issue here is that the mobilization approach I was taking was centered around more traditional wrist stretching. I was doing SOME soft-tissue work, but not as much as I needed. There were warning signs, like how I needed to do some voodoo flossing before I could stretch without my palm feeling like it was going to rip, but I got a little too excited about building that handstand.

The lesson here is that I should have looked at the painful position and taken that as a clear sign that I had some work to do before I started putting my feet over my head (or, at the very least, taken a conservative approach towards the volume of practice I was doing). Now I’ve got to deal with working around my painful wrist (around, not through) while I do all the mobilizing I should have done before.


So, here’s a neat little summary of the take-aways from this first instalment:

Respect the Pain: If it hurts, you’re probably not ready for it in one way or another. Know the difference between the pain of training hard and the pain of abused tissues.

Take Care of Your Business: If you know you have an issue that’s compromising your ability to train safely (you lack the mobility for the skill you’re working on, for instance), make resolving that issue your first and biggest training priority. (The handstands will still be there afterwards.)

Earn Your Training Volume: If you’re working on a new, physically-demanding skill (such as applying your entire bodyweight to a new range of deep wrist extension), don’t let your excitement get the best of you. Be patient, and start out with a modest amount of work in that specific skill. Spend the majority of your time working on assistance exercises that will help you safely spend more time on your skill (such as working on planks and push-ups to prepare your wrists for handstands).


Lessons learned while writing this post:


– Don’t start a blog post when you’re in the middle of cooking breakfast (I burned my bacon…)

– There is a reason people say not to fry bacon with your shirt off

– It takes more than a little burning to ruin bacon (wait, maybe it doesn’t… bleh)


One thought on “Hard Lessons Learned #1 – Deal with Stiffness, Respect the Pain

  1. Shari Price says:

    GREAT post! I’ve had to step back and take care of mobility and movement patterns… overhead squats and upright rows were my worst … shoulder issues… my trainer made me fix my form! Now I know why. My body is becoming comfortable in the movements. Thanks for this post.

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The Blog of Author Tim Ferriss

Tim Ferriss's 4-Hour Workweek and Lifestyle Design Blog

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