Pain-free training is oxymoronic.
It doesn't exist.
No matter how careful, thoughtful, cautious, and preparatory we are, something will always hurt—there is no running from this inevitability.
Our goal shouldn't be to eliminate discomfort.
Instead, we should aim to limit it. To train hard within the bounds of physiological realities. To come up with creative work-arounds. To stay one step ahead.
Conversely, we should also be pervasively aware of our own stubbornness.
There is a point where continuing to push is counterproductive. Where an annoyance becomes a detriment. Where transience calcifies into permanence. Where we are just beating our heads against the wall.
Objectivity is hard to come by among serious fitness enthusiasts. And impartiality is even more rare with self-evaluation. We can't be trusted to make the best decisions for our own well-being in the face of an endless menu of clearly-stupid-but-ego-stimulating options.
Hiring a coach is a good first step. They can at least step in and clean up some of the larger-scale fuckery that tends to run rampant when we are unsupervised. We also tend to listen more to people who we're paying lots of money versus our subconscious voice-of-reason.
Compiling detailed biofeedback data is another mandatory for those of us who are plagued by ailments and obstination. What gets tracked gets measured, and it's impossible to figure out the source of pain or potential solutions when no paper trail exists.
But the most impactful tool we have at our disposal for actually curing pain during training is also the simplest...
This may seem like an obviously oversimplified solution to an obviously hyper-complex problem, but understanding what is happening in and to your body gives you a power that no coach or app or NSAID can come close to.
Comprehension of anatomy allows you to put a name to the issue you're experiencing—an achy elbow becomes triceps tendinitis at the insertion of the olecranon process.
Truly grasping the underpinnings of physiology provides the reasoning behind your ailments—tendinitis becomes a repetitive, degrading inflammatory response that compromises the tissue integrity when left unchecked.
Mastering biomechanics gives you the ability to analyze and modify movement patterns to work around that discomfort—malicious triceps tendinitis that flares up with heavy skullcrushers can now be side-stepped by adjusting your execution and allowing subtle shoulder flexion through the eccentric to reduce joint sheering.
Though we're focusing more specifically on the triceps, and by extension (hehe), extensions in this post, this fundamental principle can be applied more broadly across many different movement patterns and exercises.
Pain in training will never be fully averted; it's just an unfortunate part of the process. But we can defend ourselves with a little ingenuity and a lot of persistence.