Busting a Plateau without busting my body
I've had very good results weight training. But I feel like I've been stuck at the same spot for a long time and it's starting to get frustrating.
The problem is that everytime I try to increase weight beyond a certain point (particlarly on a bicep curl, for example), I injure myself. I have really thin, girly wrists for some reason. It feels like everything I do, from computers, to biking, to weights puts strain on my wrists. Another problem area is my chest--I've had mild muscle/skeletal chest pain for a couple of weeks. Oh, and don't even get me started on my legs--I used to be a chronic cardio guy. I've scaled back jogging, but even something like an intense game of basketball can wreak havoc for days.
I've taken a break the last few days to heal up, but the problem remains (plus, I feel like everytime I take a break, I lose progress and then have to work myself back up to the same inevitable plateau) I just can't seem to make a further gain without hurting myself.
Have you tried doing more "compound" weight training/body resistance, like doing pull-ups/chin-ups instead of bicep curls, etc? That way, you're working everything but not focusing specifically on one particular area that might become aggravated.
Just a thought. Caveat: I really don't know too much about weight training as all my stuff is body resistance.
"Oh, you wanted answers...yeah, sorry, I'm not so good with those. Uh, probably something to do with science or something..."
August 2010: 207 lb, 37" waist, 25+% BF | Currently: 177 lb, 33" waist, ~15% BF
Sometimes blogging as The Primal Mind. (My unorthodox and filthy-mouthed journal is semi-retired at this point)
I agree with Patrick.
Also, it sounds like you may be deficient in something and perhaps have some inflammation issues. Are you sufficient in your Vitamin D and Omega 3? I noticed that my joints and connective tissue are much happier now that I am Primal.
As far as compound exercises are concerned, I always do pull-ups and chin-ups, as well as the bench press and shoulder press. As far as I know, there aren't a whole lot of compound moves that emphasize the bicep; aside from the injury, I get good results from curls.
I want to try to start incorporating dead-lifts and squats, but I do have a mental block there; they intimidate me. I've always seen them as "hardcore" moves. in I'm worried about hurting my back or knees.
Squats and deadlifts are great for building strength. I would recommend checking out the book/program Starting Strength for proper form. As long as you are diligent with your form and build the weight up reasonably, you shouldn't be in danger of injury.
Total body strength building should help you break through your plateau.
For wrist strength, try doing knuckle push ups. Don't go too wide, though, and use a mat or some sort of padding for under your knuckles.
This helped build some wrist strength for me when I first start a push up program. Also, pull ups/chin ups will help build wrist strength as well.
Sounds like you're trying to eliminate the weak points before increasing weight now which is smart, i.e. not lifting weights your biceps can handle, but your wrists can't.
"As far as I know, there aren't a whole lot of compound moves that emphasize the bicep"
How about close-grip chin-ups? Once you gain strength there, climb a rope! I recently read about this and this is the way I am going. When I can pull myself up a rope with my arms, I think my biceps will be strong.
Weighted chin ups are all the bicep exercise you need.
"Live Free or Die"
You need to do squats and deadlifts. Full stop. Seriously - look up the Rippetoe quotes, and Rip is one of the big guys in strength training. If you dont believe him, look at the body builders - look at Lee Hayward for example. They all tell you the same thing: if you want to grow, squat. It is funny: Lee Hayward has a program that is called "blast your bench" to, well, increase your bench. What does he make you do for the first few weeks: 20rep squats, and pull-ups. There are a number of reasons for this, but I guess the main reason is that in order to grow anywhere you need to stress your body. And your body does not get stressed by biceps curls, just like it does not get stressed by finger curls (just kidding) - you'll simply get yourself a local overuse injury.
Assuming you have the proper equipment (squat rack!), and the proper technique, those movements are very safe. Get yourself the "starting strength" book Books | Thor Falk, or stronglifts 5x5, and just follow the instructions. The heavy compound lifts are awesome. You will never want to do preacher curls again - and you wont need to if you throw some (eventually weighted) pull-ups in the mix