Now I’ve personally experienced elbow pain and tennis elbow before and I know it’s not fun. It hinders our training, diminishes our performance, and it just plain hurts. So today I want to go over 3 elbow pain causes that are likely contributing to your elbow pain when working out and what you need to do in order to not only fix your elbow pain but the exercises to do for elbow pain that’ll prevent it from coming back. This way, you can start lifting pain free as soon as possible and protect this joint for life.
The first culprit is an imbalance in your forearm strength and just weak grip strength in general. Weak extensor muscles in the forearm are the main culprit for elbow pain and studies cite “repetitive gripping” to be the cause of elbow pain. So strengthening your forearms, especially your extensors, as well as increasing your overall grip strength is what’s key to creating bullet-proof elbows and has consistently been shown to be an effective approach to relieving elbow pain. And the simplest way to start out is to regularly perform standard wrist extensions to help strengthen and build more endurance in your weaker wrist extensors. If however the pain you experience is on the inside of your elbow rather than on the outside, then you’d want to perform wrist curls instead of wrist extensions to help build the endurance of your wrist flexors since in this case you have the opposite imbalance.
So we addressed a problem below the elbow, but now we need to look above the elbow for some other possible elbow pain causes. And the most common culprit here is weakness in the muscles involved in stabilizing the shoulder and scapula. Because a lack of stabilization here then means that the muscles surrounding your elbow joint will be forced to work overtime to compensate for that lack of stability during our pushing and pulling exercises. Which again leads to elbow pain due to overuse and over-dependence on these forearm muscles. I have put out quite a few videos that address these muscles (linked below). But some of the best options for you to get started with would be exercises like scapular pull-ups to help strengthen the traps, and then simple external rotation movements to help strengthen your rotator cuff.
The last cause of elbow pain when working out, or the worsening of your existing elbow pain, is often due to just trying to “push through the pain”. When you feel discomfort in your joints, don’t ignore it. For this reason, dumbbells will become your best friend as they allow you to manipulate your hand position into basically any position that feels comfortable. Basically, we want to take our hands out of a supinated or pronated position and instead into a neutral grip as much as possible, since this places the least stress on our forearm muscles and eliminates our tendency to excessively flex and extend our wrist as we perform our exercises.
In addition, to fix your elbow pain, you want to always be mindful of your wrist positioning during your exercises. Avoid flexing or extending your wrists excessively during exercises like chin-ups, curls, and even pushdowns as this creates a ton of stress on the forearm muscles and tendons. Instead, focus on keeping the wrist neutral and in line with your forearms as you perform these movements.
To sum up the video, here are the steps and exercises to keep in mind for elbow pain:
First, dedicate more time to your forearm training and grip training.
Pain on outside of elbow = Wrist extensions: 3 sets of 10 reps
Pain on inside of elbow = Wrist curls: 3 sets of 10 reps
Suitcase carries: 3 sets of 30s walks each side
Then, address potential weaknesses in your shoulder and scapular stabilizer muscles.
Scapular pull-ups: 3 sets of 10 reps
External rotation exercise: 3 sets of 5-10 reps
And finally, manipulate your exercises and be mindful of your wrist positioning to avoid worsening the pain.
Implement more neutral grip exercises: Hammer curls, neutral grip presses, neutral grip rows, etc.
But all in all, you need to realize that if you’re feeling stress in certain joints then it’s often a result of imbalances or weaknesses elsewhere in the body. And for a step-by-step program that prevents this from happening by showing you exactly how to train to maximize growth while correcting your imbalances and weaknesses in the process, then simply take the analysis quiz to discover which science-based program would be best for you and where your body is currently at below:
Filmed by: Bruno Martin Del Campo
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