10 Things You Can Do To Avoid Elbow Pain

 Nurudeen Tijani (T.J.) Founder of TitaniumPhysique | Pain Relief Fitness Coach

Written by: Nurudeen Tijani

Published: May 9, 2024

Elbow pain does not have to be a routine part of your sport, workout, or hobby. I've been lifting weights for ten years, and I've dealt with and overcome many elbow injuries. This article will share my best tips and resources to avoid elbow pain, including my favorite tip (see #15 below).

A photo of Nurudeen wearing elbow sleeves during a workout to avoid elbow pain

If you're looking for a fast and effective way to prevent pain and maintain optimal elbow health, learn how my TitaniumPhysique Program can help you quickly eliminate pain at its source. Click here to access the program now.

Here are my best tips to help you avoid elbow injuries and pain.

  1. Listen to Your Body: Recognize that avoiding chronic elbow pain (such as tennis elbow, golfer's elbow, or triceps tendonitis) involves preventing acute pain. If you experience elbow discomfort (from sport, weightlifting, yoga, or other physical activity), don't ignore it. In the case of weight lifting, reduce the resistance immediately. If the pain persists, stop the exercise and train another body part that doesn't stress your arm and elbow. Pushing through the pain can escalate acute inflammation post-workout, exacerbate symptoms, and prolong elbow recovery. Remember, your body's signals are there for a reason, so heed them to avoid long-term issues.

  2. Stretch Before Exercising: Before starting your workout, stretch your forearm extensors, forearm flexors, and tricep muscles to promote flexibility and reduce muscle tension. You can try this forearm stretch by RedBoxFitness or this overhead triceps stretch. It is also essential to stretch between your working sets when exercising. This practice keeps the muscles lengthened for better performance and faster post-workout recovery. 
  3. Warm Up Properly: Warm your elbow tendons and joints with the resistance band pull-apart or other suitable exercises.
  4. Gradually Increase Resistance: If you plan on lifting heavier than usual (e.g., power training), start with two warm-up sets before incrementally adding weights. This gradual progression allows your muscles and tendons to adapt and avoid sudden overload of the forearm/triceps muscles and elbow tendons.
  5. Focus on Form and Technique: Learn and consistently utilize proper lifting form and technique. The American Council on Exercise and JEFIT exercise database is a good learning resource. For stretching and yoga poses, check out this YouTube playlist.
  6. Widen the Position of Your Arms: Push-ups are a staple upper-body exercise. If you experience elbow discomfort during push-ups, widen the position of your arms. Wide hand push-ups isolate the chest during the movement and can help reduce triceps tendon pain.

  7. Consider Assisted Variations: Most bodyweight exercises involving the arm and elbow have assisted variations. For example, kneeling or wall-assisted push-ups can alleviate tension in the forearms/triceps and reduce elbow discomfort. Alternatively, banded pull-ups provide additional support to prevent overload of the forearms during the exercise.

  8. Try Machine-Assisted Exercises: Stationary machines are generally better for avoiding elbow pain versus free weights like a barbell, dumbbell, or cable machine. For example, the lat pulldown machine, pec deck, or smith machine provides a guided and controlled motion, which helps reduce the strain on the elbow joint. The fixed movement pattern promotes proper form and minimizes unnecessary stress on the elbows, making it a more suitable option for individuals prone to or experiencing elbow pain.

  9. Consider Using a Resistance Band: Consider using a resistance band instead of a barbell, dumbbell, or stationary machine. For example, you can perform shoulder presses, chest presses, lat pulldowns, rows, bicep curls, or tricep extensions with a resistance band. Performing exercises with a resistance band allows you to modify the position of your arm and the angle of your elbow to minimize the extension of the triceps, thereby reducing pressure on the elbow. The resistance band is also less likely to cause injury, as it does not provide the same resistance intensity as heavy dumbbells or machine equipment.

  10. Perform Partial Movements: Consider performing partial reps, where you don't fully bend or extend the arm during the exercise. This modification can help reduce discomfort in the elbow.

  11. Gradually Increase Training Volume: Be mindful of doing excessive sets during a workout and incrementally increase your training volume.
  12. Utilize Lifting Straps: To reduce forearm muscle tension caused by gripping machine handles, attachments, or the exercise bar, you can use lifting straps.
  13. Consider Elbow Compression Sleeves: Wearing elbow sleeves can provide compression and support to the elbow tendons and joints, helping to alleviate elbow pain. Compression sleeves are a bandage fix and not a permanent solution, so only rely on them if you must, for example, when training for a fitness contest or event.
  14. Supplement with Magnesium: Magnesium helps to counteract inflammation and decalcify the elbow tendons and joints. Magnesium also relaxes muscles to reduce pain.
  15. Incorporate Self-Myofascial Release: Incorporate self-myofascial release "SMR" exercises into your recovery routine. Perform SMR on the biceps, forearm extensors, forearm flexors, and tricep muscles at least twice weekly to keep these muscles pliable. SMR is the fastest way to treat, relieve, and avoid elbow tendonitis injuries and pain. For a detailed guide on these exercises and to make sure you're performing them correctly, you can get instant access to my in-depth video course for step-by-step guidance. Click here to access the TitaniumPhysique Program now.
  16. Incorporate Sauna Therapy: Regular sauna sessions can be a beneficial addition to your routine to help prevent and manage elbow pain. The heat from the sauna promotes increased blood circulation, which can aid in the recovery and healing of muscle and tendon injuries. The warmth also helps relax muscles, reduce stiffness, and alleviate joint pain.

  17. Beware of Sedentary Habits: Long periods of sitting can wreak havoc on your muscles, including those in your forearms. Break up your sitting time by taking short breaks to stand, stretch, and move around. Incorporate regular movement into your day, whether walking, stretching, or doing light exercises. This practice helps prevent muscles from becoming tense and stiff, reducing the likelihood of developing elbow and wrist problems due to prolonged inactivity. Aim for brief activity breaks every hour to keep your muscles limber and your joints healthy.

  18. Protect Your Elbows: If your job, hobby, or daily routine involves frequently placing your elbow on hard surfaces, consider using protective equipment such as elbow pads. This simple practice can significantly reduce the risk of exacerbating conditions like elbow bursitis, commonly known as "pointy elbow." By cushioning the impact and reducing pressure on your elbows, you can prevent the condition from worsening and maintain your elbow health in the long run.

    YouTube video

    Check out this 2017 video of me performing a bench press while wearing elbow sleeves to manage pain.

    Nurudeen performs a bench press

    In the photo above (2022), I perform a heavy bench press (without pain).

    For a deep dive into the root causes of elbow pain, elbow tendonitis injuries, elbow bursitis, chronic versus acute pain, and the fastest way to fix these conditions, check these additional guides or the video below:

      YouTube video

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