A Helpful Guide To Fix Elbow Pain From Benching (Bench Press Elbow Pain)

This article covers frequently asked questions about elbow pain when bench pressing, and how to fix bench press elbow pain (triceps tendonitis and tennis elbow) in only 5 minutes.

For a video-based guide to cure elbow pain fast, consider the TitaniumPhysique program. A solution created for athletes, by athletes. Take the elbow pain quiz to start now.

nurudeen performing flat barbell bench press at gym while wearing wrist wrap

If you experience elbow pain during bench press, or pain in your elbow after benching, you've come to the right place. For years I struggled with elbow pain during my chest workouts (barbell bench press, dumbbell bench press, and machine press). I experienced pain on the outside and inside part, and at the back of my elbows, while benching and after benching (video below)I fixed my elbow pain. I will show you how to do the same. 

This article covers frequently asked questions about elbow pain when bench pressing. For a detailed article on the root causes of elbow pain from lifting weights, the types of elbow tendonitis (tennis elbow, golfer's elbow, triceps tendonitis), chronic vs. acute elbow pain, and the fastest way to permanently cure elbow pain, check out the complete guide: elbow pain from lifting weights

Nurudeen Tijani Posing Physique Abs and Chest
Written by: Nurudeen Tijani
Member: American Chronic Pain Asso.
Personal Trainer, Bodybuilder, NPC Physique Athlete, Yoga Instructor, Wellness Coach

Bench Press Elbow Pain (Frequently Asked Questions)


1. Why does my elbow hurt when I bench press?

Pain in the elbow during bench press can occur for several reasons, including: restricted triceps muscles or forearm muscles, inadequate warm-up of the triceps muscles and forearm muscles before exercisinglifting a weight too heavy, bad weightlifting form or technique, sudden increase in training volume (i.e. performing excessive bench press sets). Any or a combinations of these factors can cause your elbow to hurt during bench press.

2. Why do my elbows hurt after chest workout?

Most chest workouts involve "push" exercises. For example, push ups, barbell bench press, dumbbell bench press, and machine chest press. "Push" exercises such as bench press can trigger or aggravates elbow pain because the exercise involve the elbow tendons and elbow joint. The repetitive movement during bench press can strain and inflame the elbow tendons and elbow joint.

When the elbow tendons become inflamed, it causes acute elbow pain after the workout - this is what causes your elbow to hurt chest workout. Acute elbow pain is an inflammatory pain experienced during or immediately after lifting weights. In the case of a chest workout, it includes:

  • Burning pain in the elbow joint after benching
  • A sensation of heat, swelling or redness around elbow joint after working out
  • Sore elbow after benching
  • Elbow pain when bending and straightening arm after bench pressing

3. What causes elbow pain during bench press?

Restricted triceps muscles and forearm muscles (i.e. tight and shortened) cause the extensor elbow tendon (outside elbow tendon), medial elbow tendon (inside elbow tendon), and triceps brachii tendons (posterior elbow tendon) to become overstretched and inflamed. When the elbow tendons get inflamed, it causes elbow pain while benching and elbow pain after bench press. The pain usually occurs on the inside part of the elbow joint (golfer's elbow), the outside part of the elbow joint (tennis elbow), or at the back of the elbow joint (triceps tendonitis).

Nurudeen lifting at gym with elbow tendonitis (2018). Wearing elbow sleeves on both elbows while performing bench press to reduce elbow tendonitis pain (outer elbow pain at bottom of bench press).

The Complete Elbow Pain Solution For Athletes

For a video-based guide to cure elbow pain fast, consider the TitaniumPhysique program. A solution created for athletes, by athletes. Take the quiz to start now.

4. Can bench press cause elbow pain?

When performed properly with good technique, the bench press exercise does not cause elbow pain. However, benching can trigger or aggravate elbow tendonitis and elbow pain. The bench press is a "push" exercise. Push exercises involve the forearm muscles, elbow tendons, and elbow joint. During bench press, the forearm muscles can become overstretched. When the forearm muscles become overstretched, it leads to inflammation of the elbow tendon and causes acute elbow pain or aggravates chronic elbow pain.

5. Can bench press damage elbows?

When performed properly with good technique, bench press does not damage elbows. However, for a person experiencing elbow tendonitis, bench press can trigger acute elbow pain or aggravate chronic elbow pain, leading to elbow tendinosis.

Tendinosis is the deterioration of tendon collagen due to repetitive stress and chronic injury. Tendinosis results in the loss of strength in the tendon and often lead to tendon tear or rupture. So doing bench press with elbow tendonitis (i.e. inflammatory elbow pain) can lead to elbow tendinosis (i.e. degeneration of elbow tendon) and damage the elbows.

6. Can you hurt your elbow doing bench press?

When performed properly with good technique, bench press is a safe exercise and will not cause injury to the elbow. However any or a combinations of the following factors can cause you to hurt your elbow during bench press:

  • Inadequate warm-up of the elbow tendons and triceps tendon before benching
  • Inadequate stretching of the triceps muscle and forearm muscles before benching
  • Lifting a weight too heavy (e.g. heavy bench press)
  • Bad benching form or technique (e.g. improper grip, narrow grip, bouncing bar of your chest)
  • Sudden increase in training volume (i.e. performing an excessive amount of bench press sets)
  • Benching while experiencing ongoing mild-to-severe elbow tendonitis

nurudeen demonstrating how to perform close grip bench press to avoid elbow pain

Nurudeen performing close-grip bench press at gym (2019). "Push" exercises such as close grip bench press can aggravate triceps tendonitis, tennis elbow, and golfer's elbow (known as "close-grip bench press elbow pain").

The Complete Elbow Pain Solution For Athletes

For a video-based guide to cure elbow pain fast, consider the TitaniumPhysique program. A solution created for athletes, by athletes. Take the quiz to start now.

7. Is bench press bad for elbows?

When performed properly with good technique, the bench press exercise is not bad for the elbows. However, benching without first warming up the triceps muscle and forearm muscles, using bad weightlifting form, or a sudden increase in training volume can overload the elbow tendons, create pain in the elbow, and cause elbow problems.

8. Is close-grip bench press bad for elbows?

When performed properly with good technique, close-grip bench press is not bad for the elbows. 

Unlike the traditional bench press which targets the pectoral muscles, close-grip bench press target the triceps brachii muscle. Therefore, it is more likely to trigger or aggravate triceps tendonitis (posterior elbow pain). Performing close-grip bench press without warming up the triceps muscle and triceps tendon, using bad weightlifting form, or a sudden increase in training volume can overload the triceps tendon and cause elbow problems.

9. Should I bench with elbow pain?

It depends on the severity of the elbow pain. If the elbow injury creates "low to mild" pain, most people can use elbow sleeves, elbow wraps, elbow straps, or other short-term pain relief remedies to temporarily reduce pain while benching. If the elbow injury is chronic and severe, or creates sharp pain in the elbow tendon and elbow joint, it's best to treat the root cause of the elbow pain before resuming benching.

Nurudeen from TitaniumPhysique performing barbell incline bench press at gym

Nurudeen performing barbell incline bench press at gym (2020). Click here to view bench press video. The incline bench press is a variation of the traditional bench press exercise. The incline bench press target the upper pectoral and deltoids muscles. "Push" exercises such as incline bench press can aggravate tennis elbow, golfer's elbow and triceps tendonitis (posterior elbow pain) in athletes.

The Complete Elbow Pain Solution For Athletes

For a video-based guide to cure elbow pain fast, consider the TitaniumPhysique program. A solution created for athletes, by athletes. Take the quiz to start now.

10. Which is better to avoid elbow pain, dumbbell bench press vs. barbell bench press?

Both dumbbell bench press and barbell bench press can trigger or aggravate elbow pain, however dumbbell bench press is better. Here is why...

The dumbbell bench press isolates each arm and enables more range of motion. Therefore the dumbbell bench press requires less weights. The barbell bench press is more effective to grow the pectoral muscles and build strength. As such, the barbell bench press enables the use of more weights.

Most people naturally lift heavier weights during barbell bench press compared to dumbbell bench press. For this reason, if you experience bench press elbow pain, the dumbbell bench press is less likely to trigger or aggravate elbow pain. You can also experiment with different variations of bench presses (below).

Variations of dumbbell bench press include:

  • Flat dumbbell bench press
  • Incline dumbbell bench press
  • Decline dumbbell bench press

Variations of barbell bench press include:

  • Flat barbell bench press
  • Close grip barbell bench press
  • Incline barbell bench press
  • Decline barbell bench press
  • Smith Machine barbell bench press

11. What is a good bench press alternative to avoid elbow pain?

Here are 6 good bench press alternatives to avoid elbow pain:

  • Cable chest flys (variations: standing, flat, incline, decline)
  • Cable crossover
  • Machine chest flys
  • Dumbbell flys (variations: flat, incline, decline) 
  • Push-Ups (variations: wall-support, kneeling)
  • Dumbbell Pullovers

All of these exercises limit strain on the forearm extensor tendon that connects to the elbow. As well as the triceps brachii tendon. This can help you avoid tennis elbow or triceps tendonitis (posterior elbow pain) from benching.

Nurudeen bench pressing with elbow sleeves. Using elbow sleeve for elbow pain

Nurudeen performing barbell bench press during chest and back workout (2018). Wearing elbow sleeves during bench to reduce chronic elbow. "Push" exercises such as bench press aggravate tennis elbow, golfer's elbow and triceps tendonitis.

12. Do elbow sleeves help with elbow pain when benching?

Elbow sleeves (including elbow straps, elbow braces, elbow wraps) are a popular option to manage elbow pain during bench press. Elbow sleeves compress the elbow tendon and elbow joint. As a result, it temporarily reduces elbow discomfort when lifting dumbbells or barbells during bench press.

Unfortunately, elbow sleeves do not cure the root cause of bench press elbow pain. Left untreated, elbow tendonitis pain can lead to elbow tendinosis and cause irreversible elbow tendon degeneration.

13. How long does it take to recover from elbow pain bench press?

It's possible to quickly recover from bench press elbow pain in 5 minutes (see below), by releasing the forearm flexor muscles, forearm extensor muscles, and triceps muscle and tendon. You can accomplish this by using a self-myofascial release massage ball.

Once the restricted muscles in the forearm and triceps are released, it will alleviate the tension on the elbow tendons, which allows the tendons to recover quickly. Using a combination of post-workout treatments (e.g. RICE therapy), magnesium supplementation, and self-myofascial release, it's possible to fully recover from elbow pain caused by bench pressing within 3-5 days.

Keep in mind, simply resting the elbow (e.g. taking a break physical training) might temporarily provide relief, but it will not fix the root cause of the pain (i.e. restricted forearm muscles that overload the elbow tendons and cause elbow pain when benching).

Man performing machine chest press at gym

Man performing Machine Chest Press. Machine Chest Press is a "push" exercise that targets the pectoral and front deltoid muscles. It is an effective exercise to strengthen and build the pectoral muscles. "Push" exercises like the Machine Chest Press can trigger or aggravate elbow pain, including: tennis elbow and triceps tendonitis.

The Complete Elbow Pain Solution For Athletes

For a video-based guide to cure elbow pain fast, consider the TitaniumPhysique program. A solution created for athletes, by athletes. Take the quiz to start now.

14. How do I stop my elbows from hurting when I do bench press?

To stop your elbow from hurting when doing bench press, do this:

  1. Use short-term pain remedies that provide temporary relief for elbow pain -OR-
  2. Fix the root cause of elbow pain to cure and counteract it from coming back

Short-term pain relief remedies for bench press elbow pain include: joint supplements and vitamins, anti-inflammatory painkillers (NSAIDs), physical therapy, stretching, "Ice and Rest therapy", elbow braces, elbow straps, elbow sleeves, kinesiology tape, and topical anti-inflammatory solutions (oils and creams). For a detailed explanation, visit this article to learn more about conventional remedies to fix elbow pain.

To cure elbow pain and prevent it from interfering with your training, you can fix the root cause of elbow pain. The ROOT causes of elbow pain during exercise are (1) chronic inflammation, (2) magnesium deficiency, and (3) muscle restriction. For a detailed explanation, visit this article to learn more about the root causes of elbow pain.

15. How to fix elbow pain from bench press? (Relieve Elbow Pain In 5 Minutes)

To fix elbow pain fast (in 5 minutes), follow these steps:

  1. Use a peanut ball to massage: forearm extensor muscles, forearm flexor muscles, and the triceps muscle and tendon.
  2. Roll out (massage) the muscles with the peanut ball for 3-5 minutes. Stretch the forearm muscles and triceps muscles after the massage.
  3. Perform the massage ball routine once a day. Rest the muscles the following day. Then repeat the routine again.
  4. On day when you're not using the massage ball, you can apply an ice pack to the elbow, if you continue to experience burning pain. For faster results, perform the massage ball exercise 2x a day. Once in the morning and once at night.

For a detailed explainer on how to relieve tennis elbow, golfer's elbow, and triceps tendonitis, check out this article.

For an easy-to-follow video-based guide to cure bench press elbow pain and other bench press related injuries (stiff neck, neck pain, shoulder pain, forearm pain, wrist pain, upper back pain), consider the pain relief for athletes program.

16. How to cure and avoid elbow pain when bench pressing?

To avoid elbow pain when bench pressing, follow these steps:

  1. Stretch the triceps muscle and forearm muscle before benching (e.g. overhead triceps stretch, forearm flexor stretch).
  2. Start your workout by warm-up the elbow and triceps tendon (e.g. perform 20 bench reps with a light barbell).
  3. If performing heavy bench press, incrementally add weights to avoid sudden overload of the triceps tendon and elbow tendons.
  4. Learn and always good bench press technique. Check out this article on how to master the bench press.
  5. Incrementally increase training volume (i.e. be mindful about doing an excessive amount of bench press sets).
  6. Supplement with magnesium to heal and decalcify the elbow tendons. Magnesium also relax muscles in the arm to reduce pain.
  7. Use a peanut ball to massage the forearm extensor muscles, forearm flexor muscles, and triceps muscle and tendon. Roll out (massage) the muscles with the peanut ball for 3-5 minutes. Stretch the forearm muscles and triceps muscles after the massage. Perform the massage ball routine once a day. Rest the muscles the following day. Then repeat the routine again.

For a detailed explanation, visit this article to learn how to avoid elbow pain using a simple 3-Step Formula.

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Nurudeen Tijani, Author & Founder at TitaniumPhysique
Written by: Nurudeen Tijani

Nurudeen (aka T.J) has a passion for helping people build the body they desire through weight training. He is a physique and fitness trainer, nutritionist, yoga instructor, vegan natural bodybuilder, National Physique Committee (NPC) competitor, and founder at TitaniumPhysique. Nurudeen is a member of the International Association Study of Pain (IASP) and the American Chronic Pain Association (ACPA).

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