Golfer's Elbow

Written by: Nurudeen Tijani

The article below answers common questions about golfer's elbow and weight lifting. However, if you want an immediate solution, you can get instant access to TitaniumPhysique. Our program will guide you to a pain-free lifting experience. Ready to get started?

An illustration of golfers elbow, forearm muscles, wrist flexor muscles with trigger points
An illustration of golfers elbow, forearm muscles, wrist flexor muscles with trigger points

Golfer's Elbow and Weight Lifting (FAQs)


1.  Why do I suddenly have (feel) pain on the inside part of my elbow without apparent cause?

The muscle conditions that lead to elbow pain are gradual and cumulative. Through repetitive use and over time, the forearm and triceps muscles become restricted (shortened, inelastic). This process of muscle restriction can take months or years to develop.

When the forearm or triceps muscles become chronically restricted (lasting over three months), a routine activity at home (carrying a bag of groceries, holding or gripping something tightly), or at the gym (doing a routine workout) can suddenly trigger pain on the inside part of the elbow. This condition is known as golfer's elbow. Unfortunately, most people do not realize their forearm or triceps are restricted until a routine activity unexpectedly triggers elbow pain.

2.  What is golfer's elbow?

Golfer's elbow (also known as inner elbow pain or medial epicondylitis) is a type of elbow tendonitis where pain occurs inside the elbow. This condition may develop over time (chronic) or suddenly from overloading the medial elbow tendon (acute). In the case of weight lifting, overloading the elbow includes:

  • Lifting a weight too heavy
  • An increase in training volume (e.g., performing excessively more sets during a workout)
  • Using bad lifting form during exercise (e.g., bench press)
illustration of golfer's elbow pain and forearm flexor muscles and medial elbow tendon

3.  Can you get golfer's elbow from weight training?

Yes, you can get golfer's elbow from weight training. However, it's important to understand that while lifting weights can trigger acute golfer's elbow or aggravate chronic pain, it is not the root cause of this condition.

For a detailed article on the root causes of elbow pain, including the types of elbow tendonitis (tennis elbow, triceps tendonitis), elbow bursitis, chronic vs. acute elbow pain, and the fastest way to cure these conditions, check out our comprehensive guide on elbow injuries.

4.  What causes inner elbow pain during weight training? Why does it happen?

The Cause - the tendon on the inside part of the elbow (medial tendon) can become overstressed and inflamed from weight training. The inflamed tendon causes inflammatory pain at the inside part of the elbow during or after the workout.

Why It Happens - The forearm muscles contract when you perform exercises involving the arm. Over time with training, the forearm flexor and triceps muscles become tighter and shorter. Shortened forearm muscles pull and put tension on the medial elbow tendon, decreasing the tendon's elasticity. A combination of shortened forearm flexor muscles and an inelastic medial elbow tendon overloads the elbow joint and causes inner elbow pain during weight lifting.

Important: Apart from musculoskeletal injuries (muscle and tendon-related pain), other medical conditions can contribute to inner elbow pain during weight training. These include nerve entrapment and compression, bone fractures and dislocations, and arthritis, which causes joint inflammation, pain, and stiffness. If your condition is medically related, it is essential to consult a healthcare provider to ensure there are no structural issues with your elbow.

nurudeen performing flat barbell bench press and incline barbell bench press

Nurudeen performing a barbell bench press during a chest workout at the gym (2020). The bench press is a highly effective exercise to build upper body strength and the chest. The bench press primarily targets the pectoral, shoulder, and triceps muscles. "Push" exercises such as bench press can trigger or worsen golfer's elbow, tennis elbow (pain at the outer elbow), and triceps tendonitis.

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5.  What are the symptoms of golfer's elbow from weight training?

Symptoms of golfer's elbow from lifting include the following:

  1. A burning feeling of pain at the inner part of the elbow after lifting (e.g., chin-ups, push-ups, chest flys, bench presses)
  2. Tenderness, swelling, and soreness at the inside part of the elbow after lifting
  3. Sharp, sudden, severe, or dull pain at the inside part of the elbow while lifting
  4. Pain and difficulty bending and straightening arm after working out
  5. Weak grip strength when lifting dumbbells or barbells

6.  How does golfer's elbow affect weight lifting?

Weight-training athletes with golfer's elbow experience elbow pain during exercises that stress the medial elbow tendon. Common exercises include:

  • Barbell Bench Press (flat, incline, decline)
  • Barbell Close-Grip Bench Press
  • Chin-Ups
  • Chest Flys (machine and dumbbell)
  • Bicep Curls
  • Push Press, Military Press
  • Triceps Pushdowns, Triceps Extensions, Bar Dips
  • Close Grip Lat Pulldown
  • Cable Rows

7.  What exercises should I avoid with a golfer's elbow?

Avoid "pull" exercises. "Pull" exercises can overload the forearm flexor muscles, inflame the medial elbow tendon (inner elbow tendon), and aggravate golfer's elbow (inner elbow pain). Common weight training "pull" exercises include the following:

  • Chin-Ups
  • Chest Flys (machine, dumbbell, cable)
  • Bicep Curls
  • Triceps Pushdowns
  • Triceps Extensions
  • Bar Dips/Chair Dips
  • Close Grip Lat Pulldown
  • Cable Rows
Nurudeen performing close grip chin-ups in gym (2022)

Nurudeen performing close-grip chin-ups during a back workout at the gym (2022). Close grip chin-ups are a variation of the chin-up exercise. Close-grip chin-ups target the lower lats muscle, deltoids and biceps. Close-grip chin-ups can trigger or aggravate pain at the inside part of the elbow.

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8.  Is it OK to work out with a golfer's elbow?

It depends on the severity of the golfer's elbow. If the condition causes "low to mild" pain, most people can use elbow sleeves, elbow brace, elbow wraps, elbow straps, or other short-term pain relief remedies to reduce the pain while lifting. If the condition is chronic and severe or causes sharp pain in the elbow while working out, it's best to treat the root cause of the pain before resuming exercise.

9.  Does golfer's elbow go away?

Yes, golfer's elbow can go away if treated early and if the ROOT cause of the tendonitis is treated. Short-term remedies can help if the golfer's elbow is acute (the condition is less than three months old). If the golfer's elbow is chronic (the condition is more than three months old), it usually requires fixing the root cause to cure the pain.

    10.  How long does it take for golfer's elbow to go away?

    Short-term pain relief remedies like elbow sleeves, elbow brace, elbow wraps, and elbow straps can provide immediate but temporary relief for golfer's elbow pain. Elbow sleeves compress the elbow joint to promote increased blood flow to the elbow. It also keeps the elbow joint and elbow tendon warm. This temporarily reduces golfer's elbow pain from weight training. Unfortunately, the pain usually returns and often gets worse when you resume working out without elbow sleeves.

    Alternative solutions like the TitaniumPhysique Program can help you cure golfer's elbow (in 5-10 days) and prevent relapse.

    nurudeen performing seated shoulder press with barbell at gym 2019

    Nurudeen performing a seated barbell shoulder press during a shoulder workout at the gym (2019). The seated shoulder press is a variation of the shoulder press exercise. The shoulder press is an effective exercise to build upper body and shoulder strength. This exercise primarily targets the deltoids, upper pectoral, and triceps. "Push" exercises such as seated shoulder press can trigger or aggravate golfer's elbow (pain on the inside part of the elbow) and triceps tendonitis (pain at the back of the elbow).

    Ready to start lifting without pain or injury?

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    11.  What happens if golfer's elbow goes untreated?

    Golfer's elbow left untreated becomes degenerative and can lead to irreversible deterioration of the medial elbow tendon and elbow joint. When left untreated, the forearm muscles become restricted and inelastic, leading to forearm muscle pain and wrist pain. The medial elbow tendon loses strength and deteriorates, which leads to tendon tear or rupture (elbow tendinosis).

    12.  Can golfer's elbow cause permanent elbow pain?

    Yes, golfer's elbow can cause permanent elbow pain. This condition is known as elbow tendinosis. Tendinosis is the deterioration of tendon collagen due to chronic repetitive stress injury - often from weight training. Tendinosis results in the loss of strength in the tendon and often leads to tendon tear or rupture. It's necessary to treat the root cause of the pain to prevent permanent elbow pain.

    13.  Do elbow sleeves help with inner elbow pain when lifting?

    Elbow sleeves (including elbow straps, elbow braces, and elbow wraps) are a popular option to manage elbow injuries (such as inner elbow pain) when lifting weights. Elbow sleeves compress the elbow tendon and elbow joint. As a result, it temporarily reduces elbow discomfort when lifting, e.g. during bench press. Unfortunately, elbow sleeves do not cure the root cause of golfer's elbow. When left untreated, elbow tendonitis can lead to elbow tendinosis and cause irreversible elbow tendon degeneration.

    Nurudeen performing skull crushers aka lying triceps extension

    Nurudeen performing skull crushers during a shoulder and arms workout at the gym (2021). Skull crushers are a variation of the Overhead Triceps Extension. Skull crushers are an effective exercise to build upper body and arm strength. This exercise primarily targets the triceps muscle. "Pull" exercises such as skull crushers can trigger or aggravate golfer's elbow (inner elbow pain) and triceps tendonitis (posterior elbow pain).

    Ready to start lifting without pain or injury?

    Get instant access to TitaniumPhysique. Our program will guide you to a pain-free lifting experience.

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    14.  What options do I have to stop inner elbow pain when lifting weights?

    To stop inner elbow pain when lifting, you have two approaches: short-term relief remedies and addressing the root cause of the pain.

    Short-term pain relief remedies include joint supplements and vitamins, anti-inflammatory painkillers (NSAIDs), physical therapy, stretching, ice and rest therapy, elbow braces, elbow straps, kinesiology tape, and topical anti-inflammatory solutions (oils and creams).

    To permanently cure elbow pain and prevent it from affecting your workouts, it's essential to address the root causes, which include chronic inflammation, magnesium deficiency, and muscle restriction. The TitaniumPhysique Program can help you achieve this goal.

    15.  How can I avoid and prevent golfer's elbow?

    Part of avoiding chronic elbow pain is preventing acute elbow pain. If you feel inner elbow pain when lifting, reduce the weight. If the pain persists, stop the exercise and train another body part that does not involve your elbow. Pushing through a workout with elbow pain will intensify the degree of post-workout acute inflammation, worsen the pain symptoms, and prolong the recovery of the elbow.

    To prevent and counteract golfer's elbow, follow these steps:

    1. Stretch the forearm muscle before lifting. See examples of forearm stretches on RedBoxFitness.com.
    2. Start your workout by warming the elbow and triceps tendon (e.g., resistance band pull-apart).
    3. When lifting, incrementally add weights to avoid sudden overload of the triceps tendon and elbow tendons.
    4. Learn and always good lifting techniques. Learn proper technique here: Exercise Database & Library by the American Council on Exercise.
    5. Incrementally increase training volume (i.e., be mindful about doing an excessive amount of sets).
    6. Supplement with magnesium to heal and decalcify the elbow tendons. Magnesium also relaxes muscles to reduce pain.
    7. Incorporate self-myofascial release for elbow pain into your recovery routine. Perform SMR on the forearm extensors, forearm flexors, and triceps muscle/tendon at least twice a week to keep the forearms and triceps pliable.

    Important: Remember that restricted triceps and forearm muscles that cause elbow pain develop over many years. It is necessary to use the correct treatment techniques to get lasting results. If you want an easy-to-follow video guide, you can click here to access the TitaniumPhysique Program.

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    Counteract and prevent elbow pain

    Written by: Nurudeen Tijani

    Nurudeen (aka TJ) is passionate about 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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