How to Maintain Healthy Elbows

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

Written by: Nurudeen Tijani
Last updated: June 12, 2024

Elbow discomfort does not have to be a routine part of your daily activity, sport, workout, or hobby. I've dealt with and overcome many elbow injuries. Here's how I fixed my elbows. This article will share my best tips and resources to maintain healthy elbows for optimal wellness and fitness.

If you're looking for a fast and effective way to maintain optimal elbow health, learn how my TitaniumPhysique Program can help you quickly eliminate pain at its source. Get Started Now.

A photo of Nurudeen wearing elbow sleeves

Listen to the article: 8 minutes

Here are my best tips to help you maintain healthy elbows.

  1. Listen to Your Body: Recognize that avoiding chronic elbow conditions involves preventing acute pain. If you experience discomfort during any physical activity, don't ignore it. If you are working out, 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 recovery. Remember, your body's signals are there for a reason, so heed them to avoid long-term issues. Take the first step to eliminate muscle and tendon pain today. Get Started Now.

  2. Stretch Before Exercising: Before starting a workout or any elbow-intensive physical activity, 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. You can use this warm-up for any physical activity.
  4. Gradually Increase Resistance: If you're working out, start with two warm-up sets before incrementally increasing the resistance. 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 exercise 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 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 pain. 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 issues versus barbells and dumbbells. Stationary machines provide a guided and controlled motion, which helps reduce the strain on the 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 injuries.

  9. Consider Using a Resistance Band: If you are prone to elbow issues or recovering from an injury, consider using a resistance band instead of a barbell, dumbbell, or stationary machine. 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 joint. 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.

  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 Compression Sleeves: Wearing elbow sleeves can provide compression and support to the tendons and joints, helping to alleviate 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 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 incredibly effective in treating pain and maintaining healthy elbows. For a detailed guide on performing these exercises correctly and effectively, get instant access to my easy-to-follow step-by-step video program. Get Started Now.
  16. Incorporate Sauna Therapy: Regular sauna sessions can be beneficial in your routine to maintain healthy elbows. 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 joint health in the long run.

  19. Avoid Excessively Heavy Lifting: Lifting heavy weights can put undue stress on your elbow joints, leading to potential damage and chronic pain. Lift within your capacity and avoid overloading your tendons and joints. Using elbow wraps to support weights heavier than your body can naturally handle is a clear sign you're engaging in excessive heavy lifting. Instead, focus on maintaining proper form and gradually increasing weights to build strength safely and effectively, protecting the joint from injury.

    YouTube video

    In this video (2017), I perform a bench press while wearing elbow sleeves to manage pain.

    Nurudeen performs a bench press with healthy elbows

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

    For a deep dive into the root causes of elbow tendonitis, bursitis, chronic versus acute pain, and the fastest way to fix these conditions, check these helpful resources:

    Take the first step to eliminate muscle and tendon pain today. Get Started Now.

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