Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Lifter's Elbow. What Causes it? How Do I Fix It?


“Lifter’s elbow” is a fairly common ailment for gym goers. Lifter’s elbow is rarely any different in its causes and cures than “tennis elbow” or “golfer’s elbow”. 

Most cases are basically “tendonitis”. Tendons are very strong, cord- like connective tissue that’s attaches muscle to bone. The most common causes of tendonitis are overuse, repetitive motion, imbalances between a tendon and its opposing counterpart, or a combination of these factors.

Consider, as an example, an avid golfer. He (or she) may hit hundreds of golf balls a week (or even a day). All using the same grip, same hand position, same pattern of movement. Do you think one muscle group on one side of his arm is going to get stronger than the other? Of course it is. So, you have overuse, repetitive motion, and an imbalance between opposing counterparts.

You often get the same issues when lifting.

What makes lifting somewhat unique is that lifters can do things to reduce all three major causes of tendonitis easier that the golfer or tennis player. The golfer has to maintain basically the same grip on almost all his shots, make the same or very similar swing on all shots and if he’s anything like me he has to practice. A lot!

Causes and prevention for lifters

Poor Grip strength is a major culprit causing tendonitis for lifters. A weak grip puts a tremendous amount of strain on forearms, wrist flexors and finger flexors.

The obvious answer is to strengthen your grip. I’m not talking about those tiny springy thingies you squeeze while sitting at your desk or watching TV. I’ll talking true functional grip strength.

Farmer’s carries for 15 to 20 yards carrying 50% of your body weight in each hand (to start).

 Using the “false grip”.  The false grip is often used by lifters on pushing exercises. In using a false grip you don’t actually grip the bar with your thumbs. The bar sits on the fleshy lower part or your hand, more or less, sitting in line with your wrist.

The false grip can unquestionably boost your bench press numbers but it has some drawbacks, too.  It does nothing to strengthen you grip and it puts considerably more stress on the wrist and elbow flexors.

Using a supinated grip (palms facing the body) and pronated grip (palms away from the body) on all lifts

Use a neutral grip (palms facing each other) more often. The neutral grip allows the shoulder, wrist and elbow to all be more centrally located to each other, reducing the angle of the arms to the upper body, lessening the stress on the joints.


Tendons are made of much tougher, less elastic material the other muscles. They don’t grow as fast, they aren’t as flexible and they take longer to heal.
These areas need to be warmed up more than muscle through static stretching and with additional “functional warm-ups” (doing light warm up sets using lighter weight before you begin you actual “working sets”). Keep the affected area warmed up by doing additional static stretching between sets.

Myofacial Release

Think of this as self-massage. Technically, myofacial release refers to self massage of trigger points for the facia tissue surrounding muscles. But the same type of self massage can aid in warming up and relaxing of other types of tissue. Massaging the affected area with your thumb or knuckle or even a small hard ball (golf ball or racket ball, for example) can help keep the affected area warmed up.

Pressure straps

You can purchase these straps at almost any pharmacy. And they do work for relieving pain and allowing more weight to be handled.  These devices and how they work will be the subject of a different post. For our purposes here let’s just say they do work. For more detailed information: http://www.mikereinold.com/2009/07/are-tennis-elbow-straps-effective.html 

Use of unilateral exercises 

Switch to unilateral exercises to lessen the strain on the affected area. Use dumbbells or machines instead of a barbell for curls and use a lighter weight on the affected side.


This one is fairly obvious. Sometimes rest is the only cure.

SEND YOUR QUESTIONS TO alphaedgefitness@gmail.com  If I don’t have an answer I’ll find someone who does.


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