Everyday is a battle to operate at full capacity and there’s nothing that will stop you from progressing like an injury. You train to be strong and powerful and embrace a certain kind of pain because you know that it will elevate you. This is the pain of progress, where you’re brought to your knees only to rise higher than you’ve ever been before. But there’s another kind of pain that can stop you in your tracks. It’s the pain of an injury. This pain does nothing but keep you down. I’ve been training hard for over 5 years, lost in the throes of a vicious dogfight with life and I’ve become a superior version of myself through it. But when you fight for that long, it’s inevitable that you get hurt, face graced with blood and body broken to some degree. I’m not encouraging you to take it easy, only to prepare for what comes from throwing yourself at adversity, to battle as a warrior does.
Tennis elbow is a common injury among athletes, and I’ve dealt with it for several months. At first, I thought that it would just go away, but that hasn’t been the case. Tennis elbow, or lateral epicondylitis, rather than being a sudden inflammatory process, comes from repetitive abuse, and is due to gradual degeneration. The pain starts small and builds until it can be crippling, especially with pressing exercises like the bench press, shoulder press, push-ups, and dips. Anyone who performs repetitive tasks involving their forearms can suffer from tennis elbow.
Tennis elbow is caused by repetitive forearm extension (fingers pointing back to the forearm with palm forward) and wrist rotation (pouring motion). Understand that your body is a kinetic chain (an interconnected framework) and that one part affects the other. With tennis elbow, the forearm extensor tendons (specifically the extensor carpi radialis brevis) that connect to the lateral epicondyle, which is a bony bump on the outside of the upper arm, become torn from overuse. This leads to inflammation and pain.
Treatment for tennis elbow is focused on forging healthy and strong forearms and managing pain. My process involves rest, self-myofascial release, stretching, wrist support, and strengthening.
Take some time off from the exercises that aggravate your elbow pain. I noticed that any kind of overhead triceps extension created a lot of elbow pain, so I held off for a while.
Self-myofascial release is a process where pressure is applied over a muscle and then removed and promotes fresh blood flow, flexibility, and relaxation to the treated area. Use a tennis or lacrosse ball to roll out your forearms, focusing just below the outer part where your lower and upper arms meet. When you find a painful spot (trigger point), stay there for a few seconds while moving your wrist in circles to get deep into the muscle.
Stretching will help relax and improve the flexibility and blood flow to your forearms. The two best forearm stretches you can do for tennis elbow are a forearm extensor and flexor stretch.
Forearm Extensor Stretch
- start with arm straight out in front of you
- point fingers to the ground, palm toward you
- pull back of hand toward you, keeping arm straight
- for a more intense stretch, place hand against a wall in this position and turn away, focusing on keeping hand flush against the wall and opening up your chest
Forearm Flexor Stretch
- start with arm straight out in front of you
- point fingers to down, palm away from you
- pull fingers back toward you, keeping arm straight
- for more intense stretch, place hand against a wall in this position and turn away, focusing on keeping hand flush against the wall and opening up your chest
When performing pressing exercises, the wrists should be straight. What tends to happen over the years, especially when pushing heavier weight, is that a bar will bend the wrist back, which puts a lot of stress on the forearm extensors. Not only can this lead to elbow pain, but wrist pain too. For less than $20, you can buy wrist wraps, which will support your wrists and promote proper form. This will lead to balanced forearms and decreased elbow pain.
To eliminate elbow pain, the forearms need to be strengthened. One of the best ways I’ve found to do this is with a tool called a wrist roller. Load one up with weight and move the weight all the way up then back down while keeping forearms parallel to the ground. This will directly target your wrist extensors and flexors. Do 3-4 sets multiple times a week and you will feel a huge difference in a short amount of time.
Be smart about your training. When you get injured, take action toward recovery. While the steps I’ve outlined might seem tedious, they’ll put you back into the fight at maximum efficiency and you will be unstoppable.
The tools I use: