// The all too Common Elbow Pain
Whether you are a weightlifter, pitcher, quarterback, tennis player, or a golfer, you’ve probably experienced elbow pain. The fire that burns with an intensity you’ve never experienced. The elbow pain that nothing seems to extinguish. Sure, you can apply an ice pack after practice or swallow a couple of post-game ibuprofen. Maybe you start wearing a compression sleeve, and have a little PT work done. But sure enough, that pesky elbow pain flares up again before you know it.
However, there might yet be hope. With some simple elbow exercises you can start to fix your elbow issues. These exercises will increase mobility, and strengthen the joints around the elbow. This will prevent further injuries like golfer’s elbow and tennis elbow from occurring.
Manipulating the soft tissue around the Elbow
I’ve spent some time with Dr. Kelly Starrett, co-founder of The Ready State and my co-author of Waterman 2.0. Doing so, I’ve learned that while athletes do sometimes suffer a catastrophic, out-of-the-blue injury, 90 percent plus are preventable. Kelly also taught me that when it comes to elbow pain, the joint itself is rarely the issue. It’s often the soft tissues above or below it that are sending excess stiffness both upstream and downstream.
While the burn comes from your elbow, it’s the surrounding muscles, ligaments, tendons, and fascia that are supplying the kindling. Stoking the inferno and keeping it ablaze. This means we must do one thing. We have to address the tacked-down tissues in your wrists and forearms. Open up a line along the biceps and into the outer chest, and feed slack into your triceps. All of these tissues are readily accessible and you can manipulate them with a few inexpensive tools. A lacrosse ball, Voodoo Floss Band, barbell or roller, and medium resistance band will do the job.
Implementing Simple Elbow Exercises Everyday
This should come as good news to you. Instead of getting your elbow prepped for orthopedic surgery, you can implement non-invasive elbow exercises to start dousing the flames. And the best part? You don’t even need to consult a professional like Kelly to get started. If you spend 10 to 15 minutes a day on these elbow exercises, I’m convinced you’ll see noticeable improvements.
The benefits won’t be restricted to getting you out of pain, either. You should be able to remove adhesions that are limiting your range of motion. You can also eliminate the distracting “damn, my elbow hurts” voice in your head, thereby improving your performance too.
4 Simple Elbow Exercises
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1. Triceps Smash
Like your quads locking down and causing knee pain, the triceps can get tight and wreak havoc on your elbows. A good place to start your new mobility routine is with this muscle group, which handles an awful lot of work, no matter what your sport of choice is.
- Put a barbell in a squat rack at about shoulder height
- Get your left arm over the top of the bar and drive the top of your left triceps down into it
- Maintaining downward pressure, extend and flex your left arm
- Move the bar down the back of your left triceps, stopping just above the elbow. You can bias the lateral or medial seams by moving your palm outside or inside. Another way to change the stimulus is by turning your wrist.
- Switch sides
2. Forearm Tack and Floss
Every time you pick an object up, throw something, or even grip a door handle, you’re activating your forearms. Despite the number of times we activate this area daily, when is the last time you saw someone mobilizing their forearms? Probably never. Yet when this part of the arm gets gristly, it’s inevitably going to tug on the elbow. This is likely one of the reasons you’re having an issue with golfer’s elbow or tennis elbow. Let’s do something about that.
- Place your left arm on a counter or plyo box
- Turn the palm up and place a lacrosse ball between the underside of your forearm and the surface below
- Push down on your forearm with your right hand
- Alternate between slowly circling your hand and moving it up and down
- Move the lacrosse ball up the forearm until it’s just below the elbow
- Switch sides
3. Banded Lateral Opener
The biceps get attention because every athlete wants to flex like Arnold (or Ron Burgundy after working on his “guns”). Whether you’re doing isolation work or compound movements, the price of building up your biceps is they get really tight. Just as with tacked-down triceps, this can radiate tension down into the elbow. The problem is that biceps are overly sensitive, so smashing them with a roller is going to hurt like heck. Instead, use a band to open the seam running along your biceps, into the front deltoid, and across the pecs.
- Hook one end of a medium resistance mobility band around a squat rack pole or similar anchor just above shoulder height
- Loop your left wrist through the other end of the band
- With your back to the anchor, take a step forward with your right foot
- Turn your torso to the right. You can alter the stimulus by moving the band down the pole and can also turn your head up and away.
- Switch sides
4. Elbow Voodoo Floss Flexion and Extension
Compression sleeves are well and good, and if you’ve got persistent issues in your elbows, you’ve likely been using them. While they can feel good, do you ever wish they were tighter? Forcing some good blood flow into those aching hinge joints? That’s why Kelly started experimenting, wrapping various elbows, ankles, etc. with an old bicycle inner tube a few years ago. This led to him designing the Voodoo Floss Band. This band can simulate and even exceed the effects of an electronic stimulation machine without the expense.
- Wrap your left elbow with a Voodoo Floss Band, with 50 percent tension and a 50 percent overlay and then tuck in the end of the band
- Move your elbow through a full range of motion
- Switch sides