Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Workout of the Day: (Tennis) Elbow Rocket!

Tennis Elbow and Lateral Epicondylitis are layman, general terms for a painful condition of the elbow caused by overuse.  Tendons in the forearms on the outside of the elbow become inflamed causing a burning or sharp pain.  While Tennis Elbow sounds like it could only afflict racquet sport enthusiasts, anyone who plays sports or has a job that involves repetitive motions can suffer.  Whether it's lifting weights, typing at a desk or turning a screwdriver, Tennis Elbow can happen to you.  Pain on the outer elbow and weak grip strength are the two most common symptoms.  You can even tap your elbow, one may be more sensitive than the other, like if you bumped into something, a quick, sharp pain in one but not the other is a tell tale sign.  There are several non-surgical treatments suggested such as taking a break from sport or work usage for several weeks, switching which hand you use a mouse with through the day, strengthening and stretching of the wrists and forearms or wearing a brace designed to rest the muscles and tendons.  Beyond that, surgery is your next step to fix the wear and tear.

In my case, lifting weights is the culprit for an elbow that has snapped, crackled and popped since high school.  When you're just starting out as a kid, weight seems to be more important than form.  Only later in life do you realize that straight bars set your body into an unnatural motion and put pressure on your shoulders, wrists and elbows.  Exercises like Lying French Press or a "Skull Crusher" put more pressure on your elbows since you're laying down with the weight overhead with gravity pushing down on your joints further.  But they're just so good at building your tri's!  I stopped doing many straight bar exercises years ago, substituting in curved EZ bars, parallel grip bars and dumbbells.  Recently I seem to have pushed too hard as I added Yoga into my workout regimen.  I figured weights in the morning and Yoga at night with a days rest in between would suffice as I've gotten away with training different parts of the upper body over two workouts on the same day in the past.  But constant plank position followed by 3-5 second push ups seem to have overexerted my elbow.  While I haven't experienced any loss of strength, any lying down extension movement has become a painful process so I've had to reevaluate.

Here's a Back and Triceps centric with light Rear Delts and Biceps Workout I did while keeping my elbow in mind:

Chin Up - Wide Grip, pull chest to bar, squeezing shoulder blades together
Bench Dip - Hands at my sides, you can do these off your bed, a sturdy chair or a counter
1-Arm Dumbbell Row - Pull the elbow up and out to work the upper back
Close Grip Bench Press - Elbows in tight to reduce stress on joints
Concentration Curl - Slow and steady, getting a full stretch at the bottom
Behind the Head Dumbbell Extension - Keeping biceps close to ears, controlling weight through
Rear Delt Raises - 1 set consists of 2 sets of 10 done in quick succession to exhaust the rear head

Other exercises that build the horse shoe without rubbing bone bumps:

Push Ups - Keeping elbows in tight, flaring out puts pressure on shoulders and joints
Dips - Elbows tight, helps tie in forearm to base of triceps
Dumbbell Kickback - Lean over, holding on to a bench, shelf or doorknob, keeping elbow high and close to the body, can be done with heavy weights for mass or lighter weights for definition
Cable Pushdowns - Use a thumbless grip and flex at the bottom, I use a rubber cable at home and burn out doing sets of 30
Lying Dumbbell Cross Extension - Lie down, press two DBs straight up, turn wrists so thumbs are now facing each other, bend elbows and lower DBs to chest.  I find these put less pressure on elbow than lowering behind the head

Training your forearms is always a good idea to stave off Tennis Elbow and Carpel Tunnel:

With a Dumbbell in each hand; do forearm curls with palms up, palms down and facing each other.

Remember to listen to your body, if it hurts, don't do it!  Now get swole!

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