The Fitness Fixer
The Fitness Fixer

Fast Fitness - Stop Common Source of Elbow Pain

Here is Fast Friday Fitness - Strengthen your arms while learning to change a movement habit that is a common source of elbow pain:

  1. Hold a pushup or plank position, handstand, or just lean on one or both arms.
  2. Notice your elbows. Check if you lock them straight, or let them hyperextend (bend slightly backwards) shown in the photo below.
  3. Instead, keep elbows slightly flexed (bent forward). You will feel an increase in arm muscle use.

The elbow joint is called a hinge joint. It is shaped to open and close like a door. Because of the shape of the bones, opening wider than a certain point - usually close to a straight line - is stopped by the bones, not muscle flexibility. You can try it yourself now, and feel the bony end point. Like a door, if you force the elbow joint open past maximum straight range, it yanks one side of the hinge and squashes the other. Don't try that yourself. That is a common injury in yoga because some forms of yoga teach to hyperextend the elbow under body weight.

People with flexible elbows, both men and women, have bones shaped to open slightly wider. They can hyper-extend the elbow so that it bends slightly backwards. That is not a disease or cause of pain by itself and does not preclude them from sports like archery as often repeated (will be covered separately). You can easily control elbow angle using your brain and muscles.

For leaning against a counter, bike handlebars, doing pushups, plank, yoga, and other leaning or arm balancing. Keep elbows slightly flexed instead of letting the joint open to or past maximum range.

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About the Author


Dr. Bookspan is an award-winning scientist whose goal is to make exercise easier and healthier.