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Are Tennis Elbow And Weight Lifting Connected?

I never would have thought that tennis elbow and weight lifting were connected. in fact, I didn’t even know what tennis elbow was until I started doing research online due to a strange pain that was affecting the area around my elbow. It just so happens that I’d been lifting weights and I started feeling this pain during very specific movements.

I’ve come to learn which workouts aggravate my elbow and steps to take to alleviate the pain. In recent weeks, I’ve started feeling the pain come back. However, this time, it feels slightly different than the last time I suffered from tennis elbow, which was more than a year ago.

Some of my suggestions below will NOT align with other articles you find online. So, please note that my tips are what have worked for me and my personal situation in alleviating pain.


What Does Tennis Elbow Feel Like?

The sensation of tennis elbow is a unique one. It’s a pain surrounding the bony area of your elbow and it can travel through your upper and lower arm. However, that isn’t always the case. Even though the feeling itself is centralized in your elbow, you may notice pain when doing certain activities with your hand.

It’s a strange sensation for sure. I’d almost compare it to the feeling when you accidentally bash your elbow up against a wall or something and then feel those tingles. It doesn’t actually feel like that exactly, but I feel they’re worth comparing because it’s just as difficult of a sensation to actually describe to someone.

The amazing thing to me is that when it’s bad, it can be painful to lift a can of soda. However, I can pick my dog up off the floor with no problem. It’s not so much about an object being heavy, as it is the angle or position that your arm is in when you reach out to grab something.

At the time of this writing, there’s a slight pain when I pick up my cup of coffee. However, it was far worse the last time I had tennis elbow, which was about 2 years ago. I’d have pain even picking up a pencil.


2 Weight Lifting Exercises Causing My Tennis Elbow

Certain movements with weights can aggravate and be a cause for tennis elbow. This has been my personal experience anyway. A few years back when I was lifting at home, I started to notice the pain specifically when I was doing bicep curls.

What I’ve come to learn is that when you do the same movement over and over again, it’s easy to cause an injury, due to overuse of the muscle. Your elbows and your arms are both feeling the tension of the weight you use. The pain got worse when I started increasing the weights I was lifting.

One of the ways to avoid this from happening is to do a variety of strength training workouts as opposed to just one. At the time, I was doing the same bicep curls workout repeatedly throughout the week, and I began to notice the pain get very strong on those particular movements, and especially afterward, performing normal activities.

When I transitioned to exclusive bodyweight workouts in 2020, the pain went away completely. I’ll explain more about this in the final section of this article.

Recently, I’ve started incorporating weights back into my routine, as I’ve transitioned from exclusive calisthenics into a hybrid workout, utilizing weights again. I was slightly nervous that the pain would come back, and it’s creeping back in, but not as bad as it did the first time around.

This time, I’m doing hammer curls as opposed to regular bicep curls that I was doing when I first got tennis elbow. Interestingly, I’m not feeling the aggravation with hammer curls. This leads me to believe that the actual position and angle of your arms during your movements are somehow connected to the pain.

So, what workout is aggravating tennis elbow this time? It seems to be the Cuban Press. The way I am able to pinpoint is by feeling the area of my arm where I’m noticing pain the most, and also paying close attention to the movements in my workouts.

This workout alone requires your arms to transition to a variety of positions, and I noticed that one part of the movement seems to be triggering the pain to come back. It’s the part of the movement where you pull your arms up from the lowest position to mid position.


5 Ways To Alleviate Tennis Elbow Pain

Here are a few ways I’ve learned that can really help alleviate the pain you’re experiencing with tennis elbow.

  • REST

The best solution to alleviate tennis elbow pain is by allowing it to rest. The reason you have tennis elbow in the first place is because of overuse and repetition of certain movements.

  • IBUPROFEN

If the tennis elbow is really bad, and you’re okay with taking medication, ibuprofen actually helped me deal with the pain when it was bad.

  • BRACES

I actually bought a few tennis elbow braces off Amazon that helped with the pain. It’s kind of odd because it’s just a way to give your arm a slight massage around the affected area, but it actually helped it feel better. This is one that I own. I also purchased this brace.

  • TENS UNIT

It’s amazing to me how this tiny little device that simply uses a 9 volt battery somehow sends all these crazy currents through your body and helps eliminate pain. I’m a huge fan of TENS units for pain, and I’ve used them for lower back pain and shoulder pain injuries. I used it quite a bit when I had tennis elbow the first time around also.

This TENS machine is designed to be used for elbow and knee pain. I do not have this specific machine, but it does seem more convenient because it’s localized to the elbow. This TENS unit is what I have and it’s worked great for various injuries I’ve incurred over the years.

  • PHYSICAL THERAPY

I did almost go to physical therapy for my tennis elbow, as I came to realize that going to a chiropractor for it wasn’t exactly the right decision. My pain began to decrease though after using the items listed above, and I just never went in to PA. However, I’ve heard from many people that physical therapy is one of the best options for tennis elbow.


What Exercises Can Be Done With Tennis Elbow?

There came a point where I actually started avoiding specific workouts because I was afraid the tennis elbow would come back. This was a major bummer because I really enjoy lifting weights, and have a set of dumbbells at home.

These exact dumbbells are part of the reason I experienced tennis elbow in the first place though. What I’m about to share may go against the concepts and ideas that other articles share regarding the best exercises for tennis elbow.

Again, I’m sharing my own experience and what’s helped me.

You’ll find articles online that say not to do chin-ups or push-ups, because these exercises may do more harm than good, especially when suffering from tennis elbow.

However, in my own experience, these exact exercises saved me and my tennis elbow never came back. In fact, in 2020, I began doing exclusive bodyweight training at home, and while I was nervous some exercises may aggravate my elbow pain, it simply never came back.

The exercises I do are calisthenics movements. So, I transitioned from weight training to doing bodyweight movements, and the pain never returned. Plus, I actually built muscle far better than I did when lifting.

So, if you’re bummed out because of your tennis elbow being connected to lifting weights, I totally get it. I hated the thought of not being able to do curls again. However, the alternative to that exercise was close grip chin ups. What’s interesting is I built bigger arms that were more toned by making the switch than what I had when I just did curls with weights.

This is the bodyweight training program I follow. I feel that it’s been a savior as far as injuries go, and that also includes the post-workout migraines I used to get. Beyond this, I’ve learned so much more about what it actually takes to build lean muscle and drop unwanted fat, that it was a blessing in disguise to discover this world of training.


Tennis Elbow And Weight Lifting In Summary

So are tennis elbow and weight lifting connected? I certainly think so. I also don’t believe it has to do with the amount of weight you use when lifting, but it has more to do with the specific movements and position of your arms during them.

In my experience, bicep curls and Cuban press have aggravated my tennis elbow the most. I’ve read that farmers’ shrugs should be avoided as well. I’m currently doing those exact shrugs, but haven’t felt the pain from that specific workout. However, I’ll be mindful of that moving forward.

I hope you found this article to be helpful. If you have any tips on how you’ve personally handled tennis elbow, I’d love to hear them. Please leave any comments or questions below and I’ll be more than happy to get back to you as soon as possible. Thanks so much for reading!

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