Here’s what you need to know about “Lifter’s Elbow”…

  1. A weak grip can equal elbow pain. If you can’t carry a load equal to your bodyweight in each hand for 15 meters, your grip sucks. Farmer’s walks will help.
  2. The false grip can boost your maximal strength numbers, but it reduces the capability of the neuromuscular system to produce force through the hands and wrists.
  3. If your elbow hurts, use a neutral grip (palms facing each other) instead of a pronated or supinated position in your primary lifts.
  4. If you’ve been making one of the above mistakes and have achy elbows, give self-myofascial release a shot.

Elbow Pain: Causes and Cures

If your elbows resemble a rickshaw more than a functional piece of bioengineering, here are three probable causes, along with some hugely effective self-myofascial release techniques.

1.  A Weak Grip

Without reliving the painful memories of the 1980’s “grip trainers” that maimed more than their share of desk jockeys looking to Popeye-up their forearms, you must improve your grip strength to prevent or eradicate elbow pain for the long run.

A lack of functional grip strength not only limits your big-boy gym stats, but it can cause some horrific trauma to the deep finger and wrist flexors that adds up over time.

The test: If you think your grip is more than adequate, you’re probably mistaken. The standards for a 15-20 meter carry are being able to lift and carry a load equal to your bodyweight in each hand.

2.  Using a False Grip

Sure, the false grip can boost your maximal strength numbers. No argument there. Adding a few active muscle fibers firing at full capacity will obviously lead to greater force output. But can this technique sustain the chronic punishment imposed by your training? Probably not.

Unfortunately, the false grip does a few questionable things to the overall function of the upper body.

First, it reduces the capability of the neuromuscular system to produce force through the hands and wrists. The hand is the first link necessary to authenticate any movement of the upper body and shoulder girdle.

Without the ability to form a fist around your chosen training tool, you’re more likely to overstress the larger joints up the chain like the elbow and shoulder.

While maximal tension can create PRs and boost your workout stats (along with your ego), high levels of mechanical tension can also cause an equally high level of soft tissue damage.

In the case of the false grip being used as a primary mechanism for movement, you exponentiate acute and chronic trauma to the elbow and surrounding tissues. The small forearm and wrist flexors – highly comprised of tendinous junctions with bone and muscle – are basically being torn to shreds secondary to your training.

Macro-tearing your tissues down multiple times a week is generally considered a bad thing. We can further limit this damage by simply ditching the false grip and wrapping your hand around the bar.

Train with the traditional grip until your elbows are supremely strong and healthy. Only then should you consider the false-grip alternative.

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by Dr John Rusin