Tricep/Elbow Pain

Bulging biceps are impressive, and biceps exercises are legion. Working hard for the big guns can entail doing a variety of exercises at different angles to optimize the gun show. But over-training can lead to painful tendinitis at the elbow. Take precautions against injury by practicing good technique can keep your pumping pain-free.

The elbow is a hinge joint whose movements are flexion and extension. The elbow also participates in supination and pronation of the forearm, turning the hand palm-up or palmdown. Three bones come together at the elbow: The humerus is the large bone of the upper arm that forms the ball and socket structure of the shoulder joint at its proximal end, and articulates with the radius and ulna at the distal end; the biceps brachii muscle originates at the shoulder blade, and lies along the length of the humerus, crossing over the elbow joint and inserting on the radius. Its primary function is to flex the elbow and to assist in forearm supination.

Injuries to the biceps normally occur at the distal end, near the elbow. According to the Southern California Orthopedic Institute, the most common injury to the elbow is lateral epicondylitis, more commonly known as tennis elbow. Tennis elbow is actually tendinitis of the extensor carpi radialis brevis, a muscle in the forearm. but it is the most common elbow injury resulting from biceps weight-training exercises. Also common, according to the Coles Injury Clinic, is tendinitis of the biceps brachii muscle itself, which occurs almost exclusively in weight lifters.

Training errors in bicep exercises can lead to tearing of the muscle fascia and painful tendinitis. A frequent cause of injury is attempting to use weights that are heavier than you can lift with clean technique. If you have to cheat by recruiting the low back and hip extensors in the upward phase and by letting the weight drop uncontrolled on the downward phase, you are lifting too heavy. Failure to balance muscle tension by working the muscle on the other side of the joint, in this case the triceps, can lead to joint instability and overuse injury.

Slow, deliberate execution is crucial. On the eccentric, or lowering phase, use muscle tension to slowly elongate the muscle to a count of four. Allowing gravity to take over puts enormous stress on the elbow and wrist joints and connective tissue. On the concentric, or upward phase, isolate the biceps muscle by stabilizing the rest of the body with a wide stance, tight abs and slightly bent knees. When using machines, align the axis point of the elbow with the machine’s axis of rotation, as if the fulcrum of the machine and your elbow joint were one unit.

Tendinitis is a repetitive motion injury, and can occur from over-training, doing excessive multiple exercises and sets, poor technique and inadequate rest between training sessions. Treatment includes rest, ice, compression, elevation and abstaining from the activity that caused the injury. Prevention is always easier than the cure. Cleaning up your technique, easing off on the weight and getting ample rest will help your guns grow while protecting the elbow joint from injury.

Where do you hurt?
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