Elbows are a pain.
In fact, with the rise of younger and younger specialized athletes and an active baby boomer generation, treatments for things like tennis elbow (lateral epicondylitis) and golfer’s elbow (medial epicondylitis) are on the rise.
And then, when you add in the big boom of Crossfit over the last decade and a new global appreciation for the barbell, things are only looking bleaker for the elbows.
So, what we need to do is step back a little and think about why the elbows are a problem now and weren’t years ago when we were far more active with repetitive motion activities like using a pitchfork, carrying heavy objects and lifting things over our heads.
1. We are getting weaker and weaker with our grip strength. Most of the objects we grab now are small enough that we can wrap our hands firmly around them (golf clubs, tennis rackets, barbells, baseballs etc.)
Previously, we had to use an open grip for grabbing large objects that involved tremendous amounts of finger strength.
2. The objects we grab tend to be the same every time. The baseball you start to throw when you are 4 or 5 is the same one you throw when you are 25.
When doing manual labor, you will never grab exactly the same rock the same way the entire day.
3. The convenience of modern technology allows us to be incredibly precise AND powerful with our tools. We have left handed golf clubs, varying grip thickness for bats and materials that make things light and super strong.
Growing up, we would go to the softball field and hit used golf balls with this wood bat that was close to as big at the handle as it was at the barrel.
Grip strength is one thing, but we also are missing out on a lot of tendon and ligament resilience around the elbow joint.
But don’t misinterpret my message. I’m not asking you to quit your white collar job to go work on a landscaping crew.
We need to adapt to our modern way of living. That’s where some focused bicep and tricep work can come in.
The inside head of the biceps and the long head of the triceps are internal torque muscles and need to fire before the rest of the upper arm muscles turn on. However, those that don’t do much manual labor anymore tend to lose the ability to flex those muscles effectively.
So doing a triceps pushdown exercise and a hammer curl can save a generation of elbows 🙂
When you do this triceps pushdown variation in internal torque, the goal is NOT more and more load. Instead the focus is on the extended position and actually feeling the long head of the triceps contract and squeeze for a second or two.
Similarly, with a hammer curl, you need to get to a fully contracted biceps position and then focus on the squeeze of the inside head of the biceps. Again, weight is not the focus.
In both these exercises, the juice is definitely worth the squeeze. It’s time for you to juice those elbows up!