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The Best Elbow Exercises For Powerlifting

Last updated: June 6, 2022

The Best Elbow Exercises For Powerlifting

There aren't many conditions that are less appropriately named than "Tennis elbow". Although these tendons and joints are definitely used frequently in the namesake sport, it is a common problem for athletes and powerlifters who lift large weights and perform dynamic movements. In fact, the reasoning for this is that the tennis elbow describes pain felt on the outside of the arm and is also common in trades with repetitive motion - plumbers, carpenters, laborers, and butchers. This is the opposite of a golfer's elbow, which is pain on the inside of the elbow and arm.

We will go through the causes of an elbow injury as it is presented within the powerlifting community, and explore exercises that help with both extension and flexing. Finally, we'll recommend the best elbow sleeves to provide a cushion to prevent or help repair current and future elbow injuries.

What Causes Elbow Injury?

Muscle groups aren't the only thing that works when performing a powerlifting motion. In fact, the clean and jerk work the flexibility of your arm, specifically in the wrists, forearms, and elbow. As these joints are usually much weaker than their large muscle groups, they have a higher probability of injury. There are three main causes of tennis elbow within powerlifting exercises:

Improper Form

Powerlifting is a serious sport that puts its practitioners at risk of injury every day. While most of the safety precautions are taken to avoid weights being dropped on the person's body, there is nothing as detrimental in the long term as practicing an improper form. Not only does this open up the risk of injury to your elbow, but endangers your entire body composition: a pulled back muscle, lopsided shoulders, joint dislocation, and various other issues.

Lack of Isolated Focus on Joints

While many workouts focus on strength and cardio, the often neglected groups are joints and auxiliary muscles. You may have heard of "leg day" and "chest day" but it is rare to hear anyone talk about "stabilizer muscle day" or "joint day". The key to maintaining healthy joints takes more than just exercise. This includes correcting posture, proper diet, essential minerals, and proper equipment. However, introducing a day that just focuses on joints is not a bad idea - any isometric movement will hold muscle contraction in place and help provide strengthening to a joint. Remember to vary the workout from your usual strength routine as it also helps break repetitive motion.

Repetitive Motion

While training the same muscle group over and over may be dangerous due to hitting a plateau or not paying close attention to the movement, repetitive motion is the key leading cause of joint pain, especially in the wrist (such as carpal tunnel syndrome). This can be prevented by strengthening your joints, correcting posture, varying your movement, and allowing enough time after exercise to heal both strain and possible injury.

Elbow Extension Exercises

Pronation and Supination: Your wrist rotates with the help of many muscles, but is constructed with only two bones to move it. The outer bone is also connected to the elbow and may aggravate and cause tennis elbow. This exercise strengthens and stretches both the elbow and the wrist. Sit on a chair while holding a small cylindrical object, such as a pen. Start by holding the pen upwards in a grip with your forearms facing towards the ceiling and bent at a perpendicular angle. Slowly turn your forearm 90 degrees, and back to the starting position. Hold each position for about 3-5 seconds. 3 sets of 16 reps.

Elbow Flexion Exercises

Stretch Your Elbow Flexion: Your elbow flexes, creating the iconic curl motion. This is used in many workout routines, especially in powerlifting movements - and should be strengthened every now and then, but stretched many times throughout the day - especially if in pain. Start by performing a flexing motion with one of your arms. With the other hand, push (with slight pressure) against the forearm of the flexing arm. Contrast the pressure by using this hand with your flexing arm until you feel a good stretch in your elbow and back of the arm. Hold for 15 seconds, and perform 2 sets of 6 reps.

Best Elbow Sleeves For Powerlifting

While the most common piece of equipment for powerlifting is a good belt, the best sleeve for limiting elbow and arm strain has to be the Ironbull strength 5mm elbow sleeves. The neoprene flex material is perfect for weight lifting, powerlifting, and even CrossFit exercises. The sleeve is a great all-around support structure and provides amazing compression and confidence for your next lift. Sleeves are available in all sizes and colors and have a sizing chart available to pick the best fit. It also features informative reviews with pictures and recommendations for use and quality.


Can elbow pain cause wrist pain?

Yes. The elbow joint and the wrist bone are interconnected, and injuring one will often affect the other. Additionally, the wrist and elbow are used in most of the same movements in tandem, so it is possible both are injured simultaneously if an incorrect form is used.

How do elbow braces work?

Elbow braces work similarly to knee braces. They hold compression throughout the arm like a sleeve, with a hole left open so that you can bend the elbow. This is done to isolate and support the joint to reduce the risk of injury or to help strengthen it while performing stretches to repair an already existing strain or damage.

Why is my arm numb when the elbow is bent?

If you have injured or strained your ulnar nerve or wrist/elbow joint, it can cause a burning, shocking or numbing sensation in your arm. Your ulnar nerve is the communication gateway responsible for transmitting messages between the shoulder to the hand and wraps around the inside of the elbow. If this persists for many days, seek professional care as nerve damage is a serious condition.

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