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How do I Choose the Best Elbow Exercises?

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  • Written By: Chris Montgomery
  • Edited By: A. Joseph
  • Last Modified Date: 11 November 2016
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Prevention and rehabilitation of elbow problems typically is accomplished by strengthening the surrounding muscles and tendons. To choose the best elbow exercises, it is important to understand the muscles, tendons and ligaments that make up the elbow. Consulting a professional trainer also can help you choose the best elbow exercises.

Elbow physical therapy will include an exercise regimen involving development of the biceps, triceps and forearms, which are the primary movers of this joint. Various resistance modalities are employed, including the use of isotonic, isometric and free weight routines. In addition to developing stronger biceps, triceps, wrist flexors and extensors, the ulnar and radial collateral ligaments of the elbow also will benefit when you choose the best elbow exercises. An extended resistance program also can help prevent elbow injury caused by overuse.

To help you choose the best elbow exercises, a professional trainer can be consulted. For general fitness and injury prevention, developing the biceps, forearm and triceps with free weights, machines or body weight can be effective. If you have elbow pain, especially chronic pain, you might need elbow physical therapy. Therapeutic exercises are prescribed according to the severity of the injury and after a period of rest and treatment.

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One common problem with the elbow joint is lateral epicondylitis, which is frequently referred to as "tennis elbow." Usually treatable without surgery, this overuse injury responds to elbow treatment, including isometric wrist flexor exercises that utilize negative resistance. For example, a patient might squeeze a hand grip and resist it as it opens. Doctors and therapists usually wait to prescribe elbow exercises in the event of an elbow fracture or strain. Under these circumstances, the joint and tendons need time to heal first.

A great deal of sports medicine practice emphasizes the prevention of this type of debilitating injury through strict strength and conditioning program design. You can develop stronger biceps, triceps, wrist flexors and extensors to support the elbow. These muscles flex and extend the arm on the hinge joint of the elbow, as illustrated by the flexion of the bicep muscle to raise the hand to the shoulder.

Examples of exercises to build the biceps include curls with dumbbells or barbells, overhead triceps extensions with a dumbbell or barbell while lying on a bench or standing up, triceps pushdowns and any form of bicep curl using a cable attached to a weight machine. Other movements such as pull-ups and bench presses also place pressure on the elbow joint and the muscles moving it, but it can be harder to control the stress applied. When you choose the best elbow exercises, they will emphasize the specific action of the elbow joint, and the associated muscles and tendons will be placed under a focused, controlled amount of stress and should become stronger as a result.

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