Q: Do you know a good workout that I can use to add size to my triceps without aggravating elbow tendonitis? I’m over 50 and I’m having elbow problems that are really ruining some of my workouts.
A: Join the club! Steve sometimes battles minor elbow problems in his left arm, more on the inner elbow. That’s known as golfer’s elbow (even though he doesn’t play golf). Pain on the outer elbow is commonly known as tennis elbow.
You’ll have to experiment to find exercises that don’t aggravate it. Steve found that bench presses were his prime elbow antagonist; however, he can do declines. So he’ll sometimes start triceps with decline close-grip bench presses.
Lying extensions with a bar can aggravate the elbow as well. But Steve has found that he can do them with dumbbells held using a parallel grip. Dumbbells allow more freedom of movement—no elbow restriction.
Cable pushouts, facing away from a high cable in a lunge position with rope in hands (see photo below), simulate overhead extensions for stretch-position work. Those don’t aggravate his elbow like overhead barbell or dumbbell extensions.
Like Steve, you’ll have to find the exercises that don’t irritate your elbow. Then build your triceps routine around those. X-centric-style (negative-accentuated) sets can help too because you lower in 6 seconds and raise in 1. Those can trigger growth promoting trauma without excessive poundages and joint stress.
Here’s a triceps routine we’ve used when battling elbow problems…
Decline close-grip bench presses, 3 x 10, 8, 6
Lying dumbbell extensions, 2 x 10, 7 NA
Cable pushouts (drop), 1 x 10(6)
V-bar pushdowns supersetted with Bench dips, 2 x 8-10
One last point: Before going to the first exercise on that routine, we recommend 10-15 light reps on cable pushdowns and pushouts to lube the elbow joints. (Note: There are more arm-training tips, tricks, and workouts in the X-traordinary Arms e-book.)
Till next time, train hard—and smart—for BIG results.
—Steve Holman and Jonathan Lawson
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