Push Ups And Flared Elbows – Recipe For Elbow Pain?

What Is The Push Up?

The push up is the most common bodyweight pushing exercise, developing the chest, front shoulders, and triceps muscles. Push ups are most commonly done on the ground, but can be done on inclined and declined surfaces, with varying hand spacing, and with additional equipment like weight vests and push up handles. Push ups get a notorious reputation as a highly challenging but incredibly progressible exercise that can be done anywhere. For beginner to intermediate individuals, push ups are often included inside pushing or upper body training splits.

Flared Elbows – Recipe For Elbow Pain?

The flaring of the elbows refers to a push up position at the bottom of the range of motion of the exercise, where the elbows are pointed away from the body, creating a T-shape when seen from above. Oftentimes this is accompanied by having the wrists positioned closer to the body, which can cause greater loading of the triceps muscle and tendon. Flaring the elbows is not necessarily a bad thing; however, if the triceps muscle and tendons are not strong enough to tolerate the load comfortably, the risk of elbow pain and injury greatly increases.

Elbow Pain From Exercise

Elbow pain during exercise is often caused by 2 conditions: Golfers Elbow and Tennis Elbow. These conditions are repetitive-use injuries that often arise when an individual performs too much triceps exercise volume without sufficient recovery. Doing too many repetitions with flared elbows on the push up exercise may lead to such a repetitive-use injury and pain. However, the push up exercise isn’t an exception; even doing too much push up volume with perfect form can still result in repetitive-use injuries. Having a good training program that manages your training volume well and allowing you to rest and recover the trained muscles can prevent or reduce repetitive-use injuries and pain.

How To Do A Push Up

Push ups are usually done by finding your hand spacing: too wide of a spacing can reduce range of motion and be more difficult, while too narrow of a spacing can cause flared elbows to happen. Start by lying prone on the ground, positioning your hands beside your body first, aligning the wrist and elbows vertically, and then pushing off the ground. If it is uncomfortable to position the wrists and elbows vertically, widen the hand spacing slightly and try aligning again.

partner push ups

The Diamond Push Up – Intentionally Flared Elbows

The diamond push up is an advanced push up variation that has a narrow hand spacing and intentionally flared elbows, causing the triceps muscle to take more loading. This makes the diamond push up a variation that targets developing the strength and size of the triceps muscle better than regular push ups. Needless to say, doing too much volume can cause elbow pain and repetitive-use injuries, making it important to have a good training program that accounts for training volume and recovery.

Correcting Flared Elbows

If your push ups are done with flared elbows, some methods can be employed to guide or correct the flared elbows. Repositioning the hands and finding a stronger pushing hand spacing or using physical barriers, such as a pair of dumbbells or yoga blocks, to cue yourself into controlling the elbow flare, can be solutions to correct flared elbows and improve your push up technique.

Not Able To Do Push Ups? Do This Instead!

The push up, similar to the pull up, uses your bodyweight as the load. If you are relatively heavier, push ups are going to be much harder to do. There are two exercises that are great to help with building the push up:

  1. The Plank
    The plank is a core exercise that trains the bracing action. A strong plank on a push up will translate into better form throughout the whole exercise. Building the duration you can plank for with good form will contribute to your push ups. The plank is time-based and can be gradually increased over the course of a training program.
  2. The Band Assisted Push Up
    The band assisted push up uses a resistance band hung overhead to lighten the bottom portion of the push up, which is the hardest portion to be performed. To progress, after hitting a goal number of repetitions, a lighter band can be swapped in, gradually making the bottom portion more difficult to perform.

These exercises are progressions that can gradually help you achieve push ups with better form.

Perfect Your Push Ups With Us

While push ups can be done anywhere, having a helping hand with your technique can supercharge your future results from doing push ups! Engaging an experienced, knowledgeable personal trainer from The Gym Pod Academy is an investment in your fitness journey that ensures your exercise form and technique is picture perfect, sparing you from potential pain and injuries, achieving your fitness goals, and improving your health. What are you waiting for, book a consultation now!