Why Does My Elbow Hurt During Push-Ups?

Why Does My Elbow Hurt During Push-Ups?

Push-ups are one of the best exercises that can be performed nearly anywhere. They can be done at home, outside, on the bus, you name it. You can get a great workout by doing calisthenics or bodyweight exercises, such as push-ups. Believe it or not, the push-up has been around as an exercise since the early 1900’s! The push-up is an excellent exercise to build the upper-body. The main muscles targeted during a push-up are the pectoral muscles, triceps, shoulders, and even core. There are many variations of the classic push-up such as narrow push-ups, clapping push-ups, and even one handed push-ups!

One of the most frustrating things is when you are trying to workout, but you have pain preventing you from getting a good workout. Elbow pain is a very common issue for weightlifters. Especially during exercises like push ups, bench press, shoulder press, etc. The push-up is commonly done incorrectly which can cause elbow pain during the movement. This article is going to be discussing the reasons why your elbow hurts during push-ups, and simple ways to fix this issue. 

Check Your Form During Push-Ups

One of the main reasons for elbow pain during push-ups is improper form. Correct form is crucial during body-weight movements like the push-up. Overtime incorrect form will begin to take a toll on your joints, especially the wrists and elbows. I see this happen all the time especially during exercise like push-ups and even bench press. Improper form can cause excess pressure and torque on the elbow while doing a push-up. You may not experience elbow pain when you first begin doing push-ups, but by continuing doing push-ups with poor form it is only a matter of time. It doesn’t take much before your elbows start clicking and hurting during push-ups.Why Does My Elbow Hurt During Push-Ups?

How to Perform A Push-Up With Proper Form:
  • First, you need to make sure your hands are about shoulder width apart. A common mistake is doing too wide or too narrow of push-ups.
  • Next, keep your elbows tucked close by your sides while doing the movement. If you flare your elbows out this will put a lot of pressure on the elbow and shoulders.
  • I recommend pretending like you are screwing your hands into the ground while performing the push-up. This will ensure your elbows stay tucked and engage your lats during the movement.
  • Keep your core and glutes engaged during the entire movement. This will prevent your body from slouching or compensating during the push-up.

You May Be Overdoing It

Another common reason your elbow hurts during push-ups is simply because you are overdoing it. Push-ups are one of the very  first exercises people perform when they are just getting back into exercising. It may look simple, but this exercise is not for beginners. Think about it, you are putting your full bodyweight onto your wrists, elbows, and shoulders. This will cause pain, especially if you are not used to doing these types of exercises.

For example, consider a 200lb male who wants to begin exercising to lose weight. His first day he tries to rep out 10 push-ups, even though he has not done any upper-body exercises for the past 5 years. You better believe he will hurt his elbows trying that. You cannot expect to just jump right in and start doing push-ups. That is how you overdo it, and is one of the main reasons people experience elbow pain during push-ups.

Push-ups is an exercise that you need to build up to. Most people cannot just hop down and start pumping out push-ups. I recommend starting with countertop push-ups or even push-ups on your knees. Both of these movements will be an easier version of the classic push-up, but you can still get a great upper-body workout doing them. Then, when you get stronger and more comfortable you can progress to doing a normal push-up. It is important to ease your way into any exercise to prevent injury.

You Need To Properly Warm-Up

I don’t know how many times I have seen people just begin lifting weights without a proper warm-up. This is the number one way to get injured. You cannot start doing push-ups without warming up. The elbows and shoulders in particular require a proper warm-up before doing any form of lifting exercises. A proper warm-up helps lubricate the joint and prepare it for exercise.Why Does My Elbow Hurt During Push-Ups?

Inside each joint is a lubricating fluid called synovial fluid. It is designed to help cushion and protect the bones for a more smooth articulation while moving. So prior to doing push-ups it is good to help stimulate and warm-up this synovial fluid within the elbows. You will notice a huge difference, believe me. Without proper synovial fluid bones will rub together, and people often hear clicking or grinding during this. Which overtime can lead to wear and tear of the joint cartilage, aka arthritis.

Proper Way To Warm-Up For Push-Ups:
  • I recommend about a 10 minute warm-up, to gradually increase your heart rate and break a sweat. This will help lubricate the joints.
  • Begin with bending and straightening your elbows for about a minute. This is simple, but will help lubricate the elbow joints.
  • Next perform wrist circles, clockwise and counter clockwise for about a minute each. This will help warm-up with muscles in the forearm, which connect to your elbow.
  • Perform small and big arm circles. These are great to warm-up the entire upper-body, especially the shoulders.
  • Do push-ups against the wall, countertop, or a ledge. This is an easier version, but it mimics the same movement pattern of an actual push-up which is great to warm-up.
  • Lastly, I recommend a few jumping jacks or air punches to help increase your heart rate and lubricate your entire body.

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If your push-up form is correct, you know you aren’t overdoing it, and after warming-up you still have elbow pain, then I recommend trying a compression sleeve. Elbow compression sleeves can be very beneficial to help support the elbow and calm down inflammation. I know people who have worn a compression sleeve temporarily until their elbow got better, and then they didn’t have to wear it anymore. The main priority is protecting your joints and being able to perform exercises long-term. Compression sleeves can help provide relief for elbow tendonitis such as tennis or golfers elbow, and just general wear and tear in the elbow.  However, they are not a long-term solution. I only recommend wearing a compression sleeve until your inflammation and pain has gone down. Also, they can be worn for preventative reasons or for recovery. Listed above are the best elbows compression sleeves to wear while doing push-ups.

Final Thoughts

I know how frustrating it can be to have pain holding you back from performing exercises such as push-ups. Just remember it will get better, and you can fix the issue in most cases by correcting your form, taking it slow, and warming up properly. I guarantee your elbow will not hurt as much during push-ups if you dial down the tips listed in this article. However, if you try these solutions and still have pain, then I recommend trying an elbow compression sleeve and resting until the pain and inflammation goes away. Make sure to focus on proper form and a good warm-up. These are key when doing exercises like the push-up to prevent injury and maintain longevity of your joints.

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