THROWING ELBOWS: WHY THEY MATTER IN UPPER BODY EXERCISE

THROWING ELBOWS: WHY THEY MATTER IN UPPER BODY EXERCISE

The shoulder joint is the most mobile joint in the human body, making it the most susceptible to injury. Whether you’re an “overhead” athlete (think baseball, tennis, swimming) or someone whose job requires a lot of overhead work, strengthening the muscles in and around the shoulder can help stave off injury.

But working the shoulder actually starts further down the chain – in the elbow.

Flawed elbow positioning during exercises like pushups, rows and bench presses can create or worsen shoulder injuries. Elbow position influences scapular (shoulder blade) function and impacts the ligaments and tendons surrounding the shoulder. Because of that, suboptimal elbow positioning can lead to poor leverage, faulty movement patterns, instability, and injury.

Most commonly, the elbows are incorrectly positioned too far in or too far out, creating I-Shaped or T-Shaped Elbows, respectively.

Here, we look at how to correct these flaws and properly execute common shoulder exercises.

Push Ups and Rows

Bad push up form

Bad push up form

The Fix: Push up

Begin in a plank position with your elbows slightly ahead of and wider than the shoulders. As you descend, bend your elbows about 45 degrees. For reference, 90 degrees would be directly out to the sides. 45 degrees lies about halfway between your ribs and 90 degrees. Avoid hugging the elbows in, which can put stress on the front of the shoulder, or biceps tendon.  Also avoid flaring the elbows out too far to the sides, which can tax the biceps tendon as well as the elbow joint.

Proper elbow alignment should push the work to your pecs and serratus anterior muscles, allowing you to achieve greater ROM in the shoulder blades and improve the fluidity of your movement.

The Fix: TRX row

Begin with arms straight, handles in both hands. As you pull the handles, down toward your chest, bend the elbows 30-45 degrees from the ribs and squeeze your shoulder blades together. Think about moving your shoulder blades on their ribcage as opposed to moving at the shoulder joint to create movement.

The Fix: Rotator Cuff Exercise

Using a cable, band, or standing against wall, bend your elbow 90 degrees out to the side at shoulder height. Now, turn your elbow in so it is approximately 30-45 degrees towards the midline of the body. You can then externally rotate at the shoulder, making sure that you feel the muscles of your posterior rotator cuff doing the work (not the front or top of the shoulder). It’s also important to pause for 1-2 seconds at the end of this motion to create better stability at end range external rotation, especially for those with instability concerns.

Bad RC Form

Good RC Form

The next time you perform these or similar exercises, pay close attention to where your elbows are positioned to ensure you activate the right muscles while avoiding the creation of injury.

THROWING ELBOWS: WHY THEY MATTER IN UPPER BODY EXERCISE

The shoulder joint is the most mobile joint in the human body, making it the most susceptible to injury. Whether you’re an “overhead” athlete (think baseball, tennis, swimming) or someone whose job requires a lot of overhead work, strengthening the muscles in and around the shoulder can help stave off injury.

But working the shoulder actually starts further down the chain – in the elbow.

Flawed elbow positioning during exercises like pushups, rows and bench presses can create or worsen shoulder injuries. Elbow position influences scapular (shoulder blade) function and impacts the ligaments and tendons surrounding the shoulder. Because of that, suboptimal elbow positioning can lead to poor leverage, faulty movement patterns, instability, and injury.

Most commonly, the elbows are incorrectly positioned too far in or too far out, creating I-Shaped or T-Shaped Elbows, respectively.

Here, we look at how to correct these flaws and properly execute common shoulder exercises.

Push Ups and Rows

Bad push up form

Bad push up form

The Fix: Push up

Begin in a plank position with your elbows slightly ahead of and wider than the shoulders. As you descend, bend your elbows about 45 degrees. For reference, 90 degrees would be directly out to the sides. 45 degrees lies about halfway between your ribs and 90 degrees. Avoid hugging the elbows in, which can put stress on the front of the shoulder, or biceps tendon.  Also avoid flaring the elbows out too far to the sides, which can tax the biceps tendon as well as the elbow joint.

Proper elbow alignment should push the work to your pecs and serratus anterior muscles, allowing you to achieve greater ROM in the shoulder blades and improve the fluidity of your movement.

The Fix: TRX row

Begin with arms straight, handles in both hands. As you pull the handles, down toward your chest, bend the elbows 30-45 degrees from the ribs and squeeze your shoulder blades together. Think about moving your shoulder blades on their ribcage as opposed to moving at the shoulder joint to create movement.

The Fix: Rotator Cuff Exercise

Using a cable, band, or standing against wall, bend your elbow 90 degrees out to the side at shoulder height. Now, turn your elbow in so it is approximately 30-45 degrees towards the midline of the body. You can then externally rotate at the shoulder, making sure that you feel the muscles of your posterior rotator cuff doing the work (not the front or top of the shoulder). It’s also important to pause for 1-2 seconds at the end of this motion to create better stability at end range external rotation, especially for those with instability concerns.

Bad RC Form

Good RC Form

The next time you perform these or similar exercises, pay close attention to where your elbows are positioned to ensure you activate the right muscles while avoiding the creation of injury.

2017-09-16T00:10:03+00:00

About the Author:

mm

Sam is a Certified Athletic Trainer (ATC) and Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) at PPT. During his time on staff, Sam has worked with many general fitness clients looking to get stronger, or work around previous injuries in their training. Sam has also developed a successful off-season Baseball Strength & Conditioning program with several local baseball teams.