T Nation

Chin-ups + Tennis Elbow


Earlier in the year I starting having problems with my elbow - very painful to flex the elbow with any resistance (even just picking up things, like a 2L water jug)

Chin ups were agony (I of course stopped doing them)

Fast forward to the present and after a few months of ART, and some acupuncture it's much improved now - still not perfect, but I can at least complete a single chin up without pain.

Which brings me to my question. We've never clearly identified the cause of my problem.

Today I tried for a second chinup - I definitely had the strength to do it, but my elbow felt funny while in full hang. Hard to describe not quite pain, but a soon-to-be pain feeling.

This got me wondering - I've been doing chins with as full a hang as I can possibly get for a while now. Arms straight, shoulder blades high, basically letting my body sink as low as possible between reps.

Is it possible this was the cause? (hyperextending the elbow perhaps?) When Im back to 100% should I avoid full hang chins and aim for something close instead?


If I keep doing wide grip chin-ups without changing the form too much, sooner or later something starts to hurt in my forearm, close to the elbow, on the inside.
Solution: change the routine more often. Chin-ups are great, but no exercise is so great as to justify self-inflicted injury.


NEVER let your body "fall" down uncontrolled, thats very dangerous. ALWAYS keep tension in your shoulders, keep the joint tight into the socket

However, going full ROM on your elbow (180 degrees), shouldn't be a problem.

Hyperextension of any joint will most certainly a problem, but as long as you lower yourself in a controlled fashion you can still go down as low as you possibly can without hyperextending anything.

Whenever you come back from an injury, you should start with very low weight (>20 reps) where you don't feel any pain or discomfort at all and very slowly adapt to heavier weights.

I would advice you to start with something like assisted pullups (of you have access to the equipment) or BB rows or a similar exercise where you can adjust the resistance to a very low intensity

Also, hammer grip chins seem to be easier on the elbow joints than a suspinated grip


I have tennis elbow or tendinosis/tendinitis. It never goes away. Fish Oil! Fish Oil! Fish Oil.

I alway feel it in my elbows. Most of the time it is not bad I just know that it is there and I deal with it. Sometime it hurts a lot and I have to back off for a week or two.

I use icy/hots for days when it get bad. This usually clears it right up. I also use elbow wrap/sleeves when I work out. They keep the joint warm and pretty much keep the problem at bay.

I have found two things that help. Never just let your arm go strait with weight in your hand. For example, just dropping the during the eccentric portion of a chin up.

Also, don't take pressure off it fast. This is difficult to explain with out an example. Take dips. Never just jump of the the station. I have to put my feet on the ledge thing and slowly take the pressure off my elbows. Same thing with bench. I have to tell all my spotters to force the rep because if they just grab the weight and pull it off me it tend to aggravate my elbow joint.


This is relatively common, I suffered for years. I added lots of external rotator work, vary my grip and hand spacing during chins, and take fish oil (Flameout) religiously. No more pain to date.


As an aside - you DO know that acupuncture has been throughly debunked, right?

It's a big fat placebo, but if it worked for you, fantastic. I get sore elbows a lot from people cranking on my arms during ju jitsu and I've found that using the perpendicular handles (to the bar) really takes a lot of the strain off my elbows. It also seems to make it easier to pull with the back rather than the arms.


Are you talking about tendon pain where the bicep connects to the elbow? The way you describe how it comes on is exactly what I am experiencing.

If this is what tennis elbow means I have it too and it has been screwing up my training all summer.

I have taken a couple weeks off from upper body lifting and have done very little lower body stuff.

I think I need to get an elbow sleeve.


I had tennis elbow for a while after coming back too soon from a shoulder injury! Did chins and put too much strain through the elbow as the delt was still weak.

I found using a tennis elbow strap whilst training, followed by some friction massage and then ice helped it heal. Also build back into the heavy stuff slower. I learnt from experience that if your not 100% recovered you usually end up damaging something else!


Where is the pain with tennis elbow?


Usually on the outside of the forearm near the top (around about where the circle is on the strap in this photo).

Check out this webpage, it describes it a bit better than me!



Thanks. That is not what I have. My elbow pain is on the inside at the bicep tendon. I don't think the strap will help me but a sleeve might. It works wonders for my knee.

Getting old sucks but I guess it beats the alternative!


When the pain is on the inside, it's referred to as golfer's or pitcher's elbow, which is what happened to me when I got a little carried away with doing pull-ups. Palms out is definitely less painful than palms in for me.


Haha yeah...what's that saying? 'Youth is wasted on the young' Lol.

As you get older I think training becomes a combination of: hitting your good bodyparts 'cos you enjoy doing what your good at! hitting your weak areas 'cos you want to balance everything out AND all the prehab and rehab exes that you need to do for the various parts that don't function right without them :slightly_smiling:

I hope all the newbies really do realise how great it is to have all this info when you're just starting out.


Yes, that is exactly where it hurts. If is is bothering me a lot heavy squats also aggravate it, but most of the time they don't.
When it first flared up it sucked balls. It hurt just to pick up light shit around the house. The thing that bothers them most is DB presses and any sort of triceps extension.

I pretty much don't do DB presses anymore. Bench bothers them sometime, but only if I have been beating them pretty hard for a couple of weeks. Dip have been ok and I have added in some push down recently and they don't bother them. Forget skull crushers or any one arm extension thing. That shit just tears my elbows apart.