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Overuse of the elbow is often associated with a painful condition called tennis elbow or lateral epicondylitis. Whether your elbow pain is coming from overuse, Tendinosis, or Tendonitis, physical therapy can help with preventing future pain.

These tennis elbow exercises can help you prepare your muscles, tendons, and joints for the upcoming daily work routine. They also work for golfer’s elbow.

As a Sports Medicine Physician, I understand all these different diagnoses can be confusing. Tennis Elbow can affect patients from all walks of life, even if they don‘t regularly play on the courts.

lateral epicondylitis

The inflamed, injured extensor tendon associated with Tennis Elbow is found at or near the attachment of the Lateral Epicondyle.

Before you head out onto the court or to your day-job where you‘re participating in movements on an ongoing basis that can trigger Tennis Elbow symptoms, you need to prepare for your heightened level of activity. You should also consider working with a sports physical therapist to get you started, then transition to tennis elbow treatment at home.

Tennis Elbow Stretches and Exercises

Here are a few stretching exercises to begin with before you start your routine.

Wrist Flexor Stretch

A group of six muscles found in your wrist come together to make your wrist flexors.

Bending the Wrist with a Wrist Flexor stretch

Muscles Worked:

  • Flexor Digitorum Superficialis
  • Flexor Digitorum Profundus
  • Flexor Carpi Radialis
  • Flexor Carpi Ulnaris
  • Palmaris Longus
  • Flexor Pollicis Longus

Working as one unit, these muscles make it possible for you to strengthen our muscles for wrist flexion.

  1. To stretch your wrist flexors, begin by holding your right arm straight out in front of you. The palms of your hands should face outwards.
  2. Take your left hand, hold the fingers of your right hand and bend them backward. You should feel the stretch on the inside of your right forearm.
  3. Hold the stretch for 10-15 seconds, repeating as needed.

Wrist Extensor Stretch

After you‘ve done one muscle group, you should move on to the opposing group. The extensors in your wrist make this complementary movement to help with your range of motion.

Extending Your Range of Motion with the Wrist Extensor stretch

Muscles Worked:

  • Extensor carpi radialis brevis (ECRB)
  • Extensor digitorum
  • Extensor digiti minimi
  • Extensor carpi ulnaris (ECU)

To complete this stretch:

  1. Extend your right arm in front of you with your palm facing downward.
  2. Bend the wrist of your right arm, pointing your hand toward the ground.
  3. Using your left hand, bend your wrist in an even more downward direction.
  4. You should feel the stretch through the top of your forearm.
  5. Hold the stretch for 10-15 seconds, repeating as needed.

Strengthening Exercises For Tennis Elbow

After you‘ve stretched your flexor and extensor muscles out properly and reduced the tension in your wrist and forearm, you can begin strengthening the muscles to help keep your tennis elbow pain away.

When it comes to Tennis Elbow, prevention is one of the most important steps you can take in the rehab process. Targeting the muscles of the forearms should be your main focus on the rehab and prevention process. Your doctor might also recommend an elbow brace.

Towel Crush

This exercise helps target and improve your grip strength. Grip weakness is a major cause of pain associated with Tennis Elbow. Honing in on this area of weakness in your workout program is a great way to overcome that painful compensation.

Towel Crush

The Fist Clench exercise can help strengthen your forearm muscles and ease the strain of everyday tasks by working flexor tendons found in your fingers. Just like you have a ball in your hand during a game, this exercise can help with playing tennis and other activities.

For this exercise, you‘ll need a table or some sort of surface and a towel. If you have a stress ball handy that can work as well.

Muscles Worked:

  • Flexor Digitorum Superficialis
  • Flexor Digitorum Profundus
  • Flexor Carpi Radialis
  • Flexor Carpi Ulnaris
  • Palmaris Longus
  • Flexor Pollicis Longus

To complete the towel crush exercise:

  1. Your forearm should start by resting on the table. You can be seated or standing.
  2. The towel should be in your hand, rolled up or formed together to make a ball.
  3. When you‘re ready, squeeze the towel and hold for ten seconds (or as long as you can up to 10 seconds).
  4. Release and repeat, 3 sets of 10 reps.

Empty Handshakes

To strengthen your muscles, chops are a great way to isolate the natural movement of the wrist.

Forearm muscle exercises are the best way to help prevent injury and avoid any pain associated with Tennis Elbow.

Empty Handshakes

For this exercise, you‘ll need a flat surface like a table.

Muscles Worked:

  • Extensor carpi radialis brevis (ECRB)
  • Extensor digitorum
  • Extensor digiti minimi
  • Extensor carpi ulnaris (ECU)

To complete this exercise:

  1. Your forearm should start by resting on the table. You can be seated or standing. Your hand and wrist should be hanging off the table.
  2. Turn your hand to the side as if you were going to shake someone‘s hand. This is the starting position.
  3. To complete the exercise, move your hand up and down in a chopping motion.
  4. Hold your movement at the top and at the bottom of the movement. Complete the action for 3 sets of 10 reps

Wrist Curves

Another great exercise to isolate the movement in your wrist are forearm curls. You‘ll need only a lightweight dumbbell (start with 1 or 2 lbs) and a table or desktop.

The minimal equipment involved with this exercise makes it easy for you to do no matter where you are.

Wrist Curls

Muscles Worked:

  • Flexor Digitorum Superficialis
  • Flexor Digitorum Profundus
  • Flexor Carpi Radialis
  • Flexor Carpi Ulnaris
  • Palmaris Longus
  • Flexor Pollicis Longus

To complete this exercise:

  1. Sit on a chair or stand near a desktop with a dumbbell in your right hand. Your feet should be about shoulder-width apart.
  2. Your right arm should be rested on the tabletop with your palm and dumbbell facing up.
  3. When you‘re ready, lower the dumbbell down to the ground while holding on tightly.
  4. Once you‘ve reached the lowest point, curl back up to the top of the movement again, contacting the muscles in your forearms. Keep your forearm steady since your wrist is the only part in your arm that should be moving.
  5. Do a set of ten repetitions and then switch arms. Complete for three sets.

Reverse Wrist Curls

To work the opposing muscles of what you used in forearm curls, wrist extensions can strengthen your muscles and help with prevention of Tennis Elbow.

Reverse Wrist Curves

For this exercise, you‘ll need a flat surface like a desk or a table top. You‘ll also need a light weight dumbbell, weighing in around 1-2 lbs.

Muscles Worked:

  • Extensor carpi radialis brevis (ECRB)
  • Extensor digitorum
  • Extensor digiti minimi
  • Extensor carpi ulnaris (ECU)

To complete this exercise:

  1. Standing or sitting with your feet shoulder-width apart, grab the dumbbell with an overhand grip and lay it on the table top, with your wrist and working hand hanging off the table. Your palm should be facing down.
  2. When you‘re ready, pull the dumbbell up by bending the wrist up and extending it as high as possible.

Supported Bicep Curl

This particular exercise is beneficial for Tennis Elbow because it takes away a large amount of stress from the elbow that is normally associated with the bicep curl.

For this exercise, you‘ll need a preacher bench and an E-Z bar. You can also complete it without the bench and simply use your knee for support, as pictured.

Supported Bicep Curl

Muscles Worked:

  • Biceps brachii
  • Brachioradialis
  • Flexor Digitorum Superficialis
  • Flexor Digitorum Profundus
  • Flexor Carpi Radialis
  • Flexor Carpi Ulnaris
  • Palmaris Longus
  • Flexor Pollicis Longus

To complete this exercise:

  1. The E-Z curl bar should be grabbed at the inner handle. Your upper arms should be against the bench pad and chest against the other side of the pad.
  2. Hold the E-Z Curl Bar at shoulder-width. When you‘re ready, lower the bar down until your arm is almost fully extended (without locking your elbows).
  3. Hold the extension for a pause of a second and then curl back up.
  4. Repeat 10 times for three sets.

Weight Twist

You can also work on your forearm muscles by doing a wrist turn with a hand weight like a small dumbbell, weighing around 1-2 lbs.

For this exercise, you‘ll need to be seated and you‘ll need a dumbbell.

Weight Twist

Muscles Worked:

  • Supinator Muscle

To complete this exercise:

  1. Rest the elbow of your right arm on your knee while seated. Hold the dumbbell in your right hand at its end.
  2. Beginning with the dumbbell in a vertical position, twist your hand to the side so the dumbbell is then at a 90-degree angle horizontally.
  3. Hold the position for a moment and then move it back up to its original vertical position.
  4. Repeat the movement 10 times in the span of 3 sets.

Towel Wring

Towel Wring

The towel twist is a great exercise to really work the natural movements of your wrist. Since your elbow isn’t a joint that is limited to simply moving up and down in a locked position, your arm needs to be strong with various movements and angles.

For this exercise, you‘ll need a towel—preferably a hand towel.

Muscles Worked:

  • Extensor carpi radialis brevis (ECRB)
  • Extensor digitorum
  • Extensor digiti minimi
  • Extensor carpi ulnaris (ECU)
  • Flexor Digitorum Superficialis
  • Flexor Digitorum Profundus
  • Flexor Carpi Radialis
  • Flexor Carpi Ulnaris
  • Palmaris Longus
  • Flexor Pollicis Longus

To complete this exercise:

  1. Soak the towel in water so it’s completely damp.
  2. Roll the towel up so it’s a cylinder. Beginning with an overhand grip, grasp the towel with both hands.
  3. Wring the towel out by twisting it. Twist the towel with your left hand towards you and the right hand away from you.
  4. Complete the movement, switching directions alternatively for 30 seconds. Complete 3 sets with a break in between.

Hammer Rotations

Get into your toolbox for this exercise since you’ll be needing a hammer—a real one! You’ll also need a table or desk to your rest your arm while performing the exercise.

Hammer Rotations

Muscles Worked:

  • Pronator Quadratus Muscle
  • Pronator Teres Muscle
  • Supinator Muscle

To complete this exercise:

  1. With your arm resting on the table, you can be seated or standing with your feet shoulder-width apart. Your hand and wrist should both be hanging off the table while holding the hammer.
  2. Gripping the hammer, hold it so it’s pointed towards the outside of your body.
  3. When you’re ready, turn the hammer to the inside of your body like a windshield wiper. Do this for 3 sets of 10 reps (5 each side).

Finger Extensions and Thumb Abduction

For your grip strength, all you need for this exercise is a rubber band or a hair tie.

Finger Extensions and Thumb Abduction

Muscles Worked:

  • Extensor carpi radialis longus
  • Extensor carpi radialis brevis
  • Extensor digitorum
  • Extensor digiti minimi
  • Extensor carpi ulnaris
  • Abductor pollicis longus
  • Extensor pollicis brevis
  • Extensor pollicis longus
  • Extensor indicis

To complete this exercise:

  1. Wrap the rubber band around all your fingers, having it rest right above your knuckles. Have your elbow resting on a surface like the arm of a chair or a table.
  2. When you’re ready, open your hand against the resistance of the rubber band and then slowly turn back into the closed finger position.
  3. Hold your movement at the open position for a moment before retracting back. Repeat for 3 sets of 10 reps. Make sure to switch hands.

Tennis Elbow Exercises Not Doing The Trick?

Cooling with an ice pack can only help so much. Whether you have been suffering from symptoms of Tennis Elbow for a while or have pain when lifting, it’s never too early to consult your doctor about prevention and treatment to overcome your pain and regain movement without discomfort.

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Sporty Doctor provides advice to help weekend warriors and elite athletes alike stay active with non-surgical techniques and holistic treatment options. Sporty Doctor Is Founded By Dr. Kristina DeMatas, D.O.

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