Tennis Elbow and Golfer’s Elbow are both forms of epicondylitis. Both tennis elbow and golfer’s elbow occur when someone strains the tendons in their forearm.
Thankfully, people can usually treat tennis elbow at home by simply resting and using OTC medicine.
By following tendinitis protocol (inflammation of a tendon, which is exactly what epicondylitis is), and doing tennis elbow exercises (stretching and strengthening), you can help ease pain and prevent tennis elbow or golfer’s elbow from recurring.
So, in this post, we are going to show you our favorite tennis elbow exercise tool and 15+ different effective and surprisingly fun golfer’s and tennis elbow exercises...
But first, we are going to discuss exactly what these conditions are, who’s most at risk, the causes, the symptoms, tests, tips for healing tennis elbow fast, and more.
We urge that you read everything so you are equipped with all the knowledge to combat and prevent tennis elbow for good.
*Scroll down if you want to jump right into the exercises*
Both tennis elbow and golfer’s elbow are forms of epicondylitis, an inflammation of tendons that attach to the elbow.
The key difference between the two is that tennis elbow affects the outside tendon, while golfer’s elbow affects the inside tendon.
Tennis elbow occurs because the motion used in racquet sports causes torque on the outside of your elbow, and golfer’s elbow is vice versa. Think about the motion of swinging a racquet vs swinging a golf club and you will see how that works.
Now, you might be wondering, "how did I get tennis elbow or golfer’s elbow, I’m not Roger Federer, I’m damn sure not Tiger Woods…in fact, I don’t even play tennis or golf!"
You don’t have to be an athlete to get tennis elbow and golfer’s elbow, although certain athletes, like those who play racquet sports or baseball, golf, wrestlers, etc., are more susceptible to inflammation of the tendon that attaches to the elbow (the epicondyle).
Tennis Elbow, aka lateral epicondylitis, is most common in adults ages 30-50. It is an overuse and muscle strain injury that results in pain and an inflammation of the outside of the elbow and forearm area.
Anyone who overuses/repeatedly uses their hands, wrists, and forearms or has a muscle strain injury in their forearm, can suffer from this painful condition.
Plumbers, painters, carpenters, and cooks (to name but a few jobs), are prone to Tennis Elbow thanks to the repetitive nature of their work.
Even house work can lead to tennis elbow or golfers elbow. Think raking the yard, gardening, cutting wood.
Golfer’s elbow, aka medial epicondylitis, is an irritation that causes pain on the inner side of the arm and elbow.
It is most commonly caused by activities that demand repeated flexing, twisting, and bending (down) of the wrist.
Like tennis elbow, anyone can get golfer’s elbow.
If you repeatedly lift objects with your elbow extended and your palms facing down, you can also develop golfer’s elbow.
It’s a typical injury for golf (go figure), baseball and softball, weightlifting, carpentry and other labor jobs…
What’s more, a tennis player can even develop golfer’s elbow!
The good news is, both tennis elbow and golfer’s elbow have the same cures and prevention techniques, so you won’t be doing double to prevent both when it comes time to start strengthening and stretching.
Now, if you are worried about being affected by tennis elbow or golfer’s elbow but you haven't got it yet, you are ahead of the game. You can start prevention exercises immediately! Thus, you are definitely going to want to see what’s in store further below. Not only are the exercises we are going to give you effective, they are pretty damn fun too...
Let’s go over the symptoms so that you can be sure if you have it or not.
Knowing the symptoms can help you take action before it gets worse.
If you have any concern about the pain or the extent of your injury, definitely see a doctor ASAP.
If you have any concern, you should see a doctor to make sure you have the correct diagnosis. That way you can take the necessary actions and precautions.
If you end up not having tennis elbow or golfer’s elbow, you should still do the exercises we have in store for you as you are probably here because your job or whatever activity you are doing commonly causes epicondylitis.
Here are some simple tests to determine whether or not you have tennis elbow (aka lateral epicondylitis) or golfer’s elbow (medial epicondylitis).
If your pain is on the outside of your elbow, here are the tests you can do to see if you have tennis elbow.
Tennis elbow test 1:
Take your fingers and find the bump on the outside of your elbow (that’s the lateral epicondyle) and press into it. If it hurts, that’s a good sign that you have tennis elbow.
Tennis elbow test 2:
Extend your arm forward with your hand straight and palm facing down. Then you are going to try to bend your wrist into flexion (bend wrist down) while you resist it, trying to keep your wrist straight. If your lateral epicondyle hurts when doing this, that is a positive sign of tennis elbow.
Tennis elbow test 3:
This test is the same as the test above, but instead of trying to bend your whole hand down, just do it with your ring finger. So, with a straight arm and palm down, try and bring that ring finger down as you resist it. If it hurts in that same spot, chances are you have tennis elbow.
Tennis elbow test 4:
Using a heavy object (not too heavy, about 5 pounds will do), grab it with your palm down and arm straight and lift it up (like a front raise). If that hurts, then you most likely have tennis elbow.
If your pain is on the inside of your elbow, here are the tests you can do to see if you have golfer’s elbow.
Golfer’s elbow test 1:
Feel around for your medial epicondyle. It’s a bump of bone where a lot of tendons connect to. When you find it, if it is tender, chances are you have golfer’s elbow.
Golfer’s elbow test 2:
With your arm straight and palm up, try to bend your wrist into extension. Again, try to resist this. If your inside elbow hurts, that’s a sign that you probably have golfer’s elbow.
Golfer’s elbow test 3:
With your arm in the same position, elbow extended and palms up, grab a weight of around 5-8 pounds and lift it up while keeping your arm straight. If your medial epicondyle hurts, then you have golfer’s elbow.
Typically, neither conditions lead to any serious problems. However, if it is left untreated for too long, you may lose some mobility and function of the elbow and forearm.
Normally it will heal on its own after some time. As long as you give it time to rest and heal.
It may last for several weeks or months for mild cases. Some more severe cases can persist for a year or more.
Typically, months are needed for complete recovery. That goes for any tendon strain or injury. There are things you can do to speed up the process, which we will get into.
Taking action to heal it and then prevent it is essential to a speedy recovery and demolishing tennis elbow for good.
It is definitely possible to have both tennis elbow and golfer’s elbow at the same time.
It’s like saying can you have a headache and stomach ache at the same time?
Can you break your ulna and your radius at the same time?
Yes, it's very possible.
Lower body exercises and cardio are absolutely ok to do when you have tennis elbow or golfer’s elbow.
However, any exercise that involves your elbow should be ceased until it heals. It’s not worth the risk of making it worse, even if your tennis elbow doesn’t stem for weightlifting. You will thank yourself in the long run if you just let it heal before you start working out your upper body. We know it’s hard to stop training for those who a habitual exercisers. But it’s definitely the smart move. So, focus on lower body and cardio for a while.
What you can do in the meantime are some of the easier tennis elbow rehab exercises we are going to show you below...Light and easy to start.
When first injured, ice is best. You will want to ice it for the first three days or so. Icing it will numb the pain and cause your blood vessels to constrict which helps decrease swelling. Do about 15-20 mins every 4-6 hours.
After the first three days, heat may offer better benefits for chronic tendinitis pain. Heat therapy will increase blood flow to the injury, which promotes healing. Also, it relaxes the muscle which can help with pain relief.
Surgery is a last resort and usually only done for people with chronic tennis elbow that doesn’t get better from non-surgical methods.
See our tips below for healing tennis elbow before even considering surgery, unless otherwise told by your doctor.
When it comes to tennis elbow, most people can cure it on their own at home.
A good physical therapist will guide you and help you fix tennis elbow or golfer’s elbow, but in all honesty, it is not necessary to spend money on a physical therapist until you’ve tried some home treatments first. If money is no issue though, a physical therapist is the best choice. Moreover, if you have a severe case of tennis elbow, it definitely will be advantageous to seek help from a physical therapist.
Here are the tips a doctor will give you during the period of inflammation:
Tip 1: Rest. First and foremost, you need to give it time to heal. Don’t try to jump into tennis elbow exercises until inflammation has subsided.
Tip 2: Ice your elbow. This will reduce pain and swelling. Doctors recommend icing your elbow for around 20 to 30 minutes every 3 to 4 hours for 2 to 3 days or until the pain is gone.
Tip 3: Use an elbow strap. This will protect you from straining and further injuring the tendon.
Tip 4: Take NSAIDs. Ibuprofen, naproxen, and aspirin will help with the pain and swelling. However, you won’t want to take these every day for too long. They have side effect such as bleeding and ulcers in the stomach. So, only use them periodically and for no more than a couple days.
Tip 5: Move it. Mobility and motion is key to healing. Now that doesn’t mean use weights, it simply means move your arm around to reduce stiffness and increase flexibility. This will help you recover faster. This can actually be the best recommendation. If the pain is unusual when moving your arm around (slowly), then consult your doctor.
Tip 6: If it’s not getting better after a week or so, consider getting a physical therapist.
NOTE: It’s always best to see a doctor before doing any exercises, they may want to do an X-Ray or MRI to show the extent of changes to muscles, tendons, and ligaments, while also seeing if there are any changes to the bone itself or other issues going on. If the doctor says you can do non-surgical treatment, then you can give some exercises ago after allowing it time to heal. If that doesn’t work there are other non-surgical options, such as compression therapy, ECSW (extracorporeal shock wave) therapy, and even Platelet rich plasma (PRP) therapy. Again, surgery is the last and final option if things don’t improve and pain and mobility is severe.
Give it a rest!
Once swelling is gone and your elbow is feeling better, you need to remember to allow it to rest in-between activities such as tennis or golf …yes, that includes work. If you continue doing repetitive movements with your hands, wrists and forearms, and you don’t allow for enough rest time before repeating these activities again, you will surely develop tennis elbow again.
Just like working out, you need to give your body time to recover or else you will overtrain. It’s the same thing with your elbow.
Remember, getting enough sleep is CRUCIAL. It will help your body recover faster.
The reason your are experiencing tendinitis in your forearms is because the muscles in your forearms aren’t strong enough to resist the force that’s going through them.
For example, during a golf swing, as you are coming through your follow-through, the centrifugal force of that club is pulling on a lot of the extensors and supinators in your forearm. And the muscles aren’t strong enough after a repetitive swings to withstand that pulling motion. The muscles and tendons start to get overstretched, they get inflamed, irritated, and boom, that’s how you get epicondylitis.
So, because tennis elbow and golfer's elbow are caused by a lack of strength and overstretching, it makes the most sense to focus mainly on strengthening exercises rather than static stretches. This has proven to be successful for healing or preventing tennis and golfer’s elbow.
Note: We do dynamic stretches not static stretches. Dynamic stretches help to prepare the muscles for strengthening exercises without lengthening them to a degree that is not beneficial. These stretches will also be good, if done carefully, during the healing phase to give them mobility.
You can increase your hands, wrists, forearms’ muscular endurance and strength so that you can manage your activities better and for longer while also combatting tennis elbow and golfer’s elbow by doing tennis elbow strengthening exercises (these are also the same exercises for golfer’s elbow), so both conditions, stay with me here…
After inflammation subsides, begin doing dynamic stretches and strengthening exercises for tennis elbow rehab and prevention.
If you don’t want to experience tennis elbow or golfer’s elbow again, make sure you start doing tennis elbow exercises!
The exercises we are going to show you are various forms of tennis elbow physiotherapy exercises.
We are going to be using a special tool that is not only a great rehab tool, but it is also an effective unconventional strength and conditioning tool.
But before we get into the tennis elbow exercises, we are going to quickly explain why the steel mace is one of the best tools to prevent tennis elbow. That way you understand its merit. We think you'll appreciate the exercises more that way...
The goal with tennis elbow exercises is to build up muscular strength and endurance in your hands, wrist and forearm by mimicking real world movements. That way, you can withstand repetitive movements that typically cause tennis elbow and golfer’s elbow.
The steel mace produces torque similar to how a golf swing and a racquet swing does, so by doing movements that involve a swinging motion and an offset weight, you can strengthen your muscles in a way that directly applies to swinging your golf club, baseball bat, tennis racquet, or even one of your tools at work.
One of the beauties of the steel mace is that it has an offset weight with a long lever. This is exactly what is needed to train your muscles to undergo typical movements that cause tennis elbow, like shoveling, racking, etc. All of these activities involve offset movements with tools that have handles, just like a mace.
Furthermore, the offset loads that you face in your day to day life put pressure on your stabilizer muscles and joints, so by using the steel mace, you can strengthen these smaller muscles in a way that a dumbbell never could.
There is no better tool for preventing the tennis elbow than the steel mace (steel clubs and bands are good too), simply because of the nature of the design and its practicality. Uneven weight distribution mimics real life scenarios and prepares your muscles in that way. Unlike dumbbells, which have an even weight distribution.
Most things in the real world consist of uneven loads, so this is the type of training that will truly develop your muscles in a functional way.
You can first watch this video which has all of the exercises - mobility/stretching and strengthening for tennis elbow.
After, see below for a breakdown on each of the individual exercises.
Tennis Elbow Anatomy
Quickly look at the anatomy of tennis elbow so you can see all the muscles involved. This will give you a better understanding of how many small muscles you are dealing with when doing tennis elbow prevention exercises.
After we go through all the exercises, we will give you a sample tennis elbow rehab workout so you can see how to structure it in terms of number of exercises, sets, reps, and rest time.
A dynamic stretch is a movement that moves your joints through a full range of motion.
Dynamic stretches prepare the body for activity by increasing blood flow, muscle temperature, and range of motion.
It's important to do these stretches before any tennis elbow rehab exercises as our forearm muscles will be tight. We want to prepare our muscles and joints by doing full range movement with short holds before jumping into strengthening exercises.
In the video above, Sam does some simple wrist warm up movements. It's best to do those before the following two tennis elbow stretches.
Stretch #1: Wrist Flexor Stretch
By doing the wrist flexor stretch on the ground, you can get a full range of motion.
Do 3 sets of 8-12 reps
Stretch #2: Forearm Extensor Stretch
As with the above exercise, taking the forearm extensor stretch to the ground for leverage will give you a deeper stretch. Move slowly, lean back to increase the range of motion.
Do 3 sets of 8-12 reps
If your wrist flexors and extensors are really tight, you won't moving much, but keep doing these over a few weeks until you achieve normalcy in your range of motion.
Keeping your forearm muscles strong and mobile is key to preventing tennis elbow and golfer’s elbow.
The following exercises target all the muscles in your hands, wrists and forearms. Your shoulder muscles will be working on a few of them too!
These are all the exercises you need to build resilience to tennis elbow and golfer’s elbow.
Remember, these are not “no pain, no gain” kinds of exercises. If your elbow is hurting, during or after you finish, stop and consult your doctor or physiotherapist. Pushing through tennis elbow pain can potentially make things worse. That said, it is normal to experience some discomfort when doing these exercises, that's a sign it's working. You should be able to tell the difference between "bad pain" and "good pain". Any good workout will cause discomfort. Serious pain is another story.
We recommend 10 reps for each exercise, for sets of 4. However, if 10 is too much for you, start with 5-6 reps and work your way up. We've included some advanced exercises for when you build up strength with the easier exercises. We will label each exercise by difficulty (easy, medium, hard).
Note: You won't be doing all the exercises during one workout. See our tennis elbow workout after you get through reading all the exercises so you can see how we structure it.
What weight steel mace?
Use a 7LB steel mace to start. 7lbs of offset weight will be much easier on your joints and tendons comparing to 10 or 15lbs. It may not seem like a big difference but when you are dealing with weight on the end of a lever, it is. As you build more strength, you can move up to a 10LB mace for some of these exercises.
Exercise #1: Wrist Extension
Your wrist extensors connect all the way to your elbow. These small muscles are typically overused in people with tennis elbow. By doing this exercise, you can help them develop endurance which will allow you to put them to work for longer periods of time without negative consequences.
Using a firm grip (but not a death-grip), hold the mace with your palms facing down, and move your wrist in it’s full range of motion bringing the top of your hand towards your forearm and then back down.
Exercise #2: Wrist Flexion
Your wrist flexors are a group of muscles that work opposite of your wrist extensors.
These muscles are often overworked in people who do arm-centric activities.
With you palms facing up and your forearm/elbow resting on your knee, curl your hand towards your wrist. Return to the starting position and repeat.
You want to isolate the movement here, so your wrist is working while the rest of your arm is static.
Note: For both wrist flexion and extension, switch the side the mace head is facing with each set. So if the mace head is facing out on the first set, change it to face in on the second set.
The offset weight of the mace will cause you to stabilize your wrists, which engages more muscles than if you use a dumbbell, which is evenly balanced.
To challenge yourself a bit more, bring the mace slightly more offset by moving your hands away from the head of the mace.
Exercise #3: Wrist Extensions (Variation)
This variation of the wrist extension is a double whammy because you will be doing extensions for your wrist while also working grip strength due to the way you are holding the head of mace. Increasing grip strength can help you prevent tennis elbow and golfer's elbow. Conversely, weak grip is often a symptom of tennis elbow, so it will be something you want to address.
Exercise #4: Radial Deviation
There are two bones in your forearm, the Radius and Ulna. For "deviation", you are moving your wrist from side to side. Almost like a waving motion.
The muscles used for this movement are subject to overuse in racquet sports and jobs that require hammering.
For this exercise (radial deviation) you will be pulling the head of the mace towards your radius bone using your wrist. Your knuckles will be facing straight down in the starting position. This exercise will work the forearm muscles that run along your radius bone.
Exercise #5: Ulnar Deviation
For ulnar deviation, you will be moving the head of the mace towards your ulna bone using your wrist. Your knuckles will be facing straight down in the starting position. This exercise will work the forearm muscles that run along your ulna.
The mace a great tool for radial and ulnar deviation thanks to the offset weight. A resistance band would work well too, as you can cause resistance in a specific direction.A dumbbell, on the other hand, has a balanced proportion so it doesn't create the same kind of targeted resistance.
Exercise #6 Metronome (Variation of Deviations)
Gotta love spicing things up by using variations. Metronome will help to strengthen your forearms, wrist, hands, and ultimately elbow tendons, in a more dynamic way by mimicking real world force that your elbows will need to deal with.
Exercise #7: One Arm Pikes (Variation of Radial Deviation)
This is the most difficult variation of radial deviation. Be careful that you don't smash your head on this one! Only do this exercise if you are confident you have the strength.
Note: You can make this exercise easier by holding the handle further up.
Exercise #8: Supination & Pronation
Supination is the movement of rotating the forearm into a palm up position, while pronation is the opposite movement of rotating the forearm into a palm down position.
For this exercise, you will want to keep your elbow still. All that should be moving is your wrist and forearm in a rotating manner. The goal is to focus entirely on rotating your hand back and forth slowly.
This exercise makes a lot of sense with a steel mace as the offset weight and lever makes the movement very effective. With a dumbbell, the resistance lever arm is too short which makes it easy to turn in your hand. The weight of a dumbbell is balanced on both sides of your hand, so it doesn't really cause resistance when turning it like unilateral resistance does. Essentially, with a lightweight dumbbell, it’s almost like you are just turning your wrist back and forth without resistance.
Exercise #9: Forward Pendulums (Variation of Supination/Pronation)
This is similar to supination and pronation, with an added dynamic to it. Your arms will have some movement, which is fine.
Let momentum take the mace back and forth.
For this one, you are working on your ability to control torque and you will be building hand, wrist and forearm strength. This is great as in sports like baseball, tennis, golf, you need to be able to control torque just as much as you can produce it.
Exercise #10: Goblet Grabs
Goblet grabs are a grip strength exercise. They also incorporate your outer forearm and shoulders.
This exercise will help you regain grip strength and finger strength. Moreover, it will prepare your elbow for the dynamic nature of life. In the real world, things are being tossed around, you need to react, and be quick. This will train you for that.
Exercise #11: Wrist rolls (Variation of Extension/Flexion)
This exercise targets the wrist extensors and flexors. With a steel mace, this is a very tiring exercise. As with the other exercises, you will be building some serious wrist stability and grip strength as well.
Exercise #12: Front Raise and Pause
Front raises, aka anterior raises, are very challenging for the wrist extensors if you keep you arm straight.
However, this exercise might be best to avoid it in the early stages of recovery. This should be done as "prevention" more than rehab.
That said, doing this exercise with a light 7LB mace should be fine for most people as a rehab exercise.
When you are ready, you can do more exercises to build up powerful forearms that can handle serious torque:
Eventually, when you have the strength, you can do single arm 360s and 10 to 2s too!
Wrist Extensor Dynamic Stretch: 3 sets x 10 reps
Wrist Flexor Dynamic Stretch: 3 x 10 reps
Wrist Flexion: 4 sets x 10 reps
Wrist Extension: 4 sets x 10 reps
Radial Deviation: 3 sets x 10 reps
Ulnar Deviation: 3 sets x 10 reps
Supination/Pronation: 3 sets x 10 reps
Goblet Grabs: 3 x 10 reps
Front Raises: 3 x 10 reps
30 seconds rest in-between sets and exercises*
As you get stronger, you can substitute some of the more advanced variation exercises above which work the same muscles. i.e. Do One Arm Pike instead of Radial Deviation...or make your workout longer and do both!
Deep Tissue Work
Another thing that will be helpful for curing and preventing tennis elbow is tissue work (rolling and trigger point therapy).
In the muscle bellies of your forearm muscles, you may have some adhesions, old scar tissue, or some trigger points in response to the injury.
By doing tissue work, you can kind of get them to break up a little bit and get the muscle to move so that the filaments in your forearms actually slide better again. It will also help to increase circulation.
You can have a manual therapist work on this or you can do some self forearm work with a muscle roller. It's pretty simple. You can look up how to do this online. Eventually we will make a video on this.
In any case, the above exercises you should definitely be doing ASAP when the swelling and inflammation goes down.
A 7LB steel mace is the best size for rehab tennis elbow exercises. A 10lb mace is also good for rehab when you have the strength to move up in weight. Start with a 7lb mace if you are just healing from tennis elbow or golfer's elbow
You can purchase a 7LB steel mace from us here: SET FOR SET 7LB Steel Mace.
See more rehab applications using the steel mace:
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