Do you experience discomfort or aches around the circumference of your elbow?
Is it bothering you while using your wrists or grip objects or during activities like tennis or weight training? It can be frustrating, painful, and limiting.
Today, we will go through the five simplest exercises for tennis elbow, also known as lateral epicondyle pain and lateral epicondylitis.
Typically, individuals will experience symptoms such as pain on the lateral portion of the elbow while performing activities in which they use their hand, wrist, and forearm. Tennis elbow is the most common cause of elbow pain, affecting about one to three percent of the general population.
It’s more common in certain populations, such as manual labor, professions affecting about 7.4 percent of industrial workers, and up to 50 percent of tennis players will experience it. You may have pain at rest; however, most complaints are usually that it worsens with activities that challenge the various structures at the lateral elbow.
1. 5 Simplest Exercises for Tennis Elbow
Today, we’re going to review the five best evidence-based supported exercises for tennis.
Now, the movements that we’re going to look at today are going to have two primary goals: number one, to improve the capacity and tolerance of the local tissues to be able to handle more demands, and two, to improve the function of the rest of the kinetic chain that impacts those tissues.
So, let’s get into it……
1.1 Exercise 1: Wrist Extension
Our first exercise is going to be the wrist extension.
You can do this exercise with a dumbbell, a band, a milk jug, a backpack, and another hand. Essentially, it is just something that will provide you with some additional resistance when we do this movement.
We want our forearms supported with our hands off the support to allow us to move our wrists. We want our elbow bent approximately 90 degrees, but it doesn’t need to be specific.
With this version, we want to focus on a controlled raise of about one to three seconds and a controlled lower of about one to three seconds. You will execute this movement until you’re approximately one to three reps away from failure.
There isn’t a perfect amount of reps, but we generally want to be challenging enough that you can only do about eight to twelve reps at the most with that one to three reps left in the tank. Some people may experience a slight increase in symptoms while doing this movement, but that’s not necessarily a problem based on our current research.
However, if you’re experiencing moderate or severe increases in your symptoms that last for multiple days after doing this movement, this might not be the right option. You might need a more regressed version.
1.2 Exercise 2: Arm Rotation
Our second movement will aim to develop the tissue capacity in the other muscles in the local region, the supinators. When you do this movement, you’re going to set up essentially the same way we did, but instead of extending the wrist, we’re now going to focus on rotating at the forearm. So, you’ll have your arm supported with your wrist in neutral, and then we’ll let the palm rotate down towards the ground.
This will make the supinators work eccentrically. After you’ve rotated as far as you can while maintaining your elbow positioning, you’ll rotate back to the starting position. We will follow the same parameters of a slowed down of one to three seconds and a slow-up of about one to three seconds. You can try to use the same loading option as you did for wrist extension, but depending upon what you used, it might not work out as well.
A dumbbell or band can be effective, but you can also try a broomstick or dowel if you don’t have those. If you’re using a broomstick, to make it easier, reduce the length sticking out at the top, or to make it harder, increase the length. If you’re using a dumbbell, try to hold it towards an end to make it more of a challenge with rotation. If you’re using a band, you want to hold it slightly differently than with the extension drill so that way we have more challenge with the rotation.
You will want to try to push this to the same level of exertion as we did with the prior one, leaving about one to three reps in the tank and doing that for approximately eight to twelve challenging repetitions. The wrist extension and forearm supination are the major movements for developing local tissue capacity around the lateral elbow.
1.3 Exercise 3: Open Book
Our third exercise is going to be the open book.
For this movement, we’ll be laying on our sides, tucking our knees towards our chest to align with our hips. And then we will have our arms straight out in front of us stacked. We will then take our top arm and rotate our chest and arm to the opposite side.
You want to think about reaching with your shoulder and having your chest turn, not just reaching back with your arm. This will ensure we get maximal thoracic motion included. Keep the bottom arm and legs locked to the ground as you do this, and do not have them move around. If you find this too difficult for yourself, you can perform the same motion while seated. This is a great move to implement daily or as part of a warm-up.
Our fourth and fifth exercises will look at strengthening the kinetic chain. We’ve seen various research studies highlighting that individuals experiencing tennis elbow often have strength deficits at the shoulder. It will, therefore, be crucial to handle that. This is also supported by a new randomized control trial that compared adding shoulder exercises to the standard care that we usually do, focusing just on the local elbow.
And they saw a significant increase in the results by doing so. The primary emotions identified as being weaker in individuals experiencing tennis elbow are shoulder abduction and shoulder external rotation. This makes sense since, generally, most of the movements where our shoulder abductors’ external rotators are working, our lateral elbow muscles are also going to be working.
So, strengthening them will help reduce the challenge and load placed on the lateral elbow. It’s also worth considering picking exercises that are going to help strengthen the scapular muscles that support our shoulder abductors and external rotators to work.
1.4 Exercise 4: Prone Tee
Our fourth exercise is going to be the prone tee.
You can do this movement flat on the ground or on an elevated surface like a bench or off your couch or your bed at home.
Laying on one’s stomach with your limbs by your sides is a good place to start. Then, you will retract and depress your shoulder blades, raise your arms as high as you feel comfortable, and return to the starting position.
You can repeat this for repetitions and experiment with rotating your arms where either your thumb or your knuckles point towards the roof. You may find having the thumb to the roof is less irritable, particularly if you’re holding resistance.
Similar to the previous exercises, we will aim for eight to 12 challenging repetitions with about 1-3 reps in reserve and an emphasis on progressive loading. You can utilize weights if you have them or common household items like cans or bottles to make it more challenging.
1.5 Exercise 5: Side Line External Rotation
Now, our fifth exercise will build on this, and it will be the sideline external rotation.
To perform it, we’ll be laying on our side again. You will want your shoulders stacked and your top shoulder slightly retracted back. While doing the movement, you want to have your shoulder stay in place and focus on just having your arm rotate. You can place a small towel on your elbow as you do to assist with this.
Just like the last movement, we want to try to do this for eight to twelve reps with about one to three reps in reserve. If you can add resistance to the movement, try doing so just like you did the prior movement. Whichever way you perform it, just focus on progressively loading it over time and building more capacity in your shoulder muscles.
1.6 Dietary Exercises:
Engage in eating exercises, including mirroring seconds of meditation before the food leaves or at home. These games can increase your connection to the act of eating.
These five exercises are our best evidence-based exercises based on the current evidence in our understanding of the path anatomy of the region. You can follow the tennis elbow exercises and get some relief.
Frequently Asked Questions
Some of the most common questions that are asked for tennis elbow are listed below:-
Q1. Does tennis wrist recover after exercise?
“The best study and evidence points to exercise as the most effective therapy for healing with tennis or golfer’s elbow,” said Chris Zarski, a clinical senior lecturer in the Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine at Augustana Campus.
Q2. Can someone with tennis elbow still handle weights?
Avoid doing exercises like barbell extensions and hammer curls in particular. Exercises with straight arms and completely extended elbows can stress the wrist extensor muscles.
Q3. Should tennis elbow be massaged?
With deep forearm massage, tennis elbow can be relieved and mended much more quickly than with rest. Positive effects are seen when friction treatment is applied to the muscles on the elbow joint, along with deep tissue massage to improve circulation.
Q4. What causes tennis elbow the most?
Tennis elbow is typically brought on by overloading your forearm during a demanding or repetitive task.