Flexibility and Mobility For Lifters - Volume 6 Elbows
This week is all about our favourite, the beach muscles, the one you'll run into the gym for a quick pump on a Friday night so you looked extra jacked for the ladies. That’s right I'm talking about the arms. More specifically the elbow joint. Now I know no ones wants a pair of noodles for arms. A set of well developed, thick forearms, biceps and triceps is far more impressive to see than spaghetti arms. It’s a good sign that they like picking heavy things up and either holding them, rowing them or pressing them. Also you probably love the pump, I mean who doesn’t?
Now the elbow joint, like our knees is a synovial joint and a hinge joint allowing only flexion and extension acting like a door hinge, hence the name. The elbow joint is made up of your humerus which is your upper arm, radius which runs from the lateral side of the elbow to the thumb and opposite the radius is the ulna, the larger of the 2 forearm bones this runs from the elbow down to your little finger.
Anatomy lesson 101
Prime Mover - Bicep brachii, brachialis
Synergists - Brachioradialis
Antagonist - Tricep brachii,
Fixators - Deltoids, trapezius
Prime Mover - Tricep brachii
Synergists - Anconeus
Antagonists - Brachialis, biceps brachii, brachioradialis
Fixators - Deltoids, trapezius
Testing for range of motion in the elbow joint is probably the easiest one to do out of them all. Perform it standing or seated it doesn't really matter or make a difference. Lets start with flexion, flex your arm as far possible as you can, aiming to reach 140-150 degrees without pain. (Normally if you can touch the top of your shoulder with your fingers) Secondly extension, straighten your arm to as far as it can go without pain, aiming to get it flat with 0 degrees.
First exercise I suggest is a must have in any programme, personally I think one of the best exercises. Im talking about loaded carries, more specifically farmers carries. These will most definitely give some thick arms, theres no denying it. Ever seen a guy with small arms lift 100 kilos a hand? I think not. Hold them, walk them or run them you'll soon notice a difference in your arm and the core, back and traps. Added bonus is they will aid in fixing terrible posture.
Farmers carries instructions - Easy to perform, simply find a set of farmers, load them up to your desired weight, pick them up and walk with them. Now the pick up is similar to a deadlift but heights will vary to depending on the size of your farmers, just treat it as a deadlift or block pull depending on the height you've got. Whilst your walking or holding the farmers remember to keeping looking forward, stand tall, core engaged and breathe.
Probably overlooked by the one you see more but just as important if not more important is the triceps. Triceps always seem to be overshadowed by the biceps for some reason, not sure why its the bigger muscle with 3 heads and the stronger between the pair. This exercise I'm suggesting is isolating the triceps and is the tricep push down, can be performed via cables or bands.
Tricep Push Down Instructions - Set up a cable machine or if you don't have one a band so that when you grip it you are flexed at the elbow. Keep the shoulders still and try not to use them to get momentum, use them to hold your arms in place. Extend your arms straight and slowly bring it back up to a flexed position, remember to keep the core engaged and focusing on just your triceps.
A bro favourite with a twist. Now I know everyone here reading this will probably love a curl, but why not make it more challenging and taxing on the arms so we become that little bit better? Third exercise I recommend is fat grip curls. Will work your biceps like crazy, your forearms will be so pumped you wont know what to do, all round winner. This work with dumbbells not just barbels, but for this today I'm going with a barbell.
Fat Grip Curl Instructions - Place your fat grips on a barbell at your curling with, I go roughly shoulder width part, maybe a little wider. Pick the bar up so its now by your hips and your arms are extended. Keeping the core engaged, shoulders fixed in place, curl and flex your arms till you are fully flexed and slowly lower the bar back down to your hips. Remembering you want to keep the exercise strict and just on the biceps so don't be swinging or using the legs for momentum.
Stretching & Self myofascial Release:
Tricep extension smash. Place your tricep on a barbell with your arm in full extension. Apply force downwards pull your hand towards your head, staying on tense areas and slowly straighten the arm again, moving slowly up and down the whole tricep.
Partner vice smash. This one requires a foam roller and a pain pill if you have one, if not use a hand held roller with a partner. Place the foam roller on the bottom of your tricep by your elbow joint and have your partner with the hand held roller on your bicep at the elbow joint. Now push your arm through the vice moving slowly and holding on built up tense areas. Partner will need to apply downward pressure to make this work with a hand held roller. Once you've worked your up the arm, slowly come back down and repeat, pausing where necessary.
Straight arm wall stretch. Easy one to perform, you just need a wall or anything sturdy that wont move or fall. Face the wall with you arm out straight ahead of you with a supinated position. Place your palm flat on the wall and you will feel a stretch down your forearm. To increase this stretch further you can either move you hand further up the wall or turn away from you hand to open up you chest and shoulders.
I think as a lifter your main concern would be can I still bench? Or will I even be able do overhead? I mean maybe, you might. It depends on the problem you have. You could find yourself developing tendonitis or tennis elbow which is where the tendons in the elbow joint are becoming inflamed and strained from overuse, which would require rest, ice rehab, you know all that good stuff. Or you could find that some muscles like your triceps and tricep tendons may not be as strong as your biceps which is giving you pain or you can visibly see your arms are permanently in a slightly flexed position, leading to restricted movement. From my experience and people I've seen, biceps are the favoured muscle group for the arms and they will get the most attention. It’s not just gym life that could be a problem though, you could eventually end up having trouble lifting things up at home like your dinner plate, a cup of tea, depending on the type of work you do that can be effected. But with all these problems, if you are ever unsure on anything or something is really wrong go find a professional who deals with these problems like a physiotherapist or sports therapist for example.