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Exercises to Prevent Elbow Pain While Working Out Triceps

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Nat has a wide variety of interests, but enjoys writing about video games the most.

Straight bar cable attachment

Straight bar cable attachment

Elbow-Friendly Tricep Exercises

Elbow pain while working out triceps is a very common development.

One thing to keep in mind is that muscles often strengthen faster than joints, so be sure not to try to push yourself too hard, especially in the beginning.

Another thing that can affect joints is trying to cut body fat too fast; this can make your joints, including your elbows, ache. Lastly, try taking a gelatin supplement, such as NOW Beef Gelatin Powder, to see if that also helps (maybe one tablespoon every day for a month).

In addition to these tips, any exercise that puts a lot of stress on the bent elbow can cause problems. Some notorious triceps exercises include skull crushers or dumbbell triceps lifts, where you bend the arm behind the head and then straighten it as you flex your triceps.

Below are several exercise alternatives for triceps using cable attachments; these put less strain on the elbow joint while still allowing you to work out your triceps muscles.

Triceps Push-Downs Using a Cable Machine and Straight Bar Attachment

This first exercise is a basic triceps push-down, which is great for exercising the long head of the triceps muscle group (the long head is the major section of the triceps located behind the arm):

  1. Find a straight-bar cable attachment if you can (which rotates in your hands so it’s easier on your grip).
  2. Attach it to a cable machine, raising the attachment clip above your head first if it’s not already there.
  3. Next, simply follow the steps illustrated in the video below for proper form and movement (by LIVESTRONG.COM). Note that while she keeps her feet together in the video, if you are pushing down a lot of weight, you might need to use an alternative position where you step back with one foot and slightly bent your torso forward in order to brace yourself (but still keep your back straight).

Triceps Push-Downs Using a Cable Machine and V-Bar Attachment

If your gym does not have a straight bar attachment or if someone is busy using it, the V-bar attachment also works well. The movement is slightly different in that it does not allow you to “squeeze” and lock your elbows on the downward movement, but that is actually a good thing when you want to avoid elbow stress. Simply follow the steps and proper form illustrated in this video (by Scott Herman Fitness):

Triceps Push-Downs Using a Rope Attachment for Lateral Head Development

Using a rope attachment is not only elbow-friendly, but it focuses more attention on the lateral head of the triceps, which is the muscle you see on the side of your upper arm when flexing your triceps. Developing this can help make your arms look more defined. Here is a video to show how the movement is done (by Scott Herman Fitness):

Cable Machine or Dumbbell Kick-Backs for Triceps

Kick-backs are a great exercise for triceps because it puts virtually no strain on the elbow while it is in the bent position (just be sure not to squeeze too hard at the end and lock the elbow joint). The exercise can be done with both dumbbells and a cable machine, and there are videos below illustrating both.

  • If you do the exercise with a cable machine, be sure to lower the cable attachment to about waist-height, and then perform the exercise by gripping the “ball” that sits above the cable attachment clip. As usual, the cable machine can be more elbow-friendly.
  • If you use dumbbells, be sure to start at a lighter weight so that you are now “swinging” the weight upward and putting more weight on your elbow than it can handle. The first video illustrates how to do the movement with dumbbells (by: Scott Herman Fitness) and the second with a cable machine (by: Rob Riches):

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.


DreamerMeg from Northern Ireland on October 22, 2016:

Useful set of videos for showing triceps work. It's always good to see the correct technique for these.