There’s actually a way to do the shoulder shrug exercise against heavy resistance if you can’t grip due to golfer’s elbow. 

Golfer’s elbow has the potential to make gripping hurt, since the medial epicondyle tendon in the elbow is engaged when you grip something, particularly when the index finger is involved. I’m a personal trainer and I have left golfer’s elbow.

To do shoulder shrugs with golfer’s elbow, you first need a dual cable cross machine.

The cable arms must be adjustable width-wise in addition to height-wise. Set the arms as low as they can go, and set the width so that it’s about the same as when you do regular shoulder shrugs.

How to Grip

Instead you’ll be slipping your entire hand through them so that the strap portion of the loop tugs against the underside of your wrist.

The plastic portion of the loop does not make contact with your wrist; it’s off to the side of the loop.

If the strap is against bare skin, this will be quite painful, so you’ll need to wear a barricade between your skin and the strap: a full-length Ace bandage wrapped firmly around your wrist.

Place it so that half of it is on either side of the crease in your wrist. Make sure the bandage is securely fastened so that it doesn’t unravel.

Even if you have golfer’s elbow in one arm, you will need to fashion your other hand with a bandage, to make the shoulder shrug equal on both sides of your body:

Both hands will be through the loops with the straps tugging against the undersides of the wrists.

Stand smack between the machine’s arms, lower yourself and position hands as already described, then stand straight, and you’re ready to do shoulder shrugs even though you have golfer’s elbow.

If you normally shoulder shrug with an overhand grip, you’ll probably need to use a neutral or underhand palm position, because golfer’s elbow may incite pain if you tug against resistance using a pronated (overhand) position.

Make sure that the hand on the side of the golfer’s elbow is open wide, as though you’re trying to make a hand print.

This deliberate hand print position will ensure that no inclination towards gripping (curling in the fingers) occurs.

You must avoid any inclination towards a gripping position!

To help with this, splint your index finger with a tongue depressor cut to size and taped.

This will make it impossible to curl in that finger. The minute that finger curls in against any kind of resistance, the medial epicondyle is activated. The thumb is also barred from gripping.

Simply perform the shoulder shrugs with these restrictions, and you’ll need to experiment with amount of resistance.

The strap will also be uncomfortable on the underside of the palms, but you’ll get used to it.

Lorra Garrick is a former personal trainer certified through the American Council on Exercise. At Bally Total Fitness she trained women and men of all ages for fat loss, muscle building, fitness and improved health.