If golfer’s elbow interferes with your bench press, here’s a way to help get around this problem.
If your golfer’s elbow is bad enough, bench pressing will aggravate it.
I’m a former personal trainer who had golfer’s elbow, and it had started hurting with my bench press.
However, you may be thinking, How can that be, since golfer’s elbow affects pulling motions and not pressing motions?
The lift-off of the barbell in a bench press involves a grip. Next, efficiently pressing and lowering a heavy bar requires a sturdy grip.
Here is where golfer’s elbow comes in, because the inflamed tendon (medial epicondyle) controls the gripping action of the hand.
“The muscles which originate from the medial epicondyle common flexor tendon control wrist flexion (bringing the palm of the hand toward the forearm), finger flexion (curling fingers) and wrist pronation (turning the palm of the hand down),” explains D’Wan Carpenter, DO, a board certified physical medicine and rehabilitation physician with SIMEDHealth in FLA.
“The best bench press is going to be achieved after completing a rehabilitation program for golfer’s elbow (medial epicondylitis),” continues Dr. Carpenter.
“If that is not an option, one can bench press with a neutral wrist (i.e., not bent back or forward on the bar).
“Altering the finger grip while still maintaining control and stability of the bar may also alleviate some pain — given the muscle which helps to bend the fingers around the bar also originate from the flexor tendon on the inside of the elbow.”
To avoid aggravating the tendon when doing the lift-off, loosen or even eliminate the grip of only the index finger and see if that makes a noticeable difference. Without the index finger you can still maintain a stable grip.
As for handling the barbell after that point, here are options.
#1. Keep the index finger splinted if you’re unable to keep it from grasping the bar.
If the index finger is dropped from the equation, and the remaining fingers take over the grip, this may be enough to prevent pain.
The index finger must be splinted to prevent you from accidentally including it in a grip — unless you’re pretty disciplined about that.
You’ll need to play around with positioning your four-finger hold to find the “groove” where there is no forearm pain.
#2. If the four-fingered grip isn’t sufficient at calming golfer’s elbow during a bench press, then slightly loosen the grip of the middle and fourth fingers, but keep the thumb still tightly wrapped around the bar.
Nevertheless, there may still be inner forearm discomfort.
Whichever method you use to keep golfer’s elbow from interfering with a bench press, use a spotter for heavier lifts until you get confident with these adjustments.
Dr. Carpenter is one of the nation’s top board-certified physical medicine and rehabilitation physicians, a national speaker, medical legal expert and independent medical examiner. She is founder and Chief Medical Officer of DJC Physical Medicine Consultants. Follow Dr. D’Wan on Twitter.
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.