There’s a specific reason why your elbow hurts or feels “funny” when you bench press.

The tweaky kind of pain may occur the most as you remove the bar from the rack, then lessen a bit as you lower, then return more as you press up.

Elbow pain is caused by the grip.

If you have golfer’s elbow, chances are it hurts to grip things regardless of hand position (e.g., underhand, overhand).

Golfer’s elbow is an inflammation of the tendon that’s located at the inner portion of the elbow (medial to the body).

As a result, perhaps you’ve backed off on grip-and-pull exercises like lat pull-downs, rows and deadlifts. However, does your golfer’s pain kick up when you bench press?

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Perhaps the distinct discomfort is most pronounced when you lift off the bar, but subsides during the actual bench pressing. Or maybe it persists throughout the entire set.

Bench pressing itself won’t cause golfer’s elbow (however, it can cause tennis elbow: inflammation of the lateral epicondyle tendon, whereas golfer’s affects the medial or inner epicondyle tendon).

However, the bench press can stimulate the medial epicondyle tendon.

“Pain that is transmitted to the elbow during a bench press usually means that one is putting too much pressure on this joint as the force is transmitted down from the wrist to the arms and then shoulder,” says Dr. Moshe Lewis, MD, who is board certified in physical medicine and rehabilitation, and has been the chief of PM&R at California Pacific Medical Center.

“Since the common flexor tendon attaches this muscle (the flexor muscle) to the interior of the elbow joint or medially, if it is already inflamed then a forceful grip during a bench press is likely to increase pain.

“One can decrease the grip — keeping the palm open and the bar balanced — and/or lower the amount of weight being pressed to help minimize further damage.”

Dr. Lewis is the founder and CEO of Golden Gate Institute for Physical Medicine in CA, which provides education and clinical management of pain.
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. 

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Top image: Shutterstock/Syda Productions