elbow pain bench

Elbow pain with bench press

Elbow pain during bench press is a frequent complaint among gym enthusiasts, ranging from professional athletes to casual lifters. Often linked to overuse injuries, this discomfort can significantly impact your training and overall upper-body strength development. In this article, we explore the common causes of elbow pain associated with bench pressing, effective exercise modifications, and strategies to prevent and manage pain for optimal performance.

Understanding Elbow Pain During Bench Press

Elbow pain during bench press exercises, often referred to as « tennis elbow » or « golfer’s elbow, » arises from the strain and overuse of the muscles and tendons around the elbow joint. The triceps muscle, which plays a crucial role in extending the arm during the bench press, can become overwhelmed by excessive training volume or improper technique, leading to discomfort and inflammation of the triceps tendon.

Common Causes of Elbow Pain

  1. Overuse Injuries : Repeated motion and high-intensity training without adequate rest can lead to overuse injuries. The triceps tendon, heavily utilized in bench pressing, is particularly susceptible.
  2. Improper Technique : Incorrect grip strength or alignment during the exercise can place undue stress on the elbow’s tendons and muscles.
  3. Insufficient Warm-Up : Not engaging in a proper warm-up routine can leave the triceps and associated tendons unprepared for the stress of lifting, increasing injury risk.
Powerlifting belt

Addressing the Pain: Exercise Modifications and Techniques

To manage and prevent elbow pain during bench press, consider implementing the following exercise modifications and techniques:

Modify Your Training Volume

Adjust your training volume to ensure that you do not overload the muscles and tendons. This might mean decreasing the frequency of bench presses per week or alternating with other exercises that put less stress on the elbow.

Exercise Modifications

  1. Dumbbell Bench Press : Switching from a barbell to dumbbells can reduce strain as dumbbells allow for a more natural range of motion and individual muscle engagement.
  2. Adjust Grip and Range of Motion : Experiment with widening your grip on the bar, which can decrease the load on the triceps muscle and its tendon. Limiting your range of motion can also help; consider incorporating board presses or pin presses to reduce the stretch on the triceps at the bottom of the lift.

Focus on Technique

Ensuring proper technique is crucial :

  • Maintain Grip Strength : Ensure your grip is neither too tight nor too loose and that your wrists are in a neutral position.
  • Keep an Even Range of Motion : Consistency in your lifting and lowering phases can prevent undue stress on one side of the body.
  • Monitor Elbow Flare : Keep your elbows at a consistent angle relative to your torso throughout the lift to avoid unnecessary strain.
Weightlifting levers belt

Physical Therapy and Recovery

Incorporating physical therapy exercises can strengthen the surrounding muscles and improve flexibility, thus reducing the load on the elbow during bench press :

  • Triceps Stretching and Strengthening : Exercises that specifically target the triceps and its tendon can help manage tenderness and improve tendon health.
  • Recovery Strategies : Allow at least 24 hours of rest between intense sessions targeting the same muscle groups to give the muscles and tendons time to recover.


Experiencing elbow pain during bench press sessions can be a major setback. However, by understanding the underlying causes such as triceps tendon overload and implementing strategic exercise modifications, you can continue to train effectively while minimizing discomfort. Always consider consulting with a healthcare provider or a physical therapist to tailor a recovery and exercise plan suited to your specific needs, ensuring you can return to bench pressing with strength and confidence.