How many of you can truly say that each and every time you attend the gym, you perform all exercises effectively and efficiently? For those of you that answered ‘yes’, feel free to browse some of the other articles available to you on the FitnessBeans website!
The problem with exercising and gym related activities are that sometimes you can develop bad techniques and form without even knowing. One of the most common examples of this is locking out at the elbows. Although this may seem minor in nature to you, it has the potential to bring about a combination and both short and long term problems and seriously impact on your training regime and goals.
How often do you consider what your arms are doing during an exercise? With so many conscious decisions to make in a short space of time, such as exercise and resistance selection, repetitions and sets required and breathing techniques throughout the movement, the degree to which your arms are bent doesn’t always feature highly in your importance list. The problem is; the ability to lock out your arms is possible in almost every movement. From the chest bench press to the back lateral pull down, there really is no escaping the issue.
Locking out your elbows simply means fully straightening your arm. When it comes to resistance training, this should be avoided at all costs. Although often subconscious, it is often prevalent with individuals that lift too quickly and cannot slow their movement before locking out occurs, or within individuals that are attempting to lift too much and utilise the locking out to take some strain off the target muscle and give them a moments rest. Regardless of the reasons for locking out, it is an unwanted action that can result in injury.
So why should you avoid locking out your elbows? For this question let us use a bench press example. During the top of the bench press you opt to momentarily lock out your elbows whilst lifting 100kg. At this exact moment the entire stress of the exercise is transferred to your elbow joints rather than the target muscles. Not only does this reduce the exercise intensity, as mentioned above, by providing a micro break during exercise, but the joints are placed under immense strain that can easily result in damage.
Furthermore, if you’re undertaking the 100kg bench press for 3 sets of 10 repetitions then your elbow joints are bearing the brunt of a 100kg force through them on 30 separate occasions and in quick succession. With this in mind, it’s easy to comprehend why injuries are caused quickly and exacerbated rapidly.
If you believe that you’re currently suffering from elbow pain as a result of locking out your elbows then a period of rest might be just what the doctor ordered. Although no one likes to be told they cannot exercise, the alternative of chronic elbow pain in the long term often makes the idea of a few days or weeks rest more favourable. Icing the elbow can also act as an effective short term pain relief mechanism. If your symptoms don’t subside with a period of complete rest then a visit to your doctor might be in order, although this is often only required in extreme circumstances.
So there you have it, another consideration factor to add to the mix when considering proper form. If you’re struggling then exercising in front of a mirror or asking a professional to monitor your form can quickly highlight and eradicate this issue. Often, simply being aware of locking out your elbows is enough to bring about a stop to it.
Although considering your elbows whilst at the gym doesn’t seem like the most exhilarating thing to have on your mind during exercise, without it you might find that your regime is brought to an abrupt end with a tedious recovery period, so don’t overlook locking out!