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Do your Elbows Hurt when Training Triceps?

blog Oct 14, 2023

Do Your Elbows Hurt when You’re Training Triceps?

Elbow pain during tricep exercises can be a common issue, but it doesn't have to hinder your progress. By making some simple swaps in your tricep workout routine, you can protect your joints and achieve more efficient training. Here are some tips and alternative exercises to try:

Ditch the Single Dumbbell Overhead Tricep Extension

Single dumbbell overhead tricep extensions can put undue stress on your elbows, especially if the movement doesn't align well with your body structure. Instead, try these alternatives:

  • Single Arm Overhead Dumbbell Extension: Use one dumbbell at a time, and consider using a bench for support. This allows for a more natural movement that suits your body.
  • Single Arm Overhead Cable Extension: Utilize a cable machine with the cable behind your head or set at shoulder height. This variation maintains better alignment and reduces strain on the elbows.
  • Overhead Cable Dual Tricep Extension: With both arms, perform tricep extensions using the cable machine. This ensures balanced engagement of both triceps.

Swap Fixed Bar Skull Crushers

The traditional skull crusher exercise with a fixed bar, like a barbell or EZ bar, can force your elbows into unnatural positions. Opt for these alternatives instead:

  • Dumbbell Skull Crushers: Use two single dumbbells to give your elbows more freedom of movement and alignment.
  • Incline or Decline Skull Crushers: Vary the angle of the bench to stress different areas of the triceps. Try incline or decline dumbbell skull crushers for added variety.

Embrace Tricep Cable Movements

Cable machine exercises offer versatility and are great for protecting your elbows. Try incorporating the following tricep cable movements:

  • Single Arm Cable Push Down: Perform this exercise either crossbody or over your shoulder to target the triceps effectively.
  • Cross Body Dual Arm Cable Push Downs: Engage both arms simultaneously, crossing them in front of your body during the movement.
  • Kneeling or Standing Rope Push Downs: Utilize a rope attachment for added variation and improved elbow alignment.
  • Long Handle or Dual Rope Tricep Pushdowns: Opt for long handles or two ropes instead of one to allow more natural elbow movement.


Elbow pain during tricep exercises can be alleviated by choosing the right movements and alternatives that align with your body structure. Swap out exercises that cause discomfort and opt for single dumbbells and cable machines to provide more freedom and joint protection. By being smart about your training and focusing on proper form, you can achieve optimal tricep development without the pain. Remember to listen to your body and select exercises that feel right for you, ensuring a safer and more enjoyable tricep workout routine.

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