Use dumbbells to strengthen your elbows.
George Doyle/Stockbyte/Getty Images
The main benefits of weight training include building muscle mass, which increases your metabolic rate, and burning calories, but one often-overlooked aspect is the increase in joint strength that lifting weights provides. If you've suffered from an elbow injury or are looking to build strength in your elbow joints, dumbbell training is the way forward. Check with your health care provider or physiotherapist before starting a joint-strengthening program.
Your forearm muscles are responsible for gripping objects and play a role in elbow flexion movements, such as when you flex your biceps. They work in conjunction with your elbow joints. Dumbbell exercises such as biceps curls and heavy dumbbell holds will strengthen your elbows, but to target them more specifically, perform wrist curls. Hold a light dumbbell in your hand and rest with your arm on a table, with your hand over the edge and palm facing the floor. Bend your wrist up to lift the weight, pause briefly, then lower it again slowly. Performing the exercise this way is an effective exercise for the management of tennis elbow, but by turning your palm to face it, it becomes a golfer's elbow exercise. Perform three sets of 15 to 20 repetitions on whatever variation fits your elbow issues.
The triceps are the muscles on the back of your arms that run from your elbow up to your shoulder. They are responsible for elbow extension and work in both compound moves, such as dumbbell bench presses or floor presses, and in triceps isolation movements like skullcrushers and overhead extensions. Perform both compound and isolation movements to strengthen your elbows. Use light dumbbells in the 15- to 20-repetition-per-set range on your isolations and slightly heavier weights for sets of eight to 12 on your compound moves.
The biceps are the opposite muscles to your triceps -- when the biceps contract, your triceps relax and vice versa. Common dumbbell biceps exercises that strengthen the elbows include standing curls and preacher curls on a bench. You may actually be better off ditching curls from your routine though, advises strength coach Stephen Bergeron. Isolation biceps moves can place stress on the elbow joints, so stick to dumbbell rows instead. These still work your elbows, but also train your back muscles, so the weight is distributed across more muscles and joints.
The key to strengthening your elbows when lifting dumbbells is to use perfect form. Don't allow your elbows to flare out on any of your exercises and keep strict form while gradually progressing the weights you're lifting or adding extra reps. Multijoint movements should take precedence in your weight-training program, according to the American College of Sports Medicine, but this doesn't mean isolation dumbbell moves don't have a place. If you're using dumbbells to strengthen your elbows following an injury, work in close contact with your therapist to ensure you're not trying to do too much too soon. Always use light dumbbells the first time you perform an exercise so you're completely comfortable with the form before trying to add weight.