Tennis elbow, or lateral epicondilytis, is characterized by painful inflammation of tendons in the elbow. Any repetitive motion can cause development of tennis elbow, from tennis to typing. While it is often best to completely rest your arm, visiting the gym may still be okay, as long as you avoid exercises that could potentially make the condition worse.
Rest the Arm For the First Week
If you have recently developed tennis elbow, your best option is to rest and ice the arm. Do not visit the gym during at least the first week after developing the tendinitis. Consult a physical trainer at your gym to ensure that an improper weight-lifting technique is not responsible for your injury. Even after you return to the gym, ensure that you ice and take over the counter anti-inflammatory drugs to keep the inflammation down.
Avoid Dumbell Exercises
Dumbell exercises provide you with a greater range of motion. While this is often a positive, if you have tennis elbow it can be a serious problem. Increased range of motion increases the chance of further injuring the tendons in your elbow. Use barbells and machines whenever possible. These devices reduce range of motion, making further injury of the tendon less likely.
Avoid Heavy Weights
Do not lift very heavy weights. Instead, focus on more repetitions at a lower weight. Lifting weights at the top of your threshold often leads to improper form. When exercising with tennis elbow, never sacrifice form to increase weight. If you can't lift the weight at least six times, it's probably too heavy.
Avoid Working Only Major Muscle Groups
Spend time working your supporting muscles, instead of only working major muscle groups. Working only big muscle groups neglects key small muscle groups like the rotator cuff and scapular muscles. Neglecting these muscle groups can cause excess strain on the forearm extensors and elbow tendons, which then must compensate for the lack of strength in supporting muscle groups.