Tennis elbow, or lateral epicondylitis, is characterized by a painful inflammation of the tendons in the elbow. Working out at the gym is still possible, even with a severe case, as long as you tailor your activities to avoid further aggravating your injury.
Continue Your Cardio
In virtually all cases, it is safe to continue your cardiovascular regimen at the gym. Running, cycling or similar sports that do not involve the upper body are safe to continue. Avoid racket sports and ultimate frisbee if you use these as a regular cardio workout, as both can put excess strain on the tendons of the elbow. The treadmill and elliptical machines are great options that will not stress your elbow.
Use Barbells and Machines
Barbells and machines are better at reducing excess movement than dumbbells. Dumbbells require more supporting muscles and stabilization, which can put undo strain on the tendons in the elbow. Try to replace dumbbell exercises with their barbell and exercise machine counterparts. These will reduce the chance of further serious injury to the elbow.
Reduce Weight and Increase Reps
Lifting large amounts of weight near your maximum can sacrifice form. Keeping perfect form is crucial for not aggravating tennis elbow. Instead of lifting large weights with few reps, lift smaller weights and increase your reps. Not only will this improve muscle endurance, it will also reduce the chance of further elbow injury.
Ice and Anti-Inflammatories
Always ice the site of the injury after working out. This will reduce inflammation and pain in your elbow, promoting healing. In addition, consider taking anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen in small doses before and after working out, to keep irritation of the already inflamed tendon to a minimum.