Pull-ups are one of the safest exercises for your back, but elbow pain is one of the most common issues people deal with. The most notable injury is tendonitis of the biceps tendon near the elbow. This is due to the tremendous amount of tension created by the biceps during pull-up motions.
While this does make the pull up one of the best bicep exercises you can do, it’s also one of the most stressful on that part of the arm.
Some athletes can find relief from using a different grip but this is a temporary solution and doesn’t address the real problems at hand. The best solution is to take care of the cause of the elbow pain so it doesn’t hold back your progress.
The two reasons for elbow pain with pull ups
Generally, there are two primary causes for developing pain on the inside of the elbow. The first issue is not having enough tension in the back and shoulder muscles to effectively extend the shoulder down and back. This means some of the prime moves like your lats and rear deltoids are not doing their fair share of the work and your biceps get overloaded.
The second issue is not having enough arm torque to pull the elbow inward. It’s kind of like trying to point your elbows more forward than have them point out to the side. It’s a subtle thing but it keeps tension more evenly distributed through your biceps muscle instead of focusing it on the inside head of the muscle.
Combining these two tips should help drive more tension throughout your pull chain and relieve some of the stress on your bicep tendon. Keep in mind that if you’re suffering from pain now you already have some damage and might need to regress to rows or easier pull ups while it heals. You can then try full pull ups once it’s healed.