Form Check: Worried Swings are Causing/Exacerbating Tennis Elbow

Tom0Blom0

Double-Digit Post Count
Hi all, I've posted on here once before for a form check and it was very helpful. I have recently been trying to graduate to single arm swings with a 24kg bell. I felt like my two-arm swings were going well for a while. In the last week or two I have noticed tennis elbow starting to flare up. I've had issues with it in the past as well as general ulnar nerve issues (often linked to guitar playing) but I'm also concerned by form with swings is not great and could be making things worse/actually causing the issue.

A little background: I'm 33, 220 (trying to cut weight with dieting, but just got back on the wagon), 5'11. Not an athlete but I have had history of working out, primarily things like p90x or lifting on my own (nothing major and limited structure/guidance). I've been doing S&S since September starting around 3-4 days a week but for the last several months I've been doing 5 days per week working my way from a 12kg (mostly to learn the form) to a 24kg bell. I have a 32kg bell but I'd kill myself if I used it for anything other than deadlifts. I was getting faster up until I started noticing the elbow issues and I think i ultimately was pushing to build speed instead of listening to my body and pacing myself appropriately.

Anyway - any feedback on my form would be greatly appreciated. I've been trying to find a coach in the area to help with my form but i've been unsuccessful. Sorry if the camera angle isn't sufficient. I can take it from farther away if need be. I'd heard side shots were more helpful for swings. Forgive the lack of editing. I'm not a pro with that yet...

Deadlifts:

Two-arm swings:

Right-arm singles:

Left-arm singles:

Also - I wonder if anyone has any thoughts on how I should proceed with S&S while my elbow is healing. I have been doing tyler twists for a couple of days now to help out; Should I stop swings altogether? Stop S&S for a bit (i took a week off from TGU and focused on two-arm swings and deadlifts but I don't want to lose progress)?

I'm a big fan of sticking with S&S and getting to the point that I can meet the Simple criteria w/ a 32kg before starting to deviate from the program but now I'm psyching myself out thinking I'm going to hurt myself without some guidance. Thanks in advance!
 

Oscar

Quadruple-Digit Post Count
Disclaimer: I'm not an instructor.

The swings look decent to me in general. Only two things I would work on: it appears to me you are starting the upswing a bit too early. This is causing the bell to flip and might put some stress on the wrists and forearm muscles, as the wrist is bending and your forearm muscles work to prevent this. This is because it appears you are pushing your arm with your hips, which you shouldn't. I notice this mostly with the left hand.

The second thing, also related to the first: a deeper hinge would help, if your mobility allows.

Towel swings can help you get the timing right.

I wouldn't drop S&S altogether. Just go back to 2HS, work on your technique and return slowly to 1 HS with better timing.

Just my opinion.

@Steve W. Gives great advice on these matters as well as @Anna C
 

Papa Georgio

More than 300 posts
I've had both tennis elbow and golfers elbow. (Not at the same time). I know how I got both (golfing elbow from curls, that's right! I said it) ( tennis elbow from barbell pressing). The most recent was the tennis elbow. S&S gives me no problems whatsoever with my elbows, in fact it has let my elbows recover. I'm not an expert or a doctor but I can't fathom what's aggravating your elbows unless you keep them partially bent during your swings.

In the end you have to layoff any activity that aggravates them to get them to heal. See a doctor and make sure it's diagnosed correctly.

Good luck!
 

Tobias Wissmueller

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What you describe, the elbow-pain and when it occurred, sounds a lot like what happened to me not so long ago.

A few things that helped getting rid of the elbow pain and generally tensed muscles in the forearm:
  1. Going lighter with the one-hand swing or doing a two-hand swing
  2. Loosen up the grip while swinging, not over-gripping it
  3. Since I am cycling a lot, I had to change my handlebar for a more comfortable position.
  4. I type a lot, changing my desk setup also helped
  5. MOST IMPORTANT: Stretching my forearms and wrists on a daily basis. Usually I do this before bed.
  6. Check for upstream tension. There is a trigger point sideways below the neck. Releasing it also helped a lot.
  7. Work-life balance. Being under pressure / stress constantly makes one tense all up, this might reveal in different places, e.g. shrugged shoulders, tensed neck, see previous point.
Hope this helps.
 

Anna C

More than 5000 posts
Elite Certified Instructor
Hmm.... you're doing an interesting thing there... not often seen.

First off, all of those are quite good; both the deadlifts and the swings. Deadlifts are solid -- don't waste your time with more of that, unless you have something heavier to deadlift. That said, two very small improvements you COULD make to that particular dealift are, 1) grab the handle like you're going to break it in half, as shown in this video with Senior SFG Yoana Teran, and 2) make a bigger chest. This will pack your shoulders better and give you some slight thoracic extension; i.e. lift in the upper back.

On the swings -- here's the interesting thing you're doing -- you are arresting the ascent of the bell at the top -- basically, a shadow swing. And you're even doing it with one hand... neat skill :) Seriously!

Shadow swing are cool, and nothing wrong with that. But given your elbow issues, and possibly there's some extra strain there, because you have to grip the bell extra tight at the top to do that and not have it flip up, let's try to eliminate that from the swing and see if it helps.

So try this -- a very loose grip of the bell at the top of the swing, with the handle hooked in your fingers. Project power forward as much as possible so the bell is pulling out, not trying to go up. and let it float as high as it wants to. Feel the float, and let your arm go with it. Not lifting with your arm, but letting it rise to where the bell goes. It's a rope, and basically relaxed at the top, although your shoulder is tight and packed. As the bell falls, you'll re-tighten your grip on the handle.
 

North Coast Miller

More than 2500 posts
For me, higher tension static grip work aggravates tennis elbow.

The easiest way to maybe help this would be switch to two handed swings and or learn to relax the grip slightly at the top of the swing so it has a bit of on/off rhythm as you go - pretty much as Anna C has described.
 

Steve W.

Quadruple-Digit Post Count
@Tom0Blom0
Lots of good observations and suggestions. The main things I notice:
On the DL it looks like you have some lower back rounding. Stretch your hamstrings (I like the bootstrapper hamstring stretch -- described below). Practice your hinge position with a stick, such as a broomstick or length of PVC pipe. Hold the stick behind your back along the spine so that it touches your tailbone, upper back and the back of your head. Practice your hinge while maintaining contact at those three points. If you round your lower back, it will push the stick away from your tailbone.

I also see some rounding in your swing setup, but less in the swings themselves. That's because your hinge is shallower on the actual swings (you don't get your hips back as far). I'd prefer to see a little deeper hinge, but staying within a range where you can maintain a flat back is a sensible tradeoff, even if it not necessarily a conscious decision.

On the two-hand swings, I see you fighting the bell a little. This is what @Oscar referred to when he mentioned pushing your arm with your hips. You want your arms and hips to stay connected into and out of the hinge, but you want them to work together smoothly. You don't want your arms banging against your hips on the down swing and bumping off your hips on the upswing. Partly this is due to not hinging deeply enough and ending your hinge a little early, while the arms are still moving back, hence they collide instead of moving together.

One arm swings look good, although the hinge is a little shallow.

On the elbow issues, there are a lot of possible contributing factors, including many unrelated to KBs (but which set up inflammation that is aggravated by KBs). One to pay attention to is gripping tightly with an unlocked elbow. This goes for swings and get ups. It's easy to fall into having your arm ALMOST straight, but not fully locked out, but it's a small difference that can make a big difference. On the get ups, restrictions in your shoulder mobility and thoracic spine extension can make it harder to maintain a locked out elbow, so that's something to assess as well. Next time you do get ups, pause throughout and pay attention to your elbow position. Are you fully locked out, or only almost locked out? If you pause and consciously try to fully lockout your elbow, can you feel a little difference?

Bootstrapper hamstring stretch:
With your feet together, squat down fully, rolling onto the balls of your feet with your chest against your thighs (cannonball position). Make fists and press your knuckles into the ground outside your heels. Alternatively, you can squat down as if your were going to do a frog stand, with your knees apart, and put your knuckles against the floor inside your heels. Keeping your knuckles pressed into the floor, staighten your legs as far as you can and push against the tensions for 30 seconds or more (if you can easily fully straighten your legs, you don't need this stretch). Then bend your legs again to release the tension and stand up normally. You can do this for multiple reps. Test your toe touch before and after. I've seen people go from barely being able to touch below their knees to being able to touch the ground in one session using this stretch.

Hope this helps.
 

Tom0Blom0

Double-Digit Post Count
Thanks all for the helpful suggestions. I'll try to get my hinge a little deeper and work on loosening my grip a bit at the stop of the swing. I'll definitely try not to fight the bell so much. I think this is where I'm messing up the most when I try to rush. Thanks again for your feedback!
 

Todd h

First Timer
Could the tennis elbow be caused by something other than S & S. Some other activity? For example years ago I had serious tennis elbow I couldn’t even hold a light weight in my hand then discovered that using a gas trimmer was the culprit, the vibration caused the injury, switched to an electric one and I have not had the problem again. Just a thought. Best of luck.
 

Anna C

More than 5000 posts
Elite Certified Instructor
I think this is where I'm messing up the most when I try to rush.
Yes, you'll notice a difference in your swing cadence when you let the bell float... Each swing and therefore the set will take longer, but that's OK. As long as you're explosive on the upswing (i.e. not sluggish or lifting it with your arms), and staying tight (i.e. not letting the shoulder be unpacked and disconnected from your torso, or shoulders not square), the time the swing takes doesn't matter.
 
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Tom0Blom0

Double-Digit Post Count
Could the tennis elbow be caused by something other than S & S. Some other activity? For example years ago I had serious tennis elbow I couldn’t even hold a light weight in my hand then discovered that using a gas trimmer was the culprit, the vibration caused the injury, switched to an electric one and I have not had the problem again. Just a thought. Best of luck.
I play guitar, as you can see in the video. I can definitely feel it flare up when playing, so that could totally be the source of the issue. I have had issues in the past, especially when I play more or when I play with crappy positioning, which happens sometimes.

A few folks have mentioned stress and how I carry my shoulders which I think could also be a contributing factor. I feel tension on my left side near my neck and shoulder blade that seems to be connected to my elbow issues. Suppose I need to work on my general posture to fix that (?). upstream tension as Tobias noted is definitely a factor.
 

Tom0Blom0

Double-Digit Post Count
@Tom0Blom0
I'm more interested in the guitar hanging on the wall. It looks a bit like a Warwick Corvette....
haha, it's actually a Warmoth Jazz bass. I am putting a new pickguard on it, which is why it's naked. it was my first time building a 'fancy' parts instrument. If you're so inclined I'd recommend it.
 

Anna C

More than 5000 posts
Elite Certified Instructor
A few folks have mentioned stress and how I carry my shoulders which I think could also be a contributing factor. I feel tension on my left side near my neck and shoulder blade that seems to be connected to my elbow issues. Suppose I need to work on my general posture to fix that (?). upstream tension as Tobias noted is definitely a factor.
The two things that have helped me the most with that are 1) breathing practice -- breathing with the diaphragm instead of the chest, and 2) bench pressing. I really think a year and a half of bench press training (emphasizing tight upper back, back arch, and shoulders under chest) has reset my upper body posture more than anything else.

One easy thing to start doing is spend some time laying on your back with something under your upper back like a blanket or foam roll or football or something -- either lengthwise or widthwise -- so that your chest opens up and relaxes with your upper back in extension rather than the flexion we spend so much time in.
 

Tjerr

Double-Digit Post Count
Certified Instructor
I haven´t read all the above post, but I saw something else in all your swings.

It´s not a good view, but the angle of the bell at the bottom of the swings looks odd. It looks like your wrists are (slightly) flexed and the bell angles up towards your butt. Having seen this more often, usually people correct this by extending the wrists to initiate the next swing. That would seriously aggrevate your tennis elbow. Again, it´s not a good view because of it being behind your legs, but I took it from the angle of the bell.

There is no wrist in kettlebell training
 

dc

More than 300 posts
Have you tried doing extensor work for the fingers. I remember getting sore in the elbow region when I change from 2h to 1h swings & using bands to work forearm extensors cleaned it up completely.
 
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