Military Press and Elbow Tendons

Military presses work your shoulders, triceps, shoulders and core muscles. You perform them by standing with your feet together and a barbell held at shoulder height. Forcefully press the bar straight up over your head until your arms are straight, then lower it back down under control. While the military press can be a highly effective upper body strength builder, performing it with poor technique, or when suffering from a pre-existing injury, can be detrimental to your elbow tendons.

Elbow Tendons

Tendons attach muscles to bones. They're made of tough connective tissue and aid with joint movement. There are two main tendons around your elbows -- the medial epicondyle on the inside of your elbow and the lateral epiocondyle on the outside. Under normal circumstances, these tendons work in conjunction with the triceps, biceps and forearm muscles to provide movement around the elbow.


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While tendons can fracture or snap, the most common issue you may suffer is tendinitis. Tendinitis is an irritation or inflammation of the tendon, according to, and is often caused by overuse. Tendinitis of the medial epicondyle is often referred to as golfer's elbow, while the lateral epicondyle is tennis elbow. Military presses can bring about either of these conditions, if you perform them too often or use poor technique.


By far the most effective way to prevent tendinitis and strengthen your elbow tendons is to ensure your military pressing technique is perfect. Keep your elbows tucked in throughout the whole movement and use a shoulder-width grip. A wide grip with flared elbows will place more stress on the structures around your elbow. Avoid using jerky movements and use a weight that challenges you, but allows you to complete all your reps with good form.


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Balancing your training program is another key element to avoiding tendon issues, according to coach Charles Poliquin of the Poliquin Performance Institute in Rhode Island. For every set of military presses you do, perform a set for the opposing muscle groups -- your lats and biceps. Alternate sets of military presses with sets of pullups, lat pulldowns or dumbbell or cable rows. If you feel the onset of tendinitis, stretch the muscles around your elbows frequently, drop military presses from your routine temporarily and visit a sports therapist or physio for treatment to prevent the onset of full elbow tendinitis.