“First, what position should the elbows be in when doing push ups? I’ve been keeping them close to my body.
Second, I’ve had some chronic medial elbow pain on the left (weak) side for years that I can’t quite seem to get rid of. Strength conditioning certainly helps, but I have to be very careful, and stop at the first hint of pain. I have decent shoulder mobility based on the movement screens you’ve described on your website. Do you have any recommendations for dealing with this kind of problem?”
However, elbow position is a symptom of upper back tension, not a cause of good form.
I like to have my elbows at somewhere around a 45 degree angle from my body. However, elbow position is a symptom of upper back tension, not a cause of good form. If you lats are engaged and you are “cramping the armpits” then the elbows can’t flop in next to the rib cage but they also won’t spread out real wide – they will naturally end up in that 45 degree area.
As far as the elbow pain, the fact that you tend to do your push ups with your elbows in tells me that you don’t really have good engagement of the lats/ upper back when pressing and that will place extra stress on the elbows. If your mobility is good then it may just be a matter of you needing to be more aware of your lats and learning how to press from them when doing push ups and handstand presses – actually any and all pressing should anchored by and powered from the lats.
Hope this helps, back off a bit on the reps and “intensity” of your upper body workouts and focus on getting those lats engaged more with your pressing and then let me know how it goes. You can also check out this video I did on Pressing From the Lats to get some more tips to use in your training.