swimming-elbow-tennis When looking for that perfect exercise and overall great workout, the exercise needs to build power, improve flexibility, increase cardio and at the same time protect your joints.

Well if you like to swim, you’ve found the perfect overall full body workout and exercise!

Yes swimming is the perfect exercise but…not all swimming strokes are tennis elbow friendly!

There Are 3 Specific Swimming Strokes and Styles To Avoid, If You Want to Fully Recover From Tennis Elbow


There are many swimming strokes to choose from. Some strokes are targeted for beginners and some for more advanced swimmers. Some people swim recreationally and others competitively.

I am no expert in swimming(…to be honest, I swim like a rock…)  but because of the nature of the bent arm movements with these strokes, you be best advised to avoid the swimming strokes below if you are to ever recover fully from tennis elbow or want to avoid it in the near future.

So here’s a list of swimming strokes that are bad for tennis elbow pain:

1) Freestyle Swimming Stroke Causes Tennis Elbow Pain

This type of swim stroke is sometimes referred to as the front crawl or side stroke. This stroke is used mostly in competitive swimming but is also frequently used at your local swimming pool lanes for laps.

This technique aka the front crawl is the fastest stroke and doesn’t require a lot of power but does require endurance.

The problem of this stroke as it applies to tennis elbow is in the arm over arm technique which uses a bent elbow and wrist as it comes out of the water, where the elbow is supported by water, and then crashes back into the water with a lot of speed, force and elbow rotation.

Overtime, people using this swimming technique will suffer from some degree of tennis elbow pain and this stroke should be avoided if you currently suffer from tennis elbow.

2) Back Stroke Is Bad for Tennis Elbow

The backstroke swimming technique is mainly used by competitive swimmers and not seen so much at your local pool. This swimming style involves alternating your arm over-the-head arm technique with a windmill type of motion.

There are 2 types of arm actions that are can be deployed by the swimmer:

a) The bent arm pull which creates serious strain, force and rotation of the elbow but is also the most efficient,

b) There is the straight arm pull – which is the easiest to learn.

The bent arm is worse for tennis elbow but I would avoid both of these arm movements and the backstroke all together is you want to stay away from tennis elbow or ever fully recover from it.

3) Butterfly Swimming Stroke Is the Worst Swim Style for Tennis Elbow

The third and final swimming stroke to avoid when it comes to tennis elbow is the butterfly. This is by far the most exhausting and challenging swim stroke. This stroke invokes a windmill like motion of both arms in unison.

The whipping of both the legs and stroke with both arms simultaneously again puts tremendous force on the elbow and arm as it comes flying out of the water and then crashed with extreme force into the water at lightning speed.

Overtime, the repetitive nature of this swimming stroke combined with the severe water impact and slapping of your hands will invoke and cause tennis elbow.

I can’t stress enough that the problem with these three swimming strokes is that they produce severe elbow and wrist rotation which puts a large amount of pressure on the elbow joint as the arm comes out of the water and then re-enters the water very fast.

Even if you only have a small tear in tendon that attaches your forearm to your elbow joint, if you keep performing these swimming strokes, the tear will get worse until it totally detaches itself away from the bone and…you don’t want that!

If you do suffer from elbow pain, on the outside of your elbow, even if it just comes and goes – there is a good chance you have tennis elbow.  If you choose to ignore this pain in hopes that it will magically disappear, it won’t.

It WILL get worse! At the first sign of elbow pain, you MUST address it…taking action early on when you first notice pain WILL result in a faster and speedier recovery.

And there’s no better way to completely eliminate your elbow pain for good…All from the comfort and convenience of your own home using step-by-step, instructional pics, and videos!

swimming strokes tennis elbow


30 Responses to Swimming Strokes That Are Bad for Tennis Elbow Pain

  1. John says:

    What is not clear is when to begin moderate exercise. Should you only begin exercise after there is no longer any elbow pain or begin exercise even when there is still some pain??

  2. Jane says:

    I was diagnosed as having tennis elbow after explaining my symptoms to the doctor – no scans or x/rays were taken. The doctor advised me not to use my arm and stated that it would take several months to get better. Being under 45 years old, I have painstakingly restrained from doing literally anything – of course I have to work and ‘keep house’ but I have limited the use of my arm. A year on, I am still experiencing burning pains from the simplest of tasks and am unable to carry a small bag of shopping. let alone drive a car Whilst I would love to go swimming, I fear that I this would cause more damage even using breast stroke- the circular motion out of the water is painful.

    I have used ice packs and rested alot. Your advice as to a course of action to alleviate this pain and a less senile life would be appreciated.


  3. Donna Yeary says:

    I’ve been swimming all of my life. I swam competitively for many years and also did synchronized swimming. I am now 68 years old and have had to stop swimming all strokes because of my tennis elbow that I have had for 5 years. It got better for awhile and I went back to lifting light weights, but it started hurting again. Now I do a senior exercise class without the dumbbells and a water aerobics class, but I am very careful not to strain my right arm. I hardly use my arm at all in class. Thanks for the exercises you have sent me. I think they are helping.

  4. Randy says:

    I have tried everything to get my tennis elbow under control for 5 months and then found out that I have a partial tear. I have since only done the following with great success . Stretch first and then the hammer exercise followed by ice three times a day. Have done this for two weeks now and finally no pain.

  5. ravi says:

    Swimming exercise is good for “Tennis Elbow”. The secret of doing all the swimming actions slowly outside water will certainly help ease pain and keep you fit. I do lots of aerobic exercises slowly which includes swimming outside water. Try it by lying on your cot (bed) flat and back and do all the actions. Hope you understand now that it is quite safe to swim outside water without getting wet.

  6. dilip kumar majumdar says:

    thank you for the correct information.

  7. Randy says:

    Thanks Geoff that was very helpful

  8. tenniselbowtips says:

    Hi Randy,

    Thanks for the comment.

    Simply suffering from one type of elbow injury increases your chance of developing another. The reason being is that the non-injured muscles and tendons actually “take up the slack” and “compensate” for the injured muscles and tendons. As a result, playing golf will actually increase your chances of developing golfers elbow – an injury to the flexor tendon on the inside of your elbow. Playing golf will aggravate your tennis elbow and make you symptoms flare up because you need to extend your arms fully when swinging the club. The arm extension actually pulls on your extensor tendon which is already torn, making it more susceptible to a larger tear(s).

    I am not a big fan of any type of brace unless you’ve had surgery and you need to totally immobilize the joint. Wearing braces over the long term actually promotes muscle, tendon fatigue and weakness. With an injury such as tennis elbow, you need to strengthen your injured muscles and tendons, not make them weaker.

    All my best,

  9. Randy says:

    Can you golf with Tennis Elbow, and what is the impact? do you recommend putting elbow brace while golfing


  10. tenniselbowtips says:

    Hi Azmina,

    Thanks for the question.

    Yes the breast stroke is an elbow friendly swimming stroke. Your arms stay under the water when you perform the breast stroke and your elbows are supported by the water. As a result you are at a very low risk of developing tennis elbow using this stroke.

    Best Regards

  11. azmina says:

    hi i like swimming i like to do breast strokes is it safe for tennis elbow

  12. faye says:

    I believe it. I have been swimming freestyle and I felt it does harm to tennis elbow. I stopped swimming active.

  13. zakia says:

    i love swimming, and i have been swimming inspite of my tennis elbow, breast stroke of course. i see to it that i don’t exert myself. i hope i am doing the right thing.

  14. Nakaala Jean says:

    i swim 1-2 km a day – but will stop the 3 strokes you have said. i also do side stroke (both left and right), elementary back stroke (which is like the breast stroke (or bras ….) so i guess i can do these.
    running in the water and treading water are also good exercises. and since my elbow is acting up, i am running again – just pray that it doesn’t kill my back

    getting old i tough!

    ultrasound, stretching and ice seem to help -and REST -the hardest thing ‘to do’

  15. Tereza says:

    I neither swim nor go to Gym. Just normal house work. I’m still suffering from my elbow, Some times I have pain and other times, its gone? So, I presume from holding or moving, hoovering around the house.

  16. Kaushik says:

    Does extensive use of computer keyboard and mouse aggrevate tennis elbow pain ?
    Does riding motorcycle using the clutch and throttle many times aggrevate tennis elbow pain ?
    What are the chances of getting rid of the pain ?

    — I cannot do them, it pains. How long does it take to get rid of the pain once acquired.

    Kaushik S Roy
    Legal Manager
    ICICI Bank
    Kolkata, West Bengal

  17. Pete says:

    Hi Geoff,

    No matter what I seem to try (have not swam in many years) the darn thing just
    does not go away.

    This seems to go against the natural healing process that we all know and love
    no matter what has afflicted us all in the past.

    This is something very different. I have always healed very quickly in the past years
    of my life.


    P.S. No, the 4 liter water bottle exercise did not work. Only seemed to. This
    affliction fools folks.

  18. Pete says:

    Hi Geoff,

    No, I have not had the opportunity to swim but right now, I am starting to think
    that the pain will not go away no matter what I do. Its not like my younger years
    when muscle strain just goes away after a period of rest like it always did.

    This is something different. I need your help, the water bottle exercise that I thought
    would help did not. I thought that up and did the exercise. It only helped for about
    an hour.


  19. Jane says:

    So if you’re ruling out fly, back, and freestyle, why not just say to swim only breaststroke?

  20. Joy says:

    This is really depressing as I love to swim and that has been the only exercise I have been able to do routinely, at least until I started getting tennis elbow pain. My arm seemed to be feeling better so t tried last week i did not get pain at first but noticed more pain later in the day. I may end up just doing the kickboard or try to look up the bras technique to see if that is something i can do as I need to do something to rebuild my endurance since I noticed that it has gotten a lot worse since I have not been able to swim.

  21. Mark Gander says:


    I will rember that come spring… Winter here in Portugal guess I must refrain from swimming for the duration. However my tennis elbow is getting better. As always thanks for the helpful tips.

    Happy Thanksgiving

  22. zeneida says:

    Backstroke got me tennis elbow! And its hurts like hell. :/

  23. dodo says:

    …………..I agree only for backstroke (on my personal experience) ! Backstroke (a good one !) requires a bent hand and water entrance needs (a good one !) a ulnar bent hand : this is very bad for tennis elbow ! I’m a pretty good swimmer and I hand only pain relieve from freestyle and fly strokes !

    thank you all .


  24. tenniselbowtips says:

    Yes, the bras swimming stroke is just another name for the breaststroke. This style of swimming stroke is used mainly by beginners and is very effective in helping strengthen your lower back muscles, which is important for good posture.

  25. Tommy D says:

    I never heard of Bras either. I do know now, that I started swimming in lieu of weights and my tennis elbow got worse. I’ve been out of the water for a month now. Sad, I do miss it. Tennis elbow is very psychologically deppressing, just when you think you’re getting a little better, one wrong move can set it off again. i.e. weed whacking did it to me recently again.

  26. dodo says:

    ok but ……. what is “bras” ………… did you mean “breaststroke” ? thanks for your answer

  27. Tom Lockney says:

    This is really depressing. I quit using dumbbells, but thought swimming would be safe. I used to swim competitively and when swimming freestyle and backstroke, I haven’t felt any pain, despite doing 2,000 yards every other day (at age 65). So, now you say that crawl will invariably lead to tennis elbow, which I already have (from excessive and tense practicing of a musical instrument). I’ve known many swimmers, and haven never heard of them developing tennis elbow just from the swimming itself.

    Second, what is Bras? I know of freestyle, back, butterfly and breast stroke. Is it the latter? I tried googling it, and you can guess what I came up with–something I don’t need as a man.

  28. admin says:

    Hi Morel,

    Thanks for the post. The bras swimming style is fine for tennis elbow sufferers. This type of swimming style helps strengthen your back muscles which aids in good posture which will help in the long run so you avoid back problems in the future. If you do have knee problems, you’d best be advised to avoid this type of swimming stroke, it may make your knee problems even worse.

    Best Regards

  29. Morel says:

    What About the Bras Swim Style, is it fine?!! Because actually I tried the crawl and the Butterfly, and it was very painful and immediate. But when I swam the BRAS style I didn’t feel anything.

  30. Hasan Abbas says:

    Thanks for the information. Because of fear of pain, I no longer think of going to the pool.

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