Armbar Elbow Injury: The Best Rehab Protocol - Grapplers Performance

Armbar Elbow Injuries

Armbar elbow injuries are some of the most common I see amongst the BJJ athletes I work with. The worst case scenario for an armbar elbow injury is that you could have a bone fracture and the best case is a light sprain of ligaments and tendons. Regardless, you need to take the right steps to heal properly and get back to 100% to avoid chronic lingering elbow problems.

This post highlights the most common structures injured after a painful armbar and briefly walks through a rehab protocol you should follow. Be sure to also check out our other posts on armbar elbow injuries, going over the common causes of injuries & a test to highlight your possibility of fractures or bony injuries.

We also have a live online workshop going over all things armbar elbow injuries – answering your specific questions on injuries and sharing the next steps on the road to recovery. Save your Seat HERE.

Common Structures Injured

An armbar works because it hyper extends the elbow joint, putting excessive pressure on all the structures. Not only do muscles, tendons, and ligaments stabilize the joint; the bones create a mechanical block when fully extended.

Elbow Joint Explained for armbar injury
armbar elbow injury nerve

When hyper-extended, all these structures in the elbow are over-stressed and can be damaged. Commonly heard pops are often ruptured ligaments, tendons, and/or bone fractures. In another post I breakdown the specifics Armbar Elbow Injuries.

The Most Common Injuries from Armbars

Based on a BJJ study in 2017, the most common findings after an injury from armbars are a total or partial ruptures to the common flexor tendons. Following this, the most common injuries are rupturing the ulnar collateral ligament (UCL), bone bruises and micro-fractures of distal humerus and olecranon (elbow), and joint effusion (swelling).

Sometimes shoulder injuries happen in combination as well. Be sure to check out our free Shoulder Injury Rehab Guide for BJJ Athletes if your shoulder is bothering you. 


The biggest potential problem is a fracture of your ulna and or humerus. A simple test will help you out. A study from 2008 (source at end) showed that if you are unable to complete the simple test shown below, there is more than a 50% chance you need to take a trip for an x-ray.

If you can complete this test, it is unlikely you fractured anything. This is great news as your return to training time has just been drastically reduced. If you cannot complete this test, you should see your doctor and organize an x-ray. Keep in mind the test isn’t 100%, so you may be able to complete the test and still have a fracture, or visa versa. This is why a professional assessment is very important still and can save you time, money, and missing out on training. Get in touch today for a full online assessment to let you know next steps for rehab. 

Rehab Plan for your Armbar Elbow Injury

There are 3 steps to the armbar rehab plan to get your elbow feeling strong and stable again.
Step 1: Regain normal range of movement. (5-7 days)

Often with joint injuries, due to swelling, inflammation, and protective guarding, you wont be able to bend or straighten it as smoothly as normal. The first step to rehab is regaining this movement back. An easy way to regain that mobility include daily exercises. 2 great exercises to regain mobility include:

Active Assisted Elbow Flexion/Extension 1×30 reps.

Active Elbow Extension Hold 1×1 min.

Step 2: Start to load the tissues through range (5-7 days)

Once you have regained normal range of movement, it is time to start loading into that full range. Below, some excellent rehab exercises are highlighted:

Push-up position weight rocking back and forth 1x 1 min.

Full Elbow Flx Hold 1×1 min.

Step 3: Explosive and Late-Stage Rehab Exercises (7-14 days)


Full Push-ups.

Tricep Dips.

With a minor injury, follow the steps laid out and attempt the basic exercises over a 1-2 week period to start your recover and feel good. If you are still struggling with pain, stiffness, or inability to train, then you need more help and it is time to take the next step.

Next Steps for your Armbar Elbow Injury

  1. Check out our live armbar workshop, full of specific exercises explained each step of the way to grade you through a rehab process which has worked for 95% of the armbar injuries I have treated. Find it here ARMBAR WORKSHOP
  2. If your elbow isn’t getting better, or you have re-injured it. It is time for someone to look at your elbow. Come and see us to get the best quality of care by a professional who understand your sport and training! CONTACT US

The worst thing you can do is keep waiting hoping it will completely heal by itself. Every day you delay, the harder it is to get back to 100%. It is your body, take care of it! If you don’t know where to start, contact us today! We are happy to offer helpful advice to get you moving in the right direction.

  📚📚📚 SOURCE: Appelboam et al. Elbow extension test to rule out elbow fracture. BMJ 2008;337:a2428