Roskopf in the Box – Happy Mapping of the Arms Part 3

This month we are going to talk about the 3rd joint of the arm, the elbow joint and the two different actions that take place there. 
If you have tendinitis of the wrist or elbow, or if you have problems with finger control, or if you suffer from carpal tunnel syndrome or tennis elbow, then you should pay careful attention to the structure of the two lower joints of the arms and correct your map if necessary. I can almost guarantee that your map will be incorrect if you experience those difficulties.

The elbow joint is a joint of two bones with one. There are two bones in the lower arm that make it possible to both rotate and bend. If all we did with the lower arm was open and close it, we would only need one bone in the lower arm. Notice that it is different rotation than is available at the shoulder joint, where there is also rotation available (with a different design not requiring two bones). 

So bending and rotating both happen at the elbow. It is misunderstanding the rotation that can give people so much grief.  

Notice in the picture above how rotation occurs on the pinky side of the forearm and hand. Place your hand on a flat surface and try this for yourself. When you rotate your lower arm around the pinky side, movement is easy. Now try rotating around the thumb side. Not so easy is it? The ulna bone is the axis of rotation, the stable thing around which everything else moves. See how the radius bone is round at the end? 
It’s like a little wheel, perfectly designed for rolling around the ulna. This movement is important to know for nearly all the movements we do at the box (Pullups, Muscle ups, Cleans, Snatches, TGU’s, Front Squats, Rowing). In a supinated hand (palm up) the two arm bones (ulna and radius) run parallel to each other. When the hand is pronated (palm down) the radius bone crosses over the ulna. If we attempt to rotate more around the thumb instead of around the pinky side of the hand, it can cause great tension on the tissues that lie between the radius and ulna. This becomes exponentially apparent as our skills become more refined and explosive. Increasing the potential for discomfort, inefficiency and painful nastiness not only at the elbow, but at the wrist and even up to the shoulder. 

So play with how the forearm both rotates and bends at the elbow. See if you can separate the two movements. Try it from the forearm hand rest relationship position and try it from the bad relationship position. Bending and rotating very often happen at the same time so we think of them as one, but they are not.

To contact Rich, either give him a call at
503-939-2524 or email him at 

Conable, Barbara, and William Conable. How to Learn the Alexander Technique: A Manual for Students. Portland, OR: Andover, 1995. Print.