Firstly, I have to admit that I seem to always have dark patches on my elbows, and even my knees.
However, my elbows are definitely worse, especially since I’ve made planks a regular part of my workout routines.
Here’s why this happens and what you can do about it.
Dark elbows from planking are caused by friction burns or burst blood vessels. However, people with dark skin tones are more likely to develop dark skin patches on their elbows. If this is an issue you can use padding below your elbows, or revert to performing planks on your hands. Plus, the use of aloe vera, cocoa butter, or coconut oil can reduce the appearance of the dark patches.
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Here’s the Two Main Reasons For Your Planking Dark Elbows
Okay, so there are two main reasons that these dark patches have appeared on your elbows.
Plus, as I’ve mentioned, dark skin tones are more likely to develop these patches.
This makes a lot of sense for me as someone of Indian origin, although I have noticed that a gym buddy with lighter skin tone appears to have red, raw, and very dry skin around his elbows.
Pure and simple, the dark patches or red and dry skin on your elbows can be caused by friction burns.
This could depend on the surface that you’re using to plank from.
As an example, performing planks on carpet, laminate, or just a gym floor can quite easily cause friction burns.
In fact, simply getting up and down from a plank is enough for this to happen.
Then again, you may actually be making microscopic movements with your forearms, perhaps without even realising it.
This is more likely to occur as you begin to fatigue, and you’ll probably notice that your body starts to shake too.
And it is these tiny movements that can lead to those dark patches developing on your elbows.
Burst Blood Vessels
One of the main causes of dark patches anywhere on the body is burst blood vessels/capillaries.
And this is also certainly true of your elbows.
Blood vessels can burst for a variety of reasons, although the vast majority of the time it’s not something to concern yourself with.
When it comes to performing planks, this could simply be a case of applying pressure to the elbows, thus causing blood vessels to burst.
As I say, this isn’t usually something you should worry about, as it has come about due to excess pressure placed on the blood vessels.
It’s only if capillaries break due to hormones, your genetics, medical conditions, or if near to a major organ, that you should seek medical advice.
Furthermore, lightly damaged capillaries may heal naturally within a few months.
This involves the damaged cells rising to the surface of the skin and then eventually being replaced by new cells.
That being said, burst blood vessels can leave permanent marks, so this could explain those dark elbow patches.
Solutions While Planking
There are a few things you can do to avoid this phenomenon while planking.
However, as I’ve mentioned, in the case of burst blood vessels you may be left with permanent marks on your elbows.
Use Additional Padding
So, the most obvious solution would be to place some form of padding or cushioning under your elbows.
Now, I know that many people plank while having their elbow on a yoga mat, but this can still cause friction burns.
Plus, it also depends on when you’re performing planks and how sweaty you are.
As an example, many trainees look to perform their ab training towards the end of their workout.
However, this typically means that you’ll be fatigued, and possibly covered in sweat too.
This means that there is a higher probability of slipping on a yoga mat, which once more can lead to friction burns.
You can of course place a folded towel underneath your elbows, although you may even find that the material from which the towel is made can cause these dark patches.
And once again, although it “protects” your elbows, there’s still a chance of movement and friction.
Finally, you could choose to wear a shirt with sleeves, or even a set of arm sleeves.
Whatever you choose, the additional padding should provide more comfort, but just be aware that movement and friction is still a possibility.
Be Wary of Your Planking Form
Something else to consider is your actual form while planking.
For as easy an exercise as planks appear to be, there are many mistakes made when performing them.
The one thing you always want to ensure while doing elbow planks is that your elbows are directly below your shoulders.
However, it’s common to see people with their elbows too far forward, which can actually cause your midsection to droop, and this is why you may feel planks in your lower back.
Then again, your elbows may be too far back towards you, too wide, or too narrow.
All of these positions generally take the stress of your core and place it onto other parts of the body.
Plus, your elbows aren’t in as stable of a position, which can lead to movement and friction burns.
So, always ensure that there is a straight line from your shoulders to your elbows.
Perform Other Plank Variations
Another fairly obvious solution is to stop performing planks on your elbows.
You can of course plank on your hands in the traditional push up position.
Now, I have previously compared planks on elbows vs planks on hands, and the hand plank is the easier variation.
However, this all comes down to the angle of your body, as opposed to whether you’re using your elbows or hands.
With an elbow plank your body should be parallel to the floor, which increases the amount of downward gravitational pull.
But, your body is typically at an incline when performing planks on your hands, which in turn makes the exercise easier.
That being said, you can still have a parallel body alignment with hand planks simply by placing your feet on an elevated surface.
Admittedly, hand planks are tougher on the wrists, but this is generally because most trainees allow all their body weight to go through the heels of their hands.
Your aim is to support your weight through your entire hand, including fingers, and of course your abs and core.
You can ease the pressure on your wrists by holding dumbbells in your hands too.
Plus, you can perform elbow planks, but place your elbows onto a stability ball, bosu ball, or even a bench.
Elbow Care After Working Out
It obviously makes a great deal of sense to take care of your elbows following your workouts.
I have personally used aloe vera, cocoa butter, and coconut oil on my elbows.
Admittedly, it doesn’t completely remove the dark patches, but it certainly helps to moisten my dry and red raw elbows.
There are actually many home remedies you can try to eliminate dark elbow patches.
These include things like turmeric, citrus fruits, and even a combination of oatmeal and yoghurt.
Plus, you can check out the following video from Sharelle who used baking soda and lemon for 5 days on her dark elbows.
In truth, it’s a case of finding what works best for you.
But, as I’ve mentioned, while potentially unsightly, these dark patches on your elbows shouldn’t be a cause for concern.
Key Takeaway Points
- Dark patches on your elbows are generally caused by friction burns or burst blood vessels.
- You can ease the pressure on your elbows by using some type of padding, e.g. a folded towel.
- Ensure your elbows are always directly below your shoulders in order to ease the pressure placed on your elbows.
- You can perform planks on your hands, and you can make this variation more difficult by placing your feet on a raised surface so that your body is parallel to the floor.
- Take care of your elbows by applying either aloe vera, cocoa butter, or coconut oil to the affected area.
- There are various home remedies to treat dark elbow patches including citrus fruits, oatmeal and yoghurt, baking soda and lemon, etc.
Hi, I’m Partha, owner and founder of My Bodyweight Exercises. I am a Level 3 Personal Trainer and Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist through the Register of Exercise Professionals, United Kingdom. I have been a regular gym-goer since 2000 and coaching clients since 2012. My aim is to help you achieve your body composition goals.