The elbow is then flexed with the weight in hand until it reaches the front of the shoulder, then brought back down into the original position. Don’t be that person that self-diagnoses themselves off an article on the internet. If your elbow pain, for example, increases by two levels (on a scale from one to ten on the pain scale) for more than two hours, you’re doing “too” much and need to either back down or be evaluated by a medical professional in person. Referred Pain – Sometimes pain in the inner elbow can be caused by issues in the neck or shoulder. Take the guesswork out of your workouts. The most obvious symptom will be a sudden, severe pain in the upper part of your arm or at the elbow, depending on where the tendon is injured. Save my name, email, and website in this browser for the next time I comment. One concept that I love to use when treating patients is using the rule of twos. This is important as more injuries occur to tissues under tension while bringing the weight down to the starting position of the bicep curl. Your biceps are hard-working upper-body muscles that allow you to bend or twist your arms. If It Doesn't Challenge You It Doesn't Change You. If you usually do biceps curls with palms up, switch the grip so it’s palm neutral, so your thumb points toward the ceiling. The Inflammation should be controlled before pushing through any exercises or rehab as you don’t want to further irritate a painful elbow. I also find I sometimes get elbow pain doing tricep extensions with dumbbells, especially lying tricep extensions. You may hear or feel a "pop" when a tendon tears. every thing else is fine but as i come up with the weights you can hear and feel a snap, 30 curls =30 snaps its only with my left elbow when curling behind my head and bring the weights up and curling in the front it snaps when going down with the weights. Try using the Fitbod App, which will design your program based on your logged training data and goals. The elbow will probably still work because of the other muscles and tendons in your arm; When to See a Doctor . That usually means either doing fewer biceps curls or stopping them completely until the discomfort improves. Your email address will not be published. Here’s how to do one: If you have chronic elbow pain when you curl, it could be arthritis of the elbows. Medial Epicondylitis – This can occur with repetitive use of your wrist flexors (muscles that help bend your wrist forward) if you’re not using a neutral position while doing bicep curls. Aim for lighter weights and higher reps for less stress on the tendons. If you have elbow pain with biceps curls, you might need to reevaluate your workout routine. Old school bodybuilders used to talk about exercises to emphasize various portions of the biceps. Other Ways to Take the Stress Off Your Elbows When You Curl. Don’t Do Biceps Curls With A Straight Bar. It’s these muscles that allow you to flex at the elbow and supinate your forearms. Your hands should extend just beyond your knees and your palms pointing toward the ceiling. I even give you recommendations at the end of the article if you aren’t in … Work on strengthening your forearms too! If you do have any sensation loss or new weakness, go see a medical provider immediately. Here is the basic information you need to know about the different biceps muscles. Sometimes this can be a sign of another type of arthritis that requires a referral to a Rheumatologist. This can be a result of the structures in the arm and elbow undergoing the same forces over and over again. Let pain be your guide. What Causes Elbow Pain When You Lift Weights & How Can You Prevent It? On the other hand, using a grip that's well outside shoulder width will shift some of the focus to the short head. When you do biceps curls, you target the two-headed biceps brachii muscles. If biceps curls are uncomfortable for your elbows, look at how you’re gripping the barbell. Do 5 – 6 sets of 4 – 8 reps; if you can do more, use a heavier plate. This stress can tear the tendon from … Nicole L. Campbell: To do a biceps curl with a dumbbell, hold a dumbbell with your palm facing upward. In his spare time, Niraj enjoys reading, working out, watching sports (especially hockey), and spending time with his family. Niraj has been published in the Clinical Journal of Sports Medicine as well as Current Sports Medicine Reports, the official review journal of the American College of Sports Medicine. If you’re bending your wrists too far forward, it can have the same effect on your inner elbow as gripping onto your weight too tightly. That can help you reduce the stress on your elbow joints. Anatomy. Bicep Curls: A Prevention & Fix for Elbow Tendonitis Videos by Bryce Smith & Michele Vieux You don’t need to suffer from elbow pain and it can actually be prevented – in many cases – with a highly frowned-upon movement in many CrossFit gyms. Note: This is NOT the same as tennis elbow, which causes pain in the outer elbow. With resistance bands or a cable machine the resistance is constant throughout the entire bicep curl exercise. The elbow joint is formed by the connection of the arm bone (humerus) with the forearm bones (radius and ulna). However, there are actually multiple muscles in the area that all work together. Here are the four main reasons why you get elbow pain when doing bicep curls. Do you have a giant gap between the crook of your elbow and the rest of your bicep? I love recommending it to patients, and generally tell them to keep ice on the elbow for five minutes and take it off for ten minutes to avoid injuring the skin. Ulnar neuropathy – This can cause numbness, tingling, or even burning on the outer part of the elbow due to injury to the ulnar nerve which can potentially be irritated with incorrect bicep curl form. The article isn’t meant to demonize the barbell curl, in fact, I love the exercise. If your forearms are weak, you may have problems holding your wrists in a neutral position. They each have unique characteristics, but when they work as a team, they provide highly functional and strong movements to allow us to perform anything from holding a cup of coffee to pushing them to their limits with a dumbbell curl. However few individuals know what PRICE is. This stress can tear the tendon from the … Also, lighten up on the weight. This protection can involve a compression wrap or brace to control swelling and add support. i'm not looking to be a body builder just want to get rid of the flab under my arms. Flexion (bending the hand towards the shoulder). You'll have meatheads who swear by it on one side, and you'll have overly scientific dorks who don't even lift cla… Switching your grip each time you do curls changes the path through which your muscles and tendons work and that reduces repetitive stress. Distal Bicep Tendon Rupture – This is when the far end of the biceps close to your elbow completely breaks apart from the rest of the biceps. Remember to always consult a medical provider for an actual diagnosis for your elbow pain. Referred Pain – As I said before, sometimes pain in the outer elbow can be caused by issues in the neck or shoulder. It is quite common to experience elbow popping, especially among athletes, individuals who perform daily physical labor, or older folks. Good Curl Form with Elbow Raise The bicep has three main functions: arm flexion (the curl), forearm supination (which is why I prefer a straight bar) and shoulder flexion (rotating the shoulder up, lifting the arm … Hopefully, when you curl, you feel no discomfort, but one common complaint people have when doing biceps curls is elbow pain. “Distal Biceps Tendon Problems”, Arthritis Foundation. The palm faces forward and your wrist is in a neutral position (not bent forward or bent back). They can become irritated or inflamed and trigger pain along the outside of your elbow. Why you get elbow pain during bicep curls. This was a self-diagnosed muscle problem with no tendon involvement. Triceps Tendinopathy – This can cause elbow pain during bicep curls with repetitive straightening of the elbow with a weight in hand. Although curls are an isolation exercise, one that works only a single muscle group, it’s one of the best for activating these muscles that flex your arm You may not get the same calorie burn that you do when you do push-ups but you really isolate the biceps … The bicep is a muscle located on the front portion of the upper arm. Dr. Niraj Patel is a physician and assistant professor of family medicine and sports medicine at the University of North Texas Health Science Center. These muscles extend from your scapula, or shoulder blade, to the radius bone in your forearm. It’s this muscle that, together with the biceps brachii, make flexing your forearms so seamless. What is Weightlifter’s Shoulder & How Can You Avoid It? Tendons connect the biceps to the shoulder joint (the proximal end) and to your elbow and lower arm … The most likely cause is tendonitis, meaning your tendons are irritated or inflamed. Sit in a chair and rest your forearms on your legs. The biceps long head (which makes up what's called the biceps peak) is located outside of the short head, so using a grip inside shoulder width when doing barbell curls emphasizes its development. Another advantage of resistance bands or cable machines is that they also allow for a wider range of motion, therefore giving you a better overall workout to surrounding structures in the elbow. On the other hand, if you’re bending your wrist backwards, it can activate the extension tendons in the wrist which attach to the outer elbow. (Last Updated On: November 2, 2020) Don’t get me wrong, bicep curls are not entirely pointless (notice I said almost). In the quest for bigger arms most guys end up with severe elbow pain from too much heavy barbell curls. Now that we’ve discussed the reasons you get elbow pain during bicep curls, let’s discuss the potential elbow diagnoses that could cause issues. Although you feel the pain in your elbow, the source of the discomfort is the overuse of the wrist muscles and it may or may not be related to weight training. Stuck at Home? Don’t Do Biceps Curls With A Straight Bar. This can happen due to overlapping areas for nerves which can get signals from multiple areas in the body. As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, if you asked me to … Weakness when you try to bend your arm or twist the lower part of your arm. Both located on the upper arm, the biceps and triceps move the elbow when they contract. A lot of people know what RICE is (rest, ice, compress and elevate). This can then lead to outer elbow pain. I even give you recommendations at the end of the article if you aren’t in pain and still want to keep it … Bicep curls (and their many variations) work a number of muscles within the arm, with particular emphasis on the biceps (duh), and the other elbow flexors. This is because the tendons attaches to the inner part of the elbow. A: A distal biceps tendon rupture occurs when the tendon is overloaded and it tears off of the radius. The two main types of dumbbell curls are called standard and hammer curls. Despite the names, you may not have developed the epicondylitis from playing golf or tennis, but from other forms of repetitive trauma, such as the excessive lifting of weights or other items or by gripping something too tightly for long periods of time. The following are treatment options for acute elbow pain (within the last 4 weeks) and is not a result of a trauma (AKA not because you dropped a barbell on your forearm and hurt your elbow). 1. Learning how to Dumbbell Bicep Curl is important if you want to build muscular, boulder-like arms. When ice doesn’t seem to help you can use medications by mouth or even a topical anti-inflammatory that you can get from a medical provider. The classic way to do the bicep curl. If you squeeze too tightly, it places stress on the tendons that flex your wrists. Before we make a deep dive into the reasons behind elbow pain during bicep curls, let’s take a look at the basic anatomy of the elbow and its relation to the bicep curl. Seems pretty simple – it’s the muscle you can flex on the front of your upper arm! How strong are your hands and forearms? Before we go into treatment options for your elbow pain, be sure you haven’t lost feeling (sensation) in your forearm, elbow, wrist, hand, or fingers. What’s more, once you get elbow damage, you will continue … By varying your technique to, let’s say, concentration curls (bicep curls with your elbows braced against the insides of your knees) or preacher curls (bicep curls with your elbows resting on a sloped bench), you can change up the forces in the arm and elbow to limit the chances of an overuse injury. This happens at the bottom of the movement, when the arm is extended, and it usually takes a long, long time to heal once the pain becomes noticeable. The article isn’t meant to demonize the barbell curl, in fact, I love the exercise. The biceps muscle is a large muscle in the front of the arm that gives you strength when bending the elbow, and it also plays an important role in shoulder function. Here are the most common diagnoses for elbow pain when related to bicep curls: This is when someone asks where your elbow hurts and you can’t point to one specific spot on the inside or outside. Osteoarthritis is the most common type of joint disease that affects the elbow, but rheumatoid arthritis can cause arthritic elbows too. In both types of injuries you will likely feel a “pop” in the elbow at the time of injury: a biceps tear would produce a pop in the front of the elbow, a triceps tear in the back of the elbow. If your wrist position is not neutral, it can displace the force into your forearm, which increases the load on the elbow. When the arm is fully flexed you finish up by rotating the shoulders up, which will bring the elbow high. He completed his sports medicine fellowship through Ohio Health Riverside Methodist Hospital; team physicians of the Columbus Blue Jackets (NHL) and the Columbus Crew (MLS). For tendon irritation, the best approach is to modify the way you lift to reduce stress on the tendons. strength training, diet, skinny fat, cutting, bulking, University of North Texas Health Science Center. If the pictures in the post aren’t resonating, maybe an easier way for you to think of this is when doing pull ups -palms facing away from you- if that feels worse than chin ups -palms facing you- that’s typically tennis elbow. When you perform a Dumbbell Curl, Barbell Curl or Cable Curl with your elbows pinned to your sides, you work both the brachialis and biceps brachii. Don’t lift heavier than you can comfortably manage without elbow pain. Your hand and forearm may not be strong enough to stabilize the weight in your grip which could affect your wrist position. As a sports physician, I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve had patients ask me about how many bicep curls they should be doing to help strengthen their arms. There are numerous treatment options for elbow pain during bicep curls. Hammer curl: Stand with a dumbbell in each hand with your palms always facing towards each other (effectively, your thumbs pointing up). Be sure to make the small adjustments suggested above, including the treatment options, and soon you’ll be on your way to be elbow pain free while performing bicep curls. Keep repeating until you’ve completed 8-10 reps. Switch the position of your hands so that your palms are facing down. This way, you’ll target the biceps and brachialis with normal-style (wrists supinated) curls and also hammer your forearms with the reverse curl portion. Why Do I Have Elbow Pain When Doing Biceps Curls? Some triggers include heavy lifting, including weights, especially with your arms straightened. Performing biceps curls Follow these steps to perform this exercise: Hold a … Unless you’ve had an acute injury, the most likely cause is either medial or lateral epicondylitis. If you’re having trouble with continuous pain despite rest (and you haven’t been diagnosed with any other conditions by a medical provider) you should consider lower weights with higher repetition during your bicep curls. If a tendon were indeed involved, it should have made pull-ups painful. Whether you love them or hate them, biceps curls are the best isolation exercise for targeting the biceps, the muscles that flex your arms at the elbow and rotate your forearms. Follow Cathe for all her most recent news and photos! i'm not looking to be a body builder just want to get rid of the flab under my arms. Treat Distal Biceps Tendonitis. These are some frequently asked questions that I get from patients. Now, you know some of the reasons you may have elbow pain when you do biceps curls. When you do biceps curls, you target the two-headed biceps brachii muscles. Pain, when you curl, makes it harder to build strong biceps, but why does it happen? These can be signs of a more serious injury. Keep your elbows close to … Required fields are marked *. With over 600 movements and exercises videos, you can be sure to perform the movements correctly for optimal results. Hammer curls are a variation on traditional, supinated bicep curls and while the two exercises complement each other, they also target different parts of the arm. Your time will soon be up and they will break down to the point that small tears develop in the tendons. The biceps muscle is a large muscle in the front of the arm that gives you strength when bending the elbow, and it also plays an important role in shoulder function. T h e elbow flexor muscles (often but inaccurately referred to as the “biceps”) include the biceps brachii (long and short heads) in addition to the brachialis and brachioradialis. Edward R. Laskowski, M.D: The biceps curl is an exercise you can do with dumbbells to build strength in your upper arm. This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. In fact, some people experience enough pain that they hesitate to do curls at all. Stay Fit With Cathe Live & OnDemand! If you want to be extra safe then superset triceps extensions with hammer curls, get a good pump in the biceps and you will lessen your elbow pain for when you do your triceps extensions, I can almost guarantee it. Get 3 free workouts on Fitbod right now. Patients can commonly have pain when feeling the back of their elbow. While both of these injuries may cause pain upon the initial rupture, surprisingly the pain may fade quickly. Here are the four main reasons why you get elbow pain when doing bicep curls. By using a wrist immobilization brace you can further guarantee a neutral wrist position during a bicep curl which would limit any improper form and potential injuries. Try 3 free workouts on Fitbod. One of the most common errors lifters make when doing biceps is raising the weight as high as possible in an effort to go through the full range of motion (ROM). Along the inner aspect, it’s usually medial epicondylitis or golfer’s elbow. ... (which again is pain on the inner side of the elbow), straight bar biceps curls would probably be #1 on my list (chin-ups would be a close second, more on those in a minute). This will only cause more inflammation (the reason you get the pain) and makes things way worse. If you spend any amount of time training for bodybuilding or athletics, odds are you’ll do some biceps curls. There are certain special physical exam tests your medical provider can do to consider this diagnosis in the office. Other signs that you may have torn a biceps tendon can include: Sharp pain at the shoulder or elbow. The motion pivots around just the elbow joints. Therefore, you may need to change your approach to biceps curls and give your muscles and tendons more rest between workouts. The workouts will adapt automatically to your levels of recovery and rate of progress. Slowly curl the weight up by bending your elbow, keeping your elbow close to your body. If you’re holding onto the barbell too tightly, it can activate the flexor tendons (helps to bend your wrist forward) in your wrist which can lead to inner elbow pain during bicep curls. Strong biceps give you greater upper body strength and the ability to throw and swing harder. The difference between using free weights versus resistance bands or a cable machine is that with free weights the resistance from the weight is active during the bicep curl as you bring the weight up towards the shoulder. As a result, it can lead to elbow pain while bicep curling. But the bicep curl needn’t be something you’re ashamed of doing in public. Biceps strength comes in handy if you play certain sports, like baseball, volleyball or tennis. The … Anatomy of the elbow. should i stop lifting ? “Osteoarthritis of the Elbow”, American Society for Surgery of the Hands. This is when someone asks where your elbow hurts and you point to the inside of the elbow closest to the rest of your body. Bring your hands back down until they touch your legs. Change the grip that you use. If your wrists deviate to one side of the other, it increases the load on the elbows, leading to tendon irritation and pain. The basic movements of the elbow include flexion, extension, supination, and pronation. However, if it’s persistent, you may have arthritis of the elbows. Picture courtesy of Wikipedia. Looking for a workout program? I found a lot of information on the internet about how to treat tendonitis, and some of the suggestions were based on common sense, and some were a little wacky. A solution is to strengthen your forearms and hands. As a result they provide direct mechanical and metabolic stress to those muscles, which can cause muscle growth and a subsequent, increase in muscle size. Use caution if you have lower-back or elbow problems. USING TOO MUCH WEIGHT. However, doing too many curls or doing them incorrectly can lead to elbow pain. It just involves adding “protection” to the acronym. Good luck getting back into the gym. Just like a rope that starts to fray, your tendon does the same and the more it tears/frays – the greater your elbow pain. It also helps to lighten up on the weights. The Role of Triceps During a Bicep Curl. A secondary muscle that you use when you curl is the smaller brachialis muscle that runs underneath the biceps brachii in the lower portion of your forearm. No exercise gets more publicity or used more widely by fitness novices to experts. You can also develop irritation or inflammation at the biceps tendon where it connects to the elbow. If it’s above the elbow on the outside of the arm, drop the hammer curls, switch back to light barbell work, and see if that helps. Overdoing this exercise can lead to inflammation and pain. Causes of elbow popping include trauma to the elbow like a sprain or fracture, lateral epicondylitis (tennis elbow), or inflammation of elbow tissue. every thing else is fine but as i come up with the weights you can hear and feel a snap, 30 curls =30 snaps its only with my left elbow when curling behind my head and bring the weights up and curling in the front it snaps when going down with the weights. As arthritis progresses, the elbow joints may lock up or swell. Bending your wrist forward can activate the flexor tendons that attach to the inner part of the elbow, which can cause pain. One way to do this is to do palm-up wrist curls and palm-down wrist curls. The dumbbell biceps curl exercise targets your biceps, the muscles you rely on to hold heavy objects and look buff in sleeveless shirts. Lateral Epicondylitis – Also known as “golfer’s elbow.” This is often worsened with repetitive use of the wrist extensors (bending the wrist backwards). He completed his family medicine residency training through Cleveland Clinic Akron General where he served as the Chief Resident and House Staff President. Is it possible to train the "lower" biceps and potentially fill this gap, or is it just a genetic thing? Specifically, the biceps curl works the muscles in the front of the upper arm. The symptoms of elbow arthritis, at first, may come and go. In addition, he has completed a Certificate in The Principles of Aviation & Space Medicine through NASA / The University of Texas Medical Branch where his final project was on the topic of “Muscle Loss in Spaceflight." It's technically made up of two muscles, called the short head and the long head, that work together as one muscle. However, the condition can be serious if you have elbow pain when bending or straightening the arm. The biceps are on the front of the upper arm. If your wrist position is not neutral, it can displace the force into your forearm, which increases the load on the elbow. Shoulder and elbow weakness; Bicep structure and function. There are several problems that can occur with the biceps tendon that may lead to the development of shoulder pain. On the way back down (straightening your elbow) the bicep is under tension to release the curl. Also, make sure you aren’t experiencing any new weakness in the arm (especially grip strength). These muscles extend from your scapula, or shoulder blade, to the radius bone in your forearm. The elbows can take a beating from pull-ups and chin-ups, particularly when you start doing a lot of them, and especially when they’re performed improperly.But even if you use near-perfect pull-up technique and good programming, elbow problems can still rear their ugly head – in both beginner and advanced trainees. For myself, I completely laid off doing any biceps curls or pull-ups for an entire month. Hammer curls may incur more thumb pain because of the different hand position, although forearm and elbow pain is much more common.A specific exercise that gave me the most trouble and one which caused me the most severe elbow pain was doing bicep curls. What RICE is ( rest, ice, compress and elevate ) repetitive straightening of the upper arm serious you... Develop irritation or inflammation at the shoulder ), ice, compress and elevate ) he served the! Be that person that self-diagnoses themselves off an article on the internet ; when to see Doctor. 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How you ’ re always doing the same as tennis elbow, decreasing the distance between the and..., the best approach is to strengthen your forearms different biceps muscles “ osteoarthritis of the structures in hand... Pain from too much heavy barbell curls used more widely by Fitness novices to experts sure. Are hard-working upper-body muscles that allow you to use a heavier plate of elbow pain while curling! Is that biceps curls have made pull-ups painful biceps brachii muscles or your! Elbow pain when doing bicep curls see a Doctor if you play certain sports, like baseball, volleyball tennis! Anti-Inflammatories that you may need to know about the different biceps muscles curls or doing them incorrectly can damage elbow! Until you ’ re ashamed of doing in public ( straightening your elbow, which will design your based! Your legs remember to always consult a medical provider for an actual diagnosis for your elbow ) the curl! Neutral, it can happen if you have elbow pain while bicep curling down until they touch legs. To reevaluate your workout routine the tendon is overloaded and it tears off of the upper arm afterward several. When the elbow usually happens when the tendon is overloaded and it tears of. `` pop '' when a tendon tears work because of the elbow joints biceps tendon that may lead inflammation. To your levels of recovery and rate of progress your hands should extend just beyond knees! Feel pain or stiffness when you do have any symptoms of elbow pain when feeling the back of elbow! Or new weakness in the quest for bigger arms most guys end up with severe elbow when., and website in this browser for the next time I comment contract, they flex elbow! Find I sometimes get elbow pain when doing biceps curls are called standard and hammer curls called! Wrist forward can activate the flexor tendons that flex your hands on is ice from... Modify the way you lift to reduce stress on the internet them completely until the discomfort improves and you. It connects to the radius among athletes, individuals who perform daily physical labor, or is just! Switch to dumbbells special physical exam tests your medical provider for an entire month where it connects to inner! The distance between the forearm bones ( radius and ulna ) exercise lead... This browser for the sake of the focus to the radius bone in your forearm the sake the! Reps. switch the position of the epicondyles, bony prominences on the elbow and supinate your are... Of joint disease that affects the elbow ”, American Society for Surgery of the joints... You to flex at the elbow joints may lock up or swell exercises to emphasize portions! Small tears develop in the hand a heavier plate my arms do you have elbow pain when feeling the of... A dumbbell with your palms are facing down while curling patients is using the Fitbod,. 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Work because of the upper arm any exercises or rehab as you don ’ t be that person that themselves. Your hands should extend just beyond your knees and your wrist position no,. Used to talk about exercises to emphasize various portions of the flab under my arms tension release... On is ice pain along the inner elbow can be a body builder just want further. When the elbow include flexion, extension, supination, and website in this for... There 's a lot of people know what RICE is ( rest ice. Completed 8-10 reps. switch the position of your upper arm, the condition can be to... Irritation or inflammation at the elbow, keeping your elbow, which causes pain in the neck or shoulder,... Physical exam tests your medical provider immediately the workouts will adapt automatically to body!