Last updated on February 20th, 2023 at 05:43 pm
Have you ever experienced inner elbow pain after bicep curls?
Trust me, this is actually a fairly common issue.
Nine times out of ten it may just be a general type of soreness, so it would be good to find a way to work around this.
Then again, this could be a sign of something far more seriousness.
If you experience general soreness in the inner elbow after bicep curls this is usually a form issue. One reason could be that you’re gripping the bar too tightly. If you’re fairly new to lifting the pain could be because the weights are too heavy or that your forearms are weak. However, if you feel a sharp pain this may be a sign of medial epicondylitis aka golfer’s elbow.
Try Bicep Curls With a Lighter Weight
Big bulging biceps are cool.
They’re aesthetically pleasing.
They are a sign of strength, power, and athleticism.
So, it’s unsurprising that bicep curls are one of the most popular exercises going.
However, with popularity of an exercise typically comes bad form.
I cannot tell you how often I have seen someone attempting a curl with probably twice as much weight as they can handle.
In fact, they’re not even performing a bicep curl.
As far as I can tell it’s some type of hybrid hip-thrust/shoulder-drop/forearm-twist exercise.
Basically, they’re “working” everything but the bicep.
Yes, we all want massive, eye-catching biceps, and they’re not exactly the easiest muscle to grow.
However, by using too heavy a weight you will put a lot of stress on the tendons of the forearm, especially those nearest to the inner elbow joint.
So, it may be time for you to dramatically reduce the weights you’re curling.
Furthermore, the lighter the weight, the more likely you are to actually activate and stimulate the biceps.
Don’t Grip So Tightly
You’ll notice that many of the issues I mention here are similar to those that I mention in my article about feeling bicep curls in your forearms.
And with good reason.
There is crossover between the tendons which connect the forearm to the elbow joint.
Therefore, it is perfectly natural that if you’re feeling bicep curls in your forearms that you may also suffer with inner elbow pain.
The issue of “gripping too tightly” is definitely common ground between these two.
I prefer to let the barbell or dumbbells lightly rest on my fingers whenever I perform curls.
As soon as you hold with a vice-like grip you tend to activate the forearms once more.
This, of course, can apply additional tension to the tendons, which may be a reason for you experiencing inner elbow pain.
I feel there is a tendency to grip the bar, or even a pull up bar when performing pull ups and chin ups, as tight as possible.
Perhaps, we have an unconscious correlation between gripping tightly and being able to lift heavier weights.
However, when it comes to curls the main muscle you are looking to stimulate is the bicep.
Yes, there are definitely other muscles involved, with the forearm being one of these.
That being said, you will activate the forearms much more with a tight grip, and this can definitely be one of the reasons for inner elbow pain.
Work On Your Forearm Strength
Once again, we’re back to the forearms.
But, as I say there is an anatomical “connection” between the forearms and the elbow joint (and of course between the bicep and the elbow too).
Weak forearms can be the cause of many aches, pains, and conditions that seem to follow bicep curls.
I’m not someone who particularly focuses on direct forearm training.
However, I perform a lot of pull-based exercises.
Plus, I’m a huge fan of loaded carries, especially the farmer’s walk.
Another exercise which is great for stimulating the biceps, while simultaneously strengthening the forearms is the zottman curl.
Okay, this goes a little against what I’ve already mentioned.
You want to perform bicep curls without over-activating the forearms.
However, if your forearms are your weak point this could certainly be a cause of inner elbow pain.
You’re New to Lifting
Your inner elbow pain could simply be that you’re new to lifting.
It’s natural to feel some type of muscle soreness when you’re very new to lifting weights.
In fact, even as an experienced lifter you will feel a certain soreness if you come back to the weights after some time out.
Furthermore, we have all felt DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness) even as very regular lifters.
Pure and simple, lifting weights puts the body under stress (the good kind), as well as the central nervous system.
So, it is completely normal to feel some muscle soreness.
If you’re new to bicep curls then you may also feel inner elbow pain too.
Although, in reality the pain is probably focused on the biceps, forearms, and the tendons that connect the muscles to the elbow joint.
Obviously, you will need to understand the difference between “normal” muscle soreness and what could potentially be an injury.
However, if you are feeling general muscle soreness, and this isn’t a sharp pain of the inner elbow, there’s nothing to be alarmed about.
Your elbows and other body parts are simply “feeling” the effects of pumping iron.
You Have Medial Epicondylitis (Golfer’s Elbow)
So far everything I have discussed is around soreness in the inner elbow, perhaps no more than a dull pain.
The reason for this is that many of the blogs and forum comments I read seem to all “go for the jugular”.
What I mean by this is that it is immediately perceived as grave injury or a very serious issue.
However, experience tells me that nine times out of ten it is a dull soreness that is typically brought about by one of the above issues.
That being said, if you feel a sharp pain in your inner elbow after bicep curls…
In fact, if the pain is so much that you have to stop your set and something really “feels” wrong.
Then, unfortunately this could be the sign of a more serious injury.
Without delay, immediately stop exercising, and do not try to do any other lifts either.
Inner elbow pain could be a sign of medial epicondylitis, often referred to as golfer’s elbow.
There are a number of causes of golfer’s elbow, which include:
Medial Epicondylitis (ME) is obviously most commonly associated with golfers, but there are various sports activities, including lifting weights, that can bring on ME.
As I’ve mentioned, overuse is probably the most common cause of ME, especially where there is a lot of finger or wrist flexion, or exercises where you bend the elbow against resistance, or you utilize the forearm tendons and flexors.
Enter bicep curls.
So, if you are feeling a sharp inner elbow pain after bicep curls, my suggestion would be to seek professional medical advice.
Medial epicondylitis could of course just be the tip of the iceberg, so it’s best to get checked out and potentially rule out an even worse injury.
Key Learning Points
- Biceps curls don’t need to be performed with really heavy weights. In fact, doing so means that you’ll likely be using other muscles, and therefore not stimulating your biceps enough for growth anyway.
- If you grip the barbell or dumbbells too tightly you’ll activate your forearms more.
- Poor technique during bicep curls can mean that you’re working your forearms and the tendons which connect your forearms to your elbows.
- Inner elbow pain from lifting can often be a sign of weak forearms. So, you may need to work on your forearm strength.
- If you’re new to lifting this is perfectly normal. You are stimulating muscles and joints that you potentially haven’t used before.
- If you feel a sharp pain, this could be a sign of medial epicondylitis (golfer’s elbow), or perhaps an even more serious issue. Please seek advice from an appropriate medical professional.
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.