Triceps Sore? Should You Train Biceps? Here’s What You Need to Know

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It’s absolutely fine to train your biceps if your triceps are sore. In fact, it could actually help with tricep recovery. Biceps and triceps are opposing muscles. Therefore, when your biceps contract, your triceps relax, and vice versa. Furthermore, the increased blood flow to your arms will help with nutrient partitioning and active recovery for your triceps.

Biceps and Triceps Are Antagonistic Muscles

Flexion Means Biceps Contracts and Triceps Relax. Extension Means That Triceps Contract and Biceps Relax

The biceps and triceps are an antagonistic muscle pair.

Therefore, when one muscle group contracts or shortens, the other muscle group relaxes or lengthens.

So, in theory antagonist muscles shouldn’t have an impact on each other.

Now, I would definitely say this is true of the biceps and triceps.

In other words, if your triceps are sore I see no issue with training the biceps.

“Training opposing muscle groups in the same workout can be a good strategy, especially for advanced lifters. The work in one muscle can help with blood flow and recovery in the other.”

Mike Mentzer (Bodybuilder)

However, when it comes to other antagonistic muscle pairs in the body the same can often not be said.

If we take the pecs and lats as an example.

When your lats are sore you may find that your bench press is affected to some degree.

And then if we look at the quads and hamstrings, another opposing group of muscles.

Sore hamstrings will definitely have an impact on your squat.

I’m not saying that you won’t be able to train bench press or squats with sore lats and hamstrings respectively.

But, you’re likely to find that you may not be able to lift as much weight, or go for as many reps, as normal.

The main reason for this is that these are larger muscle groups that typically trained with compound movements.

Although, you can of course train pecs, lats, quads, and hamstrings with isolation lifts.

With that being said, the biceps and triceps are very different.

Firstly, they are much smaller muscles.

Plus, you will generally train them with isolation exercises.

Performing bicep curls will involve the triceps to some degree.

But, their involvement is restricted to relaxing as you lower the weight.

Increased Blood Flow Will Help Recovery

Training your biceps can actually help your triceps to recover if they’re sore.

I think many of us are worried that as the muscles in the arms are fairly small (in comparison to the rest of the body), one aching muscle is going to affect the other.

However, as I’ve mentioned above, because they are opposing muscle groups this won’t be a problem.

Plus, I’ve also stated that when you contract the biceps, the triceps will relax.

Additionally, you’ll increase blood flow to the arms when performing biceps exercises.

And you may even get your heart rate up depending on the types of biceps movement you’re performing.

Both of these things are great for nutrient partitioning.

In effect, nutrient partitioning will take consumed calories and “feed” them to the muscles.

It can also start the process of protein synthesis, which is when the cells in the body produce protein.

And this of course is ideal for muscle recovery.

So, I would even go as far to say that you can hit the biceps pretty hard even if your triceps are sore.

The “reaction” created in the cells will definitely help your triceps to recover quicker.

Understand the Difference Between “Sore” and “Pain”

I think it’s important to discuss “soreness”.

By this I mean, is it simply delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) that you’re feeling?

This is general muscle soreness that you feel for a day or two after training.

DOMS are more likely to kick in if an exercise is new to you, or you have changed your training routine somewhat.

But, that’s not to say that you can’t still experience DOMS as a regular lifter following a similar routine.

It just typically happens a lot less often than your early days of lifting.

In truth, if it is simply DOMS that you’re feeling you could actually train the exact same muscle group again.

Okay, it will “hurt”, you may not lift as much or as well, but once the muscle is suitably warmed up, you should find that you’re knocking out a fairly decent workout.

However, if you’re in actual pain then things will take a very different turn.

And by pain I mean that you have in some way injured your triceps.

This will definitely have an impact on whether you should train biceps or not.

“There’s a difference between soreness and pain. Mild soreness is okay, but sharp pain indicates you should rest or consult a healthcare professional.”

Bret Contreras (Strength Coach)

The main reason for this is because you have to remember that the triceps will contract when the biceps relax.

So, let’s take barbell bicep curls as an example.

As you curl the weight up your biceps contract and your triceps relax.

And on the way down the biceps relax and the triceps contract.

If you have an injury you’re going to struggle to control the barbell on the way back down.

Plus, you’re likely to aggravate your tricep injury as the muscle contracts.

So, learn the difference between feeling sore and actual pain.

If you’ve injured your triceps then definitely avoid any bicep training.

Should You Avoid Other Pushing Exercises?

Something else to consider is your training split.

I know many people who typically train back and triceps on the same day and then follow this up with chest and biceps the next day.

So, if you are following a similar training split you may find that this impacts on your chest workout.

Okay, I have just mentioned that you can work through “soreness” and you can even train a sore muscle two days in a row.

However, if you’re really feeling it in your triceps then your chest and bicep workout the following day is unlikely to live up to your expectations.

You’ll probably find that your triceps fatigue much quicker when you bench press, or when you perform any other push-based chest exercise for that matter.

So, in effect you won’t be working your chest as hard.

You may even find that training your biceps is particularly difficult because you hit upper back the previous day.

So, if you are following this type of workout split you will potentially be better off having an additional day’s rest.

Key Learning Points

  • It’s fine to train your biceps if your triceps are sore, as they are antagonistic muscle groups, which means that your triceps will relax as your biceps contract.
  • The increased blood flow from your biceps workout can help with nutrient partitioning, which will aid recovery for your triceps.
  • Be aware of the difference between generalized soreness and actual pain.
  • It’s fine to train with DOMS, but pain could indicate an injury, so training in general should be avoided until you seek professional medical advice.
  • Be wary of your workout split, and whether sore triceps can affect any other exercises you’re doing the following day, e.g. sore triceps may affect chest or shoulder training.

Looking to scuplt a pair of muscular arms? Check out Lee Hayward’s “Blast Your Biceps” workout program.

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