Anyone else ever asked, “Why Can’t I Straighten My Arms After Bicep Workout?”
I’m pretty sure we’ve all been there before.
You hit the biceps with a great workout, but the following day (or the day after) you simply can’t straighten your arms after the gym.
In fact, your arms pretty much become useless for a few days.
You find that you’re unable to even perform the most menial of tasks that involves using your arms.
So, what’s going on here?
Why Can’t I Straighten My Arms After Bicep Workout?
The most common reason you can’t straighten your arms after a bicep workout (or you simply can’t straighten your arms after the gym) is because of Delayed-Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS). This is perfectly natural if you’re new to lifting, have had a break from lifting, or if you’ve completed a far more intense arm workout than usual. DOMS will eventually subside within a few days, but can be helped by stretching out the biceps and training the triceps.
1. You’ve Got T-Rex Syndrome (T-Rex DOMS)
As I say, we’ve all been there.
You hit the biceps hard and the following day your arms can barely function.
In fact, you now have the amusingly-named “T-Rex Syndrome”.
Basically, your biceps are so tight and inflammed that you can’t straighten your arms at the elbow.
So, you literally walk around with short arms in front of you, much like a T-Rex.
I’m sure it’s extremely funny to those around you, but it certainly doesn’t feel like a laughing matter to you.
Pure and simple, you’re suffering from DOMS.
Or to rub a little more salt into the wound, you have T-Rex DOMS.
Delayed-Onset Muscle Soreness is the pain that you feel in the muscles after you’ve worked out.
They typically kick in a day or two after your workout.
If you start to feel pain during or straight after your workout then this is acute muscle soreness, and is something very different.
Admittedly, I’m specifically focusing on working your biceps here, but you’ll often find you can’t straighten your arms after the gym, even with a “non-arm” related exercise.
A prime example of this is that you may feel it in your arms following a heavy bench press session.
2. More About DOMS
If you’re new to lifting and this is the first time you’ve performed a bicep workout then unfortunately your DOMS will probably last longer.
You may find that you’re still unable to straighten your arms after the second, third, or even fourth day following your workout.
So, this is nothing to be alarmed about.
The same can be said if you’ve had some time out from training and you try to hit your bicep workout with the same intensity as you used to.
RELATED====>Why Do Biceps Take So Long to Grow?
You’re going to experience DOMS for a few days, and you’ll find it difficult to straighten your arms once more.
And even if you do train regularly, but you decide to perform a different type of bicep workout, typically with a lot more volume than usual, those DOMS may well kick in again.
Now, something to consider is that DOMS generally occur during the eccentric phase of a movement, i.e. when the muscle is lengthened.
So, in the main, this will mean that the muscle is relaxed.
However, there is also something known as eccentric muscle contraction.
This occurs when the muscle lengthens, but also produces tension at the same time.
And, guess what?
Yes, you’ve got it, the biceps happen to be one of the groups of muscles that go through eccentric contraction.
So, you are far more likely to experience DOMS in your biceps than many other muscles in the body.
And unfortunately, this may mean that you won’t be able to straighten your arms fully for a few days.
How to Relieve DOMS and Recover Fast
3. Try to Stretch Out the Biceps & Work The Triceps
As difficult (and strange) as it sounds the solution to “T-Rex Doms” is to stretch the biceps, while working the triceps.
I don’t mean at the same time, but rather, separately to each other.
However, by stretching out the biceps you can help the muscles to relax.
That being said, it may still take a few stretching sessions until you can fully extend your arms again.
You can also work the triceps with some basic tricep extension exercises, which once again will help to eventually straighten the arms out.
Mitch Clark, a sport’s acupuncturist, provides details in the video below of both these movements.
Just following these simple steps will eventually see the soreness in the biceps subside, thus allowing you to straighten your arms.
How to Deal With T-Rex DOMS
4. You May Have Strained the Tendons
I mentioned above that DOMS typically kick in 2-3 days after your workout.
However, if you’re feeling soreness during or immediately after your workout, this could be a sign of something else.
If you’re having difficulties in straightening your arms on the same day this could mean that you have inflamed or strained the tendons.
If this is bicep tendonitis then the first step is always complete rest.
Don’t be tempted to hit the gym again the following day, and if you do it’s advisable to focus on your lower body.
You can apply cold packs to the inflamed area, typically for around 20 minutes at a time.
If the pain persists then you can take non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).
However, if you still find that you’re in pain after a few days then it’s definitely time to visit a medical professional.
With that being said, bicep tendonitis will generally subside with proper rest and recovery.
5. It Could Be Golfer’s Elbow
If you find that you’re experiencing a sharp pain in your inner elbow following your bicep workout this could be golfer’s elbow.
RELATED====>Inner Elbow Pain After Bicep Curls
In fact, this pain and the fact that you can’t straighten your arm after the gym, could be caused by any number of exercises.
Officially known as Medial Epicondylitis, this could be another reason for not being able to straighten your arm.
However, this will feel very different from DOMS or tendon inflammation.
In fact, the soreness can be extremely painful.
This is typically brought about by overuse, poor form, or a training imbalance.
Golfer’s elbow could even be due to a poor diet or certain medications.
This, once again, should be dealt with by seeking professional medical advice.
10 Best Self-Treatments For Golfer’s Elbow
6. You Need Rest and Recovery
I have touched on this above, but if you’re struggling to straighten your arms after a bicep workout then rest and recovery is the order of the day.
Whenever you train your muscles they experience tiny, microscopic tears.
This is actually a good thing.
Your muscles actually break down during your workout, and they repair themselves while you rest.
This is why you’re always told that it’s good to have “rest days”.
Basically, the muscles only grow and get stronger while you’re resting and not during the actual workout.
And a lot of the “magic” happens while you’re asleep.
It is during one of the stages of deep sleep that the Human Growth Hormone is released, as well as various other “growth” hormones”, including testosterone.
And it is during this process that the muscles get built back up and the soreness tends to improve.
So, you must ensure that you take adequate rest and get plenty of sleep.
Nine times out of ten this will be the perfect solution and it won’t be long until your arms return to normal.
Human Growth Hormone
So, hopefully you’re a little clearer as to why you can’t straighten your arms after a bicep workout.
As I’ve mentioned, this is generally due to delayed-onset muscle soreness.
You’ll know this is the case if it takes a day or two for the soreness to kick in.
However, if you feel soreness straight away this could be a sign of something untoward.
You can heal tendon inflammation or golfer’s elbow with rest and recuperation.
But, if you find the pain unbearable then it’s time to seek professional medical help.
If you’re looking to grow your biceps (and still be able to straighten your arms) then Lee Hayward has the solution.
Lee is a muscle-building coach and bodybuilder.
He has a three-phase workout program to grow the biceps.
It’s interesting to note that only one of the three phases actually focuses on bicep specialization training.
You can find out more and what I thought of Lee’s program in my Blast Your Biceps Review.
Hi, I’m Partha, the founder of My Bodyweight Exercises. I’m someone who’s been passionate about exercise and nutrition for more years than I care to remember. I’ve studied, researched, and honed my skills for a number of decades now. So, I’ve created this website to hopefully share my knowledge with you. Whether your goal is to lose weight, burn fat, get fitter, or build muscle and strength, I’ve got you covered.