Why Do Bicep Curls Hurt My Neck? (Explained!)

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Last updated on February 19th, 2023 at 11:36 am

As strange as it sounds, feeling biceps curls in your neck is actually a common occurrence.

In fact, this can actually be quite painful.

Here’s why this happens and what you can do about it.

There are actually a number of reasons why bicep curls hurt your neck. However, this will mainly be due to poor posture and allowing your shoulders to slouch forward. Therefore, you should always retract your shoulder blades prior to performing bicep curls. This will ensure that your shoulders are stabilised by your traps, which means it is far less likely that you will strain or injure your neck muscles.

You’re Slouching Forward During Bicep Curls

One of the main cues for a vast array of exercises is to retract the scapula.

To put this into layman’s terms, you should be pulling your shoulder blades back and down.

As I say, retracting your shoulder blades is a cue for many exercises, most notably the bench press and pull ups.

However, it is equally important that you also do this when performing bicep curls.

Basically, by pulling the shoulder blades back you allow the shoulders to be stabilised by your traps.

This not only provides a stable base from which to curl, but it can also protect your overall shoulder health.

With that being said, it’s fairly common to see people performing bicep curls with their shoulders slouched forward.

In truth, this is nothing more than poor posture, and something that is reaching almost epidemic proportions in the modern day and age.

Muscle Imbalances or Muscle Weaknesses
Previous Injury History
Sitting for Too Many Hours per Day
Modern Technology - Staring at screens
Poor Choice of Footwear
Excess Weight

Plus, if you’re slouching forward, especially while your arms are loaded with weight, then you’re literally asking for trouble.

Performing bicep curls this way can typically lead to neck pain, headaches, and even shoulder impingement.

So, always ensure that your shoulders are pulled back and your chest is high when performing bicep curls.

Are You Looking Down?

This actually ties in quite well with slouching forward at shoulders.

Basically, if your shoulders are rolled forward then your neck automatically angles forward slightly.

So, in effect, your gaze is actually below eye level, i.e. you’re looking down slightly.

However, this is often made worse by watching the weight as you curl it upwards.

In fact, without realising it you are extending the neck down and then rocking it up and backwards with every single rep.

Your neck is actually assisting your biceps in order to curl the weight.

So, you’re literally “training your neck” to some extent, and as I say, you probably won’t even realise you’re doing it.

This movement places a great deal of stress on the neck, and the spinal column in general.

So, it is actually fairly common to experience a neck strain from doing this.

Plus, if ever you’ve strained your lower back when performing bicep curls, it’s typically because of this constant neck motion.

So, you’ll want to keep your neck relaxed and in a neutral position when performing curls, and this is best achieved by simply looking straight ahead.

You’re Using Too Much Weight

One of the main issues when it comes to aches and pains in the gym is trying to use too much weight.

Come on, admit it, we’ve all been there, myself included.

Unfortunately, we’re all prone to occasionally “ego-lifting”, and loading a bar with more weight than we should.

In truth, when you lift too much weight with bicep curls you’re actually getting very little actual bicep work in.

Personally, I’ve always found that my biceps react better to high reps and increased volume.

Now, don’t get me wrong, you can definitely train the biceps for strength with lower reps and lower volume.

But, as I say, I like to literally flood the biceps with blood by performing high reps.

The main issue with using too much weight with bicep curls is that you’ll generally stop using the biceps and initially focus on momentum.

World Record Dumbbell Bicep Curls - Ben Prillaman curled 959.86kg (2,109.88lbs) in one minute. Robert Natoli curled 16,123.84kg (35,547lbs) in one hour.

However, quite often you’ll try to fix your form mid-set, but this usually involves straining and bringing other muscles into play.

This is actually made worse as you come to the end of your set and fatigue starts to kick in.

Once more, in order to squeeze out those last few reps you’re using every ounce of energy, and this can frequently lead to a strained neck.

So, I would recommend that you focus on using less weight, but adhering to perfect form.

Plus, always leave something in the tank, so don’t try to strain out that final rep if you’re really struggling.

Are You Allowing Your Elbows to Flare?

Something else you should be wary of during bicep curls is your arm position.

Essentially, you should have your elbows literally stuck to your sides, almost jamming them against your rib cage.

However, quite often you’ll see people curling with their elbows flared out to the sides.

In truth, allowing your elbows to flare out will take a lot of the load off the biceps.

In fact, you’re more likely to be using your shoulders and your forearms to get the weight up during bicep curls.

And unfortunately, once you start using the shoulders more for bicep curls, you’ll also be activating the neck muscles to a far greater extent.

I will say that allowing the elbows to flare out during bicep curls is usually an indication that you’re using too much weight.

So, not only are you using poor form, you’re also bringing other muscles into play, while really trying to strain the weight up.

It’s only a matter of time before you hurt your neck muscles too.

Are You Warming Up Correctly?

The final thing to consider is your warm-up prior to performing bicep curls.

I would hazard a guess that the vast majority of people will do a few light sets of bicep curls as a precursor to their main workout.

Yes, I agree that practicing the movement with lighter weights is a good way to warm-up, but it definitely shouldn’t be the only thing you do.

I’ve mentioned that holding a load in your hands will activate the shoulders, traps, and upper back.

So, it makes a great deal of sense to warm-up these muscles too prior to performing bicep curls.

In truth, I personally like to do a full-body warm up, including my core and lower body, prior to performing any workout.

For me, it just makes sense to have my entire body warm, my heart rate elevated, and I’m ready for whatever the weight room is going to throw at me.

Plus, this mean there’s less chance of hurting or straining a secondary muscle group during any exercise.

Key Learning Points

  • Poor posture will typically lead to you feeling bicep curls in your neck, especially if you allow your shoulders to slouch forwards.
  • Always retract your shoulder blades prior to curls, exactly as you would with bench press or pull ups.
  • Never look down at the weights or follow them with your eyes. Keep your gaze firmly ahead.
  • If you’re using more weight than you can handle it’s likely you’ll use other muscles to curl the weight up.
  • So, I hope you understand that there could be quite a few reasons why bicep curls hurt your neck.
  • Just because the biceps are a small muscle doesn’t mean you shouldn’t warm up first. In fact, I would suggest a full-body warm up prior to any form of exercise.

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