Last updated on November 21st, 2022 at 05:48 pm
It doesn’t sound right to be talking about feeling bicep curls in your chest.
But, if you know, you know!
Following a bicep workout you may notice that you feel as though your pecs have been activated.
Then again, I know of some people who have even complained of DOMS in the chest.
This is usually due to a form issue which sees you using shoulder flexion, and this will stimulate the chest.
So, allow me to explain what’s going on here and how you can fix it.
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Why Do I Feel Bicep Curls in My Chest?
Your chest goes through a light isometric contraction when you perform bicep curls. In effect, you are tensing the chest muscles during curls which could explain why you feel it in this area of the body. However, poor technique could also be the culprit. You’ll feel your chest more If your elbows move forward, arch your back, torso leans forward, or use too much weight. All of these things will bring the shoulders into play, which will activate the pectoral muscles.
1. Isometric Contraction of the Chest During Bicep Curls
Firstly, I will say that the chest does go through a light isometric contraction whenever you perform bicep curls.
So, it’s not unheard-of to feel curls in your chest.
With that being said, you certainly shouldn’t be feeling any soreness.
I think it’s important to keep the muscles of the body tight during any resistance exercise, so you will often feel exercises in the non-target muscles.
And this is sometimes exaggerated when you know you’re about to perform a tough set.
It’s much like when you know you’re about to receive a punch in the stomach, you tend to contract your abs and squeeze really tight.
So, if you’re about to perform a particularly heavy or high volume set of bicep curls it’s likely you’re “preparing” your body.
This could manifest itself by you excessively tensing or flexing your chest muscles.
Pay attention to what you’re doing with the chest the next time you’re doing bicep curls.
The answer may reveal itself to you.
2. Your Elbows Are (Excessively) Moving
Probably the biggest form error when it comes to bicep curls is allowing the elbows to move forward (or even to the sides).
In fact, you could say the same of tricep exercises.
Both sets of muscles are in the upper arm and the best way to isolate them is to keep your elbows in a fixed position.
You’ll also find that if your elbows move during curls you take the emphasis off the biceps and place it more onto the shoulders.
And any hint of additional shoulder involvement will automatically activate the pecs.
The biceps cross the shoulder joint, so it’s quite difficult to keep the shoulders completely out of the equation.
However, the shoulder joint also happens to be connected to the pectoral muscles, and this could explain why you feel curls in your chest.
That being said, allowing your elbows to move is simply poor technique.
Okay, there may be a slight movement, which is acceptable, but they definitely shouldn’t be moving excessively.
So, you’ll also want to pay close attention to what your elbows are doing during curls.
Bicep Curl Elbow Flaring Mistake
3. You’re Leaning Forward
Something else I see quite often is people who lean forward when they perform curls.
Now don’t get me wrong, there are actually curl variations that require you to lean the torso every so slightly forward.
However, for now I’m just talking about the traditional bicep curl with either dumbbells or a barbell.
If you are leaning forward then yet again the shoulders will be brought into play.
I think one of the main reasons for this “lean” is that most people curl the weight up too far.
There seems to be a tendency to end the upward part of the movement with the weight in line with the shoulders.
So, as you start to fatigue you’re almost bringing the shoulders to the weight.
In truth, you shouldn’t really be curling past your nipple line.
Once you move past this point you’ll be activating the shoulders more than the biceps.
And I’m sure I don’t need to reiterate that more shoulder stimulation equals more chest activation.
4. You’re Using Too Much Weight
The fact that you’re either leaning or moving the elbows can also be attributed to how much weight you’re trying to curl.
Basically, if you’re curling more weight than you can handle you’ll typically “cheat” the movement.
And let’s face facts, most people curl much more weight than they actually should.
The biceps (along with the pecs) are probably one of the most trained muscles in the gym environment.
They’re a “show” muscle and often the first thing we notice about someone.
And we all want a great set of guns.
So, in search of a huge pair of bulging biceps we all typically try to curl as much weight as possible.
However, this simply leads to you cheating and using momentum to get the weight up.
This will also usually mean that you’re using other muscles, apart from the biceps, to lift the weight.
And as the chest goes through the slightest of isometric contractions during curls you’re likely to feel “cheating” in the pecs too.
Furthermore, you won’t actually be training the biceps as efficiently either.
Personally, I think that the biceps react better to a reduced weight, higher reps, and additional volume.
5. Does This Happen With Barbell Bicep Curls?
I would hazard a guess that you’re feeling your chest more during barbell bicep curls, as opposed to the dumbbell variety.
There’s a few reasons that this may occur.
Firstly, and something I’ve already alluded to, is that we typically switch to the barbell when we want to curl more weight.
So, we load up the barbell (with probably more weight that we can handle) and aim to crank out an intense 5×5.
Just the extra weight could lead to poor form and bring the shoulders and pecs more into play.
Secondly, you may be gripping the barbell tighter and almost pushing your hands towards each other.
This will increase as fatigue begins to set in.
Just this simple use of the hands is likely to contract the chest muscles to greater effect.
Finally, if you’re performing a close-grip barbell curl the chest contraction increases even more.
In fact, you can actually feel the difference in chest contraction (without any weight) when you bring your hands closer together.
Try this – hold your arms out straight in front of you and contract as many muscles in your arms and torso as possible.
Now slowly squeeze your hands towards each other and you should notice that your chest gets pushed further out.
Basically, the closer your hands are together the greater the squeeze on your pecs.
Barbell Bicep Curl – 3 Golden Rules
6. You’re Arching Your Back
The final thing to look out for is arching your back during curls.
You should always maintain a completely neutral spine position throughout your set of curls.
However, it’s actually quite common to see people arching their back, and this is especially true as fatigue sets in.
In fact, I’ve often seen trainees go into anterior pelvic tilt when performing bicep curls.
Basically, their butt sticks out and up in the air, the upper abs get pushed out, and there’s a definite arching of the back.
This will again take the stress of the exercise away from the biceps and put it more onto the shoulders.
So, of course, you are stimulating the chest muscles more than you’d want.
This will also happen if you’re lifting too much weight.
As long as you maintain a neutral back position you’ll work the biceps really well and have a better chance of isolating them during curls.
I hope you have a better understanding of why you feel bicep curls in your chest.
This will mainly be down to issues with form.
These include allowing your elbows to move excessively, arching your back, or leaning forward.
And these things often occur if you’re trying to curl too much weight.
It’s also important to realise that the chest will go through a slight isometric contraction during bicep curls.
This contraction can also increase when you use a barbell.
So, if you’re feeling your chest during curls, pay closer attention to these technique cues.
Netx, take this opportunity to check out my personal review of the Blast Your Biceps workout program.
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.