Why Do I Feel Bicep Curls In My Back? Everything You Need To Know For Rapid Progress
One of the most common questions we get asked is “Why do I feel bicep curls in my back?”
There are a few different reasons why this might be happening, and we’ll go over them shortly. It can be frustrating, especially when you aren’t seeing the results you want in your biceps, to feel the burn in your back instead.
However, don’t worry there are a few things you can do to help fix the problem.
Why do I feel bicep curls in my back?
Your biceps are working overtime to try and keep your elbows from flaring out. This puts a lot of pressure on the muscles in your back, which can cause pain and discomfort. The best way to avoid this is to keep your elbows close to your sides when you curl and focus on contracting your biceps as much as possible. You might also be leaning too far back or forward depending on how you are standing to counterbalance the weight you are trying to lift, which will make the back work harder than it needs to. If you have poor posture and you are rounding your shoulders, this too will put extra stress on your back to balance the weight. If you are swinging the bar to lift the weight, this too will put unnecessary strain on your back and can cause pain. Make sure to keep your form strict and focus on using your biceps to curl the weight. Additionally, make sure you’re using a weight that’s appropriate for your strength level – if it’s too heavy, you’ll only end up causing more pain in the long run.
It might be down to a few different things, but there are a few minor details you can change to help alleviate the problem. Let’s look at what they are and what you can do to help fix the problem.
Going too heavy
The most common reason people feel bicep curls in their back is that they are using too much weight. If the weight is too heavy, your biceps have to work overtime to try and keep the elbows from flaring out.
This puts additional demands on the muscles in your back, which can cause pain and discomfort.
The best way to avoid this is to use a weight that’s appropriate for your strength level. If you’re new to lifting, start with a lighter weight and gradually work your way up.
Once you’ve found a weight that’s challenging but doable, stick with that until you can consistently perform the exercise with good form.
You should only be using your elbow as the hinge to curl the bar, there shouldn’t be any movement in your shoulder joint.
If you’re not using good form, it’s likely that your back is taking on more of the workload than it should be.
There are a few things that can contribute to poor form, such as swinging the bar to lift the weight, leaning too far back or forward, having poor posture, or flailing your elbows out like a chicken!
Let’s take a look at some of the main reasons people may feel bicep curls in their back…
Keep your shoulders down and back
If your shoulders are hunched forward, it puts an extra burden on your back muscles to try and balance the weight.
Good posture is key in any exercise, but it’s especially important when you’re trying to avoid overworking your back.
If the weight is too heavy or you aren’t standing up straight with a good posture, you will naturally round your shoulders to try and lift the weight.
Fix this by using a lighter weight and concentrating on good form with shoulders down and back, keeping the focus on using the biceps to curl.
Your centre of mass is offset
If your centre of mass is shifted to one side, you will naturally lean in that direction to try and counterbalance the weight.
This places unnecessary pressure on your back and can cause pain.
To avoid this, keep the weight evenly distributed and make sure your feet are shoulder-width apart.
Leaning too far backwards or forwards will also offset your centre of mass, so make sure to stay upright with a neutral spine.
You should also focus on keeping your core engaged throughout the exercise to help keep your balance.
Elbows too far from body
If your elbows are flaring out to the side, your back muscles will have to keep the weight under control.
To avoid this, keep your elbows close to your body and focus on using your biceps to curl the weight.
If your elbows are also pointing forward, this can also contribute to the problem.
Keep your elbows pointing straight down and focus on using your biceps to curl the weight up and down.
Try and think of the movement as having your inner biceps glued to your rib cage and the only movement should be at the elbow joint.
There shouldn’t be any movement in your shoulder joint or wrist flexion either.
Swinging the bar
If you’re swinging the bar to lift the weight, it’s likely that you’re using too much weight.
The momentum from swinging the bar places extra strain on your back muscles and might cause discomfort.
If you are swinging the bar, you aren’t actually curling the weight which takes away from the effectiveness of the exercise.
If you swing the bar, you may notice that your traps were hit hard as well.
This is because as you swing the bar up, your trapezius (muscles in your upper back) have to work overtime to control the weight.
If you’re using too much weight, your traps will be sore the next day.
To prevent it, choose a weight that is challenging for your strength level and focus on curling the bar up and down in a controlled manner using your biceps.
Not engaging core for stability
If you’re not engaging your core, it’s likely that you’re not stabilizing your body which can cause the weight to swing.
A strong core is key for any exercise, but it’s especially important when you’re trying to avoid putting strain on your back.
To engage your core, think about pulling your belly button towards your spine and keeping your back straight.
You should feel your abs tighten as you do this.
Once you have engaged your core, focus on curling the weight up and down using your biceps without swinging the weight.
Lack of upper body strength
If you don’t have the upper body strength to perform the exercise with good form, it’s likely your back will pick up the slack.
The best way to avoid this is to focus on building up your upper body strength by doing exercises like chin-ups, rows and overhead presses.
If you exercise your body correctly by working the different body parts equally, your back won’t be overworked and you will be able to perform the exercise correctly.
Focus on strengthening your entire body all over, not just so you can do curls correctly, but having a well-balanced frame will help you progress better and allow you to do other exercises with better form as well.
If your wrists are in an awkward position, it can make your back and neck work harder than they need to.
To avoid this, keep your wrists in a neutral position around shoulder width apart.
You can also place your hands slightly closer together to help take some of the strain off your back, this will also make it easier for you to dig those elbows into the side of your torso.
Once you have your grip set, focus on curling the weight using your biceps, making sure you don’t use your wrists to lift the bar either by flexing them towards you at the top of the curl.
A tell-tale way of knowing you have done this will be that your forearms will be very sore the next day.
Not using a full range of motion
If you’re not using a full range of motion, you’re not working your muscles through their entire range which can cause imbalances.
Not only that, but you’re also not getting the full benefit of the exercise.
To ensure you’re using a full range of motion, lower the weight all the way down so your elbows are fully extended.
From there, curl the weight up until your biceps are fully contracted and your hands are about shoulder level.
Squeeze your biceps at the top of the curl for one second before slowly lowering the weight back to the starting position.
Performing the exercise this way will help to ensure you’re using good form and getting the most out of the exercise.
You’re not isolating the biceps
The biceps curl is an exercise that isolation the biceps, which means that other muscles should not be helping to lift the weight.
If you’re using your shoulders or momentum to curl the weight, you’re not isolating your biceps and you’re not getting the full benefit of the exercise.
Try doing curl variations which isolate the muscle such as preacher curls and concentration curls.
Preacher curls are performed by placing your arms on a preacher bench and curling the weight up from there.
Concentration curls are performed by sitting down with one arm resting on your thigh and curling the weight up from there.
Both of these exercises will help to ensure you’re isolating your biceps and getting the most out of the exercise.
Get a grip
If you aren’t holding the bar with conviction, your upper body will try to make up for it by using other muscles to stabilize the weight.
This places needless stress on your back and may lead you to swing the weight, putting pressure on your lower back.
To fix this, focus on gripping the bar as tightly as you can. You should feel your whole hand engage as you do this.
Once you have a tight grip, focus on curling the weight using your biceps and keeping your upper body stable.
This will help to ensure you’re using good form and not overworking your back. If you’re also using a grip that’s too wide, it will put extra strain on your back.
A shoulder-width grip is ideal because it gives you the most control and prevents damage to your back.
Keep your elbows close to your sides and focus on contracting your biceps as you curl the weight.
Focusing on the mind-muscle connection
If you find you are feeling bicep curls more in your back than the biceps themselves, try to focus on the mind-muscle connection.
When you feel the biceps working, that’s when you know you’re doing the exercise correctly.
Think about squeezing the biceps as you curl and really focus on contracting the muscle. The mind-muscle connection is key in any exercise, but it’s especially important when you’re trying to target a specific muscle group.
The weight is too heavy if you are doing more than curling the weight using your elbows as the hinging point while being tucked in by your side. Reduce the weight and concentrate on the mind-muscle connection.
When you feel the biceps working, that’s when you know you’re doing the exercise correctly.
When it comes to bicep curls, focus on using a full range of motion, keeping your wrists in a neutral position, and gripping the bar tightly.
It’s also important to focus on the mind-muscle connection and really feel the biceps working as you curl.
If you find you are using your back more than your biceps, reduce the weight and focus on good form.
Following these tips will help you to get the most out of your bicep curls and build bigger, stronger arms.
Do you feel bicep curls in your shoulders when you workout? Let us know in the comments below.