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What Causes Bicep Pain When Lifting Weights?

author image Jonathan Croswell
Jonathan Croswell has spent more than five years writing and editing for a number of newspapers and online publications, including the "Omaha World-Herald" and "New York Newsday." Croswell received a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from the University of Nebraska and is currently pursuing a Master's of Health and Exercise Science at Portland State University.
What Causes Bicep Pain When Lifting Weights?
A man is doing a bicep curl with a dumbbell. Photo Credit: Djordje_Stojiljkovic/iStock/Getty Images

For many avid lifters, the bicep muscles are both a point of pride and an essential tool -- the muscles are used in most arm lifts, and because of this they endure daily stress in a variety of ways. But if you experience pain in the bicep muscle, it could be cause for alarm. It is important with muscles like this to be cautious and keep your risk of worsening an injury low in order to retain use of the muscle. The first step in treatment is identifying the likely cause of your pain.

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It is important to focus on what type of pains you are experiencing in order to make a good assessment of the source and severity of your pain. If you are experiencing dull, burning pains that you have felt leading in to the workout, this suggests a much different -- and less problematic -- type of pain than sharp, sudden pains that occur in response to lifting.

Muscle Soreness

When muscle pain is dull and burning, you probably don't have much to worry about -- the most likely cause is simple muscle soreness, which can occur after an intense workout that surprises the muscles. Although it was long thought to be caused by lactic acid buildup, muscle soreness is actually caused by microscopic tears and strains in your muscle fibers. These injuries are insignificant, but they can take several days to heal and leave you uncomfortable in the meantime.

Strains and Tears

Sharp, sudden pains in the bicep muscle may suggest a strain or even a tear of the bicep. This can sometimes be easy to identify -- swelling and inflammation is common, and even a partially torn bicep will be unable to perform at the same levels as it normally would. If you have suffered one of these, it is important to meet with a trainer or doctor to have the injury looked at. These injuries can be healed, but they take much longer and could lead to scar tissue development in the bicep.


If you are only suffering from soreness in your muscles, it is safe in many cases to continue with your workout as normal. If the soreness is severe, it may be in your best interest to take the day off or perform a lighter workout regimen, as the pain is indicative of a large number of muscle fibers that are injured. Sharp and sudden pains, on the other hand, suggest more severe muscular or even structural damage in the bicep. In this case, you should abstain from lifting, ice the bicep and visit a doctor if the location does not improve after a few days.

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