Biceps Curls That Won't Cause Tendonitis

Tendonitis is a painful condition that can occur in any joint, but it is most common in your shoulders, elbows, wrists and heels. It is the inflammation and irritation of a tendon -- a fibrous structure that attaches muscle to bone. Biceps curls may be a risk factor for developing tendonitis in your elbow. However, no specific type of biceps curl is the main culprit for causing tendonitis.

If you usually do barbell curls, try dumbbell curls. (Image: Rui Santos/iStock/Getty Images)


A severe or sudden injury can cause tendonitis, but it is more commonly the result of repetitive motion. Excessive exercise, such as performing a high volume of biceps curls, is a risk factor for elbow tendonitis, which is sometimes called tennis elbow or pitcher's elbow. Repetitive motions result in strain and overuse of a joint, which can result in inflammation of the tendon. Improper technique and the use of heavy weights can increase your risk.

Biceps Curls

No one type of biceps curls causes tendonitis. It is the repetitive motion of constantly curling your elbow against resistance that eventually irritates and inflames your tendon. Some types of biceps curls may make you more likely to experience tendonitis, such as those that lock you into one path of motion. Use different equipment and perform different variations of the biceps curl to avoid repeating the same path of motion.

Try Dumbbells

A barbell biceps curl locks your arms into one movement path, but dumbbells allow you to change your grip and range of motion during the biceps-curl exercise. This may reduce your risk of tendonitis, because you are not repeating the same movement in the same path of motion. You can also try resistance bands or a cable machine to vary the movement.


Do not overtrain your biceps with excessive sets and repetitions. Back exercises also work your biceps muscles, so focus on compound back exercises, such as rows, pulldowns and pull-ups. Finish your workout with two to three sets of biceps curls, fatiguing the muscle in eight to 12 repetitions. If you do experience pain in your elbow, consult a physician. The initial treatment for tendonitis is rest. Stop performing biceps curls or any other exercise that aggravates your elbow.

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