What exactly is a bicep tear and how can you prevent yourself from having to suffer through one?
Keep reading to find out!
Bicep tears are one of the most common fears among weightlifters and other strength training athletes.
Now I'm not sure whether you've ever seen a video of a person tearing their biceps before, but it's pretty scary, and I doubt you actually want to watch one.
I always found them to be terrifying, and even paranoid of them whenever I deadlifted with a mixed grip or curled heavy on a barbell.
And just for those of you who don't know, in this article I'm going to be covering what exactly a bicep tear is, why they happen and how you can prevent them from happening to you.
Let's dive right in!
What Is a Bicep Tear?
A bicep tear is one of the most common arm injuries you see people face in strength training.
That's not to say that it IS a common or likely injury, but out of the ones that do happen this is one of the more common ones.
There are actually several types of bicep tears, sorted by their severity and location of the injury on your arm.
In our bodies, we have tendons that connect our muscles to our bones and are responsible for giving us the freedom to move our limbs.
A bicep tear or injury means either a partial or complete tearing of the tendon, and is a pretty serious injury, regardless of the type of bicep tear.
Some less severe bicep tears can mean that only the tendon is damaged, and that everything is still together and intact.
And in more extreme cases, your bicep tendon can completely detach from the bone.
A bicep tear can cause you to lose the ability to move your arm, and have significant hindrances in your ability to perform physical tasks and exercise.
As you can probably imagine, this kind of injury is incredibly painful and is definitely not something that you ever want to experience in your lifetime.
Many people that suffer bicep tears end up having to stop all physical activity for at least several weeks, if not months while they recover.
I'm not trying to scare you, but just inform you that this kind of injury does exist and that you should definitely be careful of it.
NOTE: Bicep tears are also sometimes known as 'bicep ruptures'.
What Causes Bicep Tears?
Functions of the Biceps
To understand why bicep tears happen, you first need to understand what the functions of the biceps are and what they do as a muscle group.
The biceps are known as 'elbow flexors', which means they are responsible for the action of bending at the elbow and curling your hands closer towards your shoulders.
Any exercise that you perform where you have to flex or bend at the elbow against resistance is going to work your biceps.
Additionally the biceps are also responsible for supinating the hands (twisting your palms to make them face upwards) and assist in shoulder flexion, which means to raise your arms up and over your head from below.
However with bicep tears, they mostly occur during the first and last functions that I've mentioned, being elbow and shoulder flexion.
Lifting too Much Weight
Bicep tears are most common when people try to lift far too much weight, or lift with incorrect form and put their biceps in highly unfavorable positions.
A combination of both is going to be a recipe for disaster.
When people try to lift too heavy on a bicep curl, the sheer amount of force placed on their biceps can cause tears and ruptures in the muscle or tendon.
It's not likely to happen on a bicep curl, but there are some pretty stupid people out there who try to curl weights that they can barely bench press or shoulder press.
And again as they lower down to the stretched position during their reps, the tension on the muscles is incredibly high. This is where most of the bicep tears happen when they occur on a bicep curl.
There was a viral video going around of a guy that was doing pretty heavy preacher curls with a barbell, and unfortunately tore both of his biceps at the exact same time, as he neared the stretched position of the movement.
It was terrifying to see.
However the most common place of bicep injuries is probably on the deadlift.
And specifically on the mixed grip.
The deadlift is the strongest and heaviest free weight exercise for most people, with the mixed grip also being one of the more popular deadlift grips out there.
And with the mixed grip, the hand that's supinated carries A LOT of weight during the deadlift.
There's a lot of stress placed on the bicep during its most stretched position, where the tendons are also the most vulnerable and susceptible to injuries and damage.
This is not to say that you shouldn't use the mixed grip on your deadlifts, as it is definitely a viable option if you're simply looking to lift more weight and really express your strength better.
However it is just important to note that the chances of tearing a bicep are increased when you deadlift with a mixed grip. Especially if you're lifting heavy all the time such as professional powerlifters do.
Overusing the Biceps and Their Tendons
Bicep tears can also happen as a result of overuse, even if you're lifting weights or performing physical tasks that you've comfortably done in the past.
For example if you have a job that's physically demanding (such as a builder or working in the packing zone of a trade center), your chances of injury might be slightly increased if you head to the gym straight after work.
When you exert force with your muscles, you cause tiny tears and microtrauma in your muscles and tendons that need to be repaired through rest.
However if you overuse your biceps and don't give them a rest, they're going to gradually weaken and become more fragile until you give them a rest.
And if you choose to lift heavy weights at that time, you're going to risk increased chances of injuries and bicep tears.
On top of this, as scary as it sounds, the chances of you suffering a bicep tear increase as you age and grow older.
When you age your tendons weaken down and become more fragile, meaning they're easier to break under pressure and tension.
This means if you were to fall and catch yourself with your arms or try to lift too much weight, the chances of you tearing a bicep would be relatively higher compared to that of a younger person.
There are lots of potential causes of a bicep tear, but that shouldn't stop you from performing certain physical tasks or exercises.
And it shouldn't plague you with fear either.
The chances of you suffering a bicep tear are pretty low, and it's probably not something that most people are ever going to have to experience.
What Does a Bicep Tear Feel Like?
Now I can't tell you from personal experience because I've (luckily!) never experienced a bicep tear before.
However I did some digging around, and people that have suffered through them before have claimed that it feels like a sudden pop in your bicep, followed by mild to excruciating pain depending on the severity of the tear.
Your ability to move your arm then weakens or completely disappears, and you're left with a very painful arm that's hard to move.
I imagine it's not the most comfortable feeling in the world.
How to Prevent Bicep Tears
Unfortunately, bicep tears can happen on complete accident. But so can just about any other injury.
However there are certain thins that you can do and keep in mind to help reduce the chances of you ever having to face a bicep tear or rupture.
Be Careful (Obviously)
Obviously you have to be careful with the physical activity that you do.
You can push yourself, but be sensible with it.
And don't constantly push yourself to the limits all the time.
You might feel accomplished or feel better about yourself that way, but it's going to significantly increase the chances of you getting hurt if you don't give your muscles the rest that they need to repair themselves.
Always lift with good form, and never be irresponsible with the weights that you're handling or trying to lift.
Also remember to be careful when you're just moving about around the house or at work. Try not to sustain any falls or accidents (although I doubt any of you purposely try to fall or trip over).
Do Both Heavy and Light Lifting
If you like to lift heavy, you can definitely do that.
However you should also mix in some light lifting to give your muscles a break from such intense training, and slow down the pace a little bit.
That doesn't mean that you can't work hard on the lighter weights, it just means that you should challenge your biceps in another rep range with lighter weights to avoid constantly lifting heavy loads.
Rest for Longer and More Efficiently
Ensuring that you get enough rest in between your working sets and workout sessions is going to go a long way in reducing the chances of you suffering a bicep tear or injury.
Make sure that between your tough working sets you're getting enough rest to feel 'ready' again.
And also ensure that you've got at least a day's worth of rest in between workout sessions where you hit the same muscle group, unless you have a very specific reason not to be doing so (such as a sports program, or a high frequency, full-body workout split).
How Long Does a Bicep Tear Take to Heal?
The length of time that it takes for your bicep tear to fully recover is going to depend on the severity of your injury and the procedures that you take to allow it to heal.
For example if you persist and try to keep on lifting weights, then the chances of you injuring your biceps again and slowing down the recovery process are pretty likely.
And if you completely tear the bicep tendon off of your bone, it's obviously going to take a lot longer to heal than it would if you just suffered a minor tear or rupture.
According to Healthline, even mild injuries can take at least 2 months to heal. But before you can fully return to normal activities without feeling any impacts at all, you'll likely have to wait 4-5 months at the very least.
And if your injury is bad enough, it can take up to a year after surgery for you to make a full recovery.
The Takeaway: Bicep injuries are pretty bad injuries to go through, and definitely something that you should try to avoid at all costs.
Wrapping It Up
Bicep tears or ruptures are pretty serious injuries that nobody ever wants to have to go through during their lifetime.
They're incredibly painful, and can be devastating to your fitness.
No matter the severity of your bicep tear, training is going to be negatively impacted without a doubt for a decent period of time at the very least.
I hope none of you reading this ever have to go through a bicep tear.
They truly seem to be some of the most horrific sports injuries you can go experience.
Have you ever suffered a bicep tear?