What should I do when my biceps becomes stiff? When I perform curls by using a rod, I am able to curl my biceps, but later on, when I move to dumbbell curls, even the lightest weight — say 15 pounds — becomes so difficult that I cannot even curl it. Initially, when I started doing workouts, there were no problems, but after about 5 months this problem developed. It has been a year since I started working out, but I really haven't found any solutions so please do help.

4 Answers 4


This sounds like muscle fatigue and is absolutely normal and expected. This happens to every single person who works out.

Your muscles aren't going to be able to curl forever during a workout session. You're breaking down muscle fibers with each repetition. This means the muscle will be temporarily weaker.

Resting and eating repairs muscle fibers, and make your muscles stronger than they were before you trained.

Going forward, try changing which type of curl you do first. For instance, next time, do dumbell curls first, and then the "rod" (by which I assume you mean an EZ-bar) afterwards. It's good to have variety in the way you challenge your muscles.



You might be encountering some hypertonicity in your muscle. There can be quite a few reasons for this happening:

  • Salt imbalance can create an environment where the muscle is unable to balance itself.
  • Hypertonicity is part of the pain-spasm-pain cycle, which can create hypertonic movement patterns.
  • A trigger point, which can occur in the muscle and stop it from contracting fully.

Possible Solution

Hypertoncity can often be hard to solve by yourself. The body and mind have a natural tendency to follow the same pathways when doing an action. Massage therapy can help quite a bit in this area. If The bicep is not painful to the touch, the area can be worked on with a combination of:

  • direct manipulation and positional release or
  • By using a technique know as post-isometric relaxation

If the muscle itself is painful it might be beneficial to use either

  • Reciprocial Inhibition
  • or Trigger Point Therapy

Hope that helps. :)


Could be that by 'stiff' you mean getting a pump. If you have a bicep pump it will be hard to contract your muscle normally because it is 'pumped up'.

Assuming that it is the pump, most people actually strive to get their muscles pumped up, mostly for ego reasons mind you, because it feels good and they look bigger. It doesn't actually help you get any stronger/bigger faster according to science (although most trainee's will argue this).


So you do your barbell curls first, and assuming that you are doing sets of 5-15 reps at somewhere between 50% and 75% of your max, how much time do you rest between sets, between the end of one set and the beginning of the next? You should be giving yourself at least 45 seconds to 120 seconds between sets. Also, you may be driving to failure, muscle failure, every set. This is doing as many reps as you can , every set , until you cannot lift the weight, and this should only be done during a high intensity phase of your routine, maybe for a couple weeks at most, then only three times per year. Other wise you over train and don't give your muscles, cartilage and tendons time to heal before you're tearing them down again.

If you are really trying to crunch when performing the dumbbell curl at the end of the movement anywhere beyond 130 degrees from the fully extended position of the arm to a positon pf the arm that is as bent as you can bend it, I agree that the pump you get will hinder flexibility in folding your joints. If you just can't lift the weight, can you lift your arm without the weight? If so you are experiencing muscle fatigue most likely, but definitely consult your physician if the condition persists.

I would do my heavier, more difficult exercise first, then move to the lighter, more focused exercises, but frequent switching up of the order of your routine is basically mandatory at least a few times a year, this can get you strength in normaly ignored ranges of movement, by pushing harder at a different position or range of the exercise, and by providing completely new exercises and ranges of movement,and it can get you over humps and stimulate even more strength and speed for a number of reasons.

Finally, if you are getting sore, and by sore I mean the mild burn of the lactic acid eating slightly frayed muscles, not the sharp sting of a torn muscle or a torn ligament or tendon, each time you work out, then tearing your muscles down exactly how you are supposed to if you want to keep increasing strength and endurance, which is good because you have to introduce enough resistance to tear them before they will respond by rebuilding themselves stronger, and 1 to 6 days soreness is normal. 1-3 days for smaller muscles(biceps, triceps, delts), 2-6 days for large muscles(glutes, hamstrings, quads).

I got most of my information from my own experience acquired from 25 years of power-lifting for strength and speed for sports, namely track & field, football and basketball, Muscle and Fitness Magazine and from Dr. Fred Hatfield's textbook for certification under INTERNATIONAL SPORTS SCIENCES OF AMERICA(ISSA).

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