I'm in good aerobic shape but never did strength training. Yesterday, I did some basic strength work, using both dumbbells and machines. Nothing too crazy - I started light and built my way up. I feel fine today, with a moderate soreness. But, the one heavy pain I have is that I can't straighten my arms. I felt this immediately after working out, and it's only gotten worse. I feel pain on the inside of my arm (opposite my elbow), even if my arm is relaxed, and if I try to straighten it, it gets very intense.

I warmed up and cooled down aerobically, but didn't do any real stretching.

What causes this? Does it have to do with machines versus dums? What should I do to avoid this next time?

  • This is normal, especially if you never trained. You'll have less problems as you build up the missing muscles (alternatively, you could push yourself less, but why do that?).
    – VPeric
    Oct 27, 2011 at 6:55

3 Answers 3


This is most likely DOMS which is normal. Just ice it, do very light stretching, massage the muscles gently and rest. Symptoms should get better and you should be feeling fine in a day or so. I've had the same thing and occasionally get a client who gets really bad DOMS that they can't fully extend their arms. It sucks but it never ever even comes close to being that bad again.

Having said all of that, there is a tiny chance this isn't DOMS so if your condition gets worse or you start getting severe sharp pain then you might want to consult a health professional.

  • Thanks. Why only in that one spot? My right arm is better now but my left arm is worse. Oct 27, 2011 at 15:18
  • @S.RobertJames what lifts did you do? It seems like its your forearms that are sore. Did you do a lot of gripping? Did you have a mixed grip?
    – mike
    Oct 27, 2011 at 17:50
  • It is not DOMS. The OP said he felt pain immediately after working out. DOMS creeps in 24-48 hours after working out. He most likely injured himself in the gym.
    – JoJo
    Nov 26, 2011 at 9:01
  • "I felt this immediately after working out, and it's only gotten worse." Muscle soreness often happens immediately while/after training and later snowballs into full on DOMS. It's possible he injured himself but that's rare and he hasn't given a lot of information. @JoJo
    – mike
    Nov 27, 2011 at 4:38
  • 1
    Based on the information available, it's possible it's a muscle spasm that needs a bit of massage to clear up. A LaCrosse ball can work wonders as you use it to massage the surrounding areas. Jan 10, 2012 at 17:26

What I think could have happened is a light pulling of some tendons in the elbow, due to incorrect form of exercising. Had the exact same thing happen to me about 3 weeks ago while doing some shoulder exercises.

Back started hurting right after the workout, got home, slept, woke up, stretched and couldn't move at all. Then while moving - real intense pain.

Im betting the same thing happened to you.

Solution - rest. Only thing that can help you right now is resting, maybe some ointment to ease the pain, but that is not going to help it heal.

IMO, just rest for a while.


Late to the party, but as per James's answer, there's a good chance this is tied to your tendons. You may have some variety of golfer's elbow. You mention that you were using dumbbells. One of the easy ways to inflame that tendon is putting it under stress while gripping something tightly, especially if you curl your wrist. Which, as you might guess, is pretty much a description of how many people do bicep curls initially, tightly gripping the dumbbell and curling their wrist as they left the weight and put strain on the tendon. I've been there before, right down to the arm largely feeling OK, but being unable to straighten my arm. It does pass within a few days. Over-the-counter anti-inflammatory and pain medication will make your life more bearable.

  • While I understand there's no obligation, is there any chance the downvoters can explain what I'm getting wrong?
    – Sean Duggan
    Jul 21, 2016 at 12:10

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