Weight and Resistance Training - Odd Sensation While Chest Pressing

12-09-2005, 03:45 PM
The last few times I've done chest presses, I've noticed a very odd phenomenon -- a tension in my left bicep that feels somewhat "wrong," like it is close to snapping. Each time I've felt it, I've lowered my weight and it gets better but is still there. The odd thing is that I never feel this when I'm doing bicep work, just on chest presses and sometimes dumbbell flies.

Is this something that anybody else has experienced? Could I just be doing the exercise slightly wrong? I know it sounds very odd, and I wouldn't be worried if it didn't feel as if it could just tear at any minute. My chest doesn't feel overly stressed, but boy, that one bicep sure does.

Any thoughts?

12-09-2005, 04:36 PM
Stop pressing right away until you read this!!!

I think you're right - your bicep COULD tear at any moment. Be smarter than I was and listen to your body! I'm paying the price for not listening - I'm dealing with what is probably a partially torn bicep tendon as a chronic injury (going for an MRI next week) and it totally sucks! What you're describing sounds exactly like what happened to me, but I was stupid and ignored it for too long until it really got bad. Do not make the mistake that I did and work through the pain!

My pain is in the front of my bicep, running in a vertical line up and down the bicep. Just like you describe, it's very tight and feels taut, like a guitar string. It began three years ago as a pain just when I did certain movements, like upright rows. Then it hurt to put my arm behind my back (like putting a coat on). But I was a tough girl and worked through the pain. :rolleyes: Then one day, I was benching and on the third set, heard the worst noise ever and felt the worst pain ever. I had partially torn the bicep tendon, ended up not being able to do any upper body for two months, went through physical therapy, and it took a year to be pain-free again. My strength never completely came back on that side.

Ah, you'd think I would have learned my lesson, right? Nope, I'm a moron and about three months ago, I did a way too heavy upright row to get a BB over my head for walking lunges and re-injured it. I didn't go to the doctor because it felt exactly like the same pain and I know all the PT exercises. But this time it isn't getting better -- it's getting worse, hence the MRI to see exactly what's going on.

Here's what I learned in physical therapy - most shoulder injuries (the bicep tendon is part of the rotator cuff) happen during chest exercises, not shoulder exercises (like chest presses, for example). Are you using a BB or DBs? Benching with a BB is VERY hard on the whole rotator cuff because your hands are internally rotated when you hold the bar, which puts a ton of stress on your shoulders.

I don't think you're doing the exercise wrong - I think it's just putting too much stress on your bicep tendon, which is probably already weakened or injured. Suggestions: if you're using a BB, go to DBs and if you're using DBs already, angle your hands so that they're holding the DBs vertically instead of horizontally or at an angle between vertical and horizontal (instead of DBs pointed at each other, they're parallel - does that make sense?) See if that eases the pain (bet it will :) ). Hammer Strength equipment has ergonomically correct handles that works well for sensitive shoulders - does your gym have them? On shoulder exercises, totally skip upright rows - forever. On front and side raises, do them 'thumbs up' - with the DBs held vertically, not horizontally (to avoid internal rotation of the shoulder again). Don't do any 'pouring motions' because those involve internal rotation.

Of course, see your doctor if the pain continues. The standard line would be a few weeks of anti-inflammatories and rest. The last thing you want is a nagging, chronic injury that limits working out. I kick myself every day for not stopping when it first began to hurt. I think I'll be paying the price for being stupid for a long, long time. :dizzy: You don't need that!

Bottom line - if changing your hand position doesn't help, go see a doctor and get it fixed before it escalates. And please let us know how you're doing! :smug:

12-09-2005, 05:27 PM
Meg is right. I would drop the benchpress/chest press and anything else that is hurting your bicep. Unless you are a powerlifter who needs to benchpress anyway?

I can't say I understand why it is hitting your biceps; most people wreck their shoulders or tear their pecs or triceps benching. Whereas most biceps tears I have heard of were from deadlifts or rowing. Not a pretty injury having your tendon detach from your forearm and then roll up your arm like a window shade. I remember reading an old PowerLifting USA article that captured the whole sequence of a biceps tear during a deadlift. The athlete then had the tendon surgically reattached, reversed his deadlift grip, and eventually resumed his PL career.

12-09-2005, 05:42 PM
Whoa, doggies - thanks for the info. I think you're both right; it definitely feels iffy, which is why I decided to post.

The sensation is always on the "down" part of the motion (when my arms are at 90 degree angles) *before* I press, which should explain why I feel it in my bicep, right? And the weird thing is that it doesn't really hurt at all, just feels wrong wrong wrong.

Just an FYI, I'm definitely using dumbbells for presses. I'm fine with giving them up, but I definitely have seen strength gains (and i have to admit my decolletage area looks kinda awesome-ish these days :p ), so what else works the chest as well? Now that I think of it, I seem to remember not having the same problem with INCLINE presses because the weight was better distributed between biceps and shoulders. Think that might help, too?

Thanks so much for the advice. You guys are the best, and I certainly don't want to be out from an injury, especially since I'm digging the weights so much these days!!!

12-09-2005, 05:59 PM
The world of chest exercises is pretty small, so far as I know -- you got your presses and you got your flyes and you got your pushups. There are lots of variations on how to do them - inclined, flat, declined - and lots of equipment to use - cables, BBs, DBs, resistance bands, various kinds of machines - but it all comes back to the same basic exercises.

I really don't think that you need (or want) to give up presses entirely, at least until you've tried some modifications. And I don't think you will need to give up DBs - after all, you have to press *something* for chest, right?, and BBs are far worse than DBs. Yeah, you could press with machines but I think those handle positions would be worse for your problem than angling your hands with DBs (unless they're Hammer Strength machines). And I guess you could press with resistance bands but they're not really going to cut it, IMO. :D

Incline presses work a different area of the chest and I imagine that take some of the strain off your shoulder/bicep tendon. But I really think that you need to do some kind of flat presses too (and perhaps declined also?) Before you give up DB presses, why not try changing your hand position (like I described in my first post)? It makes a world of difference how it hits your shoulders.

But -- never work through pain, or even a 'wrong' feeling. Your body is trying to tell you something!

PS - you're only ten pounds from goal!!! 2006 is going to be your year, Jennifer! :woo:

12-09-2005, 06:08 PM
Incline presses are great for the triceps and shoulders and hit the pecs as well, just doesn't have as much pec involvement as flat benching, but is a better all-around exercise. Might be a good choice for you if it eliminates the biceps issues. I use about 80-90% of the weight I handle on the flat bench.

I really like military presses, but they don't train your chest at all.

12-11-2005, 09:15 AM
Meg, thanks so much for the encouragement. I am very close to my initial goal (I'm a :snail: , though...), although I imagine I will want to go at least a little bit lower. 110 pounds heavier, I couldn't even fathom weighing what I do now, so I set my initial goal somewhat arbitrarily.

But at 145, I *will* be joining you in the Maintainers' Forum! :D

12-11-2005, 09:22 AM
110 pounds heavier, I couldn't even fathom weighing what I do now, so I set my initial goal somewhat arbitrarily.

Me too! I first picked 160 as my goal simply because that was the lowest I had weighed since I was 13. Of course, once I got there, I knew that wasn't where I wanted to be ... so I kept going. Eventually I'm guessing that you'll end up forgetting about the numbers and just working on a look or a size, because we never really seem to reach 'the end' of the journey. :)

Please join us in Maintainers now! Things are quiet at the moment but will pick up in January, no doubt!

How's the bicep doing?