High Pull Bicep Pain/Strain

CT, I started doing high pulls a few weeks ago and all was well (I think). The last two
workouts as I started to up the weight to 155 and 165 I got what feels like a strain in
my left biceps. It was painful and I quit my workout early. I assume I’m pulling with my bicep and not using hip drive to get the bar up…maybe? Why pain in only the left bicep?
I never feel like the movement is smooth as it looks when you and many others on youtube perform the exercise. How does one create the hip power to hoist the amount of weight you and others use?
Any advice would be great…thanks a lot!

If you have a biceps pain it is because, as you mentionned, you are pulling too much with the arms.

Why only on one side? Because the vast majority of people pull/push a bit more with one side of their body.

How can you develop hip power? I would recommend dropping high pulls and doing low pulls/power shrugs to learn to use the hips/legs and traps to lift the weight up.

Excellent! Thanks Thibs! I will start doing power shrugs.

One more question: How important is the use of ankles to complete triple extension?

Do you extend them when you pull? It always feels awkward and as if I’m not

contributing anything when I try to do the complete triple extension. They come in

as an afterthought so to speak.

BTW when I talk about power shrugs, lower the bar down to the knees, as if doing an RDL.

While you should ideally end up on your toes, it is not necessary and it is not something you should focus on… but if you use your legs explosively the heels will pretty much automatically leave the floor.

Are you just referring to high pulls here, or would power cleans/snatches fit this description as well?

Any form of explosive pulls… 90% of all elite olympic lifters will at least finish the pull with the heels off of the floor. There are a few exceptions (Lu Xiaojun for example) who stay ALMOST flat footed (maybe tiny heel raise) but this is a strategy to move faster under the bar in a full squat snatch or full squat clean. They are sacrificing pulling height for more speed under the bar.

Gotcha. I always feel that when I do power pulls, my feet come off the ground just by a few centimeters or so and land slightly wider than before. I’ve been told that’s a compensation for some weakness, but I have tried to almost “jump” when doing them before, and figured that’s why I came up.

That how most olympic lifters do the snatch and clean. The feet leave the floor and are repositioned a bit wider to make it easier to move under the bar.

But normally in the pull the feet should not move sideways, the sideway move is used when moving under the bar, the wider stance makes it easier to keep an upright position when catching the barbell.

Yeah, sorry, that’s what I meant. I land like that as I catch it.

Here’s a good example… Kolecki was one of the best technical lifter.

Ilyin …


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Roger that. I will keep this in mind but will still practice form to where I end up on my

toes. It just feels so uncoordinated. To be fair, I have little practice with pulls of any sort.

Also, is it fair to say that high pulls/power shrugs are half explosive RDL and half shrug/


I try to ‘jump’ as well. I can’t figure out if I’m over analyzing the exercise. Is it RDL then

explode or jump and explode simultaneously…

If I have access to bumper plates and can drop the weight should I use them? I’m used

to doing an eccentric as I just lift the weight of of hooks on a squat rack. Does the

eccentric to anything, positive or negative, during these lifts? I definitely have to work

a tad when I’m lowering the weight.

Not really.

The “explosive RDL” is the initial phase,. If you only do an explosive RDL the barbell will not go up as high as a high pull.

The explosive shrug portion will get the barbell a little higher but not into a full high pull.

But these actions are an introduction to the high pull.

It is a HUMONGOUS mistake to break down a complex but rapid skill like a high pull by Frankensteining it from several movemenrts… first do an explosive RDL, then do a powerful shrug, then pull the bar. This will completely mess up the timing. A high pull is a high pull.

The power shrug from an RDL is only a teaching drill to understand how to produce speed and acceleration with the lower body only.

I personally would recommend that you do NOT do high pulls, unless someone can coach you. You are making things too complicated and will likely end up injuring yourself.

Thanks coach! I tend to over analyze the simplest of all things but you’re explanation

makes perfect sense. It’s an exercise of it’s own and not compartmentalized into

separate exercises.