T Nation

Torn Bicep or Tendon?


I was doing preacher curls and on the second rep going down, there was 4 loud rapid cloth tearing pop sounds from left elbow area. This was followed by pain, tingling, weak grip, numbness. People in the gym hear sounds and came to my aid as I was holding my arm. A guy said he was a doctor and began slowly moving my arm in range of motions. He stated he didn’t think it was a torn bicep because if he moved it in the motions he did I would be feeling extreme pain. The bicep looks different than other bicep Where the muscle comes to a point near the crease of underside of elbow is clearly visible on my right arm, but non existent on left, there is no bruising. Also there is no steady rise of the bicep on my left arm like there is on my right arm, instead on my left arm for about an two inches it’s flat then a sharp incline of the bicep. I went to a 24 hour care clinic since this occurred late a night and was referred to an orthopaedic doctor tomorrow. I’ll keep anyone interested posted. I apologise for my lack of knowledge of correct verbiage.


Tore mine in 2001. Based on your description, my money is on a tear (although the absence of bruising would be unexpected). Let us know what the orthopod says.


I had a complete tear of my bicep tendon at the elbow. Had surgery yesterday for it. Doctor said bicep was half way up my arm, and that surgery went well. I’m in a soft cast and a sling for now with a follow up this coming Monday. Had a nerve block of arm, what a strange feeling that is after surgery is over. I’m out of service for 6 to 8 weeks, with rehab of the arm for a few months according to the doctor before the surgery was done. Hopefully that isn’t the case since I do not want to shrink down to nothing during that time, I was just starting to bulk up from a beginner.


Glad the surgery went well. Would urge you to be patient during the rehab phase and not rush things–while 6-8 weeks sounds like a long time, it’s really not, and whatever mass you lose will come back quickly once you’re able to train in earnest again. (In fact, as a result of the lengthening that occurs during repair, my post-surgical bicep is now larger and better-shaped than the other one.) On the other hand, if you get back to heavy lifting too soon and re-injure it, you will really set yourself back (surgical repair of a surgical repair rarely goes as well as the original surgery).

If I may, I would also suggest you skip the preacher curls henceforth. While some biceps tendons can handle that exercise OK, others cannot, and the fact that you tore one means you are at risk for tearing the other. (Personally, I think the geometry of the movement is a set-up for distal biceps rupture, and recommend it to no one.)


Thank you for you advice and checking in on my post. To be honest your comment about the other one tearing has been on my mind, and I am worried about lifting heavy weights after this recovery period. Again my knowledge in lifting weights is limited and I was following the superhero workout routine by CT. What would you recommend as a replacement for the preacher curls, or other bicep workouts he has in the work out, if you don’t mind looking that over for me. I have also used the preacher bench to do hammer curls on as well. Thanks for your advice.


With all due respect to CT, I am not a fan of that sort of program. As I see it, the main problem with it is that the biceps are stressed on every training day. (It was due to a similar sort of training split that I accrued the damage that culminated in my own biceps tear.)

As for how you structure your workouts going forward, I would recommend two things:

  1. No matter what sort of bodypart split you decide to follow, group your biceps-intensive exercises on the same day. By doing this, your biceps get to ‘take the day off’ on every other training day. (If you want to read more about this, I talk about it at some length on the post EyeDentist, how do you train? in the BSL subforum; I think the discussion is toward the tail end of the thread.)
  2. Never, ever use the preacher bench for anything other than as a place to set your water bottle.