Tearing a bicep is a very common injury seen in Strongman. It can really take a long time to rehab and for some can end their competitive career. There are a few ways to reduce your risk of injury though.
Bicep tears tend to happen on specific events. The areas I see them occur most often are during tire flips, stones and dead lift events. When muscles are asked to do too much work, they’ll fail. This is where a tear, or muscle strain occurs. For these three exercises, the bicep is supposed to do minimal work in the movement. The main work is coming from the bigger muscles, the hips and back. For this to occur, you need to practice perfect technique.
The Tire Flip – Allow internet celebrity and all around meat monster Andy Deck show you how.
A few things to Note:
Andy has his feet a few feet behind the tire and his chest is driving up into the tire during the lift. This allows him to support the weight of the tire with his chest and not through his arms.
Although the tire in Andy’s video is a bit small and this is tough to do with a smaller tire, you should try and keep your arms as straight as possible through the lift. If a tire is too short to get your arms straight and still get your chest on the tire, take a wider grip. Having less bend in your arm decreases the stress in your bicep during the lift. Again, we want the hips to be doing the work, not your arms. Check out this video of me flipping a tire below and notice how straight my arms are at the start of the lift, excuse the girly man screams.
As you get further into your set, your technique may fall apart some. Try to keep an eye on your form as you fatigue.
Sometimes things go awry and the tire gets into a funny position. Don’t try to save it, let the tire fall back down. Putting yourself in these awkward places is a great way to tear a bicep.
Try using a tack cloth. The better grip you have, the less you’ll have to rely on your arms to hold onto the tire.
Ever do a long session of stones and then for the next week you have an aching pain in the front of your elbows that hurts when doing any upper body work? That my friends is from all of the crazy stress of trying to grip stones and pick them up. The bicep and its attachment take a beating. Let’s face it, we weren’t designed as human to pick up 400lb round and smooth stones.
Unless you’ve got yourself a load of good tacky on your hands and forearms, grip is usually what holds us back from lifting bigger stones. The act of squeezing a stone so that it doesn’t slip out of your arms when trying to pick it up places tremendous stress on the biceps. Too much stress = bicep tear. How do we fix this?
Just like the tire flip, try to keep your arms as straight as possible when picking and lapping stones. Jam your fingers under the stone as much as you can and try to avoid keeping a large bend in your elbows.
Use tacky. I usually see athletes bend their arms more and more once they start losing tacky throughout a longer stone event. Hell, I do this all the time. Then for the next week my elbows feel terrible. Tack up well and reapply when you need to.
Quality over quantity. Stones are just tough on the body all around. In order to keep your biceps healthy minimize the amount of sets used in a session. Doing stones once every 1 to 2 weeks should suffice for making improvements without causing damage.
Now just about every strongman event involves some type of deadlift. Just like the other two lifts you want to keep your biceps from doing the work. The arms should be completely straight. Two nice ways to accomplish this are to:
Imagine your arms as ropes, they should be used as a connection from your shoulders to your hands. They shouldn’t be producing force to get the weight up.
Flex your triceps before you begin. Flexing the triceps will straighten out your arms as well as relax your biceps before the pull
Now if you haven’t seen this video before indulge yourself with this extremely awesome video of Benedikt Magnusson deadlifting.
Benny keeps his arms long and straight
Benny is an absolute wild animal
There you have it, the first step in preventing a bicep tear is working on perfecting your technique. In the next part of this article we’ll discuss things such as whether or not training the biceps is smart, training frequency and exercises to prevent a biceps tear.