How to Deadlift with a bicep injury

Deadlifts, Training while Injured -

How to Deadlift with a bicep injury

Whether you are a powerlifter, strongman or someone who loves lifting heavy, the chances are you probably enjoy deadlifts. The deadlift is one of the most sought after lifts to get incredibly strong at. However, with the heavier weights that come with getting strong with deadlifts, there is a risk of injury. A common injury that comes with deadlifting is a torn bicep. 

But how do you deadlift with a bicep tear? There are three main ways to train the deadlift movement with a bicep tear. You can either deadlift using double overhand hook grip, deadlift using a Barbell Strap from Repel Bullies or train movement patterns similar to the deadlift. The severity of the bicep tear will determine which is best.

In this article, I will go through everything you need to know about what to do with deadlifts after a bicep tear. We will also discuss the nature of tearing a bicep during deadlifts and what you might want to do differently to reduce the risk moving forward.

Disclaimer: The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice in the event of an injury. Please seek a doctor or a qualified health professional to tend to such situations.

Why do the biceps tear during the deadlift

As with all injuries, appropriate medical professionals such as doctors or physiotherapists (or physical therapists) should be sought after to professionally deal with injuries.

It is important that we understand why injuries such as muscle tears occur and why our biceps may tear during deadlifts. 

We cannot state for certainty why each individual experiences this type of injury during deadlifts but anecdotally there are some observations and theories that we can discuss.

It is also important to note that tears in the biceps are generally incredibly rare.

Bicep tears during the deadlift often occur with the following characteristics:

  • They tend to happen to bigger lifters
  • They tend to occur to mixed grip deadlifters
  • They tend to occur to the arm where the hand is supinated ie. palm facing forward
  • They tend to occur on the distal tendon of the bicep ie. tendon closest to the elbow
  • They tend to occur in tear maximal weight attempts

Why do muscles tear in the first place?

Muscle tears are injuries that happen when the stress on the muscle is greater than the tolerance of the muscle.

There is a spectrum of how bad a muscle can tear.

Muscle tears can happen for many reasons.

But then why is the bicep experiencing more stress than it can handle?

There are a few ideas for why this might happen. 

The cause may be a combination of theories. It is also important to remember that the full history of physical activity can be risk factors for certain injuries.

Possibility One

When you have a mixed grip, the forearm  with the underhand grip is forced to be externally rotated in order to hold the bar. This also influences the humerus (upper arm bone) to be in an externally rotated position. 

Simultaneously, one thing that lifters also think about during deadlifts is engaging the lats. 

One thing that the lats do is actually internally rotating the shoulders and subsequently the humerus. 

As the lats are generally a much bigger muscle group than the biceps, this could contribute to the biceps tearing.

Possibility Two

Another theory suggests that the cueing of the deadlifts may be incorrect. 

A common phrase that is normally exclaimed by coaches and supporters during an athlete’s execution of the deadlift is the word “pull”. 

“Pull, pull, pull!”

Mentally, pulling is often associated with a rowing motion ie. the simultaneous retracting of shoulders and bending of the elbows. 

Due to a heavy weight being held in the hands, this is a force that encourages straightening of the elbows. 

So if someone is flexing the elbow when a supra maximal weight is forcing the elbows to extend, this could contribute to excess stress on the biceps.

Deadlifting with a Barbell Strap from Repel Bullies

Note: You should always seek medical advice first before resuming training after injury.

One way you could continue training deadlifts with a torn bicep, is using a Barbell Strap from Repel Bullies.

This method of deadlifting is ideal for you if you recently tore your bicep or still experience pain and discomfort whilst holding onto any load.

The Barbell Strap is useful as it takes the tension of the barbell away from the arms and therefore away from the biceps.

What the Barbell Strap does is essentially replace the arms with an external item.

The Barbell Strap wraps over the upper back and shoulder area and connects to the ends of the barbell. 

The Barbell Strap can be used to help you continue deadlifting whether you perform the conventional or the sumo version.

For more information about the Barbell Strap, click here.

Deadlifting with double overhand hook grip

Deadlifting whilst gripping with both hands is not appropriate if the bicep has fully torn. 

If it is just a minor strain, you might want to experiment with holding the bar with both hands in an overhand grip.

Note: You should always seek medical advice first before resuming training after injury.

You can potentially keep deadlifting through avoiding an underhand grip by switching to a grip known as the double overhand hook grip.

This is a grip that is getting more common with powerlifters as it is popularized by Olympic Weightlifters.

What happens in this grip is that both arms are gripping over the bar with the palms facing backwards.

The hook grip refers to the physical advantage of gripping the fingers over the thumb. The thumb is therefore sandwiched between the fingers and the bar.

Train Other Deadlift Variations or Similar Movements

Fundamentally, the deadlift is primarily a hip hinge type movement and relies a lot on the posterior chain muscles.

The posterior chain is a collection of muscles that are behind you. These include the following major muscles:

  • Trapezius
  • Latissimus Dorsi
  • Erector Spinae
  • Hamstrings
  • Glutes
  • Calves

The deadlift also relies on the hip adductors and the quads to a different extent depending on whether the person is executing a conventional or sumo deadlift.

The sumo deadlift uses the adductors and quads more. The conventional deadlift uses the lower back more.

If conventional and sumo deadlifts are not comfortable for you still, then you could perform other variations.

Other deadlift variations you could try are:

  • Trap Bar Deadlifts
  • Romanian Deadlifts

If the other deadlift variations are still not comfortable or cause pain, you could try the following alternative exercises:

  • Good Mornings
  • Safety Squat Bar Good Mornings
  • Split Squat
  • Lunges
  • Reverse Hyperextension

Training these similar muscle groups and movements mean that the deadlift muscles are still being trained to be bigger and stronger whilst your deadlift recovers.


You should seek a relevant qualified medical professional to guide you regularly as you recover from an injured bicep. It would be useful to use pain and discomfort to determine what method of training you should avoid. Autoregulating the movements and monitoring pain and discomfort will be essential to being able to progress back to deadlifting as efficiently as possible.