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It’s not uncommon for people to assume that long head of the biceps vs short head simply relates to the actual length of their biceps.
However, this is not the case.
The bicep muscles, the proper name of which is the biceps brachii, is a small muscle group and comprises of two distinct heads: the long head of the biceps and the short head of the biceps.
Together, both heads of the biceps are responsible for elbow flexion, shoulder flexion and forearm supination.
In terms of location, the short head sits on the inside of the arm hence it sometimes being referred to as the inner bicep.
Whereas the long head resides at the outside of the arm and can sometimes be referenced as the outer bicep.
Training The Bicep Long Head vs Short Head
When it comes to increasing mass of the biceps, it’s easy enough to place emphasis on either of the two heads.
By performing curl exercises with a wider grip, such as a wide grip barbell curl, will allow for better activation of the short head of the biceps.
Recommended Reading – Long Head Of The Triceps : 8 Exercises & Techniques To Supersize Your Arms
Conversely, by doing the same exercise but bringing the hands closer together will isolate more of the long head of the biceps.
If you’d prefer to work both heads simultaneously, then maintaining a shoulder width grip position would suffice.
Another important point to note is that as the biceps are small muscles, training with heavy weights isn’t necessary to add mass and strength.
Instead, bicep workouts should focus on volume training so you can perform exercises with proper form and full range of motion.
Which Head Of The Biceps Is Biggest
If your goal is to add overall mass to the biceps, then you’ll want to focus more on exercises such as the wide grip barbell grip which will isolate the short head of the biceps and will give you the best results when it comes to building bigger biceps.
However, that’s not to say you’ll want to completely neglect the outer biceps during your training sessions. By working both muscle heads will contribute to both size and a better aesthetic so it’s a good idea to incorporate narrow grip exercises too.
That being said, a weakness to the inner bicep is not uncommon so you’d want to exhaust the short head first before moving on to any long head bicep exercises.
Remember, exercises for the short biceps will give you overall size whereas exercises for the long biceps will help with achieving a bigger bicep peak.
3 Effective Short Head Bicep Exercises
First off, let’s look at some of the best exercises to work the short head of your biceps. Performing these exercises will, over time, help you to develop wider and thicker looking biceps.
Wide Grip Barbell Curls
- Start by standing with feet shoulder width apart and holding a barbell with an underhand grip (palms facing away from you).
- Be sure to hold the barbell with a very wide grip width, your hands should be beyond shoulder width apart. As a guide, position just outside of the barbell knurling.
- Keeping your elbows just in front of your hips, slowly curl the bar up towards your chest.
- Hold at the top before slowly lowering back down to the start position.
If you find you are using your lower body to create momentum so that you have to swing the barbell up, it’s likely too heavy for you. In this case, lower the weight load and try again.
Another tip is to maintain control of the barbell on the way down, this negative portion of the movement is the best way to create muscle hypertrophy helping you to build bigger arms.
Wide Grip Preacher Curl
- Set up on the preacher curl bench and ensure your armpits are almost resting on the top of the pad. Make sure your shoulders don’t roll forward as this could put a lot of stress on the shoulder joint potentially resulting in injury.
- Take hold of the ez bar with a wide grip and hold it to around the chin area. This is your starting position.
- Slowly and with control, lower the barbell by bending at the elbow joint until your forearms are resting on the pad.
- Bring the bar back up to the start position and squeeze your biceps as you go.
Incline Dumbbell Curl
- Start by setting up on an incline bench, the back rest should be set to around 30 degrees.
- Lie back on the pad whilst holding on to your chosen dumbbells.
- Position your arms out to the sides and hold the dumbbells at the shoulders before lowering your hands to the ground. Your palms should be facing outwards (away from your body). This is your start position.
- Bending at the elbows, slowly bring the dumbbells up and towards your shoulders squeezing the biceps as you do so.
- Slowly lower the arms back down to the start position before repeating. Don’t be tempted to perform the movement quickly as this could result in an injury.
3 Effective Long Head Bicep Exercises
- Start by standing with feet shoulder width apart and take hold of your barbell with an underhand grip (palms facing away from you), hands should also be positioned around shoulder width apart.
- Slowly draw the elbows back and ‘drag’ the barbell up your body to around lower chest height.
- Hold at the top of the movement briefly, before slowly lowering back to the start position and then repeat.
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Cross Body Hammer Curl
- Start by standing with your feet around shoulder width apart holding a pair of dumbbells with palms facing inwards (towards you).
- Slowly raise one dumbbell up and towards your opposite shoulder, bending just at the elbow joint.
- Hold at the top for a second or two, before lowering back to the starting position.
- Repeat the movement with the other hand.
- Alternate your arms until you’ve completed the desired number of repetitions.
Close Grip Barbell Curl
For this exercise you can use either a regular barbell, or if this is too heavy use something like an EZ curl bar, this type of bar would also be easier on the wrists.
- Standing with your feet shoulder width apart, take hold of your bar with a close underhand grip. Ideally, just inside shoulder width.
- Bending at the elbows, slowly bring the bar up and towards your chest.
- Hold at the top before using control to lower the bar back to the start position.
By incorporating isolation exercises, such as the above, into your biceps workouts will help you to develop all areas of the biceps heads. This includes, width, thickness and a high biceps peak.
It’s worth noting that genetics will come into play when you’re looking to develop this small muscle group and developing bigger looking biceps may take a little longer for those with longer arms.
Recommended Reading – Can Your Height Affect Your Muscle Growth?
If you find it tricky building muscle, be sure to double check your form as it’s very easy for stronger, more dominant muscles to take over without realizing.
Also, make sure you’re working out with a full range of motion and perform all exercises slowly and with control to really work on that mind to muscle connection.