October 12, 2021 9 min read

Many people are interested in improving their arm strength. But due to the complexity of muscle groups, you can use many different exercises for strengthening the muscles in your arms. The bicep is one of these muscles, and it has two heads- a short head and a long head.

There are various ways to exercise each head individually or together depending on what you're looking for - whether it's more size or definition, isolation, or strength building. Today we'll go over some helpful tips on best training your short head biceps with some great exercises to get you started!

What is the Bicep Short Head ?

The short head of the bicep is located on the inner part of your arm, and it plays a role in helping you bend your arm. This short head is considered short due to its short range of motion as it attaches to the shoulder, limiting its use.

Elbow flexor muscles, labeled drawing.

When performing any curl movement that involves lifting something with both arms (such as a dumbbell curl), the short head will be activated first before the long head. During this action, even though it's working hard already, it can still assist in further bending your elbow once other muscle groups become fatigued.

Therefore, when looking for an exercise to strengthen this particular part of your bicep, you'll want something that will not only work on shortening its range of motion but also a movement that involves moving your elbow in a short-range.

The long head bicep has a similar role to the short head, but it plays a more significant part in helping you bend your arm because its muscle fibers run from your shoulder to your elbow.

This means that when performing a dumbbell curl or any lifting exercise where the short head starts off contracting first, the short head will still be engaged while working hard at shortening its range of motion while the long head takes over once this happens. Therefore, due to how long the bundle of muscle fibers is on this particular part, it will work harder than the short head if both are engaged simultaneously.

This implies that more of its fibers will shorten its range of motion, resulting in it being pushed to contract with even greater force! Thus, this is why exercises that involve short head shortening and bending your elbow with both arms can work on the short and long head bicep.

Bicep Short Head vs. Long Head

As discussed, short head bicep is the inner portion of the arm while long head is on the other side. However, there are real differences not only in location but also how they function and respond to exercise so it's important to know what these are before performing any type of short or long head bicep exercises.

Short head starts contracting first when both short and long biceps contract while curling an object up with your elbow bent (for example, a dumbbell curl). It then works hard at shortening its range of motion while helping to further bend your elbow once other muscle groups become fatigued.

Thus, short head doesn't help too much in straightening out your arm – this is why you'll see most short head bicep exercises involve shortening the arm, not lengthening it.

Long head starts contracting once short head is engaged and shortening its range of motion, then both long and short biceps work together in helping you to further straighten out your elbow.

Therefore, any exercise that involves shortening and lengthening can be effective at targeting both short and long head even if they have different roles in the movement?

Why Train Your Bicep Short Head ?

Many people are interested in short head bicep exercises to help give their arms a more rounded-looking appearance. However, this short head is not liked by many bodybuilders who consider it the enemy because when the short head contracts, it creates a crossover effect.

This crossover effect is when the short head doesn't just shorten its range of motion but also causes shortening in the long head, which ultimately takes away from further shortening the short head can perform.

For this reason, performing short/long heads together in an exercise will resultin the short head havingless stress put on it compared to if one performed an exercise that only involved both heads being contracted at the same time. The most common example being any curl done with a barbell.

Another reason people like to train short or long heads is for strength-building purposes, either because one wants to compete in arm wrestling matches (with short head) or wants to give their arms a more rounded appearance (with short and long head biceps). However, many bodybuilders are looking to build mass with their bicep muscles to achieve overall bigger-looking arms. But there's only so much short/long head can do for this.

The best way to train your entire bicep muscle is to train the short/long head together, which will shorten not only the short head but also the short and long head simultaneously! This type of exercise is best achieved using a barbell where one starts with arms by their side and performing a short range of motion bicep curls.

Now, you know the difference between short head and long head biceps and short/long head muscles involvement in shortening short or long head during various exercises - let's take a look at some that target short/long head together!

Short Head Bicep Exercises

Because the short head bicep has a short and limited range of motion and can be short and extended depending on how it's engaged, you'll want to focus on two different short head exercises for this part. One that shortens its range of motion is by shortening and bending your elbow with both arms (such as an upright row which we will go over shortly), and one that focuses on shortening only, such as a chin-up.

1. Upright Row

This exercise is excellent forworking the short head of the bicep while shortening its range of motion by shortening and bending your elbow due to using both arms.

To do this, hold a barbell in front of you with a shoulder-width overhand or underhand grip. You will target the more comprehensive your grip, the more short head of the bicep during this exercise. Then, keeping your back straight and chest thrust forward, bend at your hips while lowering your torso until it's parallel to the ground as if you were going to perform a squat before raising yourself back up again.

Repeat for required reps before switching over to the other arm without setting down the first one (leaving it rested against your lower thigh).

2. Chin Up

This is another short head exercise but focuses solely on shortening its range of motion rather than shortening and bending just like an upright row would do. If focusing only on shortening its range of motion isn't enough to work short head, then switching to an exercise focusing only on shortening the short head should be able to do the trick. The chin-up is one of these short head exercises.

sportsman working out in gym, exercising on chin-up bar

To do this, use an overhand grip with your hands shoulder-width apart or do it underhand using a supinated grip (palms facing you). Then, while keeping your back straight and chest thrust forward, pull yourself up until your chin reaches above the bar with elbows going wide before lowering yourself down so that you're hanging with arms fully extended again.

Repeat for required reps before switching over to the other arm without setting down the first one (leaving it rested against your lower thigh).

3. Incline Dumbbell Curl

This short head bicep exercise is excellent for shortening its range of motion by shortening while also bending your elbow. To do this, sit on an incline bench with a dumbbell in each hand resting on thighs.

Then, keeping your back straight and chest thrust forward, bend at your hips while lowering your torso until it's almost parallel to the ground as if you were going to perform a squat before raising yourself back up again. Repeat for required reps before switching over to the other arm without setting down the first one (leaving it rested against your lower thigh).

4. Standing Dumbbell Curls

This short head bicep exercise is excellent for shortening its range of motion by shortening only just like chin-ups would, yet focus on shortening the short head more. Like an upright row, it also shortens the range of motion by shortening and bending your elbow as well.

The difference is that this exercise focuses on shortening the short head without shortening the long head the way upright rows do, which shortens the short head's range of motion even further due to focusing only on shortening the short head. To do this, stand up straight, holding a dumbbell in each hand resting against your thighs with palms facing you (supinated grip).

Then, while keeping your elbows tucked close to your torso and chest thrust forward, curl both arms until they reach shoulder level before lowering them back down again for required reps.

5. Supinated Grip Cable Curl

This short head bicep exercise is excellent for shortening the short head's range of motion by shortening and bending your elbow as well. To do this, stand straight up with a cable column in front of you with one hand grasping the handle (use an overhand grip), the other gripping the curl bar itself (use a supinating grip or let palms face forward).

Then, keeping your elbows tucked close to your torso and chest thrust forward, bend at your hips while lowering your torso until it's almost parallel to the ground. This position is as if you were going to perform a squat before raising yourself back up again and lifting both hands towards the shoulder level, keeping them next to each other without swinging. Repeat for required reps before switching hands and doing the same thing on the opposite side.

6. Concentration Curl

This short head bicep exercise is excellent for shortening the short head's range of motion by shortening and bending your elbow as well. To do this, sit on a bench with one leg resting on top of it while positioning the other underneath your butt parallel to it.

Next, lean back against the bench before bending your right elbow so that it reaches down towards your right thigh while simultaneously curling until both hands meet (do not let go of each arm's handle in between reps or at any time throughout). Repeat for required reps before switching sides.

7. Hammer Curl

This short head bicep exercise is excellent for shortening the short head's range of motion by shortening and bending your elbow as well by focusing only on shortening the short head. 

To do this, stand up straight, holding a dumbbell in each hand resting against your thighs with palms facing you (supinated grip). Then, while keeping your elbows tucked close to your torso and chest thrust forward, curl both hands towards shoulder level without letting go of the top one before lowering back down again.

Why The Short Head Essential for Arm Strength?

The short head bicep provides most of your forearm's supination strength, which you need to perform many everyday tasks. That being said, short head bicep shortening shortens short head by shortening its range of motion without shortening long head the way chin-ups would yet focus on shortening short head more while also focusing on shortening your elbow as well.

Like an upright row, it also shortens the range of motion by shortening and bending your elbow. Still, instead of focusing only on shortening the short head as this exercise does, it focuses on engaging both heads, unlike this one which doesn't like a concentration curl, would yet focus on engaging your brachialis and brachioradialis (forearm flexors) muscles instead.

More Tips

In doing short bicep exercises, you'll experience less strain when performing tasks requiring supination strength, such as opening car doors or jars that are stuck shut. Using them in this fashion shortens the short head's range of motion while shortening your elbow as well, which shortens the short head by shortening its range of motion without shortening the long head the way chin-ups would.

Short head bicep exercises are excellent for shortening the short head's range of motion by shortening and bending your elbow as well by focusing only on shortening the short head. To do this, stand up straight, holding a dumbbell in each hand resting against your thighs with palms facing you (supinated grip).

Then, while keeping your elbows tucked close to your torso and chest thrust forward, curl both hands towards shoulder level without letting go of the top one before lowering back down again.

To perform them safely, make sure that you start with very light amounts of weight so that you can warm up properly before engaging in more strenuous activities. This helps ensure you don't strain yourself too much, which could lead to injuries such as tendinitis and tendon ruptures.

Lastly, if you feel like shortening your short head's range of motion (by shortening and bending your elbow as well) by shortening the way chin-ups would yet focus on shortening short head more while also focusing on shortening your elbow as well.

Wrapping Up

The short head of the bicep is often forgotten in training, but it's the most potent muscle on your arms! Whether you're looking for more size or definition, isolation, or strength building, there are various ways to exercise each head individually.

Today we went over some helpful tips on best training your short head biceps with some great exercises to get you started. If you're looking to get the most out of your training, the Ultimate Shred Stack is exactly what you're looking for.