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June 13, 2022 7 min read
You spend your days in the gym making time for bicep curls, but when you flex in the mirror, your bicep peak isn’t popping out like you thought it would. That’s likely due to not targeting the part of the muscle that gives it a visible pump.
Not all bicep exercises are created equal, and in order to achieve arms that Popeye would be jealous of, you need to train the long head of your biceps.
Located on the anterior of your upper arm, antagonist to the triceps, is your biceps muscle, also known as the biceps brachii. This muscle group is made up of two parts or two heads, the short head of the biceps and the long head.
The short head is located on the inner part of your arm, and the long head is located on the lateral part. Together, these two heads are mainly responsible for forearm supination and elbow flexion.
The biceps also help to provide stability to the shoulder joint since both heads attach to the scapula but at different points. The short head attaches to the coracoid process of the scapula, and the long head attaches to the supraglenoid tubercle of the scapula.
As the biceps and the shoulders work together for function and support, a bicep injury known as tendon dislocation can result from a deltoid injury such as a rotator cuff tear, and tendinitis, which is often caused by overuse, can result in elbow joint pain or shoulder pain.
Exercising the biceps is important because they can assist in other pulling lifts like the bent over row or pull-ups, but they can also help you carry groceries or lift a box.
Biceps tendon tears or tendon ruptures can happen, even during a deadlift, so even if your goal isn’t to get built, training your biceps can result in safer, more efficient lifts.
Aside from helping make your arms look great, the long head of the bicep tendon plays an important role in shoulder stabilization.
It helps to stabilize the humeral head in the glenoid during elbow flexion and forearm supination. Without this stability, it can cause lack of function in the shoulder joint.
A degeneration in the long head of the biceps can cause pain and dysfunction in the shoulder and could require physiotherapy or even surgery. Keeping your biceps strong and functional helps better flex the elbow and stabilize the shoulder. Knowing how to exercise this part of the biceps can be essential for overall upper body strength and support.
Although the short head helps to add width to the biceps, the long head of the biceps helps to add height or peak to the muscle. To target the short head of the biceps, using a wider than shoulder-width apart grip on a barbell or EZ bar is a great way to do so, whereas targeting the long head of the biceps can require a neutral or more narrow grip.
It’s important to keep this in mind when choosing exercises for building your biceps peak because some can contribute more than others. Check out the 7 best exercises to include in your next biceps workout.
The hammer curl is similar to the bicep curl in movement pattern, but your grip remains neutral which can help emphasize the long head of the biceps more. It also helps to target the brachialis muscle, helping to contribute to an overall stronger upper body, as well as the brachioradialis, a muscle in the forearms that helps contribute to grip strength.
This exercise is popular in bodybuilding because of its potential to build bigger arm muscle, and it’s most often performed with dumbbells because of the hand positioning, so you can ensure each side of the body is getting trained equally.
How to Do the Dumbbell Hammer Curl:
Using a barbell can allow a lifter to use a heavier amount of weight compared to dumbbells, so the close-grip barbell curl can be beneficial to building mass in your arms. You may not be able to lift the heavy weight you could with a wider drip, but the close-grip hand positioning also helps put more emphasis on the long head of the bicep.
This exercise can help develop bigger arms, but it can also help build strength in your upper body and grip. Grip strength is crucial for heavier pulling exercises like barbell deadlifts and rows, so a move which can train both your grip and pulling strength can carry over to your overall gym performance.
How to Do the Close-Grip Barbell Curl:
Isolation exercises can be better for building muscle mass, and many curl exercises do a great job at this. However, since the bicep is attached to the shoulder, sometimes the front deltoid can assist in the lift. The drag curl eliminates the use of the deltoid and puts full emphasis on the bicep, specifically the long head of the muscle.
You may not be able to use as heavy of a weight as you might with a barbell curl, but this helps turn a potential compound exercise into a fully isolated one. Although it’s not a popular exercise, it can be beneficial for building mass in your arms.
How to Do the Drag Curl:
The chin-up is a bodyweight exercise that’s a pull-up variation. Although both pulling exercises, the chin-up targets more of the arms versus the back. They are great for targeting the biceps and are one of the best exercises you can do without needing much equipment. Chin-ups can have less impact on the shoulders because they put your hands in a more natural position.
You can make this exercise more or less challenging by adding something like a resistance band for support or weight plates for extra weight, so just about anyone can do them. The chin-up is a compound exercise that can help contribute to arm muscle mass and total upper body strength.
How to Do the Chin-up:
Incline dumbbell curls resemble the seated dumbbell curl, but using an incline can help you achieve a greater stretch and range of motion.
Muscles that are lengthened under load can help maximize hypertrophy, and since the incline dumbbell curl isolates the bicep muscles, it can be one of the better choices for building arm mass.
By getting more range of motion, your muscle needs to produce more force to curl the weights up, which can help build muscle and strength. The incline curl can isolate the bicep more than a standard curl because it eliminates the use of your shoulders during the movement.
How to Do the Incline Dumbbell Curl:
A cable machine uses a pulley system attached to a stack of weight plates to simulate free weight resistance. However, since the cable is pulling the weights, it helps keep constant tension on your muscles.
Increased time under tension can help induce hypertrophy, making the cable curl a great option to add into your next arm day workout.
Using a machine can offer more support than free weights can, which can eliminate the need for stabilizer muscles. This allows a lifter to focus fully on the muscle being worked and can aid further in muscle growth.
How to Do the Cable Curl:
A narrower grip can help target the long head of the biceps more, and the preacher curl forces you to use your muscles instead of momentum. The preacher curl has you set your elbows up onto a preacher bench, which helps eliminate the use of momentum or “cheating” during the movement.
Using the preacher bench helps emphasize the eccentric contraction of the movement, and that is the part that helps induce muscle hypertrophy. You can use a barbell, EZ bar, dumbbells, or cable machine to perform this exercise, making it versatile and adjustable to your needs.
How to Do the Close-Grip Preacher Curl:
Building up your biceps peak can help you look great in T-shirts, pictures, and in the gym mirror. In order to do so, you need to know which exercises target the muscles responsible for that visible bump in your arms.
The long head of the biceps is important for aesthetics but also for function and stability. Without strong biceps, your shoulders could be less stable, and your other pulling exercises could suffer.
You can get built and get stronger with these bicep exercises. Remember that what you do outside the gym is just as important as what you do inside the gym.
If you truly want to get built, the proper nutrition and the right amount of protein is what’s important.