What if we told you you can never have bicep peaks like Kai Greene, no matter how hard you train in the gym? Heartbreaking, isn’t it? But sadly, it is true. Before you shoot the messenger, hear us out.
Greene has short biceps, which give him mountain-like biceps peaks. On the other hand, his archrival, Phil Heath, has long biceps, making his arms look fuller and denser.
Want another example? Arnold Schwarzenegger had short biceps, while the three-time Mr. Olympia winner Sergio Oliva had long biceps. Many experts believe Arnie had better bicep peaks than the Cuban bodybuilder.
The long bicep vs. short bicep debate has been around forever. However, this article isn’t about which is better — it all boils down to personal preferences. This article goes over everything you need to know about your biceps length and check if you have long or short biceps.
Long Bicep vs. Short Bicep: Anatomy and Function
Besides improving your aesthetics and making you look strong, your arms are involved in four major functions, including:
- Flexion: Brings your forearm and upper arm closer together.
- Extension: Straightening of your elbow.
- Abduction: Involves moving a body part away from the center of your body.
- Adduction: Refers to moving a body part toward the center of your body.
Biceps are one of the most popular muscle groups to train in the gym. Most lifters end up comparing their guns with others in the gym or want to build arms like their favorite bodybuilder or fitness influencer.
Before we discuss if this is possible, let’s go over the biceps anatomy. Your anterior upper arm consists of three major muscles:
- Biceps brachii: It is the most superficial and dominant biceps muscle and is usually referred to as the biceps. It consists of a short head and a long head.
- Brachialis: It lies underneath the brachii and helps add thickness to your upper arms.
- Coracobrachialis: It is located near your shoulder and allows adduction of your upper arm and flexion of your shoulder. Plus, it helps stabilize the humerus within your shoulder joint.
We talk about the biceps brachii when discussing the long and short biceps. While the short biceps head of the brachii determines the width or thickness of the biceps in the front double biceps pose, the long biceps head makes up the peak.
On the other hand, the long biceps head is the dominant muscle in the back double biceps pose or when you’re looking at the biceps from behind.
The short head of the brachii originates from the apex of the coracoid process of the scapula. The long head originates from the supraglenoid tubercle of the scapula.
Both heads course distally and become a confluent muscle belly before tapering across the anterior aspect of the elbow. They insert on the radial tuberosity and the forearm fascia via the bicipital aponeurosis. 
To put it in layman’s terms, the biceps brachii is a two-jointed muscle. One end of the brachii connects at the shoulder and the other at the elbow joint.
Plus, both muscles perform opposing functions. While the long head pulls the arm away from the trunk (abduction) and turns it inwards (inward rotation), the short head pulls the arm back towards the trunk (adduction).
Role of Genetics
As with everything bodybuilding, genetics plays a huge role in your biceps length.
Many lifters spend countless hours performing biceps curls in hopes of building better biceps peaks or doing slow and controlled preacher curls to improve the length of their pythons. While both these methods will help build bigger biceps, you cannot modify your genetic and muscle insertion and attachment points through weight training.
You are born with short or long biceps, and although folks with impressive guns might tell you their secret recipe for building long biceps or biceps peaks like them, the truth is that they have no idea what they are talking about.
How Do You Know if You Have Long or Short Biceps
Knowing your biceps type can save you a lot of time, wasted effort, and disappointment. Many people try to elongate their biceps length by performing neutral grip exercises. However, neutral grip exercises primarily work the brachialis and do little to nothing to improve your biceps length.
The length of your biceps muscle is determined by the insertion and attachment point of your biceps brachii. You could determine your biceps length by checking for your biceps insertion point.
1. With your elbows extended
Here is how to check your biceps insertion point with your arms extended:
- Extend your arm straight and turn over your hand so that the back of your hand is facing the ceiling.
- Notice your biceps insertion point.
- If there is a 2-3 finger space between your bicep and elbow joint, you have short biceps.
- On the other hand, if your brachii muscle extends up to the elbow tendon, you have long biceps.
2. With your elbows flexed
Given below are the steps to check your biceps insertion point with your elbows flexed:
- Flex one of your arms with your palm facing your body as if performing a front double biceps pose.
- Now check your biceps insertion point.
- You have long biceps if there is little to no space between your forearms and the end of the contracted bicep muscle belly.
- Alternatively, you have short biceps if your biceps insertion point is almost in the middle of the upper arm and there is a two to three-finger space between your forearm and the end of the contracted biceps muscle belly.
Note: People with developed muscles will have a better time taking these tests.
Confusion Between Long and Short Bicep Heads and Biceps Length
Many people confuse short and long bicep heads with biceps length. As mentioned above, the biceps brachii consists of two heads — short and long. The short head is located on the inside of the arm, whereas the long head is present on the outside.
On the other hand, the biceps length refers to the muscle-to-tendon ratio of your biceps. If your biceps insert at the shoulder joint, you have long biceps. However, you have short biceps if there is a 2-3 finger gap between your flex biceps muscle belly and forearm.
Long Bicep vs. Short Bicep Comparison
Long biceps give a fuller and denser appearance when your arms are flexed. Plus, they make your arms look thicker when your elbows are extended.
On the other hand, short biceps can help you achieve a better biceps peak. However, short biceps can make your arms look thinner when relaxed.
Notably, the impact of short and long biceps is limited to aesthetics, and there is no known link between your biceps length and strength.
A muscle’s force-generating capacity is dependent on its cross-sectional area and is not affected by its length. You need to build more protein filaments and cross-bridges to build muscle strength, which is present in muscles with a greater cross-sectional area.
Focus on building wider and thicker muscles instead of growing their length if your goal is to build muscle strength. Since long and short biceps are capable of achieving greater muscle width, both can produce the same power and strength output.
Related: Build the strongest, most muscular arms possible with these awesome workout moves!
Frequently Asked Questions
Does height play a role in biceps length?
Many people believe that tall people or people with long limbs usually have long biceps, whereas short people have short guns. However, this is not the case. Your biceps length primarily depends on your genetics.
Can I increase my biceps length with a protein-rich diet?
No, you cannot modify your biceps length by changing your diet. A protein-rich can help you build muscle mass but cannot alter your muscle insertions.
Can people with long biceps not build biceps peaks?
Everyone can build biceps peaks. However, because of their structure, shorter biceps have fuller muscle bellies and can overshadow long biceps when fully flexed.
Biceps length is mainly determined by genetics, based on your muscle-to-tendon ratio and muscle insertion and attachments. You cannot alter it through exercise or diet.
The long biceps vs. short bicep debate finally comes down to personal preferences. While some people like long biceps, others favor short biceps. Although the length of your biceps can affect your aesthetics, it doesn’t have an impact on your strength levels.
- Tiwana MS, Charlick M, Varacallo M. Anatomy, Shoulder and Upper Limb, Biceps Muscle. [Updated 2022 Aug 30]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK519538/
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