Lifters and non-lifters alike have a fascination with big, muscular arms. For bodybuilders, the biceps are a signature muscle, and who doesn’t like throwing up an arm and flexing their biceps?!
From a functional perspective, the biceps (full name, biceps brachii and NEVER bicep!) are responsible for bending your elbow joint and supinating (rotating) your forearm. As such, they’re involved in a lot of sporting and everyday movements.
The biceps brachii has two distinct heads; the long head and the short head. Both originate on the scapulae or shoulder blade and come together and insert onto the radius bone of the forearm.
However, the short head is attached to the front part of the scapula, while the long head attaches more toward the rear. The short head is located on the inner arm and gives your biceps their width. In contrast, the long head is more responsible for your biceps peak.
While it’s impossible to isolate one head from the other, there are several biceps exercises you can do that emphasize the long head.
Use these exercises to increase the height of your biceps, building your peak.
1. Alternating dumbbell curls
The alternating dumbbell curl is a classic arm exercise that involves two biceps functions – elbow flexion and forearm supination. As such, it’s not just a great mass builder; it also hits the long head of your biceps extra hard.
It’s no coincidence that this exercise is a staple of many bodybuilders’ biceps workouts.
As an extra benefit, working one arm at a time allows you to put all your focus into your left or right biceps, strengthening your mind-muscle connection.
2. Narrow grip barbell curls
If you want to lift heavy weights to build both strength and size, narrow grip barbell curls could be the exercise for you. This exercise puts your arms in a mechanically advantageous position, so you can load up your arms and pump out the reps.
Do narrow grip barbell curls with a straight barbell or, for a more wrist and elbow-friendly workout, use an EZ bar instead. For best results, your hands should be less than shoulder-width apart.
3. Incline dumbbell curls
While you won’t be able to go very heavy with this exercise, it’s still an effective way to target the long head of your biceps. Set your bench to about 45 degrees and lean back to stretch your biceps and preferentially target the long head.
Take care; this exercise can be hard on your shoulders. Use light weights and moderate to high reps and focus on chasing the pump.
4. Bayesian cable curls
This exercise is the cable equivalent of incline dumbbell curls. It stretches your biceps and extends your shoulder, increasing biceps long head activation in the process. Using a cable also keeps your biceps under constant tension, which may increase muscle activation.
No cable machine? No problem! You can also do this exercise with a resistance band.
How to do it:
- Attach a D-handle to a low pulley machine. Grab the handle and stand in a split stance with your back to the weight stack. Brace your abs. Extend your arm behind you.
- Bend your elbow and curl the handle forward and up toward your shoulder.
- Extend your arm, getting a good mid-rep stretch, and repeat.
- Do the same number of reps on each side.
5. Dumbbell hammer curls
Bodybuilders usually do hammer curls to target the brachialis muscle, which is part of the forearm. However, this exercise is also an effective way to target the long head of your biceps.
The hammer curl is so-called because it looks a little like you are trying to pound in a nail. One thing is for sure, it’s a great way to “hammer” your biceps and build a more prominent peak!
6. Drag curls
Drag curls were a favorite of old-school bodybuilding guru Vince Gironda. Gironda was famous for tweaking well-known bodybuilding exercises to target specific muscle groups, such as the guillotine or neck press to hit the upper chest.
You can do drag curls using a barbell or EZ bar, and you can also do them with dumbbells.
7. Narrow grip chin-up
Nope, this isn’t a typo! While chin-ups are most definitely a lat exercise, using a narrow, underhand grip means the long head of your biceps is also going to get a great workout.
In fact, if you take a moment to analyze the movement, you’ll soon see that narrow grip chin-ups are very similar to narrow grip barbell curls. But, instead of curling the bar up to your chin, you’ll be curling your chin up to the bar.
So, if you want bigger, more peaked biceps AND bigger lats, this is the exercise for you!
8. Concentration curls
Concentration curls are so-called because they allow you to focus all your attention on your biceps, creating a powerful mind-muscle connection. Tense your arms as hard as you can at the top of each rep to really hit the long head of your biceps.
Get more from this exercise by using a light weight and a slow, controlled tempo. Avoid using momentum, as lifting too fast will take work away from your biceps. Instead, tense your biceps throughout the entire range of motion.
9. Narrow grip preacher curls
Preacher curls, also called Scott curls, are a popular biceps exercise. Leaning your upper arms on an angled bench means you cannot cheat during this exercise, making them a very strict biceps exercise.
Using a narrow grip increases biceps long head activation. You can do preacher curls with a barbell, EZ bar, or using a low cable machine as preferred.
10. Close grip supine cable curls and seated row superset
The final installment in this guide is a muscle-building twofer as it combines two exercises. It’s a pre-exhaust superset which means the first exercise is an isolation exercise while the second exercise is a compound move.
If you want to pump your biceps to the max, targeting the long head in the process, this exercise is the way to do it:
How to do it:
- Attach a straight or EZ bar to a low cable machine. Grab the handle with a narrow grip and lie down on the floor with your legs straight. Press your upper arms into the floor.
- Curl the handle up to your shoulders and then extend your arms. Continue until you hit failure.
- Next, sit up tall, bend your knees slightly to protect your lower back, and row the handle into your abdomen. Focus on driving your elbows backward and keeping your wrists straight. Continue until you hit failure.
- Rest a moment, and then repeat the pairing.
Long Head Biceps Workout
While there is nothing to stop you from adding a few of these long head biceps exercises to your usual arm workout, you’ll get better results (and a bigger peak) if you follow a more prescriptive approach.
Do this long head biceps workout once a week, a few days after your usual arm workout. Yes, that’s right, we want you to train your biceps twice a week to shock them into new levels of strength and size!
|1||Narrow grip chin-ups||4||6||120 seconds|
|2||Incline dumbbell curls||3||8||90 seconds|
|3||Drag curls||2||10||60 seconds|
|4||Concentration curls||2||12||45 seconds|
|5||Cable curl/row superset||1||AMRAP*||N/A|
*AMRAP = as many reps as possible. Just rep out to failure on both exercises.
Long Head Biceps Exercises – Wrapping Up
All biceps exercises involve the long head, so it may not be necessary to spend extra time working on this muscle. That’s especially true if you are a recreational (non-competitive) bodybuilder or are more interested in strength and performance than aesthetics.
However, if you want biceps like baseballs, you need to focus more attention on the long head of your biceps.
Use these exercises to build your biceps peak and give your arms more height.