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December 05, 2022 1 Comment
While you don't need extensive knowledge on human muscle anatomy and function to go into the gym and get a good workout in, if you want to achieve the absolute best results in the development of any given muscle, you do. By understanding how a muscle works, you will know which are the most effective exercises to do and what the right training variables are. In this article, we are going to tackle the best exercises for the long head of the bicep, which is often underdeveloped in those who lack a complete understanding of the biceps brachii. It's time to develop some huge bicep peaks!
Let us get this started.
The bicep brachii is a single muscle on the anterior side of the upper arm that is divided into a short and a long head.
"Heads" simply means the muscle has different attachment points. In the case of the biceps, it is two, hence the 'bi' in bicep.
If a person has a very well-developed bicep and low body fat, you can see the long and short heads of the bicep. However, the heads share the same muscle belly, which means they converge along the upper arm and insert into the same area.
To be anatomically specific, the long head and short head both originate at the scapula, but along different points. The long attaches to the supraglenoid tubercle in the hollow of the scapula right near the shoulder joint. The short head attaches to the coracoid process which is a bony protrusion on the scapula.
As you can see from the picture, the short head is located along the inner side of the anterior upper arm and the long head is located along the top/outer side of the anterior upper arm.
These two parts of the muscle function together to flex the elbow (bring your forearm up toward your upper arm) and supinate the forearm (rotate the forearm outward).
As both muscle heads cross the shoulder joint, they also assist in flexion and abduction/adduction of the shoulder.
Understanding these simple functions is important for knowing how to best target the biceps during workouts.
In terms of aesthetics, the long head adds to the peak of the biceps, while the short head gives the bicep its width. Hence, long head exercises are popularly referred to as bicep peak exercises.
To explain why the long head bicep is often tagged as a bicep peak, let us visualize the bicep as a hill top. At the base of this hill to provide support and width is the short head. And when the arm is flexed, the long head provides the high contoured "peak".
The long head of the bicep is a vital muscle head when it comes to strength and aesthetics. It is the muscle at the outer part of the upper arm. A well-built, long head bicep muscle will always make you stand out. When working to raise the strength of the biceps, training the long head is essential.
If you ask most beginners in the gym to show you their bicep, they will point right at it. But the same cannot be said when you ask them to differentiate the bicep’s long and short head.
The long head can be seen and felt on the top and outer part of the bicep. It's what gives your biceps the appearance of length and a big peak when your arm is flexed.
An impressive bicep peak is the ultimate attraction for bodybuilders, and men in general, which is why the long head is so often discussed among professionals and fitness enthusiasts alike.
While both bicep heads function together in most workout activities, it's important to understand how to differentiate the two during exercise so you can develop both heads to the greatest potential.
The long head is the bigger and more prominent of the two bicep heads. This means that it does need some additional attention when training the biceps. Moreover, it is often not as developed as it should be in casual lifters.
That said, the short head deserves special attention too.
In essence, you want to know how to best target both the long head and short head. By understanding how to hone in on each head, you can give your biceps that long and high peak look, as well as thickness.
If your bicep is lacking "peak", then you definitely need to learn how to hit the long head better.
It's not all about doing more reps or using heavy weight, it's about training variables like grip position, grip width, arm position, and overall which exercises you are doing, albeit reps, loads, and volume does play a very important role.
We will be covering all of this below. As you read on, you will find out the proper techniques to isolate your long head bicep for targeted growth.
You can not completely isolate the long head of the bicep, but you can perform certain exercises to emphasize the long head.
Basically, both heads will be activated during any bicep exercise no matter what, but certain exercises can activate one head more than the other.
Therefore, pay close attention to the movements in this long head bicep guide.
Before we get into the exercises, let's go over the training variables that allow you to hone in on the long head of the bicep. By learning this, you will know exactly why we label the exercises to come as long head bicep exercises.
If you want to emphasize the long head bicep during training, four main techniques can help you achieve that:
While both muscle heads work to flex the elbow and rotate the forearm, the long head also supports should abduction (the process of moving the arm away from the trunk) as well as internal rotation (the inward turning of the arm). So, by performing curls with these actions of the shoulder in place, you can also create a higher activation of the long head.
There are many exercises that emphasize long head of the bicep. Many of them you probably already know, but maybe you didn't realize they are best for the long head.
The good news is, it's not hard to hit the long head. It's not like you need to create some crazy mind muscle connection. All you have to do is implement the above techniques.
The following exercises all act on the techniques we just went over.
In taking you through these exercises that best activate the long head bicep, we will try to be descriptive as possible for the sake of clarity.
Below are the 8 most effective exercises gathered by our team for the outer bicep and massive peaks (the long head of the bicep).
You do not have to choose all of them for your exercise program, but including 2-3 of them into your arm routine, and switching things up every couple months, should result in significant results.
Your long head bicep will be targeted very well with incline dumbbell curls. This position will have your elbows down at your side's behind you, which means your long head will be working from a stretched position. Also, you will be rotating the forearm from a neutral to supinated position.
With that, you will have a very high stretching contraction and you will be moving your long head through a larger range of motion.
All in all, this is one of our favorite long head bicep exercises of all, which is why it takes position number uno.
Incline dumbbell curls instruction:
Other good variations of the incline dumbbell curl:
The hammer curl is a popular bodybuilding bicep exercise that everyone knows and loves, but did you know that it targets the long head? Remember back to what we discussed, neutral grip curls allow you to hone in on the long head. This is exactly that.
For this one, we are demonstrating it from a seated position. We chose the seated position as it reduces the chance of cheating. It is the strictest possible option.
That said, you can do hammer curls from a standing position as well. You can also do alternating hammer curls rather than curling both simultaneously. This is also a great forearm workout - we love multitasking moves!
Hammer curl instruction:
Related: Hammer Curl vs Bicep Curl
Other variations of hammer curls for long head bicep:
While barbell curls are an all-around great bicep exercise, by using a close-grip you can emphasize the long head of the bicep. This is because there will be a degree of shoulder internal rotation (remember back to the training variables for the long head that we discussed).
Another great thing about barbell curls is that it is probably the heaviest curl you can possibly do. The biceps are 60% fast twitch and 40% slow twitch muscle fibers, which means they actually respond best to heavier loads with relatively low reps. That said, you still need to do higher reps for best possible development. The point is, you can't just do high reps if you want big biceps, you need heavy sets too.
Close-Grip Barbell Curls instruction
Other variations of close grip curls for long head:
Related: Bicep Curls 21s
If your gym has a preacher bench, give close grip preacher curls with an EZ bar a try. The preacher curl is shown to have very good muscle activation of the bicep and it allows for maximum stretching contraction, pending you actually let your arms go all the way down with each rep.
Another great thing about the preacher curl is that you can't really cheat. This is also what makes it so effective. With the preacher bench, your elbows are fixed and you can't use your shoulders and back to whip the weight up. Everything is very strict.
Overall, it's a great all-around bicep exercise, but you can make it long head centric by simply using a narrow grip.
Preacher curl instruction:
Other variations of the preacher curl for the long head:
The good thing about the drag curl is it prevents your front delts from getting in on the movement, allowing you to best isolate the biceps.
As for the long head of the bicep, it is emphasized the most due to the elbow positioning. As you curl up, your elbows pull back behind you, which stretches the long head, activating it to a very high degree. Moreover, this position allows for serious contraction. So, if you are looking to build that bicep peak, this is a great one.
Note: For this exercise, you can use a barbell, dumbbell or EZ bar all to the same effect.
Drag Curl Instruction:
The Bayesian curl is a great cable curl variation that follows the same concept as the incline dumbbell curl. Your arms will be curling with your elbows behind you, which emphasizes the long head.
With this one, you are simply doing so from a standing position using a cable machine.
So, you'll be stretching your biceps with your shoulder extended, increasing the activation of the long head. Also, the cable pulley allows for constant tension, due to the cable resistance being flat unlike a dumbbell which has a resistance curve due to gravity.
This exercise is one of our favorites to include in a bicep cable workout!
Bayesian Curl Instruction:
Related: Best Cable Arm Exercises
While this isn't a bicep specific exercise like the previous ones, some of the best exercises for your biceps are compound movements like this. With pull ups, you are going to be placing your biceps against serious resistance (think about how much your body weighs!).
We chose the neutral grip pull up because when it comes to the biceps it targets your long head best. Whereas the wide grip pull up takes the biceps out of play more as to best emphasize the lats.
Moreover, you will be much stronger with the neutral grip than with a wide grip, which means you should quickly be able to use a weight belt to increase the difficulty and add more stimulus to your biceps.
All in all, pull ups are going to be essential in the development of your biceps. They will allow you to get more weekly volume for your biceps while also working other muscles at the same time. Efficiency is key. Your biceps can handle 2-3 training sessions per week, so hitting a lagging long head bicep effectively on back day is important.
Note: You will need a pull up bar with parallel handles for this exercise.
Neutral Grip Pull Instructions:
The chin-up is another excellent option for a pull up that best targets the long head.
While this might be similar to the neutral grip pull up above, there is a considerable difference. With the chin up, you are moving your biceps through a very large range of motion. Moreover, the narrow grip allows you to hone in on the long head.
If you can do the chin up for 3 sets of 10 reps (with a full range of motion), you can add external resistance in the form of a weight belt. As such, you can progressive overload this exercise until your back and biceps are godly.
Related: Pull Ups vs Chin Ups Muscles Worked
Each body part varies in terms of loading parameters and the same rule applies to the long head of the bicep.
To get the best out of your long head bicep routine, there are three main parameters to pay attention to:
Let us take a thorough look at each and see how each affects your long bicep workout.
a) REP RANGES:
For any muscle, it's important to understand what the ratio of fast and slow twitch muscle fibers is. This will help you to determine what are the best rep ranges and loads to work with.
The long head bicep is made up of approximately 60% fast twitch and 40% slow twitch muscle fibers.
Fast twitch muscle fibers respond best to moderate to heavy loads for lower reps, as fast twitch muscle fibers are build for short, explosive bursts of energy.
Slow twitch muscle fibers respond best to moderate to lighter loads for higher reps. They are built for strength endurance.
As such, it's important that you train your biceps with heavy loads.
But that doesn't mean you should only be using heavy loads for lower reps. The bicep is still 40% slow twitch muscle fibers.
For the best possible development of your bicep, you should be training through the entire spectrum of rep ranges, which are as follows:
The load should bring your to or near failure within the given rep ranges to be effective.
By doing this, you will give your biceps the absolute best chance to grow and get stronger. Moreover, they will build muscular endurance. This will translate into improvements in other areas of your workouts as well (such as on back day).
As for percentage of volume in the given rep ranges, your sets should be broken down as follows...
You will want to aim for around 10-15 sets for the biceps per week. If you are more advanced and your biceps are lagging, you can aim for 15-20 sets per week.
Note: These sets can be divided into 2-3 different sessions throughout the week. Ideally, you want to hit the biceps again as soon as they've fully recovered, which generally takes 2-3 days.
As for how many sets within the above rep ranges, it can be broken down like this:
The pace at which you perform a rep is regarded as tempo. It can be split into two phases, the concentric phase (curling) and eccentric phase (uncurling).
Not many people place much care about rep tempo during bicep development. However, it has a role to play in how fast you develop your muscle.
The general belief about rep tempo is that you stand a higher chance of building muscle when you vary the speed with which you lift.
You should be working with slow tempos most often, and fast tempos occassionally.
The best tempos to use are:
The eccentric phase (negative) is always best done with a slow tempo. However, you can play around with explosive sets on the concentric phase. Remember, your bicep is a fast twitch muscle which responds well to explosive bursts.
Overall, the more time under tension the better for hypertrophy, which means a slow tempo is good for building muscle. But it's good to play around with tempo to shock the muscle in different ways as well.
Apart from muscle growth, rep tempo helps with motor control ability, body awareness, strength, power, and improved stability.
d) REST PERIODS:
Another factor that affects muscle growth is the rest period. I would like to break the rest period into three categories:
Short Rest Periods
During muscle-building exercise, there comes a time you will feel fatigued. At this point, you tend to grab some energy by taking a rest.
By making this rest about 30 seconds or less, you are subjecting your muscles to a short rest period. Although in doing this, you might not be giving yourself enough time to recuperate. This is effective in exhausting the muscle efficiently.
Long Rest Periods
One good thing about a long rest period is that it gives you enough time to catch your breath and have your strength almost fully restored. Keeping your strength at the same level keeps you lifting maximum weight, resulting in some massive muscular gains. However, this has a downside. The longer the rest period you give your muscles, the harder it is to reach full exhaustion. Of course, your muscles require exhaustion (overload) to peak.
Since both rest periods mentioned above have shortfalls, it is important to play around with rest periods. Depending on the exercise and whether you are using heavy loads will usually determine your rest period.
People wanting to grow larger biceps frequently make the same mistakes. This mistake might be due to the structure of their biceps training plan, or it can be due to the execution of specific biceps exercises. If you want to amass a well-formed bicep with a towering peak, avoid the following mistakes.
1) Lifting Too Much Weight:
At the gym, we all want to display our strength. People routinely grab extremely big weight off the rack or use dumbbells that are excessively heavy for the activity they're performing, partly to show off and partly to obtain monstrous gains.
While using heavy loads is good for the bicep, it is not if you can't perform the exercise correctly. Range of motion and correct form always trumps weight load, particularly when using isolation moves like the concentration curl.
The point is, you should only lift what you can do with a full range of motion and good form.
2) Not Focusing on Tension:
It's important to build a strong mind muscle connection. If you are not focusing on the muscle at hand, you will not see the results you want.
Rather than spending all of your energy tossing weights around, taking the effort to learn what exercises work and what parts of those exercises are most successful can help you make the most of your gym time.
Think about the contraction and lengthening of the muscle with each rep.
3) Lack of Variation:
We have previously highlighted the human body's adaptability. If you do not vary your training regimen, your body will get accustomed, and the hypertrophy-inducing muscle damage will be reduced. For the same reason, it is critical to practice a variety of workouts throughout the week. You may also switch up the exercises in a single training regimen.
For example, if your arm routine at the gym involves curls, presses, and rows all in the same day, make sure you vary your grip technique and grip breadth. If you're constantly attacking muscle groups from different directions by playing with your grip, your body will be kept on its "toes".
You can keep the same exercises in your routine, but you should also switch up what exercises you are doing every couple months. So, if for this training cycle you are doing incline dumbbell curls, preacher curls, and hammer curls, change up the exercises the next training cycle. You can also change up the equipment or grip used for those exercises each training session.
4) Cheating Reps:
Cheating during bicep curls has its time and place. People like to add a swinging action to get to the top of the curl at that key point where the weight is approximately halfway up. Cheating is an excellent method to not fatigue your biceps beyond rep failure or to use heavy loads. However, to avoid cheating yourself out of your goals of amassing huge muscles, you have to leverage momentum, muster enough strength to get through your curls before that point.
Limit how much other portions of your body may move to fix this error. Put your back against a wall if you're standing up executing barbell curls to avoid using your back to bring the front deltoids into the mix. Make sure your legs are below a mat when doing seated biceps curls.
If you are going to cheat, only do it on certain sets where you want to push past failure or use a heavier than normal load. But, don't do this all the time. It's just something to implement here and there.
If you have been an avid reader or follower of this blog, you will find out that we have always talked about the need for structural balance during workout routines. So, you can't just do a workout focusing on the long head.
If your long head is lagging, and you really want to build a big bicep peak, you can prioritize it, but still don't forget about your short head.
Here are two good, well-rounded bicep workouts that target both heads effectively, with a little extra emphasis on the long head.
BICEP WORKOUT #1
|INCLINE BICEPS CURL||Dumbbells||4||8-12||60-90 sec|
|HAMMER CURL||Dumbbells||3||10-15||60-90 sec|
|WIDE GRIP PREACHER CURL||EZ Bar||3||8-12||60-90 sec|
|CONCENTRATION CURL||Dumbbell||4||8-12||30-60 sec|
BICEP WORKOUT #2
|CLOSE GRIP BARBELL CURL||Barbell||3||5-8||90 sec|
|WIDE GRIP BARBELL CURL||Barbell||2||5-8||90 sec|
|BAYESIAN CURL||Cable Machine||2||5-8||60 sec|
|HAMMER CURL||Cable Machine w/ Rope Attachment||2||8-12||60 sec|
|REVERSE GRIP CURL||Dumbbells||2||10-15||60 sec|
All in all, these are two good bicep workouts that you could do spread out throughout the week.
For example, Workout 1 could be done after a back day and Workout 2 could be done after training legs.
If you routinely exercise to enhance the size of your outer and inner biceps, your protein requirements are larger than those of physically inactive persons. Recommended dietary allowances or RDA e based is 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight, highly active individuals require 1.0-2.0 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight, according to the International Society of Sports Nutrition. Although protein supplements may be handy, they are not required to grow muscle mass in your arms, just aim to have a high protein diet.
Supplements are a simple method to enhance your protein consumption, especially if you're on the road or between meals. Some protein powders, for example, contain up to 30 grams of protein per scoop.
Protein supplements are not needed, but they do make life easier. Plus, they taste good. There is absolutely nothing wrong with having a protein shake or two per day to reach your protein level needs.
According to a review published in the "Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition" in 2010, the best protein sources for supplements include milk protein, egg protein, whey, casein, and colostrum.
If you want to satisfy your protein needs through a range of protein-rich meals rather than supplements, you have a lot of alternatives:
Red meats, fish, skinless chicken, eggs, low-fat dairy foods, soy products, seitan, legumes, nuts, and nut butter are examples of high-protein foods.
For reference, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 3 ounces of chicken breast contains approximately 27 grams of protein, 1 cup of cottage cheese contains approximately 28 grams, 3 ounces of lean ground beef contains approximately 21 grams, and 1 cup of low-fat yogurt contains approximately 13 grams of protein.
Related: Plant Protein vs Whey Protein Powder
The length of time it takes for your biceps to grow relies on several factors, including age, gender, genetic predisposition, quantity and frequency of exercise, stress levels, the food you eat, and more.
However, there is no single "secret to large arms." Rather, there is merely the desire to bulk up and the genetic components that make you who you are.
What you can control is how you work out, when you work out, and how often you work out. Also, what you eat.
If you are a beginner, you should see some serious growth over the course of 6-months. If you are not a newbie anymore, you won't get those impressive newbie gains, but you can still build your biceps up fairly quickly. The biceps have a lot of potential for growth. Out of all the muscles, they are one of the easier ones to grow, if you know how to hit them correctly. So, for intermediate lifters, you can expect to see some impressive gains in a relatively short period of time when eating a good diet and training your biceps hard.
If you are at all worried that your bicep is injured, then read on to find out common bicep tests you can opt for.
1. Speed’s test:
This test is often carried out with you holding your arm with your elbow slightly bent and your palm up, while the professional applies downward pressure on the arm. Pain in some areas of the shoulder during Speed’s test could suggest that you have biceps tendinitis.
2. Yergason’s test:
You bend your elbow 90 degrees (at a right angle) while locking hands with a health care expert who provides pressure on the arm. Biceps tendinitis is indicated by pain in a specific shoulder region during the exam.
3. Physical examination:
A health care professional gathers clues to biceps problems by examining and feeling the biceps while it is gradually moved into various postures. This is usually the easiest way to determine what has gone wrong with your bicep.
4. CT scan:
If an ordinary physical examination does not help, a CT scan should. The CT scanner collects numerous X-rays, which are then compiled into pictures of the interior of the biceps and surrounding structures by a computer.
5. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI scan):
An MRI scanner creates very detailed pictures of the biceps and surrounding tissues using a powerful magnet and a computer. If you suspect that your bicep injury is complicated, then you might be needing an MRI scan to have things sorted out.
6. Biceps ultrasound:
In this method, a gadget is put on the skin's surface. This bounces high-frequency sound waves off biceps structures. The impulses are translated into pictures on a television screen, letting doctors view within the body. Ultrasound of the biceps may aid in the diagnosis of biceps tendon issues as well.
Due to how much we depend on the bicep for our day-to-day routines, in and out of the gym, the tendons and tissues that comprise the muscle are vulnerable to injury. The majority of these bicep injuries are caused by physical trauma or repeated activities.
Some common conditions that may affect the biceps during or after a workout include:
While some bicep injuries heal and recover without any form of treatment, some do not and require medical attention. Acute injuries can be managed during the first forty-eight to seventy-two hours using the method described below.
All in all, we have done our best to take you through the best ways to work on your long head bicep. All of the exercises were chosen based on research and through years of experience.
If done correctly, these exercise should help you build up that impressive outer and long head bicep peak and bicep strength, as well as help reduce the chances of sustaining shoulder and elbow injuries.
Now that you have learned everything you need to know about the long head of the bicep, it's time to dive into the best Short Head Bicep Exercises.
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