Many of my clients are surprised when I tell them that they aren’t focusing on the right combination of biceps exercises.
And that confusion grows when I start asking them if they have got the right balance for the short head and long head to give their arms the ideal shape and gains.
Because it’s a part of the body that is on show the most, we decided to create this guide for training your biceps muscles correctly.
What Is The Long Head Of The Bicep?
The long head of the bicep is essentially one part of the muscle group that makes up the front of your upper arm. From a medical perspective, this area of the body is broken down into three parts .
These muscles are made up of the long head and short head , and they have the primary function of forearm supination and elbow flexion.
You don’t see much of the short head from the outside, as it’s the long head that creates those biceps peaks.
This arm muscle lies underneath the brachii and is hardly visible. It is in a position close to the elbow sections and plays an important role in flexing the elbows.
Similar to the brachialis, this one lies under the brachii but at the top near the shoulder. Because of its location, its position makes it more important for flexion at the shoulder, meaning it moves the arm up and down.
And that’s how deep I’ll go into anatomy to avoid boring readers to death.
Why Is It Important To Isolate The Long Head?
It is important to isolate the long head to maximize muscle growth benefits. If you don’t pay close attention to the type and technique of biceps exercises, you might not see the effects on the long head of the biceps.
This commonly happens to people who just focus on regular dumbbell curls. And it becomes even more of a problem when your body position isn’t right.
Let me explain.
Something a lot of amateurs do at the gym is trying the heaviest possible weight they can do a biceps curl routine with.
They might manage to lift the dumbbells a few times with proper form, but then their body position starts to change.
Next, the rocking motion starts to gain some momentum and the exercise kind of goes to crap.
Not only does it not provide maximum benefit for muscle growth, but at that point you could end up targeting the short head too much.
“If you're trying to build your long head of biceps, bicep curls are probably one of the best exercises you can do. As long as you do it with the right form, they are great. For your bicep workout I suggest you do 21’s, incline dumbbell curls, preacher curls, and hammer curls. You can switch these upon different days, so your bicep doesn’t get used to a certain exercise.”
- George Young, ISSA & IFPA Certified Personal Trainer, yanrefitness.com.
Related: 9 Best Short Head Bicep Exercises
8 Best Long Head Biceps Exercises
Our team got together to list out our favorite biceps exercises to target the long head of the biceps.
You don’t need to pick all of them for your own long head biceps exercises routine, but adding 3 or 4 of them on your arm days should give you better gains.
1. Dumbbell Curls
You can’t plan dumbbell exercises without doing a good old-fashioned dumbbell curl.
When you focus on quality over quantity, then you’ll find that it triggers the long head biceps tendon much better.
Do these long head bicep exercises in a standing position with a dumbbell in one hand and palms facing up.
Flex your elbow and pull up the weight to shoulder height for the count of 2, hold it there for two seconds and then lower it back down for the count of three to the starting position.
If you’re going to change the speed, don’t make it faster. The more time your muscles are under the tension of weight, the better the results will be .
I generally keep the sets low on this exercise so that I can fit in a few variations.
2. Dumbbell Hammer Curl
OK, so we’ve covered the standard curl; now it’s time to spice up your long head bicep exercises.
Dumbbell hammer curls are a favorite among bodybuilders, and the only difference to the standard one is the way you grip the weight.
Grip the dumbbell with your palms facing inwards rather than up.
It will feel like you’re holding a hammer, which is where the workout gets the name from.
Do the hammer curls for at least three sets with a max of 10 reps.
Don’t try to do hammer curls with resistance bands, as the hand position is too awkward to get the full range of motion.
3. Preacher Curls
Here is one of my all-time favorite long head bicep exercises.
You’ll need a preacher bench, which you’ll find in all gyms. It’s basically a seat with a padded platform in front of it at about chest height.
You sit down and make adjustments to your height so that the triceps of both arms are flat on the padding.
Grap an EZ bar and hold it with a narrow grip width and arms stretched out.
Pull up the bar slowly for the count of two, and then lower it back down to the start position for 3 seconds and make sure you complete the full range of motion.
Watch the bicep heads as they peak, and even hold them at the top for a few seconds.
4. Close-Grip Barbell Curls
Some people prefer working on a barbell as it’s more of a compound rather than an isolation workout.
More on that below.
Make it a close-grip barbell curl with your elbows tight against your torso.
There is extra weight pulling your body forward, but don’t let that create a shoulder joint movement.
Your body has to remain still and tall to avoid adding momentum to the motion.
Start the workouts with a reasonable weight so that you can complete 8 to 12 reps. Then gradually increase the weight by a small amount between the sets.
5. Concentration Curls
The concentration curl is a favorite workout for athletes who want to achieve maximum pumps.
It’s also a great way to target the long head muscles as you’re going to be concentrating on the peak and try to “blow” it up.
Get some heavy dumbbells ready and head for a workout bench.
Rest both your elbows on your knees, and with a dumbbell in one hand, let your forearm extend down.
You’ll make the up move with your elbow never moving from your knee.
And as you approach the top in front of your chest, stare at your biceps and concentrate on fully engaging them.
It’s also important for the down move of the forearm, or supination, to be slow.
6. Cable Curls
Some folks might find it easier to use machines for their bicep workout routine so there are cable curls.
And if you have other exercises on a cable machine, then it’s a great way to get your workouts done without constantly moving around.
Set yourself up with the cable behind you and one foot forward to provide stability.
Your arms should be stretched out with your wrist behind you as well and a bit of tension on the cable.
Slowly start the biceps moves and bring your elbow to a right angle before releasing the tension and allowing your muscles to stretch out again.
7. Incline Dumbbell Curls
Another great way to work on your biceps is by getting set up on an incline bench.
Set the bench to about a 30 or 40-degree angle and lean into the backrest.
Grab a dumbbell in each hand and allow your arms to hang straight down.
Start the incline curl exercises by pulling the weights up to your chest and then lowering it back down again.
Make sure you keep your wrist still so that you don’t get a momentum move going or impact your range of motion.
Do the incline dumbbell curl for three sets of maximum 10 reps and push yourself to muscle failure.
If you have access to a chin-up bar, then this is one of the best movements that just use your body weight.
You’ll need to set yourself up with a close-grip where your hands are not as wide as your shoulders.
Let yourself hang for a moment, and then start the movement by slowly pulling your body up.
You’ll feel the pressure build in the long head biceps muscle and even across your shoulder joint when you get to the top.
Long Head Training Tips
In addition to the above movement and setup selection, I want to share a few general tips for training the long head of the biceps.
Using Barbells Or Dumbbells
Unlike the dumbbell biceps curls, the barbell curl is much more of a compound exercise.
That means it’s a multi-joint movement involving multiple muscle groups.
Dumbbell curls allow you to work on a single arm at a time to isolate the biceps with a focused body motion.
Also, note that you can use resistance bands instead of dumbbells.
Getting The Timing Right
We often get questions and comments about the timing of biceps workout exercises.
Should you work your biceps and triceps on the same day? How much is too much bicep training?
What I would say is that I generally recommend separating biceps and triceps training into two days.
When one area becomes sore and fatigued, it can impact how well you perform on the other and even limit your range of motion.
And I would also limit arm days to twice a week. Otherwise, you could quickly see things developing out of proportion.
Imagine massive arms and slim shoulders. It’s not a good look.
Focusing On The Biceps Peak
The great thing about the long head bicep muscle is that it’s right in front of your eyes during exercises.
Focusing your mind on the muscle can increase the pump and ultimately the effect of growing more upper arm mass .
Quality Over Quantity
I see many folks at the gym jump to big weights in their exercises and then drop the ball on the quality and range of motion.
If you sacrifice the movement and start adding momentum to your biceps curls, you’ll quickly hit a plateau on your strength curve.
Make the bicep do the work without your shoulders or upper body doing more than providing support.
The only exception I would mention is when you’re doing a drop set, but that’s a matter for a different content page altogether.
“Some people create so much momentum from the start of the curl that they carry that cheating into the end of the curl. Sometimes, people translate their elbows forward, taking stress off their biceps and putting it on their shoulders.”
- Ebenezer Samual, Fitness Director of Men's Health.
Can You Workout Your Biceps Every Day?
Yes, you can workout your biceps every day, but it’s not recommended.
Doing a long head bicep curl on a daily basis will get your body into a mode where it functions on autopilot and gets used to the strain. Recovery times are as important as the bicep exercises themselves.
Are Bicep Curls a Waste of Time?
No, bicep curls are not a waste of time, but you have to focus on quality over quantity.
By combining barbell curls and other variations, you can tailor the exercises to target the long and short head.
Are You Going To Try These Long Head Bicep Exercises?
Paying more attention to the long head of your biceps in your exercises is a great way for men and women to reshape all their arm appearance.
With a little variety and gradually increasing intensity, you’ll build a mountain of a peak.
The only last bit of advice I’ll give you is to keep it balanced with your triceps target goal so that your arms are properly in proportion.
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