9 Best Short Head Bicep Exercises For Massive Arms

James Cunningham, BSc, CPT
Published by James Cunningham, BSc, CPT | Staff Writer & Senior Coach
Last updated: January 24, 2024
FACT CHECKED by Benedict Ang, CPT, PN1-NC
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Most people I talk to look at the biceps as one single muscle rather than a muscle group.

And that’s an easy mistake to make.

Even a fully bulked-up and lean bicep looks like it’s just one large chunk of muscle.

But in order to do your biceps exercises right and properly create a nice even shape, you have to regularly isolate the biceps heads.

And you can’t do that by doing just regular dumbbell curls, barbell curls, cable curls, or any random long or short-head exercises.

Before we get to some detailed arms exercises and training tips, let me give you a quick anatomy lesson on the human body.

Quick Summary

  • The top short-head bicep exercises are wide-grip barbell curls, concentration curls, spider curls, reverse curls, chin-ups, hammer curls, rotating curls, ez bar preacher curls, and rope hammer curls.
  • Targeting the short head of the biceps is crucial for achieving a fuller and more balanced arm appearance.
  • According to the National Institute of Health, the short head of the biceps is located on the inner arm, playing a significant role in arm definition, with 30% of adults having some variation in the origin of the muscle.
  • In my opinion, consistently incorporating these targeted exercises is key to achieving a fuller and more defined bicep muscle group.

Our Top Short Head Biceps Routines

These are the short head bicep exercise routines we get clients to work on to target the short head muscle.

1. Wide-Grip Barbell Curls

Wide-Grip Barbell Curls

The first short head bicep exercise isolating the short head are the wide-grip barbell curls.

Your starting position is to stand tall with your feet shoulder-width apart to maintain balance and the wide grip of the barbell held in front of you.

You’ll also want to target a wider grip width than you normally would so that your hands are further apart than your shoulders.

Start the curling movement upwards while focusing your attention on fully engaging your short head muscle.

Once you get to the top of the movement, slowly lower the bar back down again without loosening your grip.

Just avoid allowing your elbows to fully extend, and keep a slight flex. And aim for 8 to 10 reps max, with the last 2 curls being a major struggle for your arms and short head biceps particularly.

Related: Best Curl Bar Exercises

2. EZ Bar Preacher Curls

Preacher Curl

You’ll need an EZ bar and a preacher bench for these preacher curls, but it can be a really good investment for the short head bicep exercise.

By slightly changing the angle of your arms and supporting them while doing preacher curl, you focus a lot more targeted tension on your brachialis biceps, the long and the short head muscle group.

Set yourself up with a slightly wider grip width (wider than your shoulder grip) on the EZ bar for preacher curl with your elbows and triceps resting on the pad.

Start the preacher curls by pulling the EZ bar weight up towards your face, but stop just before you reach the full range of motion, holding the EZ bar in the firm grip right there in front of you.

That will be just before your forearms are vertical because at that stage, the pressure of the weight of the EZ bar will transfer to the bench, and you won’t get the full benefit of these preacher curls.

Also Read: How to Perform Cambered Bar Curls 

3. Concentration Curls

concentration curls

Your starting position for the concentration curls is on a chair or workout bench, sitting upright with your feet flat on the ground and knees spread.

Grab hold of a dumbbell and rest your elbow on your inner thigh with the weight hanging down.

Tilt your body slightly forward and look directly down at your biceps. Slowly pull up the weight and concentrate on really pumping up your biceps.

Then lower the weight back down and repeat with a full range of motion.

That focused attention on the weight in your hand grip and concentration on one muscle (hence the name concentration curls) will work wonders for bulking and shaping the short head biceps.

4. Spider Curls

Spider Curls

The spider curls have a similar effect as the preacher curls because of the changed angle of the arms.

You’ll need an incline bench with ankle pads to anchor yourself in place.

Set the angle of the bench to about 45 degrees and lean your upper body on the backrest with your belly.

To start the exercise movement, let your arms with the dumbbells hang straight down( in the underhand grip) and then curl up the weights without allowing your elbows to flare out.

You should notice that this version of the incline dumbbell curls activates the short head bicep muscles quite differently, as the other head won’t carry as much of the pressure.

5. Reverse Curls

Reverse Biceps Curl

You can do these biceps exercises with a regular barbell, EZ bar, or dumbbells, with the main focus being on how you grip onto the bars.

The starting position of the reverse curls is to hold onto the bar with a pronated grip rather than a regular underhand grip.

Essentially, your palms will be facing down, in a shoulder-width grip.

You curl the weight in the same way as you normally would by slowly pulling it up to your chest before you lower the weight in your arms back down again.

For this biceps exercise, another version of a bicep curl, always focus on the full range of motion to make sure you maximize the strain on your shoulder blade and upper arms muscles.

6. Chin-Ups

chin-up

Chin-ups are a great way to work on head of your biceps, but you really need to keep them to a narrow grip.

With a wider grip, most of the work will be done by muscles in your shoulders and back, which is a workout for a whole different day.

Let yourself hang from a pull-up bar with your palms facing towards you and in a grip only a few inches apart.

In a slow and steady movement, pull yourself up until your chin is above the bar, and then lower yourself back down again.

If you start getting to more than 10 of these short head biceps exercises, then spice things up with a weighted vest.

7. Hammer Curl

Hammer Curl

The hammer curl is a very easy way to slightly modify your dumbbell grip and end up with a very different strain on your biceps short head.

Stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart and a dumbbell in each hand. Hold the dumbbells to the side of your body in a firm grip with the palms facing each other.

It’s like you’re holding a hammer, which is where this exercise, a curl variation gets its name from.

Now curl your arms, still with a shoulder grip and concentrate on pumping up your short head biceps.

8. Rotating Curls

Rotating Curls

Your starting position will be the same as the regular dumbbell curl with your palms facing up and shoulder grip.

The difference in this biceps workout is that you rotate your hands at the top of the movement.

This results in your palms facing down while you lower the weights down again.

Focus on your elbows as well, as you want to keep them tucked in beside your body.

I find the arms rotation sometimes causes the elbows to flare out a bit, which reduces the strain.

9. Rope Hammer Curls

rope hammer curls

For the rope hammer curl, a version of the cable curls, you’ll need to set up a cable machine with the pulley set to the lowest point.

Then attach the rope and make sure that there is a bit of tension when you hold it in a firm grip at about hip-high.

The effect of pulling up is very similar to the hammer grip above, but I find the cable machine can give you a longer range of motion.

Training Techniques

man pumping biceps

Now, before you just jump in and start adding the above sets of curls to your upper arms workout routine, let me give you some tips on how to get the best results for your biceps short head.

1. Split Your Short Head Biceps Sets

I would not recommend using an entire session of these exercises to target the short head. By doing all of these curls at once, you can add too much strain and make your recovery more difficult.

And to get better bulking results, it’s also important to add a bit of variety to your sets of the short head biceps routines.

Here’s what that means.

On your arm days, plan to alternate sets so that you work on your triceps, followed by the biceps short head, followed by the forearm, followed by the long head.

That’s just an example, and there’s no right or wrong order here. Just mix things up to give individual heads muscles a bit of a rest between sets.

2. Switch around The Isolation Exercises

man in an intense workout

I mentioned above that one of the biggest mistakes is to just do dumbbell curls and think that everything is taken care of.

It’s much better to keep switching things around.

That means switching the order and types of movements you do from one training session to the next.

You’ll decrease the chance of muscle memory, and it also makes the whole routine less boring.

3. Push Yourself To Failure

There are two things you need to keep in mind for these exercises.

When you’re bulking, you want to stick to 12 or fewer reps.

That means that the last rep should be a big struggle to complete. Anything more than that will generally reduce the muscle-building effect and might even just end up burning off some fat.

The other thing you can do is reduce the reps to 10 and then do the eleventh rep as far as you can go until your arm muscles fail.

Just be careful with some of the short head biceps routines, as pushing too far can put a lot of pressure on the shoulder joint.

4. Bring Your Reps Down

man sitting down in a gym

This shouldn’t be too much of a secret either, but I still see a lot of beginners at the gym head for 20 reps when their goal is to bulk up the body.

Most beginners should set a goal of struggling at reps 10 to 12.

And once you’ve gained some more serious bulk, then you should consider reducing the curls number gradually.

Some of the professional bodybuilders I work with aim for 6 to 8 reps at most.

5. Mentally Focus On The Muscle

It doesn’t matter whether you’re doing a barbell curl, cable curls, preacher curls, chin-ups or any bicep curl; the more you focus your attention on pumping up the biceps throughout the arm movement, the better your results will be.

Whenever possible, look at your biceps directly or in the mirror and concentrate on maximizing the pump.

Recovery and Rest for Bicep Growth

Rest and recovery are crucial in a workout routine targeting short head bicep development. This muscle group requires time to repair and strengthen after intense training.

Overworking the biceps without adequate rest can lead to muscle fatigue, reduced performance, and increased injury risk.

  • Proper recovery, including sufficient sleep and rest days, allows muscle tissues to repair and grow stronger.
  • Incorporating active recovery techniques, such as light stretching or yoga, can enhance blood flow, aiding in nutrient delivery and waste removal.
  • Balancing intense bicep workouts with rest ensures continuous muscle growth and prevents overtraining.

Why Is It Important To Target The Short Head Of The Biceps?

Short-head-biceps

It is important to target the short head of the biceps for achieving a more balanced and defined appearance, as it helps widen the muscle and contribute to a fuller-looking upper arm.

I’ve seen people constantly repeat the same biceps workouts that isolate the wrong head.

Yes, you’ll get a nice big brachialis peak that looks great from the side. But then you release the tension and look at the upper arm from the front, and it looks strangely slim.

And that’s a good indication that your exercises routine hasn’t put enough strain on the short head of the biceps muscle.

With all that said, this isn’t going to be a problem for the average beginner with limited long and short head biceps definition. But once you gain some bulk, it’s time to pay more attention to the detailed shape of your upper body.

Anatomy Of The Biceps Muscles - Brachialis

man showing biceps

The biceps brachii is made up of two brachialis muscles that are responsible for elbow flexion, the biceps short head and the long head.

Short Head

According to the National Institute of Health (NIH), you’ll find the short head of the biceps on your inner arm [1].

The biceps short head is a wide brachialis muscle that blends in with the long head of the biceps brachialis and gives your arms a great definition when seen from the front.

Long Head

This part runs alongside the short head bicep brachialis but has a slimmer profile with a much higher peak. It’s also most noticeable when your arm is flexed, where it almost shapes into a perfect ball.

What I suggest to clients who are measuring their bulking progress is to not just look at the overall size of their biceps heads but rather measure the width and the biceps peak over time.

That will tell you a lot more about how well your long and short head biceps workout is doing its job.

Primary functions of the biceps brachii is flexion of the elbow and supination of the forearm. In fact, it is the prime mover of forearm supination. Since it crosses the gleno-humeral joint, it also serves to assist shoulder elevation.

- physio-pedia.com

Read More:  8 Best Long Head Bicep Exercises

FAQs

What Is the Short Head of the Bicep?

The short head of the bicep brachii is the wider and shorter part of the biceps. It plays a key role in flexing the elbow joint and provides the width to the appearance of your upper arm.

Which Bicep Head Is the Peak?

The long head of the biceps is the peak as it is the slimmer muscle compared to the short head. The peak is what you see in the side profile, which is a big part of the visual appearance of the upper arm.


References:

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK519538/
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About The Author

James Cunningham, BSc, CPT
Staff Writer & Senior Coach
James Cunningham, BSc, CPT holds a BSc degree in Sport & Exercise Science from University of Hertfordshire. He's a Health & Performance Coach from London that brings a unique blend of academic knowledge of health supplements and practical exercise experience to the table for his readers.
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Benedict Ang, CPT, PN1-NC
Staff Writer & Senior Coach
Benedict Ang, CPT, PN1-NC is an ex-National Soccer player turned MMA and Kickboxing champion, with ACE CPT and PN1-NC certifications. His advice is rooted in education and experience, ensuring that readers receive scientific and battle-tested insights. His mission is to empower his clients and readers to realize their potential and become the best versions of themselves.
Learn more about our editorial policy
Dr. Harshi Dhingra, MBBS, MD is a published peer-reviewed author and renowned physician from India with over a decade of experience. With her MBBS from Bharati Vidyapeeth and an MD from Rajiv Gandhi University, she actively ensures the accuracy of online dietary supplement and medical information by reviewing and fact-checking health publications.
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3 thoughts on “The Best Short Head Bicep Exercises To Add To Your Workout

  1. People usually don’t know this but there are exercises that target the bicep short head vs long head. It’s nice that an article like this one exists.

  2. I’ve always been insecure with my arms and I’ve always been struggling in building up my head of the bicep. I hope one of these exercises can finally be the key.

  3. Great article! We are linking to this great content on our
    site. Keep up the great writing.

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