Who doesn’t want impressive-looking biceps? While you don’t need to be an anatomy expert to get a good arm workout in at the gym, understanding how your muscles work can help you identify the most effective exercises and training variables for optimal muscle development.
In this article, we’ll take a deep dive into the best exercises that target the long head of the biceps – a section of the biceps that is often underdeveloped in folks who lack comprehensive knowledge of this two-headed muscle.
Let’s embark on a journey to sculpt some truly stunning bicep peaks!
Anatomy Of The Biceps Brachii
The biceps brachii is the muscle on the front of your upper arm, made up of a short head and a long head.The “heads” refer to the different attachment points of the muscle. Since there are two attachment points, the muscle is called the “bi”-ceps.
When someone has well-developed biceps and low body fat, you can see the separation between the long and short heads. But these heads share the same muscle belly, meaning they join together along the upper arm and connect to the same tendon. Specifically, both the long and short heads originate from the scapula, but at different points.
The long head attaches to the supraglenoid tubercle near the shoulder joint. The short head attaches to the coracoid process, a bony protrusion on the scapula. As shown in the diagram, the short head sits on the inner side of the upper arm, while the long head runs along the top/outer side. These two sections work together to flex the elbow and supinate the forearm (rotating it outward).
Since both heads cross over the shoulder joint, they also assist with shoulder flexion, abduction, and adduction. Understanding these basic functions is key for effectively targeting the biceps during workouts. Aesthetically, the long head contributes to the bicep peak, while the short head provides width.
This is why exercises emphasizing the long head are called bicep peak exercises. To explain, picture the bicep as a hilltop. The short head is the base providing width and support. The long head forms the high, contoured “peak” when your arm is flexed.
The Long Head Of The Biceps
The long head of the bicep is a crucial muscle for both strength and looks. Located on the outer arm, a well-developed long head can really make your biceps stand out. It’s essential to train this section when aiming for greater bicep strength.
While most gym newbies can point out their bicep, they may struggle to distinguish the long and short heads. The long head is visible and palpable on the top/outer bicep. It’s responsible for the lengthy, prominent peak when your arm is flexed.
An impressive bicep peak is highly desirable for bodybuilders and men in general, making the long head bicep workout a frequent topic of discussion among pros and fitness buffs.
Why It’s Important To Distinguish Between The Two Heads
Although the heads work together during exercises, it’s vital to understand how to differentiate them to maximize development.
- The Long Head: As the larger, more prominent section, the long head requires extra attention since it’s often underdeveloped in casual lifters.
- The Short Head: While smaller, the short head still deserves special focus for balanced bicep growth.
- Targeting Both: To achieve the coveted tall peak and thick biceps, it’s crucial to know how to effectively work both the long and short heads.
- Long Head Importance: If your biceps lack a defined peak, concentrating on properly targeting the long head is key. Adding reps or weight isn’t enough – grip position, width, arm angle, and exercise selection play vital roles.
- Covering The Techniques: In the following sections, we’ll dive into proper techniques to isolate and stimulate growth in the long head of the biceps.
Can You Specifically Target The Long Head Bicep Workout?
While you can’t completely isolate the long head, certain exercises emphasize it more. During any biceps exercise, both heads will activate to some degree. However, some movements can recruit the long head more than the short head.
Pay close attention to the motions described here for targeting that long head.
Before jumping into the exercises, let’s discuss the training variables allowing you to focus on the long head. Grasping these variables will provide a clear understanding of why the upcoming exercises are deemed long head moves.
Training Techniques For The Long Head
If you want to specifically target the long head during workouts, four main techniques can help:
While both heads flex the elbow and rotate the forearm, the long head also assists with shoulder abduction (moving the arm away from the body) and internal rotation (turning the arm inward). Incorporating these shoulder actions into curls increases long head activation.
Exercises For Enhancing Long Head Peak
When it comes to engaging the long head of the biceps, you’ll find numerous exercises that target this specific muscle group. The great news is that activating the long head isn’t overly complicated, and you don’t need to establish some complex mind-muscle connection.
By simply applying the techniques outlined above, you can effectively engage the long head and experience its benefits. The following exercises have been designed to specifically activate the long head, helping you achieve the bicep development you desire.
So, whether you realize it or not, you may already be performing exercises that effectively target the long head without even knowing it!
7 Most Effective Long Head Bicep Exercises For Huge Peaks
Here are the top 7 exercises our team has gathered for targeting the outer bicep and building massive peaks (the long head). You don’t need to incorporate all of them, but try 2-3 in your arm routine, changing them up every few months.
Incline Dumbbell Curls
The incline dumbbell curl is fantastic for the long head. In this position, your elbows are behind you, allowing the long head to work from a stretched position. Additionally, the forearm rotation from neutral to supinated enhances the stretched contraction and increases the long head’s range of motion.
Overall, this is one of our top choices for the long head and takes first place on our list. Here’s how to do incline dumbbell curls:
|What To Do
|Adjust the bench to a 45-60 degree incline.
|Lean back holding dumbbells with a neutral grip. Let your arms hang down.
|As you exhale, flex at the elbows, bringing the weights up as far as possible. Keep elbows steady and wrists straight. During the curl, rotate forearms to a supinated (palm up) position. At the top, you can fully supinate and slightly raise elbows for an extra contraction.
|As you inhale, reverse the move and slowly lower the weights back down.
Other incline curl variations for the long head:
Vary these incline curl versions to keep challenging your long head for enhanced arm training.
Dumbbell Hammer Curls
Did you know the popular hammer curl specifically targets the long head? As discussed, the neutral grip allows you to emphasize the long head – exactly what the hammer curl offers. Here we demonstrate the strictest option, seated to minimize cheating.
You can also do hammer curls standing. Alternating arms is another option versus curling both simultaneously. This move is great for hitting your forearms too, allowing you to maximize your workout by multitasking.
To perform seated hammer curls:
|What To Do
|Sit upright on a bench with back against the backrest.
|Extend your arms down by your sides holding dumbbells. Keep elbows close to your body, avoiding contact between the weights, bench, or body during the curl.
|Using a neutral grip (palms in), curl the weights up while keeping elbows fixed in place. Elbows should not rise as you curl.
|At peak contraction, slowly lower the weights back down until arms are extended.
Other hammer curl variations for the long head:
EZ Barbell Close Grip Curls
EZ Barbell curls are a cornerstone exercise when it comes to building solid biceps. Particularly, employing a close grip when performing this exercise emphasizes the long head of the biceps. This specificity is a result of the close grip inducing some degree of shoulder internal rotation.
This technique is an often-cited method to effectively target and isolate the long head.
One of the standout advantages of EZ barbell curls, as opposed to other curl variations, is the ability to handle heavier weights. Delving into the anatomy and physiology of the biceps, these muscles consist of approximately 60% fast twitch fibers and 40% slow twitch fibers.
This composition means that the biceps are naturally inclined to respond better to heavier weights paired with lower repetitions. However, it’s crucial not to pigeonhole your training regimen.
While the biceps do favor heavier loads, incorporating higher reps is indispensable for a holistic and full development of the muscle. Simply put, if your end goal is to achieve well-rounded and sizeable biceps, a combination of heavy sets and higher reps is essential.
If you’re keen to dive into the close-grip barbell curl, here’s a step-by-step guide:
|What To Do
|Grip & Position
|Start by grasping the EZ barbell with a close grip. However, ‘close’ is relative, so it’s recommended to experiment with varying grip widths to discern what feels most comfortable and effective for you
|Position yourself standing upright, feet firmly planted about shoulder-width apart. Your back should be straight, ensuring optimal posture and reducing any undue stress on the spine.
|As you initiate the curl, focus on keeping your elbows pinned to your sides. They should remain relatively stationary throughout the curl. This ensures the biceps are doing the bulk of the work.
|Upon reaching the topmost point of the curl, consider slightly elevating your elbows. This small tweak can intensify the biceps contraction, given the muscle’s role in shoulder flexion.
|After you’ve relished in that top contraction, commence the lowering phase. This should be done in a controlled manner, allowing the biceps to experience tension throughout the descent.
|Ensure you squeeze your biceps at the pinnacle of each curl, savoring that momentary contraction before gradually releasing and preparing for the next repetition.
Integrating close-grip barbell curls into your workout routine can pave the way for more pronounced biceps development, especially when combined with a variety of rep ranges and loads.
Other close grip curl variations for the long head:
Close Grip Preacher Curls
If your gym has a preacher bench, try close grip preacher curls with an EZ bar. The preacher curl is known for excellent biceps activation and enables maximum stretched contraction if you fully extend your arms each rep.
What makes the preacher curl even more effective is preventing cheating. The fixed elbows prevent you from engaging your shoulders/back to lift the weight, making it very strict. Overall, it’s extremely versatile for the biceps, and a narrow grip focuses more on the long head.
To do preacher curls, sit on the bench resting your upper arms on the pad. Your forearms will be off the pad, but elbows should be firmly fixed to it. Grasp the EZ bar with a close grip and fully extend your arms.
Curl the weight until your arms are nearly perpendicular to the floor, emphasizing squeezing your biceps to power the move. Slowly lower the weight until arms are extended, feeling a nice biceps stretch, then repeat.
Other preacher curl versions for the long head:
The drag curl is excellent for isolating the biceps by preventing front delts from engaging during the move. Plus, positioning your elbows back targets the long head. When curling up, pulling your elbows back stretches the long head and highly activates it.
This elbow position also allows significant contraction, making it fabulous for building that peak. You can achieve the same effect with a barbell, dumbbell, or EZ bar.
To do drag curls, grab the dumbbells with an underhand grip at shoulder distance. Flex at the elbows while slowly pulling your elbows back to keep the weights moving straight up. As you curl higher, your elbows will naturally go further back. Maintain proper shoulder positioning by keeping them down and back.
At peak contraction, pause and really squeeze your biceps, then slowly lower the weights back down the same path until arms are extended.
The Bayesian curl is a great cable curl variation similar to incline dumbbell curls. Your elbows are behind you as you curl, emphasizing the long head.
To perform Bayesian curls, stand upright and use a cable machine. This standing position allows you to stretch your biceps with shoulder extension, increasing long head activation. Unlike dumbbells, cables provide constant tension throughout the move.
We love including Bayesian curls in our biceps cable routine!
Here are the instructions:
|What To Do
|Set the cable pulley to the lowest position.
|Grab the stirrup handle underhand and step back until your arm is comfortably extended behind you.
|Keeping your elbow steady, curl your arm up toward your shoulder.
|Slowly return your arm to the starting position of full extension behind you.
Neutral Grip Pull Ups
Pull-ups, while not exclusively designed for the biceps, play a surprisingly vital role in their development.
Compound exercises like pull-ups stand out in terms of their effectiveness in muscle growth, mainly because they involve multiple muscle groups and joints. In the context of biceps, the resistance they encounter during a pull-up is substantial, given you’re hoisting your entire body weight.
This intense resistance stimulates the biceps, pushing them to grow and strengthen.
When it comes to grip choices, the neutral grip, where your palms face each other, is particularly noteworthy. This grip not only places an enhanced emphasis on the long head of the biceps but also generally permits a stronger pull.
The rationale behind this is biomechanical; the neutral grip positions the arms and shoulders in a manner that naturally allows for greater force exertion. This, in turn, means you can potentially add extra weight, using tools like a weight belt, to increase the stimulus on the muscles. In contrast, the wide grip is predominantly lats-focused and tends to downplay biceps involvement.
The value of incorporating pull-ups for biceps development is multifaceted. Firstly, they contribute to your weekly training volume, a key determinant for muscle hypertrophy. Additionally, pull-ups provide the added benefit of working on other muscle groups, making your training session more efficient.
Given that the biceps thrive with 2-3 training sessions per week, it’s imperative to target them judiciously on days you work on your back, especially if you aim to address the often-neglected long head. And for neutral grip pull-ups, a pull-up bar equipped with parallel handles is a must.
Executing Neutral Grip Pull-Ups: A Brief Guide
|What To Do
|Begin in a fully extended hang, grasping the bar with a neutral grip.
|Prior to initiating the pull-up, mentally focus on your shoulder blades. Draw them downwards and towards each other. This engagement primes your back muscles and sets the stage for a stronger pull.
|With a burst of strength, pull your body upwards. Aim to get as high as possible. Ideally, your chin should clear the bar.
|Once at the pinnacle of the movement, pause momentarily. Use this moment to squeeze and contract the muscles, intensifying the engagement.
|Rather than letting gravity do the work, control your descent. Ensure a steady pace, letting your muscles savor the tension throughout the downward phase.
|Upon reaching the full hang again, take a brief moment, and then get ready to execute the next repetition.
Neutral grip pull-ups, with their blend of compound effectiveness and targeted bicep engagement, can be a game-changer in your quest for robust and defined arms.
How Much Protein For Bigger Biceps?
When it comes to building those coveted biceps, the role of protein is indisputably paramount. Protein serves as the fundamental building block for muscle repair and growth. Without adequate protein intake, the efforts you put into training might not translate into the muscular development you desire.
Understanding Protein Needs
For the general populace, who may not be engaged in strenuous physical activities, the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for protein stands at 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight. This amount ensures basic physiological needs are met and maintains nitrogen balance. However, for individuals aiming to grow their muscles, including the biceps, this quantity is just the starting point.
According to the International Society of Sports Nutrition, those involved in high-intensity workouts and resistance training, such as exercises targeting the biceps, have amplified protein requirements. Their recommendation suggests an intake ranging from 1.0 to 2.0 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. This increased need is to accommodate the heightened demand for muscle repair, recovery, and growth stimulated by rigorous physical activity.
The pursuit of faster muscle growth often has people wondering about the usefulness and necessity of supplements. These products, especially protein supplements, have surged in popularity among fitness folks, touted for their convenience and high protein content. But are they truly essential for those seeking rapid muscle development?
The Pros Of Supplements
- Convenience: The clear advantage of supplements is convenience. For people with packed schedules, whipping up a protein shake can be a quick way to meet daily protein needs, especially between meals.
- High Protein Content: Some commercial protein powders contain impressive amounts of protein, with some providing up to 30 grams per scoop. This can be very beneficial for those with increased protein requirements from intense training.
- Taste And Variety: Modern protein powders come in a wide array of flavors to suit different palates – from classic chocolate to exotic fruit blends, there’s something for everyone.
- Diverse Protein Sources: A 2010 review in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition highlighted several excellent protein sources often found in supplements, including milk protein, egg protein, whey, casein, and colostrum. Each provides its own amino acid profile, absorption rate, and benefits.
The Power Of Whole Foods
However, while helpful supplements, whole foods provide unique advantages:
- Nutrient Complexity: Beyond just protein, whole foods offer a complex array of vitamins, minerals, and other beneficial compounds for overall health, not just muscle growth.
- Cooking Versatility: Whole foods can be used in countless recipes, making meals fun and varied.
- Satiety: Consuming whole foods often provides a feeling of fullness, aiding appetite regulation.
For those wanting protein from natural sources, there are many options – red meats, poultry like skinless chicken, fish, dairy like low-fat yogurt and cottage cheese, plant-based foods such as soy and seitan, and even nuts and legumes.
To give an idea, a 3-ounce chicken breast has about 27 grams of protein, 1 cup of cottage cheese provides around 28 grams, 3 ounces of lean ground beef has approximately 21 grams, and 1 cup of low-fat yogurt contains about 13 grams of protein.
The Bottom Line
So, are supplements the magic ticket to fast muscle gains? While very convenient and helpful for meeting protein needs, they aren’t absolutely necessary.
The path to muscle development can be successfully navigated with a wise blend of whole foods and, if desired, supplements. The key is understanding one’s specific needs, preferences, and goals. After all, building muscle is as much an art as a science.
Long Head Bicep Workout Tips
Properly training the long head requires focusing on rep range/load, volume, tempo, and rest intervals. Let’s explore how each impacts your workout.
Understanding muscle fiber composition is key for effectively training any muscle. This knowledge allows you to determine suitable reps and loads to optimize workouts.
The long head consists of about 60% fast twitch and 40% slow twitch fibers. Fast twitch fibers are built for short, explosive energy bursts and respond best to moderate-heavy loads with lower reps. Slow twitch fibers have strength endurance and prefer moderate-light loads with higher reps.
Thus, it’s important to incorporate heavy loads when training biceps. However, remember the long head still has 40% slow twitch fibers. For optimal development and strength gains, train across a wide rep range:
For effectiveness, choose loads that push you close to failure within the rep ranges. This approach provides your biceps with the best growth and strength gains. Your biceps will also develop muscular endurance, which can improve performance during other exercises like back day.
Regarding volume distribution across rep ranges, your sets should be:
Aim for 10-15 biceps sets per week. If you’re more advanced and feel your biceps need extra attention, increase sets to 15-20 weekly.
It’s important to note these sets can be spread over 2-3 sessions throughout the week. Ideally, allow your biceps 2-3 days of rest between training sessions for full recovery.
Now let’s discuss set breakdown across rep ranges:
This division provides a well-rounded training approach.
Tempo refers to the speed of each repetition, divided into the concentric (curling) and eccentric (uncurling) phases. Not many pay much attention to tempo for biceps development. However, it does impact muscle growth speed.
The general belief is that varying lift speed offers greater potential for growth. For the most part, work with slow tempos while incorporating fast tempos occasionally.
Perform the eccentric phase slowly. But you can experiment with explosive concentric sets since the biceps are fast twitch and respond well to bursts. More time under tension benefits hypertrophy, so a slow tempo is advantageous. However, varying the tempo stimulates the muscle in different ways.
Aside from growth, tempo aids motor control, body awareness, strength, power, and stability.
With heavy loads, allow longer rest periods so your muscles fully recover and recharge to maintain strength and continue lifting heavy. The heavier the load, the more demanding on your muscles, requiring sufficient rest to peak. If your goal is muscle mass, adjust your rest periods based on workout intensity.
There you have it – a complete guide to effectively targeting the long head of your biceps for impressive arm development! Properly incorporating the exercises and training techniques outlined here will lead to brilliant bicep peaks in no time.
Just remember to be patient and consistent with your long head workout routine. Over time, your hard work will pay off with the biceps you’ve always dreamed of having. Let the journey begin!
Back to TheHealthySupps page
- Manpreet S. Tiwana; Matthew Charlick; Matthew Varacallo. (2022) – Anatomy, Shoulder and Upper Limb, Biceps Muscle. Aug 30, 2022.
- Medicine (Baltimore). (2018) – Variation in origin of the long head of the biceps brachii tendon in a cadaver.Published online 2018 May 18. doi: 10.1097/MD.0000000000010708
- Kristi Wempen, R.D.N. (2022) – Are you getting too much protein? Published online 2022 Apr 29.