When someone asks you to show them your gym gains, you’re most natural instinct would be do flex your biceps, right? Afterall, it is the most popular muscle and it’s everyone’s goal to get those big beefy biceps. Now, there are two different components of the bicep muscle: the short and the long head. For now, let’s focus on the best long head bicep exercises.
Before we get started, let’s get one thing clear. You cannot completely isolate each head of the biceps. So, no matter what bicep exercise you do, both the long and short head are involved to a certain degree. However, you can change the position and the grip to emphasise more on each head.
I mean, we all want those well-developed biceps so it’s important to know which bicep head you’re focusing on. Hence, let’s start with a quick anatomy session of the biceps.
Disclaimer: This might be boring, but it will help you get a better understanding of the functions of the biceps and which exercise targets which part.
If you want an aesthetic and proportional physique, training your biceps is crucial. Which is why understanding it’s primary function and movement pattern can help us identify which exercise is beneficial to build those big biceps.
As it says in the name, “Bi” means two referring to both the long and short head. Let’s have a look where each part is located and its function.
The short head is located in the medial or inner part of the arm. More specifically, it’s from the tip of the coracoid process of the scapula. The short head is what gives your arm that thickness.
The long head originates on the lateral or outer part of the arm. In a more scientific terms, it originates from the supraglenoid tubercle of the scapula. In fact, it passes through our shoulder joint to the upper arm through the intertubercular groove in the humerus bone. The long head is responsible for the height of the biceps.
If this doesn’t make sense, that’s fine just remember, the short head is the inner part of your biceps and the long head is the “peak” or the outer part of the biceps. Now, there are many long head bicep exercises however the six exercises below are my favourites.
Function Of Our Biceps
To put it simple, our biceps are responsible for the flexion of the elbow and supination of the forearm. Let’s look at this in a more practical way.
Try this. Bring your forearm towards your shoulders with your palms facing you. Now, rotate your palm so that it’s facing away from you. Notice a difference? Well, palms facing down or away from you is a pronated grip and palms facing you is supinated.
Why is this important? Well, it tells us that holding the dumbbell or barbell with an overhand grip will emphasise the bicep a little differently compared to when it’s help with an underhand grip.
The Best Long Head Bicep Exercises
Now that we know where the long head is located and the primary function of the biceps, let move on to the fun part of this week’s article. Here are the best long head bicep exercises that I use regularly and, trust me when I say this, they give me the BEST bicep pump ever! Yep, my bicep vein becomes even more visible!
1. Incline Dumbbell Curls
If you haven’t tried this exercise, you need to! This exercise will burn your biceps, especially the long head.
Providing you with that intense stretch at the bottom of the movement, contracting your biceps and squeezing at the top of the movement is all part of this exercise giving you the best bicep pump.
The reason why this exercise is the best is because of the “incline” angle which allows you maximise tension on your biceps. In fact, out of all the long head bicep exercises, this one is probably my favourite.
- Set up a bench at a 45-degree angle. Sit with your back and shoulder rested on the bench with dumbbells held with an underhand grip (palms facing up). Allow the dumbbells to hang by your sides.
- Curl the weight up towards your shoulders, contracting your biceps and allowing your forearm to move up. Make sure your upper arm isn’t moving.
- Squeeze at the top of the movement and pause for a second.
- Slowly reverse the motion, lowering the dumbbell back down until there is a SLIGHT bend in your elbows. You should feel a stretch in your biceps.
- Repeat for the desired number of reps.
I’d recommend starting with light weights with this one and instead focus on those slow and steady reps to develop that mind-muscle connection.
Also, when you reach the top of the movement, try rotating your wrists slightly more outwards to get a deeper and more intense bicep contraction.
A lot of people will also make the mistake of lifting their shoulder off the bench. Make sure to have your shoulders retracted and rested on the bench to maintain the angle and maximise the tension on the long head.
2. Bayesian Curl (Behind The Back Cable Curl)
The Bayesian curl uses a similar concept to the incline dumbbell curl. While your elbows are behind, the curling motion targets the long head of the biceps.
This exercise minimizes the risk of developing unsightly imbalances in your biceps. During each set, you will engage the two long heads of your biceps in proportion.
The best part about this exercise is that it is done with cables. And if you follow the Just Fit & Healthy page, you would know that we all love cables. Why? because it places constant tension on the working muscles.
This exercise does exactly that. It will place the long head of your bicep in constant tension, maximising its growth and strength.
- Connect a cable handle to the cable pulley set up at a low attachment.
- Hold the handle using an underhand grip and turn your back on the machine.
- Take some steps forward until you feel a biceps stretch behind your torso.
- Start the curling motion toward the shoulder. Squeeze the biceps slowly and robustly. Make sure your upper arm is stationary throughout the movement.
- Return your arm back to the initial position (until your elbow is in full extension).
- Repeat the exercise 10–12 times.
- Repeat the exercise for the other arm.
Pause at the end! “Do your workout with the intension to get bigger, NOT with the intension to finish a set” – Shalin Anam. That’s the number one rule when it comes to weightlifting. Pause and squeeze at the end!
Like I mentioned with incline curls, for the Bayesian curl, make sure you go with lighter weights, especially if it’s your first time. Why? Well, there is always these misconceptions that lifting heavier will result in greater gains. Although that is true, lifting in a slow and controlled manner will give you much greater results.
In fact, I realised this when I saw the most aesthetic guy in my gym lifting the same weight as me. The difference was he was lifting much slower and in a much more controlled fashion.
3. Cross Body Hammer Curl
This exercise targets the long head and touches on the forearm muscles. Instead of lifting the weights directly up like a normal hammer curl, you perform the curl with the dumbbells crossing your body.
Lifting the weights across the body places a greater tension on your biceps. More specifically, you will target the outer part of the biceps, which is our entire goal.
- Stand in a neutral position with your knees slightly bent.
- Grab two dumbbells and position your palms facing to the sides of your body.
- Make sure the elbow is close to your sides.
- Curl the right dumbbell upward across your body towards the opposite shoulder. Keep curling until you fully contract the biceps.
- Take a pause at the top of the movement and squeeze your biceps.
- Lower the weights to the initial position.
- Repeat this exercise with your left arm until you achieve 12 repetitions for both sides.
If you have imbalances with your arms, then this exercise is the best. It forces you to use one arm at a time.
Now, why not just do a standard hammer curl? What’s the difference? Well, try it out! For me, I feel the long head a lot more with the cross-body hammer curl which is why I’m recommending it. I personally like the position of where my arm must travel which helps me engage long head a lot more.
4. Concentration Curls
I didn’t realise how good these where until the other day when my mate told me to try them out. And let me tell you, these kill the long head of the biceps.
Again, it’s that similar angle to the cross body hammer curl but this time you’re using an underhand grip. Remember, it all goes back to what we talked about during our boring anatomy session. The position and grip have a significant impact on our bicep involvement.
And I’ll be honest, one of the main reasons why I started doing this exercise is because Arnold Schwarzenegger did these for his big bicep peaks.
- Sit on a bench with your feet flat on the floor.
- Pick up the dumbbell with your right hand holding it with an underhand grip. Rest the upper part of the right arm on the inner part of your right thigh. The dumbbell should be off the floor.
- In a slow and controlled manner, curl the weight up raising your forearm. Make sure the upper part of your right arm is stationary.
- Keep raising until peak bicep contraction and pause for a second.
- Slowly bring the weight back down.
- Perform 8-12 reps and then switch arms.
Remember, don’t swing your arm. Instead perform it slowly and control the weight as you go up and on the way back down.
Also, keep your feet flat on the floor and use your thighs as support, not to increase the weight up.
One last note, twist your wrists slightly so that your pinky is pointing towards the ceiling. This will maximise the tension placed on the long head.
5. Preacher Curls
This is one of the best long head bicep exercises. To perform preacher curls, you will need a seat with a padded platform upfront. Now you can do this with dumbbells, EZ bar, and even a straight bar. whatever you prefer.
- Sit down and adjust the seat according to your height.
- Place your triceps on the padding of the seat and make sure they are flat.
- Hold the EZ bar with a narrow grip and start with the elbows slightly bent to get maximum tension on the biceps.
- Curl the bar up and count for 2 seconds, then lower it gradually and hold the position for 3 seconds.
- Repeat this exercise for as many repetitions as you feel comfortable.
If you do have strength differences in your arm, in other words one of your arms is stronger than the other, then I would recommend using dumbbells.
Now, I’m not sure if I’m the only one who watched that viral Tik Tok video where the guy tears his bicep tendons during preacher curls. Well, the main reason is because he was going way to heavy. So, decrease the weight and instead perform more reps.
Make sure your elbows aren’t flared out too much. Try to keep them tucked in throughout the motion. Remember, form is key!
6. Close Grip EZ-curl Bar
The close grip EZ-curl bar is another great exercise for the long head of the biceps. Targeting the outer part of your biceps is easier with this exercise since your hands will be closer to each other.
You can also perform the straight bar version of this exercise. However, the fully supinated grip may cause discomfort or pain in your forearms and wrists. Performing this exercise on a regular basis can build the peak of your biceps effectively.
When you’re doing your barbell curls, it’s good to note that wider grip is for the short head and the narrow grip is for the long head.
- Hold the EZ bar while your arms are in a close supinated grip. In other words, your hands will be closer than shoulder-width apart. Your palms should be facing upward.
- Keep the bar down while it rests on your thighs.
- Fix your elbows next to your sides and perform the curl. Aim for the shoulders as you move the bar upward.
- Hold the position for 2 seconds while your squeeze your biceps at the top.
- Take a deep breath in and lower the EZ-curl bar to the initial position.
- Repeat the exercise for 10 to 12 repetitions.
If you feel wrist or joint pain when doing this, please stop. This is actually one of the reasons why I have this last on my list. Some people find that the close grip places greater stress on their wrist and if that’s you, go with the other options above.
Perform these slow and start with lighter weights to perfect your form before adding more weights.
Common Mistakes When Doing Long Head Bicep Exercises
The common mistakes below are not just for biceps, it applies to pretty much any exercise. And if you’ve been reading and learning from this page, you probably already know the three most common mistakes that most people have made at least once. It’s important that you identify the error in your form and fix it or there could be a great chance of injury.
As you may know, biceps curls are very easy to cheat. For instance, during a concentration curl, you can swing a little to shift the tension off your biceps and more to your shoulder. This is a reflex to make the last few reps easier.
While cheating at the last repetition to reach failure is acceptable, performing the entire set while engaging other muscles will negatively impact your gains.
The solution is simply to pay attention to every movement you make and ensure that other muscles are not involved.
As I’ve mentioned multiple times in this article, perform your reps slowly. I can’t stress this enough. The slower you go, the more time the working muscle (the long head in this case) will be under tension and the better the outcome.
Progressive overload is key, and I understand that. But don’t progress to a higher weight unless you can perform the current in a slow and controlled manner.
3. Going Too Heavy!
This is another common mistake that’s probably the worst since it’s the most likely one to cause injury.
When you go to heavy, you tend to use more momentum and performing those swinging reps. Most of the bicep exercises involve your elbows to be locked in place to decrease the involvement of other muscles. However, going to heavy or lifting more then you actually can will result in those elbows moving all over the place and other surrounding muscle being involved.
So, leave your ego at the door and lift the weight that is both challenging and one that you can do with proper form.
Targeting the long head of the biceps with the exercises listed above will make your arm look taller during flexion. There are several exercises that specifically engage this muscle. Integrating some of these exercises into your fitness program will dramatically improve the strength and appearance of your bicep muscle.
I hope that this article managed to highlight the best long head bicep exercises, as well as the common mistakes made by beginners.
As always, stay Fit & Healthy and I will see you guys’ next week!
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