Building big biceps is a common bodybuilding goal. These muscles make up the bulk of the upper arm and are what flexing is all about.
To effectively add muscle mass to your biceps, you first need to understand how these muscles work. The biceps include two separate heads: the long head and the short head.
Here’s what you need to know about targeting the long head bicep for building your peak.
What is the Long Head Bicep?
The long head and short head biceps work together to control forearm supination and elbow flexion. The short head bicep runs along the inside of the biceps brachii, providing width to your upper arm. Conversely, the long head runs on the outside and is more pronounced than the short head. It’s the long head bicep that’s responsible for the peak during flexion.
While creating a well-rounded arm workout plan is essential for balanced growth, it’s understandable that many bodybuilders want to isolate and target the long head bicep to build their flex.
How Do I Train the Long Head of My Biceps?
It’s important to note that it’s nearly impossible to target a single muscle or head with any muscle group and training modality. However, there are subtle changes you can make to put the onus on the muscle of your choice.
To target the long head bicep, use exercises that let your arms extend behind the body and move through a broader range of motion. This variation effectively targets the longer muscle during the concentric phase. When working with a barbell or EZ bar, shift to a narrow grip. Wide-gripped exercises are more useful for hitting the short head of the bicep, whereas the narrow grip targets the long head.
Finally, add a twist when doing curl exercises. Supinating or twisting your wrist during unilateral exercises like curls is a fantastic way to target the long head bicep. Keep in mind that this supination should be subtle and completed at the top of the concentric phase, not altering the entire movement.
Best Long Head Bicep Exercises
The best bicep long head exercises are old favorites of bicep muscle workouts in general because they’re effective, challenging, and allow for a few variations along the way. Try these effective bicep exercises to start building the peak you seek and channeling your inner Arnold.
1. Narrow Grip Barbell Curls
Barbell curls are one of the most adaptable bicep exercises for long head of biceps. By altering your grip width, you can shift the focus of the movement from the short head to the long head.
- Stand with feet hip-width apart and hold a barbell in an underhand grip, slightly inside of shoulder width.
- Brace your core, keep your shoulders back, and curl the barbell toward your chest. Keep your elbows tucked to your sides and slightly behind you— don’t let your elbows slide forward.
- At the top of the movement, pause and squeeze before slowly lowering back to the starting position. That’s one rep.
There are a few essential things to watch for when doing this exercise.
First, avoid swinging motions or overcompensating with your shoulders. Keep your pelvis tucked and core engaged to prevent shifting during the concentric phase of the exercise.
If you struggle with shoulder or back compensations, stand against a wall and don’t allow your back to come away during the movement.
2. Incline Dumbbell Curls
Incline dumbbell curls are excellent for extending your range of motion and putting the onus on your long head bicep by shifting the starting point slightly behind you. To get the most out of this movement, focus on maintaining tension and control.
- Sit on a bench positioned at a 45-degree incline, resting your back and shoulders against the bench. Hold two dumbbells in an underhand grip, letting them hang to create a straight line from your shoulder to your wrist. You should feel a slight stretch in your bicep.
- Slowly curl one dumbbell toward your chest. Your upper arm should remain stationary while your forearm hinges upward.
- At the top of the movement, twist your wrist slightly outward so that the inside end of the dumbbell is closer to your shoulder. Pause and squeeze.
- Rotate your wrist back into the neutral position and slowly lower the dumbbell back to the starting position. Repeat on the other side.
The slight stretch and connectivity with the shoulder are what makes this an effective long head bicep workout. Focus on keeping your upper arm in a fixed position to avoid shoulder compensations.
3. Single-Arm Behind-the-Back Band Curl
Unilateral exercises help correct imbalances if one bicep is bigger than the other. Resistance bands are versatile training tools that help maintain a consistent strength curve throughout the entire range of motion, making them ideal for bicep workouts. You can add these benefits to the expanded range of motion with the single-arm behind-the-back band curl.
- Adhere the band to a fixed point— such as a squat rack— at approximately waist height. You may have to adjust based on your body.
- Grab the band with one hand, then turn around and take a few steps forward, allowing your arm to stretch out slightly behind you.
- Position your feet in a staggered stance to increase stability.
- Brace your core and curl the band, keeping your elbows tucked in and slightly behind you. Do not allow the band to twist your shoulder back. If this happens, take a small step to reduce the tension and try again.
- At the top of the movement, supinate your wrist outward and squeeze.
- Reverse the movement slowly, maintaining tension and control as you return to the starting position. When your reps are complete, repeat on the other side.
Take your time to find the right positioning. Consider placing your opposite hand on your bicep as you move through the movement to get a tangible idea of how you should tweak your positioning to hit the long head bicep.
4. EZ Bar Drag Curls
Drag curls are a barbell or EZ bar curl variation that often get overlooked for one simple reason: you need to drop the weight. Using lower weight than one would for a standard curl can be hard on the ego. However, the effects of this movement are well worth it.
- Stand with feet hip-width apart, holding an EZ bar in an underhand grip. If possible, position your hands with a narrow, slightly supinated grip. Start with the EZ bar resting against your thighs.
- Brace your core and slowly curl the EZ bar toward your chest. As you do, allow your elbows to shift back so that the bar remains in contact with your body. In other words, you’re dragging the bar.
- When the bar reaches chest level, pause and squeeze.
- Reverse the motion back to the starting position, maintaining contact with your body the entire way.
Start practicing this movement with an unloaded EZ bar to get the motion down. Slow, controlled movement is essential for avoiding shoulder compensations.
5. Dumbbell Hammer Curls
Hammer curls are a long-time favorite for bodybuilders, as they target both the long head bicep and the brachialis (AKA, your forearms). You can also perform this workout with resistance bands to prevent compensations or extend the range of motion.
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, holding a dumbbell upright in each hand so that they run parallel with your body when held in front of you. Let them rest along your thighs.
- Brace your core and keep your elbows tucked as you curl the dumbbells toward your shoulders.
- At the top, pause and squeeze, adding a slight supinated twist to better target your long head bicep.
- Reverse the movement, maintaining a slow controlled motion until you reach the starting position.
If you struggle with swinging or upper body compensations, you can also perform hammer curls seated on a bench.
The primary difference between the hammer curl and traditional bicep curl is the 90-degree shift in dumbbell positioning, holding them upright rather than in an underhand grip. This subtle shift effectively puts more focus on the long head of the bicep.
Incorporating targeted bicep long head exercises can help you build massive arms and a defined peak when you flex. Remember that the slightest shift in the range of motion or hand positioning can make a significant impact. Balance these exercises with targeted short head bicep work and focused tricep training for overall arm muscle gains.