Different Workouts for Different Parts of the Biceps

Arm muscle biceps with skeleton. Muscle tension of human hand on white background. Bones and joints in male silhouette. Medical vector illustration of hand for clinic or hospital

Like triceps, the biceps muscle is one of the most fascinating muscle groups in the upper body, and one that many focus on when working toward strength and tone in the upper arms at the gym.

Though it may seem as though there are only a few bicep workout exercises to choose from when it comes to wanting to build muscle mass, several variations of the traditional underhand-grip biceps curl can help achieve activation of different parts of the muscle and help spur muscle growth instantly.

Anatomy of the Bicep

Most commonly identifiable as the bulge at the top of the arm between the shoulder blades and the elbow, the bicep brachii is actually composed of two separate sections: the short head and the long head.

Long head: The long head of the bicep extends along the outer edge of the upper arm starting at the shoulder and inserting into the elbow

Short head: The short head of the bicep begins at the shoulder but runs along the inside of the upper arm, also attaching at the elbow

Variations on familiar bicep exercises, like different curl variations, can focus work on either part of the bicep and add a new twist to your traditional biceps training and arm workouts.

Long Head

Whether performing dumbbell bicep curls or barbell curls, keeping the hands closer together than traditional shoulder-width as you do your reps targets effort onto the long head, or the outer portion of the bicep. Incline dumbbell curls will also place more emphasis on the long head throughout the rep range.

On an incline bench, the arms are forced to start behind the torso at the starting position and move through a greater range of motion that stretches and engages the long head from the outset of the movement.

Hammer curls also target muscle fibers on the long head, as well as the brachialis, which is one of the largest elbow flexors and provides flexion of the forearm at the elbow joint.

Try doing hammer curls across the body with the elbow tucked in close to the ribcage and the forearm angled approximately 45 degrees across the body for even more emphasis on the long head throughout your repetitions.

Short Head

Maintaining a wide grip on EZ bar curls, straight bar curls, barbell curls, or dumbbell curls shifts the work to the short head of the biceps at the inside of the arm.

Preacher curls are a good format for wide-grip curls since the elbows are braced against the pad. This helps maintain a consistent hand width during the full range of the curl, eliminating the possibility of cheating with the elbows coming away from the sides.

Mixed Race man lifting dumbbell in gymnasium

One-arm preacher curls with a dumbbell are another way to target the short head through an isolated and intense movement locked into place by the pad on the bench.

Concentration curls are also one of the best bicep exercises to incorporate into your strength training routine, as they help create biceps peak.


Woman in gym. Bicep curl exercise.

Many of the same exercises for either the long head or the short head of the bicep can translate into work on cables and machines and are not exclusive to barbells and dumbbells.

For example, preacher cable curls or cable incline curls are a great way to challenge yourself with heavy weights for a great workout.

Elastic resistance bands provide yet another variation of linear resistance that can challenge the arm muscles in a different way than traditional weights.

Body-weight exercises, such as chinups, can also work to target either head and help create bigger biceps depending on how wide or close a grip you take, and whether you choose an underhand or overhand grip.

Start any workout properly warmed up and start conservatively with weights, especially if you’re trying out an exercise for the first time.