Different Workouts for Different Parts of the Biceps


The biceps are a muscle group that many focus on when working toward strength and tone in the upper arms. Though it may seem as though there are only a few exercises to choose from, several variations to the biceps curl can help target different parts of the biceps as well as keep your workout interesting.

Anatomy of the Bicep

Most commonly identifiable as the bulge at the top of the arm between the shoulder and the elbow, the bicep is actually composed of two separate sections. The long head of the bicep extends along the outer edge of the upper arm starting at the shoulder and inserting into the elbow. 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 can focus work on either muscle head.

Long Head

Whether performing bicep curls with a barbell or dumbbells, keeping the hands closer together targets effort onto the long head, or the outer portion of the bicep. Dumbbell curls on an incline will also place more emphasis on the long head. On an incline, the arms are forced to start behind the torso 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 the long head. 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.

Short Head

Maintaining a wide grip on a weight bar or with dumbbells 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. 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.


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. Elastic resistance bands provide yet another variation offering a linear resistance that can challenge the overall bicep in a different way than traditional weights. Body-weight exercises such as chinups can also work to target either head, 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.