Looking to define and sculpt your arms? Incorporating a variety of long head bicep exercises into your training will help you do that.
This muscle is often neglected, because people tend to choose bicep exercises that are more focused on the short head.
But it’s essential for achieving that well-rounded look. In this blog post, I’ll give you my top 7 exercises to grow your long head bicep.
Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced lifter looking for some variation, there’s something for everyone in this list!
What Are The Best Long Head Bicep Exercises?
Here are my picks for the best long head bicep exercises:
1. Incline Dumbbell Curls
Incline dumbbell curls are the best out of all the long head bicep exercises because they take your shoulders into extension.
This allows for more shoulder flexion, which means more work for the long head. That’s because, if you look at the anatomy of the long head, you’ll see that it crosses the shoulder joint and can therefore contribute to shoulder flexion as well.
If you should only pick one exercise from this list, let it be the incline dumbbell curls.
If you incorporate them into your routine, you’ll have those upper arms and the biceps peak you’ve always dreamed of a few years faster than you would otherwise.
How to do Incline Dumbbell Curls:
- Start by setting the bench to a 70-80 degree angle.
- Sit down and place your whole back against the bench.
- Make sure your elbows are slightly behind your body, not so much that it’s painful on your shoulder though.
- Start curling and try to do it by only curling at the elbow.
Note: You can play around with your grip:
- Palms facing up for regular dumbbell curls!
- Keep it neutral to do hammer curls!
- Rotate midway through to turn them into preacher curls!
2. Hammer Curls
Dumbbell hammer curls are great for targeting the long head because they increase the range of motion that the long head has to go through.
By pronating your palm 90 degrees, you’re putting the long head into a mechanically more advantageous position over the short head.
How to do Hammer Curls:
- Start by picking a pair of dumbbells and stand up with one in each hand.
- Allow your arms to hang by the side of your body and make sure that your palms are facing towards your body.
- Always keep a slight bend in the elbow at the bottom position to keep tension on the biceps and to maximize muscle growth.
- Curl both dumbbells up until your wrists are parallel to your shoulders (only raise your elbows once you’re near the top).
3. Close Grip Barbell Curls
The close grip barbell curl targets the long head more than the traditional barbell curls do, because they require a bit of internal rotation at the shoulders.
That slightly lengthens the range of motion that the long head has to go through, meaning it has to do more work.
How to do Close Grip Barbell Curls:
- Take a standing position with your feet shoulder width apart and hold the barbell with an underhand grip.
- Your hands should be about 6 to 8 inches (or 15-20cm) apart.
- Start curling!
- At the top, bring your elbows up just a bit, to get a full contraction.
- You can perform this exercise with an even more narrow grip if you feel like it helps you focus more on the long head bicep!
- Use the ez bar if it’s uncomfortable with a regular barbell!
4. Squatting Cable Curls
Squatting cable curls are probably the most unknown biceps exercises on this list, but oh boy are they good.
They keep constant tension on your biceps muscles, because you can’t relax at the bottom position, which most other exercises will allow you to do.
This is a recipe to get your long head biceps pumped and increase its muscle mass in no time.
How to do Squatting Cable Curls:
- Take bumper plate or a small step-up bench and place it in front of the cable machine (the cable should run on at least a 10 degree angle).
- Find a bar attachment and grab it with a shoulder width grip.
- Squat down on your plate or bench and start curling.
- You can place your upper arm on your knees for extra support!
5. Bayesian Curls
This is another one of those long head bicep exercises that allows for a great deal of shoulder flexion – which is what we want!
Like the squatting bicep curls and the incline bench curls, the bayesian curls also naturally keep the tension on your bicep even at the bottom of the movement.
How to do Bayesian Curls:
- Start by taking a step away from the rack.
- Take a split squat stance, placing forward the same leg of the side you’ll be training first.
- Play around with your upper body angle so that your elbow will be slightly behind your body, but not so much that you start to feel a stretch in the shoulder.
- Keep the elbow position fixed and perform the curl.
- You can bring the elbow up when nearing the top, but make sure you don’t lose the tension in your biceps!
- Rotate your hand inwards 90 degrees to turn it into a hammer curl!
6. Double Overhand Pullups
In addition to being one of the best long head bicep exercises, double overhand pullups are also a great compound exercise for the whole upper body.
By taking a double overhand grip and pronating your wrists, you’ll be placing more emphasis on the long head, by putting it into a mechanically better position.
How to do Double Overhand Pullups:
- Hang from a bar with your hands shoulder-width apart.
- Pull yourself up until your chin is above the bar, then slowly lower yourself back down.
- You can also take a neutral grip if it feels more comfortable, although by doing that, you’ll involve more of your lats.
Note: If your own body-weight is too much for you to complete the desired amount of reps, try attaching a resistance band to the bar and place it under your feet or bend one of your knees and put it around that leg.
The band will take some of the weight away, especially at the bottom of the movement where it will be maximally stretched. Do be cautious though, as it can hit you in the face or the genitals if you’re not careful.
7. Drag Curls
Drag curls are a great variation to add into your bicep workout.
They are different to the traditional barbell biceps curls because they take the shoulders out of the movement and completely isolate the biceps.
How to do Drag Curls:
- Stand up straight and hold the barbell/dumbbells just outside shoulder width
- Once in place, curl the bar up, keeping it as close to your body as possible
- It’s okay if you can’t get very far, the main goal is that you feel your biceps working!
That wraps up the list of long head bicep exercises. The next few paragraphs will cover the anatomy of the biceps muscle group, after which I’ll do a quick summary.
Anatomy Of The Biceps
The biceps brachii is a muscle located in the upper arm. It has two heads – the long head and the short head.
Having two heads just means that there are two different sections of the biceps muscle.
Side note: the anatomical names of the muscles come from Latin and “bis” means twice in Latin. Now you know!
The long head originates from the supraglenoid tubercle of the scapula and runs through the shoulder joint to attach on the radius bone of the forearm.
The short head originates from the coracoid process of the scapula and attaches to the same spot as the long head. It does not cross the shoulder joint. More on why that’s important in a sec.
Now, it’s important to know a little bit about each of the bicep heads function so you can understand:
1) what exercise targets which head and
2) how to tweak and exercise, to create a variation that targets more of the long head or the short head.
They both perform elbow flexion and forearm supination, but the long head also performs shoulder flexion.
This is because the long head originates from “behind” the shoulder and crosses the joint, unlike the short head which only crosses the elbow joint.
The Long Head Of The Bicep
The long head of the biceps brachii is the long, outer head that makes up the majority of your bicep when you flex it, so it is important to include long head exercises in your workout routine for defined arms.
This muscle is often neglected in favor of the more popular short head, but it’s essential for achieving optimal results.
Can You Isolate The Long Head Bicep Muscle?
Although you cannot fully isolate the long head, there are exercises you can do to place more emphasis on that head.
Any bicep exercise will activate both heads to some degree, but certain movements target one more than the other.
Let’s take a look at some of the changes you can make to your exercises to target more of the long head.
How To Target The Long Head Bicep
1) Use a neutral grip
When you use a neutral grip, you place more tension on the long head of your biceps.
This is because firstly, taking your hand into pronation will slightly lengthen the range of motion the long head has to go through.
Secondly, it will also put the long head into a mechanically more advantageous position relative to the short head.
2)Curl with your elbows behind you
You can take any bicep curls exercise to do this. You just have to sit down on an inclined bench and make sure your elbows are behind you.
This will take your shoulder into extension, therefore allowing for more flexion.
And if you read the section about the function of the biceps, you’ll know that the long head also contributes to shoulder flexion.
Common Bicep Training Mistakes
- Using too heavy weights
- Not using a full range of motion
- Not incorporating shoulder flexion
- Not training the brachialis muscle
If you want to shape and build your arms – long head bicep exercises are essential. The long head of the bicep brachii is an important muscle for arm definition and power.
Try incorporating these 7 long head exercises into your routine to get the defined arms you’ve always wanted. With consistency and progressive overload, it’s only a matter of time before you’ll start to see arm gains.
What bicep workouts work the long head?
The best exercises to target the the long head are:
- Incline Dumbbell Curls
- Hammer Curls
- Close Grip Barbell Curls
- Squatting Cable Curls
- Bayesian Curls
- Double Overhand Pullups
- Drag Curls
How do you target a long head?
To best target the long head you can 1) take a neutral/hammer curl grip or/and 2) do curls with your elbows behind your body. This will allow for more shoulder flexion which puts the long head into a mechanically superior position over the short head.
How do you isolate the long head of the bicep?
Start by picking exercises that allow for more shoulder flexion. The long head also contributes to shoulder flexion, whereas the short head only performs elbow flexion. After that, you can play around with your grip and arm position, to isolate the long head as much as possible!
Do hammer curls work the long head?
Yes, hammer curls work the long head. They do so because a pronated grip (palms facing towards you) allows them to contribute more to the curl than a supinated grip (palms facing to the front).