Targeting the Biceps
Traditionally described as a two-headed muscle, the biceps (biceps brachii) is one of the most variable muscles of the human body.
When training the bicep muscles, it is important to distinguish between the long head and the short head of the biceps. The long head is the outer portion of the muscle and the short head is in the inner portion of the muscle.
It is important at this stage we point out that there is some debate as to what are considered the best exercises and techniques for isolating each head of the biceps, the two most notable being the Elbow Theory and the Grip Theory:
- Elbow Theory: This theory argues that the key to targeting each head in the biceps is based on the proximity of the arms in relation to the body, stating that when the elbows are pulled back behind the body, this targets the long head more (elbows in front of the body are better for targeting the short head).
- Grip Theory: This theory places importance on grip placement and angles as primary factors for targeting each biceps head. Using a supinated grip (palms up) targets the short head.
The Biceps Long Head
If you only have a really strong long head, your biceps will look huge from the side, but flat from the front.
Recommended Exercise: Alternating Incline Dumbbell Curl
This is a great overall biceps exercise, which particularly emphasises the biceps long head (that nice stretch you feel? That’s the long head).
The Biceps Short Head
If you only have a really strong short head, your biceps will look thick and huge from the front, but flat from the side, with no nice peak.
Recommended Exercise: Preacher Curl
Preacher curls can be easy to perform wrong, so make sure you’re positioning keeps the tension on the biceps throughout.
The Forgotten Biceps Muscle
There is another muscle that forms the biceps group, called the biceps brachialis, which lies beneath the biceps brachii. This muscle is often overlooked, but plays an important role in the overall look of your arms (its level of development impacts the amount of ‘peak’ your biceps appear to have).
Note: Ultimately, ‘peak’ is determined by genetics, but increasing the size of the brachialis can give the appearance of a better ‘peak’.
Recommended Exercise: Hammer Curl
The hammer curl is particularly useful for building up the biceps brachialis.