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7 Best Long Head Bicep Exercises for Huge Arms

June 07, 2023

Best long head bicep exercises header

Everyone wants big biceps, right? After all, it’s one of the first muscles that get noticed when you’re wearing a t-shirt, and that’s most of the time.

Growing your biceps doesn’t need to be difficult, but it does require you to have a baseline knowledge of anatomy and function to best know how to grow them.

Today we’re focusing on long head bicep exercises. After reading through this article, you’ll be equipped with the knowledge needed to accelerate your arm growth to new heights.  

Table of Contents
What is the long head bicep?
Role of the bicep
How to target the long head bicep
7 Best long head bicep exercises
Long head bicep workouts
Long head bicep training mistakes
Long head bicep FAQ’s



What is the long head bicep?

The bicep is a single muscle located at the front of the upper arm. It attaches to the forearm and originates from the scapula, in two different positions (hench the ‘bi’ in biceps).

These two different ‘heads’ are known as the long head and the short head. The long head is located on the outside of the arm whereas the short head is on the inside of the arm.

 bicep anatomy

The long head of the bicep is responsible for giving size to the peak of the bicep whereas the short head gives the arm its width.


Role of the bicep

The biceps have 2 primary functions, elbow flexion, and forearm supination. Elbow flexion is bringing the forearm towards the shoulder and forearm supination is bringing the forearm from a palm-down position to a palm-up position.


How to target the long head bicep?

It’s important to know we can’t completely isolate the long head of the biceps as both heads work together in most movements, so whenever we aim to work the long head, we’ll also be working the short head and vice versa. What we can do though is employ a few clever training tips to help activate one head more than the other.

Elbow position

Exercises that have the arm in front of the body target more of the short head and exercises that have the arm behind the body target more of the long head.

This is due to where each of the muscles attaches to the shoulder joint. As the long head attaches higher up the shoulder joint, the long head of the bicep will be activated more when the bicep is in a stretched position.

Hand position

To target the long head of the biceps with barbell or EZ bar exercises, we should adopt a close grip hand position. A wide grip targets the short head while a narrow grip focuses on the long head.

As we mentioned earlier, the role of the bicep is both elbow flexion and forearm supination. This brings us to our next tip. When doing dumbbell curls, adding a twist (supination) towards the end of the movement can further activate the long head.

Adopting a neutral grip and performing hammer curls as an alternative to regular curls is also a great way to put added emphasis on the long head of the bicep.


7 Best Long Head Bicep Exercises

Now we’ve covered the basics, it’s time to get down to the best long head bicep exercises we should include in our training programs.

Incline Dumbbell Curl

incline dumbbell curl

The incline dumbbell curl is an amazing exercise for targeting the long head. Firstly, you're starting off from a stretched position, and secondly, you're adding a twist at the top of the movement, both great methods to effectively target the long head.

As the arms are starting behind the body, we have increased the range of motion, and research has also shown that the long head of the bicep remains active throughout the entire range.

How to:

  • Set the bench to a slight incline (roughly 60 degrees)
  • Sit on the bench, keeping the back on the pad and starting with the hands in a neutral position (palms facing the body)
  • Begin to curl the dumbbell towards the shoulder, keeping the upper arm in a fixed position and rotating the wrists so that you reach a supinated position at the top of the movement.
  • Lower the weight, while pronating the wrist, back to the starting position.


Close Grip Barbell Curls

close grip barbell curl

Barbell curls are the most popular exercises when it comes to bicep training, and for good reason too. This powerful exercise successfully activates both heads of the biceps it’s a great exercise that we can progressively get stronger with (after all, strength and size are closely related).

To put the focus on the long head, we’ll be adopting a narrow grip.

How to:

  • Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart
  • Hold the barbell with a close grip (just inside of shoulder width, you should play around with this to see where you feel comfortable)
  • Curl the bar towards your shoulder, keeping the elbow and upper arm fixed in position
  • Squeeze the biceps at the top of the rep and then lower again to the starting position


Dumbbell Hammer Curls

dumbbell hammer curl

The dumbbell hammer curls are a great exercise, not only can they effectively target the long head of the bicep, but they also work the Brachialis (a smaller muscle in the upper arm that flexes the elbow).

The dumbbell has been known and loved by the bodybuilding community for years, the neutral grip changes the feel of the exercise completely when compared to a standard curl.

How to:

  • Hold a pair of dumbbells down by your side with a neutral grip (palms facing toward the body).
  • Curl the weight towards your shoulder whilst maintaining the neutral hand position
  • Once you’ve reached the top of the movement, slowly return to the starting position (2-4 seconds)


Close Grip Preacher Curl

close grip preacher curl

For this exercise you’ll need your gym to have a preacher bench, and to be honest, most gym’s now do, as they appreciate how well loved this exercise is. The preacher curl is a great exercise for arm development as it doesn’t allow for cheat reps and forces the use of good form. Again we’ll be opting for a closer grip than normal to shift the emphasis onto the long head.

How to:

  • Adjust the seat height so that your upper arms are sat comfortably on the pad when you sit down
  • Sit on the bench, and put your upper arm and elbow onto the back of the pad
  • With your arms fully extended, curl the weight up toward your face
  • Once you’ve reached the top, lower the weight back down to the starting position


Close grip Cable curl

close grip cable curl

Cable exercises are brilliant for building muscle. Unlike free weight exercises, cable exercises place constant tension on the muscle throughout the movement, and as tension is a primary driver of muscle hypertrophy, incorporating some cable exercises into your routine is a sound idea.

How to:

  • Set the cable to the bottom and attach the straight bar attachment
  • Pick the bar up, adopting a grip slightly closer than shoulder width
  • Stand with feet shoulder-width apart
  • Curl the weight up towards your shoulders with the elbow and upper arm fixed in position
  • Squeeze the rep at the top of the movement and return to the starting position


Behind the back cable curl (Bayesian Curl)

behind the back curl

Here we’re combining the benefits of added range from starting behind the back, and constant tension by using the cables, it’s a win-win.

This exercise is similar to the incline dumbbell curl, but this time we’re standing up and performing it on the cable machine.

Starting the exercise behind the back emphasises the long head, and training each arm individually minimises the chances of getting muscle imbalances.

How to:

  • Set the cable to the bottom and attach the single-arm attachment
  • Pick up the handle with an underhand grip and face away from the machine
  • With your arm down by your side, walk forwards away from the machine until the arm is behind the line of the body and you feel a good stretch in the bicep
  • When you’ve identified your starting position, stand with feet shoulder-width apart
  • Keeping your elbow and upper arm fixed in position curl the weight toward your shoulder
  • Squeeze at the top of the rep and lower the weight down to the starting position


Close Grip Chin Ups

close grip chin up

(Images retrieved from Weight Training Guide)

The chin-ups are a great mass building compound exercise. A compound exercise means that they work multiple muscle groups at the same time. Chin-ups work the biceps, triceps, shoulders, and back muscles. It’s recommended that compound exercises make up the bulk of your training schedule when hypertrophy is the goal.

Although the chin-ups do not isolate the biceps, adopting a neutral grip can help towards targeting them further. If you don’t believe these to be a great bicep exercises, just give them a go and thank us later.

How to:

  • Grab the bar with a close neutral grip
  • Hang from the bar with your arms extended
  • Retract the shoulder blades and begin to pull yourself up so that the chest comes close to the bar
  • Once you’ve reached the top of the movement, squeeze the biceps, and begin to lower yourself down to the starting position


Long Head Bicep Workout Examples

It doesn’t make sense to have a whole workout dedicated to targeting the long head. If that were the case, we’d need a workout for the short head and quite frankly we don’t have time to train every muscle in the body individually, and if we did, it’s likely to be too much volume as many exercises spill over onto different muscles.

What we can do though, is if our long head biceps are lagging, we can design our bicep workout to emphasise the long head rather than the short head.

As we discussed earlier, you can’t isolate the long head, so these exercises will also target the short head, just that they’ll target the long head just that little bit more.

Workout 1

Incline dumbbell curl: 3 sets of 8-12 reps

Close grip barbell curl: 3 sets of 8-12 reps

Dumbbell hammer curl: 3 sets of 10-12 reps

Close grip cable curl: 3 sets of 10-15 reps

Workout 2

Chin-ups: 3 sets of 6-10 reps

Close grip preacher curl: 3 sets of 8-12 reps

Behind the back cable curl: 3 sets of 8-12 reps

Close grip cable curl: 3 sets of 10-15 reps


Long Head Bicep training mistakes

We see it far too often, people trying to build their biceps but failing to do so because of the following mistakes:

Cheating reps

Don’t get me wrong, cheat reps can have a place in a workout, but there’s a time and a place and you must be an experienced lifter to know how to use them effectively. It’s a great way to overload the muscle if you know how to use them.

The problem arises when people aren’t aware that they are doing them, they think they’ll curling the weight for their desired rep range but really their back is doing most of the work. This is not going to help grow our biceps.

If you feel like this could be you, ask a friend to watch your form to double check you’re not accidentally cheating, or stand with your back against a wall to prevent the swinging motion.


Using weights that are too heavy

Far too often will you see someone trying to curl a weight they can’t handle, and swinging their bodies in a bid to complete a rep. This isn’t useful.

Instead, pick a weight you can handle and lift the weight with proper form. Once you’ve mastered the form, you can focus on getting progressively stronger over time.

Lifting weights with proper form is much more impressive than lifting heavy weights dangerously, any experienced lifter will tell you that.


Focusing too much on the pump

Many lifters believe that getting a good pump and feeling sore the next day are key indicators of a good muscle building workout. This is not exactly the case. If you’re feeling sore the day following a workout that’s because you incurred a lot of muscle damage (ie. microtears to muscle because of training).

It turns out that muscle damage isn’t that great for hypertrophy, and what you should really focus is on muscle tension (the tension that’s placed on a muscle under load) and getting progressively stronger over time.


Long Head Bicep (FAQs)

What is the best way to isolate the long head bicep?

While it’s not possible to isolate the long head of the bicep, we can adopt some training techniques that shift the emphasis so that the long head is the primary bicep head being targeted. These are:

  • Curling with elbows behind the back
  • Curling with dumbbells at the side of the body
  • Performing neutral grip dumbbell curls
  • Shifting the hand position to close grip for barbell and EZ bar curls


How many reps to build the biceps?

Research has shown that muscle can be built across a wide range of rep ranges. Saying this, the popular hypertrophy of 6-12 reps is still very popular, and for good reason. Working in the moderate rep range means that you don’t have the injury risk associated with working with heavy weights in the 1-3 rep range, and it’s more time efficient than completing <20 reps per set. We would recommend working within this moderate rep range to get the most out of your muscle building workouts.


How many sets to build the biceps?

We recommend between 10-20 weekly sets for maximum bicep growth. If you’re a newbie, you’ll probably want to stick to the lower end of the scale whereas if you’re a seasoned lifted you’re going to need to be working at the higher end of the scale.


How often should I train my biceps?

How often you train a particular muscle group depends on a variety of factors including training intensity, training volume, training age, etc. The most important factor is sticking to your weekly sets. If you plan to complete 15 weekly sets then these can be done across multiple workouts, i.e. 8 sets in one workout, and 7 sets in another. As a guideline then, we recommend training the biceps once or twice a week.


Final Thoughts

If the long head biceps are lagging, then it’s time to prioritise them in your arm workouts. While we cannot isolate the long head of the biceps, we can employ clever training techniques that shift the emphasis onto the long head to get them growing.

Stick to the exercises listed above, get stronger over time, eat enough food for growth, and you’ll be well on your way to building the monstrous biceps you’re after.

Let us know in the comments what you liked about the article and what, if any other points you’d like us to cover!

Best long head bicep exercises PIN by Robor Fitness

Thomas D
Thomas D


Thomas is a dedicated fitness enthusiast with over 12 years of experience in the gym. As a level 2 qualified gym instructor, he combines his passion for working out and nutrition to help others achieve their fitness goals. Thomas stays up to date with the latest fitness research and follows the work of top experts in the field. With a balance of textbook knowledge and real-life experience, he provides practical guidance to help others reach their full potential.

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