Short head bicep exercises: 12 powerful curls

Your bicep is more than a single muscle. This is your insight to the short head bicep.

Short Head Bicep Exercises

Good Bicep Workouts

The best short head bicep exercises use a mixture of barbells, dumbbells and resistance bands. The top 5 short head bicep exercises for your bodybuilding needs are:

  • Reverse curls
  • Concentration curls
  • Spider curls
  • Bodyweight curls
  • Preacher curls

This is the article Short head bicep exercises: 12 powerful curls.

In today’s article I am going to teach you all about your short head biceps and then give you twelve dynamic short head bicep exercises to do at the gym.

Growing the muscle peak on your bicep can be difficult to do if you do not know the proper short head bicep exercises to complete. The short head is one of two heads that make up your bicep muscle and is located on the inner bicep on your upper arm.

Exercises such as dumbbell spider curls, cable curls, and wide grip barbell curls, can all help you build a better short head bicep. Short head bicep exercises also serve as brachialis exercises, which is an important muscle located underneath the bicep and aids in elbow flexion, or the movement of your forearm.

Some of the best exercises for short head biceps can be done during a home workout without ever needing to goto the gym. This article provides information about your short head bicep and brachialis, and outlines a number of different exercises that will target your short head bicep and inner bicep so that you are able to have a more defined bicep with a bigger peak.

Before you get too ahead of yourself and over-train your arms, make sure you know how often you should train biceps.

What is the short head bicep?

Your biceps (also known as biceps brachii) are made up of two muscle heads which are: the short head and the long head. The primary function of your bicep muscle is the supination of the forearm as well as the flexion of the elbow. Your bicep also plays a minor role in shoulder elevation.

Your short head bicep and long head bicep are positioned side by side and converge to form a tendon which gives your bicep the rounded shape and peak that has become so desirable.

Your short head bicep is on the inner side of your upper arm, while your long head bicep is located on the outer side of your arm. Both your short head bicep and your long head bicep arise from different points on the scapula, and converges to create a singular muscle tendon which ends near the top of your forearm.

Your short head bicep adds width or girth to your bicep, while your long head bicep is what contributes to your muscle peak. Both the short head and long head bicep are critical when trying to build fully sized and aesthetically desirable arms.

Short head bicep vs. Long head bicep

The short head and long head biceps come together to form the biceps brachii, which means they are both similar muscles and are difficult to differentiate. However, short head and long head biceps do have some key differences.

One of the key differences between long and short head biceps is their location on the arm. The short head bicep is located on the inside of your upper arm, while the long head is located on the top outer arm. When you flex your bicep and see the round peak, this is your long head. When your arms are in a resting position with your wrists next to your hips, your short head bicep gives your arm width and girth, when being observed from the front view.

Your long and short head biceps also differ when it comes to their functions and actions. The short head bicep supports pulling your arm back towards your torso, which is known as adduction. The short head bicep is also a fixator that increases stabilization in the shoulder joint.

Your long head bicep is what gives you the ability to move your arm away from your torso, which is known as abduction. Your long head bicep also contributes to the turning of the wrist and forearm, a behaviour known as supination.

Is the bicep peak long or short head?

The size and shape of your bicep peak is determined by the strength and health of the long head bicep. Your short head bicep is on the inside of your arm and gives your bicep width and a greater circumference. Having a strong short and long head will give your arm a full shape with a good muscle peak and a thick circumference.

How can I work the short head bicep?

When it comes to bicep exercises, its curls, curls, curls, and more curls.

Cable curls, Dumbbell curls, Barbell curls, Spider curls, Zottman curls, and well…you get the point. Working your short head bicep is all about doing heaps of curls in a variety of different ways with subtle but important differences.

Be sure to complete all exercises in a slow and controlled motion. If you have any questions or concerns about your form or ability to complete the exercise as specified, please consult a fitness professional.

Best short head bicep workout routines

Workout 1

Spider Curls: Complete 8 to 10 reps or until failure for 3-4 sets

Chin Ups: Do chin ups until failure for 3 sets

“21s”: 21 reps for 3 sets

Workout 2

Cable Curl with Rope (superset): Begin each set with a heavy weight for 6-8 reps, and then lower the weight and complete 10-12 reps. Complete this 3 times.

Wide Grip Barbell Curls: Compete 8 to 12 reps or until failure for 3 sets

Zottman Curls: Compete 8 to 12 reps or until failure for 3 sets

Workout 3

Preacher Curls: Complete 8 to 15 reps for 3 sets

Inner Bicep Curls (drop set): Start with a heavy weight that you can only lift 4 to 6 times. Work your way down in weight by 2kg (5lbs) increments until your arms are completely burnt out.

Reverse Curls: Compete 8 to 12 reps or until failure for 3 sets

12 Short head bicep exercises

Here are the 12 best short head bicep exercises you can do at the gym or working out at home. To get a full and rounded bicep take a few of the exercises from the long head bicep exercise guide as well.

Preacher curls

The preacher curl is a classic exercise used by everyone from professional bodybuilders to casual gym goers. The preacher curl promotes good form and eliminates cheating or swinging since your arms are locked in place.

Preacher curls offer a wide range of motion and are an essential exercise when trying to build your short head bicep.

How to do a preacher curl:

  1. Adjust the preacher bench angle and seat so that your elbows rest comfortably on the angled pad, and the pad reaches to the middle of your triceps, not your armpit.
  2. Pick up the EZ bar with a supinated grip, with your hands shoulder width apart. A wide grip helps to target the short head bicep.
  3. Keep your upper arms (tricep area) pressed against the pad at all times and keep your body stationary.
  4. Curl the bar towards your chest until the EZ bar is raised up in front of your face.
  5. Control the weight and slowly extend your arms back down as you lower the dumbbells back down for your next rep.
  6. Extend your arms downward but do not lock your elbows.
  7. Keep your back as straight as possible and your feet firmly planted on the grounRepeat the movement and be sure to squeeze your biceps at the top of your lifting motion.

Lying cable curls

Cable exercises for biceps can present a challenge for newer lifters, as the tension and feeling of cable exercises differs greatly from that of a dumbbell bicep exercise.

When it comes to cable exercises, each movement will have a great number of variations depending on the position of the cable and the level of the weight being used. Check out our cable bicep curls guide.

How to do lying cable curls:

  1. Start off by attaching a straight bar to the cable pulley, and lowering the height of the pulley to about 75cm from the floor or between the height of your hips and knees.
  2. Sit on the floor and plant your feet firmly on the metal frame to either side of the cable pulley.
  3. Grip the bar with a supinated underhand grip and lean back until you are laying on the floor. Now you should have your back flat on the floor, with the straight bar in hand, and your two feet on the metal framing of the machine with the cable in between your legs.
  4. Keep your elbows at a sharp angle and keep them tucked into the sides of your ribs/torso. Slowly curl the bar towards your chest/chin and squeeze your bicep at the top of the movement.
  5. Release the bar back towards the machine by using a slow and controlled movement so that you are still working your short head bicep on the way down.
  6. Try not to lock your elbows at the bottom, instead you should maintain a modest bend in your elbow joint.
  7. Repeat the motion until failure.

Cable hammer curl with rope

The cable hammer curl is a phenomenal exercise for both your long and short head, and is also one of the best brachialis exercises. Be sure to do this movement slowly and with as much control over the weight as possible. Cable exercises and the tension they provide are instrumental in growing your “stabilizer muscles.”

How to do cable hammer curls with a rope:

  1. Lower the cable pulley to the lowest setting on the bar, so it is as close as possible to the floor.
  2. Connect a rope attachment to the cable.
  3. Grip the rope with your palms facing inward as if you were gripping a steering wheel at 3 and 9 o’clock.
  4. Stand up straight and keep your feet shoulder width apart and firmly planted on the ground.
  5. Keep your elbows tucked in to the side of your body, and begin to pull the rope upwards towards your face
  6. As you approach the top of the movement, be sure to twist your hands outward and squeeze your bicep muscle in order to maximize the pump for the short head bicep
  7. Lower the rope downwards to the starting position, without extending far enough to lock your elbows.
  8. Repeat the movement until failure.

“21s” EZ Bar curls

I first learned how to do 21s as a teenager, when I was at my local gym and an older man showed me how to do the exercise. He told me it’s a popular exercise in jail, and that he had just got released from jail last week after several years of incarceration. I never forgot that conversation, and I also never forgot how to do 21s! I also never asked him what he got sent to jail for.

21s are a fantastic exercise for the short head bicep that uses a limited range of motion technique to isolate certain areas of your bicep. If it works in the prison yard, it will definitely work for you!

How to do “21s” EZ bar curls:

  1. Grip the EZ bar with your hands shoulder width apart and with a supinated underhand grip.
  2. Keep your elbows tucked tightly into the side of your body, and stand straight up with your back straight and head high with eyes looking forward.
  3. Slowly lift the EZ bar from 0° to 90° (halfway to a full bicep curl) for 7 reps.
  4. On the 7th rep, continue to curl the bar from the 90° position, to the 180° position. Lower the bar back down to 90° and then back up to 180°. Do this 7 times
  5. For the last 7 reps, lift the bar all the way from 0° to 180° (a full bicep curl).
  6. Once completed you will have done 7 lower half curls, 7 upper half curls, and 7 full bicep curls, for a total of “21” bicep movements.

Wide grip barbell curls

Using a wide grip on the barbell helps us to effectively target our short head biceps and inner arm. Conversely, using a narrow grip when completing barbell curls will let us target our long head biceps and outer arm. For this exercise, since we are looking to isolate our short head bicep and inner arm, we will be using the wide grip.

How to do wide grip barbell curls:

  1. Stand tall and straight, with your feet firmly planted shoulder width apart.
  2. Grab the barbell with a wide underhand supinated grip, slightly wider than shoulder width apart.
  3. Isolate the short head bicep as you lift, and focus on squeezing your bicep throughout the movement, especially at the top of the lift. Pause at the top of the lift and squeeze your bicep.
  4. Lower the bar back down in a slow and controlled manner until your arms are extended and your wrists are back near your hips. Try not to lock your elbows.
  5. Repeat until failure.

Reverse curls

Reverse curls are great for targeting both your short head bicep as well as your forearm. Hold a barbell, dumbbell, or EZ bar with an overhand pronated grip and gently lift the weight towards your chest.

How to do reverse curls:

  1. Grip a barbell, EZ bar with an overhand pronated grip, with your hands roughly shoulder width apart.
  2. Bring the barbell up towards your chest, while keeping your elbows tucked neatly against your ribs and your palms facing the floor.
  3. Pause at the top of the lift to squeeze your biceps and target that short head.
  4. Slowly lower the weight back down to the starting position. Be sure to control the barbell on the way down to work both your bicep as well as your upper forearm.

Zottman curls

Zottman curls are an interesting and unique mix of bicep curls and reverse curls. This fluid movement will help you work your long head, short head, and brachialis muscle. Zottman curls are an incredibly effective dumbbell bicep workout for building your short head bicep.

How to do Zottman curls:

  1. Use an underhand supinated grip to pick up two dumbbells.
  2. Stand straight up, plant your feet shoulder width apart, and keep your gaze forward.
  3. With your elbows tucked, begin to do a bicep curl. Simultaneously bring both weights towards your chest at the same time, taking time to pause and squeeze your bicep at the top of the lift.
  4. At the top of the lift, rotate your palms/wrists inward as if you were pouring out two glasses of water. Your hands should now be in an overhand pronated grip position with your palms facing the floor, as if you were finishing the second half of a reverse curl.
  5. With the dumbbells now held in a pronated grip, lower the weights back down as you would during the second half of a reverse curl.
  6. At the bottom of the lift rotate your palms/wrists once more, so you are back in an underhand supinated grip, ready to repeat the motion
  7. Repeat until failure.

Chin ups

Chinups are the quintessential body weight exercise and work a variety of muscles during the movement. If you can’t do a chin up on your own yet, use a spotter or an assisted chin up machine to help you safely complete this fantastic bicep exercise. If you are looking for bicep stretches, dead hanging from the chin up bar is also a great way to stretch the bicep.

How to do chin ups:

  1. Reach up and grip the chin up bar with an underhand supinated grip which means your palms should be facing you.
  2. Remove your feet from the floor and let your body weight hang.
    Lean back slightly and pull yourself up to the bar, ideally to your chin.
  3. Make sure the rest of your body is completely under control and that you are not swinging from the bar.
  4. Slowly lower yourself down in a controlled manner, until you are once again hanging from the bar with your arms extended. Try not to lock your elbows or dead hang from the bar. Keep your elbows slightly bent while your arms are extended.
  5. Repeat until failure
  6. If you cannot yet lift your own body weight, you can begin by using the assisted chin up machine, which is a great machine that will help improve your chin up strength in no time!

Spider Curls

Spider curls are a somewhat awkward exercise that you can do using either dumbbells or an EZ bar. Spider curls also require an incline bench in order to be done properly. Read our full article on all you need to know about spider curls.

How to do spider curls:

  1. Find an incline bench and adjust the bench so that the angle is about 60°.
  2. Pick up two dumbbells with an underhand supinated grip.
  3. Turn and face the incline bench. Lay your stomach flat on the bench, on the area that would usually be considered the backrest.
  4. Position your body so that the top of the bench is at the upper part of your chest, comfortably.
  5. Let your arms hang off both sides of the bench.
    Curl the dumbbells back towards your chest in a slow and controlled movement.
  6. Pause and squeeze your bicep at the top of the movement, and then begin to slowly lower the weight back down towards the floor.
  7. Repeat until failure.

Concentration curls

Concentration curls are one of the OG bicep exercises. Concentration curls have been used in fitness and bodybuilding for generations, and are one of the most essential exercises when it comes to inner bicep dumbbell exercises.

How to do concentration curls:

  1. Sit on a chair or flat bench, and situate yourself on the end of the seat.
  2. Angle yourself and open your legs.
  3. Pick up one dumbbell with an underhand supinated grip and keep your arms between your legs. Rest your elbow and the back of your lower tricep against the inside of your knee and thigh. Right elbow to right thigh/knee, and left elbow to left thigh/knee.
  4. Lean your upper body forward so that you are overtop of the dumbbell, and proceed to curl the dumbbell upwards towards your chest. Pause at the top of the lift to squeeze your bicep.
  5. Slowly lower the dumbbell back down using a safe and controlled motion until the dumbbell is hanging near your ankle.
  6. Repeat until failure for both arms.

Inner bicep curls

Inner bicep curls are a fantastic method for growing your inner biceps and short head biceps and is an irreplaceable variation of the traditional bicep curl. Inner bicep curls are on of the best bicep exercises we can do for targeting our short head bicep.

How to do inner bicep curls:

  1. Pick up 2 dumbbells one in each hand, with a supinated underhand grip.
  2. Stand up straight and tall with your feet planted shoulder width apart.
  3. Hold the dumbbells at your side and turn your wrists to the outside, as if you were using a skipping rope. Keep your elbows laterally out from your side.
  4. Simultaneously curl both of the dumbbells up slowly, making sure to pause at the top to squeeze your biceps.
  5. Lower the weight back down and repeat until failure.

Bodyweight curls

This exercise is not going to get you jacked, but it will suffice if you are working out at home, in a hotel room, or in the park. Without dumbbells, this will be your best option for doing biceps exercises at home.

How to do a bodyweight curl:

  1. Find a towel, TRX cable, bath sheet, rope or cord. Whatever you can get your hands on!
  2. Wrap the rope around a tree, pole, or sturdy object that is tall enough so that the rope can be placed at a high enough point to come down at a declining angle towards you.
  3. Grab the rope with an overhand pronated grip, and find an angle with your feet that allows you to lean your body straight back.
  4. While you are leaning straight back with your arms fully extended, begin to pull yourself to the tree or pole until your biceps are fully flexed and your elbow joint is at 90° or greater.
  5. Slowly lower yourself back down so that you are once again leaning back. Use a slow and controlled motion throughout.
  6. Repeat until failure.
Tall Paul
Tall Paul
I am 6'7 (203cm) / 235lb (106 kg) model and ex-athlete. Since I was a teen I had trouble finding clothes. I was too tall for off the rack and was too lean for Big & Tall.

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