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The best short head bicep exercises (inner bicep workouts)

Add these short head bicep exercises to your inner bicep workouts and watch your arms grow.
Written By  James Jackson
Last Updated on 9th August 2021
A man doing some short head bicep exercises

Since the human biceps muscles are split into two heads, you need to work on both regions of the muscle if you want to achieve optimal bicep development. This means performing various short head bicep exercises in addition to the equally important long head bicep exercises.

Since the short head of the biceps doesn’t cross the shoulder joint, whereas the long head does, you can preferentially target the inner bicep by curling with a wider grip and with your arms in front of your body (like in a preacher curl, for example).

7 best short head bicep exercises

We tried over 50 different movements and came up with a list of the best short head bicep exercises for muscle growth. These drills use a combination of barbells, dumbbells, and cables, so regardless of your equipment availability, you'll be able to get an effective short head bicep workout.

1. Preacher curls

A man demonstrating how to do an EZ bar preacher curl for the biceps

Preacher bar curls are one of the best bicep short head exercises because they have you lift the weight while your shoulders are in a high degree of flexion. This positioning shifts a greater proportion of the tension onto the inner bicep head and thus helps to develop overall muscle mass.

Just make sure to get a full stretch and contraction on each rep. This way, you'll be able to stimulate the broadest possible spectrum of muscle fibers—in both the upper and lower biceps—and put yourself firmly on the path to bicep hypertrophy.

  1. Load some weights onto an EZ bar and then put the bar in the preacher curl rack.
  2. Sit on the preacher station and grab the bar with an underhand grip just outside shoulder width.
  3. Curl the bar toward your shoulders until your forearms press right up against your biceps.
  4. Squeeze your biceps forcefully at the top of the rep.
  5. Lower the weight under control until your elbows reach full extension.
  6. Repeat for 3-5 sets of 8-12 reps.

2. Concentration curls

A man performing seated concentration curls with dumbbells

Performing a seated or standing concentration dumbbell curl works both heads of the bicep. Hence, it's an excellent exercise for building a solid foundation of arm size.

However, the movement still places more of the tension on the short head since you're curling with your arms in front of your body (i.e., with your shoulders in slight flexion). This better engages the inner muscle fibers of your biceps because, as mentioned, the short head doesn’t cross the shoulder joint.

  1. Hold a dumbbell in one hand with an underhand grip.
  2. Sit on the edge of a weight bench and rest your elbow against the inside of your leg.
  3. Curl the dumbbell toward your shoulder by flexing your biceps.
  4. Keep curling until your lower arm makes forceful contact with your biceps.
  5. Hold the contraction for a moment and then slowly lower the weight until your arm is locked out.
  6. Repeat the movement with your other arm and do 3-5 sets of 10-12 reps per side.

3. Spider curls

Man performing a dumbbell spider curl for his biceps on an incline bench

DB spider curls make a great addition to any inside bicep workout because they have you curl with your arms well in front of your body.

This means that spider curls are essentially the direct opposite of dumbbell incline curls, which are one of the best exercises for building the long head. So by doing the exercise in reverse, it follows that you'll naturally be placing a significant amount of tension on your short head.

Spider curls also produce an incredibly intense peak contraction because they train the biceps at a very short muscle length (the higher the degree of shoulder flexion, the more shortened the biceps become). This is one reason why the exercise is so effective for getting a potent muscle pump.

  1. Set the backrest of an incline bench to 60 degrees.
  2. Grab two relatively light dumbbells and sit on the bench in a reverse position with your torso pressed against the backpack.
  3. Let your shoulders hang forward so that the weights extend your arms.
  4. Curl the dumbbells toward your shoulders while keeping your elbows still.
  5. Keep lifting until the undersides of your forearms make firm contact with your biceps.
  6. Hold the peak contraction for a second.
  7. Lower the weights under control until your arms are once again locked out.
  8. Perform 3-5 sets of 10-15 reps.

4. Wide-grip barbell curls

A man performing wide grip barbell curls for his biceps

Wide barbell curls are an excellent mass-building inner bicep exercise. This is because, unlike dumbbells, barbells enable you to overload your muscles with very heavy weights.

So if your biceps lack that raw power and sheer size, then make sure to include at least one barbell exercise in your biceps short head workout to focus on building overall mass.

  1. Load some weight onto a barbell or use a preloaded curl bar for more convenience.
  2. Grab the bar with a wide-underhand grip.
  3. Curl the barbell toward your chest while keeping your elbows stationary.
  4. Keep lifting until your forearms and biceps make forceful contact.
  5. Squeeze your biceps at the top of the rep.
  6. Lower the bar under control until your elbows reach full extension.
  7. Repeat for 3-5 sets of 6-10 reps.

5. High cable curls

Man performing an overhead cable curl for his biceps

If you want your arms to look symmetrical as well as muscular, then make sure to include the standing high pulley cable curl in your bicep short head workout. By training each arm independently, you'll be giving your biceps almost identical amounts of tension and ensuring that they grow roughly in proportion.

Unlike free weight drills, cable exercises like the high pulley curl also provide constant tension.

As such, your biceps have to work harder during every set because they don't get a break; the second you lift those cable weights off the stack, it's down to your biceps to resist the tension (with free weight curls, you can just rest at the bottom of your reps).

  1. Connect a single handle to both sides of the high pulley on a cable crossover machine. You can also do this exercise on just one side if the other is taken.
  2. Stand in the middle of the cable crossover and grab both handles with an underhand grip.
  3. Curl the handles behind your head.
  4. Allow your elbows to come up slightly as your biceps become fully contracted.
  5. Squeeze your biceps as hard as you can.
  6. Slowly release the handles until your elbows are almost fully extended.
  7. Repeat for 3-5 sets of 10-15 reps.

6. Standing barbell curls

A man demonstrating the proper standing barbell curl form for working the biceps

Although you can definitely do an inner bicep workout with dumbbells, standing barbell bicep curls are one of those proven mass-builders that no hypertrophy-focused lifer should ignore.

Even though barbell curls work both bicep heads somewhat evenly, the fact that you're curling with the bar in front of your body likely means that they still bias the inner head to the greatest extent.

  1. Grab a barbell with an underhand, shoulder-width grip.
  2. Curl the bar toward your chest.
  3. Keep curling until your lower and upper arms make firm contact.
  4. Hold the peak contraction for a moment.
  5. Slowly lower the bar back down until your arms are locked out.
  6. Perform 3-5 sets of 6-10 reps.

7. Wide grip EZ bar curls

A man performing a wide EZ bar curl

If barbell curls hurt your wrists or forearms, then wide grip EZ bar curls might just be the muscle-building movement that you've been looking for.

Unlike other short head biceps exercises, wide EZ curls place your wrists in a semi-supinated (rather than fully supinated) position. This naturally reduces the strain that your joints and connective tissue have to handle while also putting plenty of tension on the inside bicep head.

  1. Hold an EZ bar with a wide-underhand grip.
  2. Curl the bar toward your chest by flexing your biceps.
  3. Squeeze your biceps forcefully as they press up against the undersides of your forearms.
  4. Lower the bar under control until your arms are fully locked out.
  5. Repeat for 3-5 sets of 8-12 reps.

Inner bicep workouts

We created three inner bicep workouts for each ability level so that you can start building your bicep short head today. Aim to leave 1-2 reps in the tank on each set unless instructed not to. You should ideally rest 2-3 minutes between sets (again, unless it's specified not to) so that you can perform plenty of training volume to stimulate hypertrophy. [1]

Starter short head bicep workout

A man performing a short head bicep workout

1: Wide grip barbell curls — 3-4 sets of 6-10 reps

2: Concentration curls — 3-4 sets of 8-12 reps

3: Reverse curls — 3-4 sets of 10-15 reps

If you're biceps lack overall strength and size, then this is the short head bicep workout for you.

Although there are only three exercises, you're still doing plenty of volume to grow an underdeveloped pair of biceps. Sometimes it actually pays in gains to scale back the volume and focus on gaining strength. After all, when you lift heavier weights for the same amount of reps, you are increasing the volume (reps x sets x weight).

So don't worry about hitting your biceps from every possible angle. You're already doing that to an extent here. Figuring out how to optimally target every region of a particular muscle is a luxury problem that you can worry about when you become more advanced.

Intermediate inner bicep workout

A man demonstrating some inner bicep exercises

1: Preacher curls — 3-5 sets of 6-10 reps

2: Concentration curls — 3-5 sets of 8-12 reps

3: Incline curls — 3-5 sets of 8-12 reps

4: Reverse curls — 3-5 sets of 12-20 reps

This intermediate workout contains a good selection of inner bicep exercises as well as one that works the outer head. This way, you'll achieve complete arm development and nicley defined biceps.

Preacher curls are particularly useful because they promote good form; you can't swing the weight up when your arms are braced against the pad. So in this regard, they're an excellent exercise for isolating the biceps and making them grow.

Concentration curls will ensure that your biceps grow more or less in proportion by making you train each arm separately.

Incline curls place the biceps under a tremendous stretch and bias the tension towards the long head, which can help to improve your bicep peak (see our guide on how to get a biceps peak for more information).

Finally, pronated curls will build the brachialis and brachioradialis. The former muscle is a deep elbow flexor that lies beneath the biceps and which, when well-developed, will actually push your biceps out and make them appear wider and thicker.

High volume inner bicep workout

A man performing some inner bicep workouts

1: Wide grip EZ bar curl — 3-5 sets of 6-8 reps

2: Concentration curl — 3-5 sets of 8-10 reps

3: High cable curl — 3-5 sets of 12-15 reps

4: Overhand curls — 3-5 sets of 15-20 reps

5A: Incline curl — 2-3 sets to failure

5B: Spider curl — 2-3 sets to failure

These bicep short head exercises will maximize your muscle growth by attacking your arms from every angle and with multiple rep ranges so that no muscle fibers are left understimulated. [2]

Fair warning, though, this routine is intense and demands both good volume tolerance and excellent recovery capabilities. So unless you've already got impressive bicep development, it's recommended to stick to one of the other inner bicep workouts for the time being.

Perform the first four exercises as specified at the beginning of this section; 2 or 3-minute rest periods while leaving 1-2 reps in reserve on each set.

You can also substitute incline curls for the one arm behind the back cable curl if you want to challenge your biceps with constant tension and minimize your chance of developing muscular imbalances.

How to work the short head of your biceps

Working the short head of the biceps optimally isn't as simple as picking up a barbell and curling; you need to be very deliberate about your exercise selection if you want to get the best results.

Widen your grip

A man demonstrating how to work the short head of the biceps.

Curling with a wide grip places the short head of the biceps in a stronger position to contract because it increases the amount of shoulder abduction rather than extension (remember, only the long head crosses the shoulder joint).

However, you don't want to take this to the extreme.

Placing your hands around the ends of the barbell will impair your biceps' ability to contract.

Plus, such excessive grips can put a lot strain on your joints and connective tissue.

There's also no such thing as an optimal grip because the ideal hand position depends on your anthropometry and which grip you find the most comfortable.

So just take a slightly wider than shoulder-width grip to put a greater amount of tension on your inner biceps.

Curl with your shoulders in a high degree of flexion

A man performing some bicep short head exercises during his workout

Since the short head of the biceps doesn’t cross the glenohumeral joint, you can preferentially target the inner muscle fibers by curling with your arms in front of your body rather than with your shoulders extended. [3]

Preacher curls and spider curls are the most obvious example of this positioning.

But even regular curls, where the bar is slightly in front of your body, can work as well.

On the flip side, you can train the short head in its fully contracted position by curling with your arm above your head (like in a high cable curl).

This level of attention to detail is by no means necessary if you're a novice or intermediate lifter, but such modifications can take your bicep development to the next level if you're more advanced.

Build overall mass

A man doing an inside bicep workout

Many lifters think that a particular head of their biceps is lagging when in fact, they just need more overall mass.

This is why most gym-goers don't need to worry about hitting their arms from every conceivable angle. If you're gaining strength and/or doing more volume that's close enough to failure over the months and years, then your biceps are going to grow regardless of which specific exercises you do.

So pick up that heavy barbell and start curling!

Conclusion: How to work both bicep heads

To work both bicep heads, pick some short head bicep exercises (preacher curls, concentration curls, etc.) and combine them with movements that target the long/outer head (incline curls, behind the back cable curls). This setup will recruit the most amount of muscle fibers possible because you'll be training the biceps at a variety of muscle lengths.

Of course, if you genuinely do have a lagging short head, then it's probably a good idea to do more inner bicep exercises so that you can improve the aesthetics of your arms.

References

  1. Willardson, J. M., & Burkett, L. N. (2008). The Effect of Different Rest Intervals Between Sets on Volume Components and Strength Gains. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 22(1), 146–152. https://doi.org/10.1519/jsc.0b013e31815f912d
  2. Schoenfeld, B., Contreras, B., Ogborn, D., Galpin, A., Krieger, J., & Sonmez, G. (2016). Effects of Varied Versus Constant Loading Zones on Muscular Adaptations in Trained Men. International Journal of Sports Medicine, 37(06), 442–447. https://doi.org/10.1055/s-0035-1569369
  3. Landin, D., Myers, J., Thompson, M., Castle, R., & Porter, J. (2008). The role of the biceps brachii in shoulder elevation. Journal of Electromyography and Kinesiology, 18(2), 270–275. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jelekin.2006.09.012
James Jackson
James Jackson is a personal trainer who uses his expertise in strength and conditioning to create helpful workout tutorials that show fitness enthusiasts how to build muscle while staying safe in the gym. He draws on the latest sports science data as well as tried and tested training techniques to get the best results for his clients without them having to live in the gym.
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