Outer Bicep Workout

Certified Trainer’s Tips & Routine for Building Biceps Peak

By: Jeremy Fox, CNC, CPTPublished: December 13, 2024

Do you wish you had big round biceps that jut up like mountains when you flex your arms? Good, then you’re in the right place.

Chances are, you’re using the wrong exercises or workout plan. The solution is an outer bicep workout routine designed specifically for towering peaks.

In this article, I’ll explain bicep muscle anatomy and why certain exercises are better for working the outer bicep. Plus you’ll get a complete outer bicep workout.

Outer Bicep Workout

Reasons For Small Arms

If you have skinny arms, it generally comes down to 3 factors; genetics, diet, and workouts. Let me explain each of those factors in a little more detail so you know which ones pertain to you.

Ectomorph Body Type

Generally, there are 3 distinct body types that play a role in your metabolism, body composition, and overall shape. Those 3 body types are endomorph, mesomorph, and ectomorph.

The ectomorph body type is characterized by a faster metabolism and a thinner frame. Usually, it’s harder for ectomorphs to gain muscle and that can be one cause of skinny arms.

However, body types and genetics don’t prevent you from changing your body – they are simply a starting point. And once you know your body type, you can design your diet and workout plan to overcome your unique challenges.

Often you’ll be a mix of two different body types. Take my free body type quiz to see if you’re full or part ectomorph.

Outer Bicep Workout

Ectomorphs tend to have skinnier arms. But with the right diet and exercise plan, even “hardgainers” can get big biceps.

Not Eating Enough

If you’re having a hard time gaining muscle, the first place to look is your diet. More than likely, you’re eating fewer calories than you burn. And, in order to gain muscle, you need to be in a calorie surplus.

The number of calories required to gain muscle differs for everyone depending on your metabolic rate (BMR) and daily activity level (TDEE). Before you worry about your workout plan, make sure you’re eating enough calories to build muscle.

Bicep Workouts That Target Inner Bicep

For building biceps, most workouts focus on the same kinds of curl exercises like standard barbell curls. These exercises work great – for a while. But then your biceps stop growing.

The reason traditional bicep workouts fail is that they primarily target the inner bicep. To understand why, you need to know a little bit about bicep anatomy.

Inner Bicep vs Outer Bicep

First, it’s important to understand that the “bi” in bicep means there are two muscle heads on the front of your arm. The short head is the inner part and the long head is the outer part.

Outer Bicep Workout

The short head is what gives your biceps overall size and thickness. Whereas the long head is what gives your biceps peak. So if you want to make your bicep peaks, you need to target the long head of the outer bicep.

In real life, it’s difficult to differentiate the separation between your inner and outer bicep. But the colored areas in the image below show approximately how the bicep muscle is divided between the long and short heads.

Outer Bicep Workout Long Head

Arnold Schwarzenegger was known for his mountainous biceps peak. But he also had exceptionally wide biceps because he trained both the short head and the long head.

Now that you know the anatomy of the inner and outer bicep, let’s look at how to work the outer bicep using different body mechanics.

How To Work Outer Bicep

Targeting the outer bicep is all about angles and body position. Specifically, the position of your hand, arm, and elbow. These positions change the load distribution and the muscles worked during an exercise.

Hand Position

When I talk about hand position, I’m referring to something called supination and pronation. This is the technical term for rotation of the hand or wrist.

Supination is when your hand is rotated so that your palm is facing up. And pronation is when your palm is facing down.

The more supinated your hand, the more you work the inner head. And the more pronated your hand, the more you work the outer head.

Outer Bicep Workout Hand Position

Forearm Position

Forearm position refers to the angle of your lower arm in relation to your body. When your forearm is angled out, you work more inner bicep. And when your forearm is angled in, you work more outer bicep.

Another way to think about forearm angle is the width of your grip. A wider grip works more inner bicep while a narrower grip works more outer bicep.

Elbow Position

Lastly is your elbow position in relation to your body. When your elbow is out in front of your body, you work more inner bicep. While keeping your elbows behind your body works more outer bicep.

The reason has to do with the attachment point of the biceps long head. It inserts higher up closer to the shoulder, which means it gets activated more when your bicep is in the stretched position.

Outer Bicep Workout Elbow Position

Outer Bicep Exercises

Outer bicep exercises include those where your palm faces down (or in), your grip is narrow, your elbows are behind your body, or any combination of the three. Below are some examples of exercises that work your outer bicep.

Hammer Curls

Hammer curls are a type of dumbbell curl where you do not supinate your hand as you curl the weight. Instead, your palms face inward through the whole range of motion. So the dumbbell looks like the head of a swinging hammer.

With this neutral grip, you can hit both the inner and outer heads of the bicep. You can also do hammer curls with a rope cable attachment or a special bar with parallel handles.

Outer Bicep Workout Hammer Curl

Reverse Curls

Reverse curls are performed with a pronated grip where your palms face down for the entire exercise. In other words, an overhand grip on a barbell or EZ curl bar. Or dumbbell curls with your palms down.

With this pronated grip, you minimize the involvement of your inner bicep. And put most of the load on your outer bicep and upper forearm.

Outer Bicep Workout Reverse Curl

Narrow Grip Curls

Narrow grip curls could be any curl variation where your hands are closer than shoulder-width. For example, close grip barbell curls or using the inner hand position on an EZ curl bar.

Cross Body Curls

Another way to change your forearm position is by angling your arm across your body on single-arm curls. For example, during a standing dumbbell curl, you would curl the weight up and in towards your sternum while keeping your elbow at your side.

You can accentuate the outer bicep even more by performing this exercise with a neutral or hammer grip.

Incline Curls

One of the best exercises for working biceps in the stretched position is incline curls. With this exercise, you lay back on an incline bench and let your arms hang down behind your torso.

Then you curl the weight up while keeping your elbows back. Performing this exercise with a hammer grip further activates the long head of the outer bicep.

Low Cable Curls (Bayesian Curls)

Another way to work biceps in the stretched position is by using a low cable. With this variation, you’ll put the pull at the lowest level with a single-hand attachment.

Next, grab the handle with an underhand grip and step forward with your back to the pulley. This should place your elbow behind your torso similar to an incline curl.

From the starting position, curl the handle up towards your armpit while keeping your elbow behind you.

Drag Curls

Drag curls are a variation of a standing or seated curl where you pull the weight up towards your armpits as close to your body as possible. Essentially you’re dragging the weight up your body as opposed to away from your body.

This subtle change in form produces a similar effect to incline and low cable curls.

My YouTube channel has dozens of videos showing you how to do a variety of bodybuilding exercises. You’ll learn how to target and build specific muscle groups in 90 seconds or less. Click HERE to subscribe, or click on the button below!

Intensity Techniques

In addition to exercise selection, the effort you put into lifting the weight affects muscle stimulation and growth. You’re not going to get big biceps with easy exercises or low effort!

For advanced lifters especially, it’s necessary to make the exercises more intense using certain techniques. Intensity is the amount of work done in a given timeframe. So intensity techniques are anything that makes you do more work in less time.

Below are some common intensity techniques that you can use in combination with outer bicep exercises.

Static Holds

A static hold is when you hold the weight in the contracted position for several seconds. For example, on a dumbbell curl, you would hold the weight with your elbow bent at 90 degrees.

The reason this increases the intensity is that your muscle spends more time under tension. And it works different muscle fibers similar to an isometric exercise like planks.

In this video, Dylan demonstrates seated hammer curls with static holds. An intensity technique used to make the exercise more challenging.

Drop Sets

A drop set is a technique for continuing an exercise with a lighter weight after reaching muscular failure. Often they are performed with machines, cables, or dumbbells so the weight can be changed quickly. But you can also use other free weights if you have a partner to strip the plates.

You can do multiple drop sets in a row using lighter weights each time. Sometimes this is called a double drop set since the weight is lowered twice. Or you may hear it called a triple drop set since there are 3 total sets.

Blood Flow Restriction

Occlusion training or blood flow restriction (BFR) is when you constrict blood flow by wrapping a band around the upper portion of your arm. 

BFR limits the supply of oxygen to the muscle. So your body responds by recruiting fast-twitch fibers that work with low oxygen better than slow-twitch muscles. This is advantageous because fast-twitch muscles have more growth potential.

When you use this technique you won’t be able to lift as much weight but you get more muscle activation. And a huge pump!

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Outer Bicep Workout

Now that you know some of the best exercises to work outer bicep, let me show you how to arrange them in a workout. Below is an example of an outer bicep workout dedicated to blasting the long head and building that peak.

This is an intense workout! So if you’re a beginner, skip the intensity techniques and start with only the straight-set exercises.

Narrow Grip Preacher Curl – 5 Sets, 5-10 Reps

For the first exercise, you’ll be doing preacher curls with an EZ curl bar using the inside hand grips. Use a heavier weight that you can handle for no more than 10 reps before failing. This will build up strength and size on the outer bicep.

Alternating Seated Hammer Curls w/ Static Holds – 3 Sets, “5,4,3,2,1” Reps

Next up is alternating seated hammer curls with the static hold intensity technique demonstrated in the video above. Start by lifting both dumbbells up to 90 degrees.

Knock out 5 reps with your right arm while holding the left steady. Then do 5 with the left while holding the right steady. Continue this for 4 reps, then 3, 2, and 1 to complete the set.

Cross Body Cable Curls – 5 Sets, 8-12 Reps

This exercise uses a low cable with a single hand attachment. Grab the handle in your right hand and turn to your left so your right side faces the pulley.

Curl the weight up and across your body towards your sternum while keeping your elbow at your side. Use a weight where you can perform 8-12 reps before failing. Switch to the left side and repeat to complete the set.

Incline Dumbbell Curls – 5 sets, 8-12 Reps

For incline dumbbell curls, you’ll use an incline bench set to 50-75 degrees. Lean back and let your arms hang down straight towards the floor.

From this position, curl both dumbbells straight up towards your armpits. Make sure your upper arm does not move as if your elbows are pinned in place. You can perform this exercise supinated or with a neutral hand position.

In this video, Dylan demonstrates incline dumbbell curls performed to muscular failure.

Reverse Curls w/ Drop Sets – 3 Sets, 10-15 Reps

For reverse curls, you’ll use an overhand grip on a straight bar or EZ curl bar. Keeping your elbows at your side, curl the weight up towards your chest.

On the first set, choose a weight that you can get for 10-15 reps before failing. Then, immediately reduce the weight by ~30% and do another set to failure. After that set, reduce the weight one more time and do a final set.

Rope Curls w/ BFR – 3 Sets, 15-30 Reps

For advanced lifters, wrap blood flow restriction bands around your upper arms before the exercise. They should be tight, but not super uncomfortable. Beginners can do this exercise without the bands.

Start with a lighter weight you can handle for about 30 reps before failing. After each set, wait 15-20 seconds then perform another set to failure with the same weight. You should only be able to get about 15 reps on the second and third sets.

Outer Bicep Workout Routine

Save this image to use this outer bicep workout on your next arm day. Or share it with a friend that wants bigger, wider biceps!

There you have it, this workout will completely obliterate your outer biceps and shock them into new growth. Since this is an individual muscle group workout, it’s best used with a 5 or 6-day “bro split” style workout routine.

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Key Takeaways

  • The outer bicep is called the long head
  • A pronated hand position (neutral or overhand grip) works more outer bicep
  • A narrow grip (forearm rotated in) works more outer bicep
  • Exercises where your elbow is behind your body work more outer bicep
  • Experienced lifters can use intensity techniques to help build the outer bicep


Weak or small biceps are often the result of your workout routine and exercise selection. Choosing exercises where your palms face in or down, your forearms are angled in, and/or your elbows are behind your body will greatly increase outer bicep activation.

Following the outer bicep workout provided in this article is a surefire way to build bigger bicep peaks. Of course, for the best results, you also need to fuel your body with the right nutrients for growth.

To build your best body, sign up for a Muscle Growth Meal Plan. Or check out some of my related articles below for more workout tips and techniques.

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By |April 14, 2021|Workouts|0 Comments
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