15 Short Head Bicep Exercises

By: Jeremy Fox, CNC, CPTPublished: May 2, 2022

If you feel like your arms lack size, you need to focus on growing both the long and short heads of your biceps. But explicitly targeting the short head helps you add serious thickness to your arms.

In this article, I show you the best short head bicep exercises. So you can target your training to get big arms faster.

Long Head Bicep Exercises

What Is The Short Head?

Before we get into short head bicep exercises, it’s vital to understand the basics of bicep anatomy. I’ll also explain the short head’s function and how to activate it using specific positioning and exercises.

The “bi” in bicep means there are two muscle heads on the front of your arm. Together, these two muscles are called the biceps brachii.

In the illustration below, you can see that the long head is the outer part and the short head is the inner part of the bicep. In addition to the two heads, there’s a third muscle called the brachialis.

Anatomy for Short Head Bicep Exercises

The long head gives your biceps height, also referred to as peak. While the short head adds thickness to the inner arm. So if you have skinny biceps, working the short head will help fill out your sleeves.

In real life, it’s challenging to differentiate the separation between your inner and outer bicep. But the image below shows the approximate division of the bicep between long and short heads.

Short Head Bicep Exercises Arnold

Arnold Schwarzenegger was known for his mountainous biceps peak. But he also had tremendous bicep thickness thanks to the exceptional development of the short head.

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

How To Work The Short Head

Targeting the inner bicep depends on your hand, arm, and elbow position. More specifically, your arm angle relative to your body changes the load distribution, and the muscles emphasized during an exercise.

Hand Position

When I talk about hand position, I refer to supination and pronation. These fancy words are the technical terms for hand or wrist rotation.

In practical terms, supination is when your palm faces up, and pronation is when your palm faces down.

The more pronated your hand, the more you work the long head. While the more supinated your hand, the more you work the short head.

Long Head Bicep Exercises Hand Position

Forearm Position

Forearm position refers to the angle of your lower arm compared to your body. When your forearm is angled across your body, you accentuate the long head. And when your forearm is angled away from your body, you accentuate the short head.

Another way to think about this is the width of your grip. A narrower grip emphasizes the long head while a wider grip emphasizes the short head.

Elbow Position

Lastly is your elbow position. Keeping your elbows behind your body targets the long head. Whereas having your elbows in front of your body targets the short head.

Short Head Bicep Exercises Arm Position

Exercises for Short Head of Biceps

To make this list of exercises easier to digest, I’ve divided it into sections based on the equipment used. So, for example, there is a section for barbells, dumbbells, cables, and “others.”

This segmentation also makes it easier to find the exercises that work with your gym equipment. So whether you work out at a fancy health club or in your backyard, there are at least a few short head bicep exercises you can do.

Barbell Short Head Bicep Exercises

First, let’s look at some short head bicep exercises you can do using various types of barbells.

1. Barbell Bicep Curl

One of the most common bicep exercises is the barbell curl. It’s a simple movement that beginners can grasp quickly. But the barbell curl also enables you to lift a significant amount of weight to overload the biceps and make them grow.

In addition, this exercise is excellent for targeting the long head of the bicep. Use an underhand grip and hands shoulder-width or slightly wider to target your inner arm.

Short Head Bicep Exercises Barbell Curl

2. EZ Bar Bicep Curls

An EZ bar curl is almost the same as a barbell curl, except the bar is slightly curved. The shape of the bar allows your hands to maintain a more natural position during curls, which puts less stress on your wrists.

For short head bicep curls, grab the EZ bar with the wider of the two grip options. Then make sure your palms are up with your thumbs slightly higher than your pinky fingers.

Also, think about keeping your elbows just in front of your body as you curl the weight to target the short head. This is not a drag curl where the bar stays close to your body!

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3. Preacher Curls

Another way to do barbell or EZ bar curls is using a preacher bench. With preacher curls, the bench holds your upper arms in place. So you don’t get assistance from momentum and must use strict form.

In addition, your elbows are positioned well in front of your body, which helps isolate the bicep’s short head. Again, use a shoulder-width or wider grip to emphasize the inner arm.

4. Spider Curls

Spider curls are a variation where you lean forward against an incline bench and let your arms hang straight down in front of you. Then you curl the weight while keeping your upper arms perpendicular to the floor.

Essentially, this exercise is like preacher curls, where your elbows stay in front of your torso. However, there is more load at the top of the movement due to the body angle, making spider curls more challenging than preacher curls.

Dumbbell Short Head Bicep Exercises

Dumbbells are arguably the most versatile equipment for working the short head of the bicep. The reason is that you have more control over your grip and forearm position.

So here are some of the best dumbbell exercises for the short head.

5. Dumbbell Bicep Curls

Traditional dumbbell curls are a lot like barbell curls, except each arm works independently. And that forces you to use more stabilizer muscles to control the weight. You can even alternate arms with each rep if you like.

However, unlike barbell curls, you can easily change your hand position and forearm angle with dumbbells. So the DB curl enables you to target the short head by angling your forearms out and using a supinated grip at the same time.

6. Dumbbell Preacher Curls

Another option is to use dumbbells on the preacher bench. For this variation, you perform the preacher curl while holding a dumbbell in each hand.

You can do DB preacher curls with both arms simultaneously or one arm at a time.

Short Head Bicep Exercises Dumbbell Preacher Curl

7. Single Dumbbell Preacher Curls

Most people do dumbbell preacher curls facing forward as you would with a barbell or EZ curl bar. While this technique works the short head, there is an easy way to isolate it even more.

Try doing single-arm curls while seated sideways on the preacher bench. For example, put your legs off to the left side of the seat while curling with your right arm and vice versa.

This body position rotates the working arm externally, which further isolates the short head of the bicep.

8. Dumbbell Concentration Curls

The concentration curl is a variation of a dumbbell curl performed while leaning forward in a seated or standing position. The forward lean puts your upper arm ahead of your body, which targets the short head.

In addition, I recommend performing the concentration curl more toward the front of your body as opposed to across your body. Doing the concentration curl as illustrated below helps to target the inner bicep.

Short Head Bicep Exercises Concentration Curl

Cable Short Head Bicep Exercises

Cables are another good equipment option for training the short head of the biceps. With this apparatus, you can keep more constant tension on the muscles compared to free weights.

9. Cable Straight Bar or EZ Bar Curl

Perform the curl movement with a straight bar or EZ bar cable attachment for this exercise. Begin by facing the cable and stepping back about 1-2 feet away from the low pulley.

Standing a little farther away from the pulley forces your elbows to stay slightly in front of your body, which works more short head. Again, try using a wider grip to isolate your inner bicep further.

10. Cable Hercules Curl

The Hercules curl is an exercise where you stand between two cables set at about shoulder height. Then, holding a handle in each hand, you curl the cable towards your head.

One advantage of the Hercules curl is that it externally rotates both arms, which we know targets the short head of the biceps. Plus, the movement replicates the front double bicep pose used by bodybuilders. So it’s great for making your biceps look more prominent from the front when flexing.

11. Cable Concentration Curl

One of my favorite exercises for the short head of the biceps is the cable concentration curl. The reason is that the movement really isolates the bicep, and the cable keeps tension on the muscle through the whole range of motion.

As with the dumbbell version, try curling the weight towards the front instead of across your body. This arm angle enables you to target the inner bicep with pinpoint precision.

12. Cable Preacher Curl

This last cable short head bicep exercise takes a little setting up. But it’s well worth the extra effort because cable preacher curls combine the constant tension of cables with the strict form of the preacher curl.

First, you need to carry (or drag) a preacher curl bench over to the cable apparatus and set it about a foot away from the low pulley. Attach a straight bar or EZ bar handle.

Then play around with the bench position to get the appropriate angle without bottoming out the weight stack. Finally, sit on the bench and do preacher curls as you normally would.

Another benefit of this exercise is that you can easily do drop sets with minimal time between subsequent bouts.

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Other Short Head Bicep Exercises

In this section, I’ve included alternate short head bicep exercises using the lat pulldown, cable row, and preacher curl machine.

13. Lat Pulldown Overhead Curls

In many of the exercises so far, you target the short head by positioning your upper arms in front of your body. But you can isolate the inner bicep even more by performing curls with your arms completely overhead.

One of the easiest ways to do this is by using the lat pulldown cable station. Start by grabbing the bar or handles then sitting down with your arms extended above your head.

Now curl the weight down behind your head while keeping your elbows pinned close to the side of your head as much as possible.

14. Seated Cable Curls

Another way to target the short head is by doing curls on the cable low row station. Your upper arms should stay in front of your body as you curl the handles towards your forehead.

You can do this exercise with your arms unsupported if you’d like. Or you can scoot forward so your legs are bent and use your knees to support your elbows like a preacher curl.

15. Machine Preacher Curls

Lastly, most commercial gyms have a preacher curl machine. You can use this exercise to target the short head just like you would with a barbell or dumbbell preacher curl.

Remember, use a wider grip with your hands outside your elbows to target the inner bicep. Or sit sideways on the seat and perform the exercise with one arm to further isolate the short head.

Short Head Bicep Workout

Now you have several excellent exercises for hitting the inner bicep. But you might have analysis paralysis from all those options.

So I’m going to give you an example short head bicep workout. In addition, I’ll explain how to program these exercises in terms of frequency and sets/reps.

Use These Bicep Stretches Before You Workout

Short Head Bicep Workout Frequency

The first thing to establish is how often you train your biceps. But, of course, the answer to that depends on your experience and your goals.

For beginners or people who can only work out a few days a week, a total body 3-day split works well. That means you would do a couple of biceps exercises each workout three times per week.

More advanced lifters might work single muscle groups in each workout with a 5-day or 6-day split. This routine is called the bro split workout, and it works excellent for growth (despite the name).

In that case, you would work your arms for an entire workout once or twice a week. And you want to include at least a couple of short head exercises in those workouts.

Bro Split Short Head Bicep Exercises

Short Head Bicep Workout Sets & Reps

To grow your arms, it’s best to use a hypertrophy training program. That means using weights you can handle for 6-12 reps.

Also, you should aim for 4-6 sets per exercise. And each workout should include from 5 to 8 exercises. So that’s around 24-32 total sets per workout.

Short Head Bicep Workout Example

With all this in mind, a short head bicep workout starts to take shape. Here is an example using some of the exercises and techniques you just learned.

Remember, most of these exercises primarily work the short head. So this isn’t a workout you want to use every arm day. And make sure you also include some long head and brachialis training as well.

Short Head Bicep Workout

Long Head Bicep Exercises

In this article, you learned how to build wider biceps using exercises for the short head of the inner bicep. But if you want to build taller biceps, you can’t forget about training the long head.

So click here to see the 17 best long head bicep exercises for building bigger peaks.

With this information, you’re well on your way to building massive arms. And if you found this article helpful, take a look at some of my other great content below!

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