If you weight lift, you probably want an impressive-looking set of arms. To get them, you need to train your biceps effectively.

However, a well-developed long head of the bicep (outer bicep) will always set you apart and gives you a mountain-like bicep peak.

The problem is that knowing which exercises target the long head bicep and which exercises you should add to your workout routine can be challenging.

You’ll discover 10 of the best long-head biceps exercises in this article.

The long head of the biceps makes up one part of the biceps brachii muscle group located at the front of your upper arms. It assists with elbow and shoulder flexion and wrist supination.

The biceps brachii is made up of a long and short head which are responsible for elbow flexion and forearm supination. The short head biceps is located on the inner arm, and you won’t see much of this muscle from the outside.

However, the long head is located on the outside and is responsible for giving you bicep peaks.

Long Vs Short Head Bicep Training (Why Isolate Each?)

When training your biceps, you should always aim to isolate both the long head and short head biceps.

The short head biceps is located on the inner arm, and you won’t see much of this muscle from the outside. Whereas the long head is visible from all sides.

When comparing the two heads, the long head comes out on top, in my opinion. The long head bicep is crucial when it comes to strength and aesthetics. A well-developed long head will make you stand out from the crowd and will give you mountainous peaks on your arms. 

On the other hand, the short head gives your biceps a thicker and fuller look. So while you should place emphasis on the long head, you shouldn’t neglect the short head either. Be sure to work both heads during your bicep workout for optimal results.  

While it can be difficult to isolate each muscle, you can make some simple adjustments to your bicep workout to place more emphasis on each bicep head. But I’ll cover that in a moment.

Shirtless Man Flexing His Chest and Biceps

4 Important Tips For Long Head Bicep Training

1. Use Barbells Or Dumbbells

When developing a bicep-building program for my clients, I always include barbell and dumbbell exercises.

Using barbells is a fantastic way to overload your biceps with large amounts of weight. As the exercise is bilateral, it trains both arms in unison, which is time efficient and allows you to lift more.

But, barbells do have a reduced range of motion and can sometimes result in muscular imbalances… this is where the dumbbells come in.

Dumbbells allow you to work your biceps through an increased range of motion and allow you to perform unilateral exercises, eliminating any imbalance you’ve developed.

2. Getting The Timing Right

Using the right tempo during your long head bicep exercises is crucial if you want to maximize your muscle-building potential.

The pace of each rep can be split into two phases, concentric and eccentric.

Generally, I recommend using a faster concentric tempo followed by a slow eccentric tempo as the eccentric phase has been proven to create more muscle damage and, therefore, muscle growth.[2]

3. Focusing On The Biceps Peak

Focusing your training on achieving the biceps peak requires you to perform long head bicep exercises.

During each exercise, actively thinking about the muscle you’re working throughout each rep will help develop a mind-muscle connection which has been proven to increase muscle-building potential in gym-goers.

4. Quality Over Quantity

As with any exercise, you should always focus on quality over quantity. It’s no good performing 12+ half reps when you could be performing 8 full reps with excellent form.

Good form should always be your priority when training any body part. Without good form, you’re working out in vain and won’t see much upper arm development.

10 Most Effective Exercises To Hit Long Head Biceps

1. Incline Dumbbell Curls

man doing focused incline dumbbell curls

You’ll never forget the first day you try the incline dumbbell curl; they are a killer of an exercise when performed correctly.

Incline dumbbell curls place your body on a slight angle that adjusts how gravity acts upon the biceps muscle, emphasizing the long head bicep muscle. You'll feel every part of this movement as your arms work from a stretched position.

A 2009 study showed that incline dumbbell curls had greater muscular activation than other dumbbell curl options.[1]

I usually add incline curls into the middle of my arm workout; that way, your biceps are warmed up, and this dumbbell curl variation can give them one hell of a pump.

As this long head bicep exercise works your biceps through a large range of motion, it provides everything you need for big biceps muscles.


  • Reduces using momentum to lift the weight, therefore better growth on the biceps.
  • Increased range of motion for either a tighter contraction or a deeper stretch.
  • Provides varied stimulation for the bicep muscles.

How To Do It:

  1. Set an incline bench to 45-60 degrees.
  2. Hold a pair of dumbbells with a neutral grip and let your arms hang.
  3. Curl the weight upwards towards your shoulders (bend the elbow joint).
  4. Slowly lower the dumbbells to the starting position and repeat.
Recommended Rep Range: 8-12 reps

Tips From A Trainer!

Rotate your hands fully at the bottom to stretch your long head biceps muscle, turning your hands away from your body. 

2. DB Hammer Curls

man in black shirt and gray shorts doing dumbbell hammer curls

The dumbbell hammer curl is one of the most popular bicep exercises, and you’ll see many gym-goers performing it.

It’s traditionally used to add muscle mass to your forearms, but did you know it works the long head bicep too?

The neutral grip allows you to keep the long head of the bicep active throughout the dumbbell hammer curls movement, making it one of the bicep dumbbell exercises you don’t want to leave out.

You can perform dumbbell hammer curls seated or standing, so it’s suitable for most people, even if you’re worried about leaning back too much.


  • A great way to add more mass to your arms as the grip position allows for more weight to be lifted.
  • Can be easier to tolerate if you have shoulder or forearm pain.
  • Improves grip and forearm strength.

How To Do It:

  1. Sit on a bench with your body in an upright position.
  2. Hold dumbbells at your sides with your arms fully extended (with a neutral hand position).
  3. Keep your elbows tucked to your sides and curl the weight to your shoulders. (Like you would swing a hammer, hence the name hammer curls.
  4. Squeeze your biceps at the top and slowly lower to the starting position.
  5. Repeat.
Recommended Rep Range: 8-12 reps

Tips From A Trainer!

Take your time during the hammer curls, ensuring you feel every part. 

3. Narrow Grip Barbell Curls

man in black shorts doing narrow grip EZ bar curls

This exercise, also known as the close grip barbell curl, is one of the best long-head bicep exercises. It has been a staple to many bodybuilders' bicep workouts for decades, and for good reason… it places a huge amount of stress on your long bicep head.

I'm a fan of close-grip barbell curls, as usually, you can add more weight to the barbell than you would with dumbbells, allowing you to overload the long head biceps.

The exercise is adaptable and enables you to take a narrow grip, emphasizing the long biceps head.

But, there are a few downsides to close grip barbell curls. You might be swinging your body too much, so you must ensure you use good form and don’t fall into a bad habit.

And the narrow grip position can place stress on your wrist joints which isn’t suitable for everyone.


  • Close grip curls can help increase the peak of the bicep, ideal if you're looking to put mass on in your arms.
  • Increased activation of the bicep muscles.

How To Do It:

  1. Assume the standing position with your feet hip-width apart.
  2. Hold a barbell using an underhand grip (with a narrow grip width).
  3. Let the barbell hang with your arms straight.
  4. Curl the barbell up to your shoulder level.
  5. Control the weight back to the starting position.
Recommended Rep Range: 8-12 reps

Tips From A Trainer!

Always keep your elbows close to your body to engage the biceps more effectively. 

4. Close-Grip Preacher Curls

man in blue shorts doing close grip preacher curls

If you’re lucky enough to have a preacher curl bench in your gym, you can try out this incredible upper arm exercise; it’s one of the best long head bicep exercises.

It has been shown to activate large amounts of your bicep as it stretches both bicep heads (long and short head), providing you use good form and go all the way down during each rep.

As with the barbell curl, the preacher curl allows you to adjust your grip width. By using a close grip, you can train the long head of the bicep (outer bicep) more effectively.

However, some gym-goers will find using preacher curls might place stress on their joints (elbow, wrist, and shoulder joint). You can limit this by using an EZ bar or switching to dumbbells.


  • Removes the ability to use momentum to lift the weight which will target the muscle more effectively.
  • Allows you to control the movement and create better time under tension.
  • Promotes both strength and mass.

How To Do It:

  1. Load a moderate amount of weight onto an EZ bar.
  2. Sit on the preacher bench and place your arms over the bench, resting your upper arms on the pad.
  3. Grab the EZ bar with an underhand inside shoulder-width grip.
  4. Lift the EZ bar from the rack and curl it to your shoulders.
  5. Slowly lower the weight while keeping constant tension on your biceps.
  6. Repeat.
Recommended Rep Range: 8-12 reps

Tips From A Trainer!

At the bottom of this biceps exercise, don’t allow your elbows to lock. This keeps tension on your biceps and away from your elbow joint. 

5. Chin-Ups

man in black tank top doing chin ups on bar

Chin-ups are one of the most challenging long-head biceps exercises on this list but are an excellent bodyweight exercise for muscle growth.

During the chin-up, your biceps move through a large range of motion, challenging the long head bicep and your entire upper body. It’s not an exercise I’d recommend to a beginner unless you use a resistance band or assisted chin-up machine.

However, if you’re more advanced and want to add the chin-up into your upper arm workout routine, you can’t go wrong.

But, as with all exercises, there are a few considerations to make. If you’ve suffered from a shoulder joint issue, this exercise might not be for you, and you should choose one of the other long head exercises on this list.


  • Not only hits your biceps, will also target all the muscles in your upper back.
  • Improves grip and forearm strength.
  • Can be easily progressed and regressed depending on fitness levels. 

How To Do It:

  1. Stand under a chin-up bar.
  2. Place your hands shoulder-width apart using an underhand grip on the bar.
  3. Hang from the bar, allowing your arms to support your weight.
  4. Pull your body up to the chin-up bar and hold for a few seconds at the peak of elbow flexion.
  5. Lower yourself back to the starting position and repeat.
Recommended Rep Range: 5-8 reps

Tips From A Trainer!

If the exercise has become too easy, then challenge yourself! Try adding weight using a dipping belt. 

6. Reverse Barbell Curl

man in gray t-shirt doing reverse grip barbell curls

Reverse curls are a brilliant way to work your forearms and long head bicep muscle giving you everything you need for muscle gain. 

Using a barbell, you can lift more than you would with dumbbells. However, be careful not to cheat the reps too much; focus on quality reps while performing reverse curls.


  • Improves muscular imbalances.
  • Increases your ability to lift heavier weights during standard bicep curls.
  • Can be utilised when recovering from a bicep injury.

How To Do It:

  1. Hold a barbell with a shoulder-width overhand grip.
  2. Reverse curl the bar to shoulder height.
  3. Slowly lower and repeat.
Recommended Rep Range: 8-14 reps

Tips From A Trainer!

The reverse curl is quite tough, don’t go too heavy to start with. 

7. Cable Curls

woman in pink tank top and blue pants doing cable bicep curls

Cable bicep curls are a brilliant way to work your biceps as they place your muscles under constant stress throughout the curling movement.

With cable curls, you can adjust your position so that your arms are behind your body at the starting position, similar to the incline dumbbell curls. This increases the emphasis on the long head bicep.


  • Grip can be easily amended to activate all areas of the biceps.
  • Increased time under tension, improving strength and size.
  • Suitable for all fitness levels and abilities. 

How To Do It:

  1. Set a cable machine to the lowest setting.
  2. Pick up both handles using an underhand grip (face away from the machine)
  3. Perform cable curls by curling the weight up to your shoulders.
  4. Slowly lower and repeat.
Recommended Rep Range: 8-14 reps

Tips From A Trainer!

Always keep the weights suspended between the reps, don't allow the weights to drop onto the stack. The elevation will improve tension and make the exercise much more effective. 

8. EZ Bar Drag Curls

man in black shorts doing ez bar drag curls

Drag curls are a simple to-do variation of bicep curls. Whether you're a beginner or a more advanced lifter, you'll get something from this exercise.

During drag curls, it prevents your delts from taking over, leaving you with a brilliant, focused biceps curl movement. Due to the elbow position, you get a huge contraction in your long head bicep.

Using an EZ bar for this movement helps remove some stress from your joints.


  • This isolation exercise only targets the biceps brachii muscles, making it highly effective in building upper arm size.
  • Low chance of injury due to the nature of the movement and range of motion.
  • Improves other lifts and sports performance.

How To Do It:

  1. Grab an EZ barbell with an underhand grip.
  2. Draw your elbows backward and drag the barbell up your body.
  3. Squeeze your biceps and slowly lower.
  4. Repeat the drag curl.
Recommended Rep Range: 10-14 reps

Tips From A Trainer!

Range of motion is lower with the drag curl than a standard bicep curl. Avoid rolling the shoulder forwards to gain more range, this is not the goal of this exercise. It's about isolation. 

9. Neutral Grip Pull Ups

man in black t-shirt doing neutral grip pull ups

While they might seem similar to chin-ups, the neutral grip pull-up is different enough to deserve a mention on this list. It’s a great compound exercise that you can use to complement your bicep workout.

Firstly, it’s not bicep specific, but it places your biceps under a lot of stress as they need to lift your entire body weight.

As your grip is narrow, it places less stress on the lats and more on the biceps. The neutral grip position is often more comfortable to perform, especially if you lack mobility in your wrist, elbow, or shoulder joints.


  • Targets many muscle groups in the upper body.
  • Improves athletic performance.
  • A good all-rounder pull-up variation and slightly easier for those who are starting out.

How To Do It:

  1. Stand under a pull-up bar.
  2. Place your hands shoulder-width apart using a neutral grip.
  3. Hang from the bar, allowing your arms to support your body weight.
  4. Pull your body to the bar and hold for a few seconds.
  5. Lower yourself to the starting position and repeat.
Recommended Rep Range: 6-12 reps

Tips From A Trainer!

Try doing pull ups near the start of your workout when you feel good. Leaving it to the end when your muscles are tired will feel a lot harder. 

10. Concentration Curls

man in white hat and gray shorts doing dumbbell concentration curls

Concentration curls are a good exercise for beginners to learn as it’s easy to perform and is relatively safe.

As your arm is in an anchored position, your biceps receive the bulk of the tension and prevent you from cheating.

It's a staple to most bodybuilders' arm day; you should try it out.


  • One of the best bicep mass builders due to the arm being anchored and in a prime position to increase tension on the muscle.
  • Activates both heads of the biceps leading to larger size.
  • Improves the ability to control the weight.

How To Do It:

  1. Sit on a bench with one dumbbell in your hand.
  2. Rest your tricep on your inner leg.
  3. Curl the dumbbell up.
  4. Lower the weight and repeat.
Recommended Rep Range: 8-14 reps

Tips From A Trainer!

Focus on the biceps during this exercise by emphasising the squeeze at the top of the movement and avoid leaning back or using shoulder movement to lift the weight. 

5 Common Mistakes To Avoid

1. Lifting Too Much Weight

At the gym, everyone wants to show how big and strong they are… we all do it. More often than not, we’ll grab dumbbells that are too heavy for us to show off and hopefully get some massive gains.

But it doesn’t always work like that, unfortunately.

While overloading your biceps brachii with heavy weight is excellent for developing the long head of the biceps, it’s not so great if you can’t use the correct form.

Using a weight that’s too heavy for you can leave you swinging and swaying, placing more stress on your back and shoulders than your biceps, resulting in sub-par results.

Plus, if you’re lifting too heavy and using the incorrect form, you’re increasing your risk of injury. A tendon tear or bicep injury is hard to come back from; it’s a nasty injury to be carrying that can keep you out of training for months.

2. No Focus On Tension

No matter what exercise you’re performing, it’s vital that you develop an excellent mind-muscle connection. If you don’t focus on the muscle you’re working, you won’t see the type of results you want… and nobody wants to work out and get no results.

Don’t waste your time in the gym; learn what exercises work the area you’re looking to train (such as the long head biceps), and concentrate on “feeling” the movement all the way through the rep.

For example, when you’re performing standing dumbbell curls, you want to ensure that you can feel your biceps working from the beginning to the end of each rep. This covers the lengthening of the muscle and the contraction.

If you spend time doing so, you’ll develop impressive upper arm mass.

3. Don't Aim For Muscle Failure

Training to failure has a time and place during your workouts, but fatiguing your biceps before you begin your main workout isn’t a good idea.

Many exercises rely on your biceps for assistance, such as barbell rows, pull-ups, lat pull down, etc. If your biceps are fully fatigued, it’ll hinder the rest of your workout.

From my experience, you’re best performing any compound exercises first before you begin focusing on the long head of the biceps.

4. Lack Of Variation

If you’re looking to target the long head of the biceps, you want to be performing more than just the traditional dumbbell curl. A wide variation will help you hit your biceps from multiple angles, giving you the stimulus you need to grow an epic set of upper arms.

For example, if you want to develop your biceps peak, you want to perform a variety of long-head biceps exercises such as chin-ups, drag curls, barbell curls, preacher curls, hammer curls… you get the idea.

However, from experience with my clients, you’ll yield the best results by performing the same exercises for 6-8 weeks before switching them up.

Here’s an example of the factors you can change to keep your workouts more interesting:

  • Tempo
  • Amount of reps
  • Equipment (barbell, dumbbell, etc.).
  • Type of grip
  • Grip width
  • Partial reps
  • One and a quarter reps
  • Negative reps
  • Rest periods
  • And so on…

Choose 3-4 biceps exercises from this list and add them to your upper body workout.

5. Cheating Too Much

When it comes to training your biceps brachialis muscle, cheating has a time and place. Traditionally, cheat reps are used when a muscle group is fatigued, and a bit of cheating helps you get an extra few reps out for additional stimulation.

Most gym-goers will sway their body to help lift the weight they are using. Swaying allows you to use your back and deltoids to assist your biceps throughout your workout.

While it does help, you don’t want to perform cheat reps too much; you’ll cheat yourself out of your goals. The last thing you want is for your training to get you nowhere.

You can limit the amount your body cheats by placing your back against a wall, preventing momentum from being used. Less cheating will result in better development of the lateral head of the biceps.

Always remember, there’s a time and place for cheat reps, but most people don’t need them.

Frequently Asked Long Head Bicep Exercise Questions

Can you isolate the long head of the bicep easily?

Isolating a single area of your biceps is near impossible; however, you can make small adjustments to your workout routine to place greater emphasis on the long head bicep muscles.

Minor adjustments like grip positioning and forearm supination allow you to reduce short head bicep activation and increase the stress placed on your long head.

Make these adjustments, and your traditional bicep curl goes from a “vanilla” bicep exercise to a bicep peak building must-have.

How much time does it take for biceps to get big?

The length of time it takes for your biceps to get big can vary depending on several factors. Age, gender, genetics, quality of exercise, nutrition, exercise frequency, recovery, and many others play a huge role in achieving your fitness goals.

However, if you’re a beginner, you’ll see a pretty decent amount of muscle growth during the first 6-8 months of working out. If you’re not a newbie, your gains will be slower, but that doesn’t mean they won’t come.

The best thing you can do is choose a handful of the best exercises on the list above and start building massive arms. Be consistent, and you’ll have the muscular arms you’ve always wanted in no time.

Which is better for long head bicep training, dumbbells or barbells?

When it comes to choosing between dumbbells or barbells, they both have pros and cons. Generally, a barbell allows you to overload the long head of the bicep with greater weight, but it can cause one side to develop more than the other (muscular imbalance).

Dumbbells, on the other hand, allow you to work each side isolaterally, so they’ll iron out any imbalances. When you use dumbbells, you’ll also work your biceps through a larger range of motion which promotes more hypertrophy-inducing muscle damage, leaving you with bigger biceps peaks.

Personally, I use a combination of dumbbells and barbells, and I recommend that you do the same.


When it comes to developing a great pair of arms, you need to work your biceps. Working the long head of the biceps gives you the most bang for your buck.

However, knowing what exercises to perform can be a challenge. Luckily, the list above shows you 10 of the best long bicep exercises you can add to your workout.

Try them out and watch your biceps grow.


  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3737788/
  2. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/287519761_Eccentric_Resistance_Training_and_Muscle_Hypertrophy

Last Updated on September 12, 2023

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Andrew White

Andrew White is the co-founder of Garage Gym Pro. As an expert fitness professional (gym building nerd) with over 10 years of industry experience, he enjoys writing about everything there is to do with modern fitness & the newest market innovations for garage gyms. When he isn’t testing out products for his readers, he’s usually out surfing or playing basketball.