If you want bigger arms, you know you've got to train your biceps, right? Did you know your biceps brachii is split into a short head and long head?

You won't get big bicep muscles if you fail to train each head effectively.

In this article, you'll discover the best short head bicep exercises and how to do them. You'll have everything you need to build a thick inner arm for t-shirt busting muscles.

Commonly known as the biceps, the biceps brachii is the muscle located on the front of your upper arms. It consists of a long head and a short head. 

If you want a killer set of arms, you need to work both sides of your biceps. You want to fill your t-shirt don't you?

Your bicep brachii muscles are responsible for the flexion and supination of your forearms. The easiest way to demonstrate the bicep moving is by performing a bicep curl.  

Short Head vs Long Head

While the short head and long head make up your biceps Brachii, they're both separate parts of your upper arm. You'll find the long head of the bicep on the outside of your upper arm, while the short head of the bicep is located on the inside of your arms. 

The long head of the biceps is responsible for giving you the peak of your biceps (which was often spoken about by the legendary bodybuilder Arnold Schwarzenegger). Having biceps with a mountainous peak will set you apart from other lifters. 

The short head of the biceps helps pull your arm closer to your torso. It's also responsible for giving your arms a thicker and fuller look. So if you want arms like pop-eye then you need to target your short head of the biceps. 

The short head of the biceps is one of my favorite muscles to target during my arm training, I feel since I've started adding short bicep specific training to my workout routine, my arm development has leaped forward.

I'll discuss the short head of the biceps in more detail in a moment. 

What Is The Short Head Of The Bicep?

The short head of the bicep is part of your upper arm and is responsible for providing you with upper arm thickness. The muscle helps with elbow flexion, forearm supination and aids shoulder flexion.

During a bicep curl, the short head of the biceps is the first part of the arm to contract. Its main function is shortening the range of motion during a curl-like movement.

As it's mainly involved in shortening the muscle, you'll notice most short head bicep exercises involve shortening the bicep rather than lengthening it.

How To Target The Short Head Bicep Directly?

1. Hand Position

When working your short head bicep, you can use a supinated grip (palms up), pronated grip (palms down), or neutral grip (palms inward).

Generally, the more supinated your hand position, the more you’ll work the short head.

But, using a variation of the three will help you target the biceps brachii fully without leaving any areas underdeveloped. It’ll also help you work your forearms which I’ll discuss in the next section.

2. Forearm Position

The angle of your forearm has a massive effect on whether you’re targeting the short or long head of the bicep.

Most long head bicep exercises will cause your forearm to remain closer to your body, sometimes going across it.

While angling your forearm away from your body helps target the short head of the biceps (think inner biceps curls, Number 8 on this list).

3. Elbow Position

Placing your elbows behind your body targets the bicep's long head (outer bicep), which is responsible for the biceps peak.

However, moving them in front of your body helps target your short head.

12 Best Exercises That Isolates Short Head Biceps

1. Preacher Curls

short head bicep exercises

The preacher curl is a fantastic elbow flexion exercise for working the short head biceps.

The angle of the preacher bench positions your arms in front of your body, which increases the activation of the short head muscle fibers. Out of all the short head exercises on this list, the preacher curl is one of my favorites.

The movement is incredibly difficult to cheat on, ensuring your biceps short head gets the muscle activation it needs to grow. The arm position also ensures you work your biceps through a large range of motion.

This short head bicep exercise is easy for beginners to learn and will add mass to your upper arms in no time. The only downside to this exercise is that using a barbell can sometimes cause joint pain for some gym-goers.

If you feel discomfort, try doing preacher curl alternatives.

Benefits:

  • Isolates the biceps.
  • Uses a wide range of motion
  • Excellent for developing bicep thickness.

How To Do It:

  1. Sit at a preacher curl bench and place your triceps firmly on the pad.
  2. Pick up the EZ bar using a shoulder-width grip (underhand grip).
  3. Curl the weight towards your face.
  4. Squeeze your biceps and slowly lower back to the starting position.
  5. Repeat.
Recommended Rep Range: 10-14

Tips From A Trainer!

Don’t lock your arms at the bottom; keep the tension in your biceps to maximize your muscle activation. 

2. Wide Grip Curls

man with red hair wearing a blue shirt doing wide grip barbell curls

Wide grip curls are a popular inner biceps exercise. Adjusting your grip width to a wider grip places more emphasis on the short head bicep.

Wide grip barbell curls can be performed anywhere, and you can use most bars, such as a barbell, EZ bar, or curl bar. This is one short head bicep exercise you don’t want to miss out on, especially if you want bigger biceps.

The barbell bicep curl is excellent for overloading your biceps, add a wider grip, and you’ve got one of the best short-head bicep exercises.

I’m a massive fan of this exercise and often use an EZ bar with my clients, as the EZ barbell allows you to use a more comfortable supinated grip than a straight bar.

This is ideal if you suffer from wrist pain.

Benefits:

  • You can overload your bicep muscles.
  • Suitable for all ability levels.

How To Do It:

  1. Stand tall and place your feet shoulder-width apart.
  2. Pick up a bar with an underhand grip (wider than shoulders).
  3. Curl the barbell upward to shoulder height.
  4. Slowly lower, returning to starting position.
  5. Repeat.
Recommended Rep Range: 8-12

Tips From A Trainer!

Don’t swing or sway your body; keep your form controlled. 

3. Spider Curls

man doing ez bar spider curls on an incline bench

Spider curls are similar to preacher curls as they place your elbows in front of your body, increasing the activation of the short head bicep.

However, there is a slight difference between the spider curl and preacher curls; your body is fixed against a bench while your elbows are free.

This position makes cheating incredibly difficult, preventing you from using your shoulders or lower back to assist you throughout this movement.

I never used to be a fan of this movement, but over the last few months I've really begun to appreciate the benefits of the spider curl. I honestly feel like my biceps have directly benefited from this movement. 

Benefits:

  • Doesn't require core strength.
  • Isolates your biceps.

How To Do It:

  1. Set an incline bench to 30-45 degrees.
  2. Lie chest down on the bench.
  3. Hold a barbell with a supinated grip (place your hands shoulder-width apart).
  4. Let your arms hang straight, arms fully extended.
  5. Curl the weight up to your face.
  6. Squeeze your biceps and slowly lower to the starting position.
  7. Repeat.
Recommended Rep Range: 12-15

Tips From A Trainer!

Perform this movement if you struggle with your form during standing curls; it prevents you from using momentum to lift the weight. 

4. Reverse Curls

man doing a reverse grip curl with an ez bar

Reverse curls are a fantastic way to work your short head and forearm muscles in one exercise.

As you grip the barbell with an overhand grip, it forces your forearms to work harder during this upper arm movement. One thing you’ll instantly realize is that reverse curls are a lot harder to perform than regular barbell curls.

However, this isn’t a bad thing; it challenges you in a different way and is a personal favorite of mine. It even increases your forearm activation.

Add the reverse curl to the end of your arm workout to blast your bicep’s short head… you’ll thank me for it. Afterall, you don't want huge arms and skinny forearms, do you? - I know I don't.

Benefits:

  • Emphasizes your short head biceps and forearms.
  • Doesn't require a lot of weight.

How To Do It:

  1. Hold a barbell with a pronated (overhand grip).
  2. Stand tall and curl the barbell to shoulder height.
  3. Squeeze your biceps and slowly lower your arms.
  4. Repeat.
Recommended Rep Range: 8-12

Tips From A Trainer!

Use a combination of the reverse curl, regular curl and hammer curl for full biceps development.  

5. Hammer Curls

man in black t-shirt and gray shorts doing dumbbell hammer curls

The hammer curl is one of the best bicep curl variations around. Not only does it work your biceps, but it works your forearm, too, without placing excessive stress on your joints.

During this movement, you’ll generally lift more weight than you can during traditional bicep curls. This is due to the hand position, which helps you activate all bicep heads as you bend your elbow.

I like adding this movement near the end of my workout when my grip fails; it helps me perform more volume and is one of my favorite dumbbell curl variations.

As you’re using dumbbells, you achieve a greater range of motion than the barbell curl or seated barbell curls.

Benefits:

  • Strengthens your forearms. 
  • Lower stress on elbow and wrist joints.

How To Do It:

  1. Pick up two dumbbells.
  2. Stand tall and let the dumbbells hang by your hips.
  3. Maintain a neutral grip and perform a dumbbell curl.
  4. Lower slowly and repeat.
Recommended Rep Range: 10-14

Tips From A Trainer!

Focus on using a full range of motion and don't allow momentum to take over, you want your biceps to be doing all of the work, not your shoulders or lower back. 

Related Article - Hammer Curls Vs Bicep Curls

6. EZ Bar Curls

shirtless man doing ez bar curls

The EZ barbell curl is an excellent short-head bicep exercise to perform if using a straight barbell causes discomfort in your joints.

The curved bar places your wrists in a comfortable position.

Without this exercise, I wouldn’t be able to perform the barbell curl, as the straight bar can often aggravate my wrist. But, with a slight change in arm angle, it makes this one of the best short head biceps exercises on this list.

As using a barbell is a bilateral movement, I always pair this exercise with dumbbell work, so I don’t develop muscular imbalances.

For example, the EZ bar curl goes well with concentration curls. Together, these bicep exercises form a killer short-head bicep workout.

Benefits:

  • Low wrist strain.
  • You can overload your biceps.

How To Do It:

  1. Hold an EZ bar with a slightly wider than shoulder-width grip (underhand).
  2. Stand tall and curl the bar to your shoulder height.
  3. Slowly lower and repeat.
Recommended Rep Range: 8-12

Tips From A Trainer!

Perform 21s - 7 reps using the bottom portion of the movement (bottom to middle), 7 reps top portion of the movement (middle to top), and then 7 full range of motion reps. 

Try These Workouts - Best EZ Curl Bar Exercises 

7. Concentration Curls

man with white baseball cap doing dumbbell concentration curls

Even though the concentration curl is one of the best biceps exercises for both your short head and long head, it does place a lot of stress on the short head bicep.

Concentration curls work your biceps through a wide range of motion and provide a strong contraction.

Due to the position, you can really focus on the negative portion of the exercise, which has been proven to increase muscular hypertrophy. [1]

Most gym-goers can perform the concentration curl, as it’s easy to learn and doesn’t require much equipment. This was one of the first bicep exercises I used to perform in my home when I was 14. It's simple, but effective.

Benefits:

  • Suitable for all ability levels.
  • Isolates the biceps.

How To Do It:

  1. Sit on a bench or flat platform.
  2. Rest one arm on your inner leg.
  3. Pick up a dumbbell with a supinated grip.
  4. Perform a curl movement, curling the dumbbell upwards.
  5. Slowly lower and repeat.
Recommended Rep Range: 8-12

Tips From A Trainer!

If you’re looking for a challenge, you can perform negative only reps on this exercise to give your biceps a massive pump. 

Suggested Equipment - Best Budget Adjustable Dumbbells

8. Inner Bicep Curls

man in gray gym shirt doing dumbbell inner bicep curls

If you want to develop massive biceps, this bicep curl variation is one of the best short-head bicep exercises around.

By adding this exercise to your biceps workout, you’ll develop thickness in your bicep as it shifts the emphasis of the standard bicep curl onto your inner biceps.

As this exercise uses a super wide supinated position, it can place a lot of stress on your wrist, shoulder, and elbow joints, so it’s not suitable for everyone.

If you feel discomfort from this movement, skip this one and perform another from this list.

Benefits:

  • Uses a full range of motion. 
  • Develops short head bicep mass.
  • Suitable for most lifters.

How To Do It:

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.
  2. Hold a pair of dumbbells in your arms at your sides.
  3. Push your thumbs outward away from your body while keeping your elbows tucked to your sides.
  4. Perform a bicep curl.
  5. Slowly lower and repeat.
Recommended Rep Range: 8-12

Tips From A Trainer!

Make this movement tougher by lying on an incline bench. 

9. Rope Hammer Curls

woman in pink sports bra and black shorts doing rope hammer curls

Bodybuilders have been using the rope hammer curl to build massive arms for decades. It’s one of the staple exercises I add to my client's arm workout routines; it’s a killer.

The neutral hand position allows you to work your upper arm with more weight than you could by using an underhand or overhand grip.

However, as you’re using a cable machine for resistance, it places your short head bicep under constant tension, which will promote muscular hypertrophy.

It’s one of the most straightforward biceps exercises and is suitable for all experience levels.

Out of all the short head biceps exercises on this list, it gives you one of the best pumps. I use this exercise to push my short head bicep to complete failure.

Benefits:

  • Constant tension on your biceps.
  • Uses a full range of motion.
  • Suitable for all lifters.

How To Do It:

  1. Attach a rope handle to a low cable.
  2. Hold the rope with both hands using a neutral grip.
  3. Keep a straight body and curl the weight upwards.
  4. Lower and repeat.
Recommended Rep Range: 10- 20

Tips From A Trainer!

Perform a drop set with this, moving down the weight stack one at a time, taking your biceps to failure. 

Also Check Out - Best Cable Arm Exercises

10. Supine (Lying) High Cable Curls

man in red shirt doing lying high cable curls

Supine cable curls are a short-head exercise with a difference, they’re not a common exercise, and I would only recommend them to intermediate or more advanced gym-goers.

As lying cable curls, this one places incredible tension on your short head biceps and will help you achieve impressive-looking upper arms.

The exercise places your elbows in front of your body, which, as discussed earlier, causes your short head to work harder throughout the movement.

However, as you’re using cables, constant tension is provided, making this movement incredibly difficult.

It’s a nice change from traditional dumbbell exercises and is one of the most underrated biceps exercises on this list. I’m sure you’ll love this biceps short head exercise.

This has been one of my client's favorite biceps exercise over the last few months as it gives them a HUGE bicep pump (although I think they just enjoy the lying down part).

Benefits:

  • It stops you from using momentum.
  • Gives you an excellent bicep pump.

How To Do It:

  1. Place a flat bench next to a cable machine.
  2. Set the cable to a high position with a straight bar handle.
  3. Hold the handle with an underhand grip, and lie down on your back.
  4. Push your shoulder blades into the bench and let your arms straighten above your face.
  5. Keep your elbows vertical and curl the handle toward your chin.
  6. Pause and squeeze your biceps.
  7. Slowly return to the starting position.
  8. Repeat.
Recommended Rep Range: 8-12

Tips From A Trainer!

Keep your shoulders retracted into the bench or floor, this will stop you from using too much shoulder strength and allows your biceps to take over. 

11. Chin Ups

man in blue shirt doing chin ups

The chin-up is a compound exercise that uses your biceps and other muscles, such as your lats, rhomboids, and traps. However, don’t let this put you off; it’s one of the best short head bicep exercises on this list.

It gives you the most bang for your buck, allowing you to load your biceps with a large amount of weight while working other upper body muscles.

The only downside to this movement is that it’s challenging to perform, and if you’re a beginner, you might not have the strength required to lift your body weight. If this is the case, you can use a resistance band to assist you until you get strong enough.

If, on the other hand, you find chin-ups too easy, you can use a weight belt to add weight to your body…now we're talking; you'll get some serious muscle growth doing this!

Benefits:

  • Uses your body weight.
  • Suitable for more advanced lifters.
  • Develops super strong biceps.

How To Do It:

  1. Stand under a chin-up bar.
  2. Hold the bar using an underhand shoulder-width grip.
  3. Let your arms straighten and support your body weight.
  4. Next, lift your chest to the bar by bending your elbows and squeezing your inner biceps.
  5. Lower and repeat.
Recommended Rep Range: 6-12

Tips From A Trainer!

Chin-ups can be performed using a narrow or shoulder-width grip; feel free to mix it up. 

12. Bodyweight Curls (With Bed Sheet, Towel, Or TRX)

man in all-black doing trx bicep curls

If you’re like me and don’t always have access to gym equipment, you’ll love this bicep short head exercise.

All you need to perform this short head movement is a towel, bed sheet, or rope, making this one of the best short head bicep exercises if you're traveling or staying in a hotel room.

You basically wedge your chosen "equipment," such as a towel, into a closed door and perform a bicep-focused inverted row…

Now I know what you’re thinking; yes, it is dangerous. But, if you’re careful, there’s no reason why you can’t perform this short head biceps workout safely.

Benefits:

  • Great if you're travelling.
  • Uses your body weight.
  • Minimal space required..

How To Do It:

  1. Wedge a towel (etc.) into the top of a door frame.
  2. Check if it can support your body weight.
  3. Lean back, so your body is at 45 degrees.
  4. Turn your hands so your palms are facing upwards.
  5. Bend your elbows and curl your body towards the door.
  6. Squeeze your inner bicep and slowly lower.
  7. Repeat.
Recommended Rep Range: 15- 20

Tips From A Trainer!

Please use common sense, don’t try this exercise if the door isn’t secure, and don’t use a wardrobe or cupboard which could fall on top of you. 

Short Head Bicep Training Techniques (Tips From A Pro)

Split Your Short Head Biceps Sets

When training the biceps, you want a mix of long head movements and short head movements. Try to split up your short head exercises with ones that work all areas of your biceps.

Switch Around The Isolation Exercises

Unlike compound exercises, you can get away with changing the exercises you’re performing. If you’re bored of your usual routine, switch your isolation exercises and watch your biceps grow.

Keep things interesting, and you’ll be more motivated. I often rotate between bicep exercises, changing things every 4 weeks or so, but you can mix it up more often if you’d like.

Push Yourself To Failure

When training, there are a few exercises that you can push yourself beyond failure relatively safely; bicep curls are one of them. Don’t do this every time, but performing a few sets beyond failure will help boost your upper arm development.

The biceps can handle a lot of stress, so make sure you perform your bicep exercises with the right amount of intensity and push yourself.

Side note: It’s cool to cheat (a little) as you go past failure. But, always know the difference between performing a cheat rep and performing a rep with bad form. The last thing you want to do is hurt yourself.

Be smart with this tip; most of the time, your biceps will stop you before you reach actual failure.

Bring Your Reps Down & Focus On Form

This tip is the opposite of the previous one; sometimes, to reach your fitness goals, you need to bring the reps down and focus on form.

The perfect example of this is when performing chin-ups.

The chin-up is a complex movement that needs to be performed correctly for you to get the benefits.

While you should always focus on form throughout your entire workout, compound movements are riskier, and getting them wrong can cause injuries.

Mentally Focus On The Muscle

You can perform all the reps and sets you want, but if you don’t develop a strong mind-muscle connection, you’re doing yourself a disservice.

Being able to control your muscles fully throughout an entire movement ensures that you’re activating the right muscles at the right time.

A 2016 study found that focusing on your triceps during a bench press movement increased muscle activation. [2] You can use the same principles when you perform the short head bicep exercises on this list.

craig capurso doing dumbbell bicep curls

Frequently Asked Short Head Bicep Exercise Questions

Can you isolate your short head bicep easily?

You can’t isolate the short head bicep entirely as it shares the same muscle bed as the long head. However, you can adjust your technique, body position, or select exercises that will place more emphasis on the short head biceps.

What’s the difference between the short and long head biceps?

The short head biceps run on the inside of your upper arm and gives your biceps thickness. While the long head biceps are on the outer, giving you a bicep peak.

How long does it take to grow 1-inch biceps?

In all honesty, it's impossible to estimate. For some people, it might take a month, while for others, five months. It depends on diet, training schedule, rest, genetics, etc.

Which bicep head is responsible for width?

Both the short and long head are responsible for bicep width, along with the brachialis muscle. The brachialis is located under the long head and pushes the muscle up.

Conclusion

To build impressive-looking biceps, you need to work all heads equally. However, it can be a challenge to know which short head exercises are the most effective.

Check out the list above and choose a couple to add to your workout routine. There are 12 of the best bicep exercises to choose from; you’re spoilt for choice.

References: 

  1. https://journals.lww.com/nsca-jscr/fulltext/2017/09000/hypertrophic_effects_of_concentric_vs__eccentric.31.aspx
  2. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26700744/
Lee Kirwin

Lee Kirwin

Lee has worked in the fitness industry for over 15 years. He's trained hundreds of clients and knows his way around the gym, including what you need for your garage gym. When he's not testing products, he loves weightlifting, Ju Jitsu, writing, and gaming.