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Inner Bicep Workout (How to Target the Bicep Short Head)

When training the bicep specifically, it’s important to note that the bicep is made up of two heads, typically referred to as the bicep short head and the bicep long head. These bicep heads each have a certain function and more importantly, need to be trained in a specific way to see any progress. 

Many people want to train specifically for a bicep peak. While genetics will play a significant part in your bicep development, training the short head of the bicep is a good strategy to build the inner portion of the bicep and work on your biceps peak. 

What is an Inner bicep workout? An inner bicep workout is a session that focuses primarily on the short head of the bicep. The short head of the bicep is trained when the bicep is placed in a fully shortened position, this means that you need to use exercises where the elbow is placed in front of the torso. Spider curls, preacher curls, and cable overhead curls are some of the best exercises to target the bicep short head.  

While it’s true that progressive overload, creating mechanical tension in the muscle, eating right, and sleeping are the key factors that contribute to muscle growth, you can still intelligently program specific exercises to target certain parts of a muscle group. 

In this article, I’ll take you through an Inner bicep workout that utilizes exercises that are aimed at targeting the bicep short head in order to improve your bicep peak and overall bicep size. 

What Is the Inner Bicep

The inner bicep is more commonly known as the bicep short head. Not many average gym goers realize this but the bicep is made of two muscle groups, hence the name bi-ceps meaning two. These two muscle groups are the biceps short head and the biceps long head. 

While you might think that a barbell curl and dumbbell curl are two different exercises that create a different stimulation for the muscle, you would only be partly right. 

These two exercises perform the same movement and whilst the two different pieces of equipment are creating a slightly different stimulus, they both essentially work the mid-range of the curling motion. 

The bicep short head is only fully trained in the shortened position and the best way to demonstrate this is with a quick example:

  • With your arm by your side, curl your hand towards your upper body whilst keeping your elbow locked by your side. You don’t need to hold anything for this, just curl your arm and tense your bicep as you do it making a mental note of how hard you could contract the bicep. 
  • Now raise your arm overhead so that your bicep is pressed against the side of your head. Again you are going to perform a curl, this time curl your hand towards your upper back whilst focusing on squeezing and contracting your bicep. 

You can try this a few times, what you will notice is that when curling from an overhead position, you feel a significantly stronger contraction towards the end of the movement. 

The reason for this is that the short head of the bicep is fully stimulated when it is in a fully shortened position. If a standing bicep curl with a barbell, dumbbell, or any other type of bar works the mid-range of the movement (ie the movement is hardest during the middle portion) then you need to use an exercise that works the fully shortened position to target the bicep short head. 

Inner Bicep Exercises

While a fully shortened bicep occurs with your arm overhead and as far behind your torse as possible (as a result of the bicep crossing both the elbow and shoulder joint), getting into that position for an exercise is impractical and very limiting. 

There is an exercise that allows this but you also can’t load it with as much weight. To get the best results you need to combine an optimal position with an optimal load. 

Below I cover some of the best exercises for targeting the bicep short head. The short head of the bicep will still be active during regular bicep movements but you are potentially missing out on a ⅓ of your overall bicep growth if you don’t place some significant focus on the often neglected bicep short head. 

Preacher Curl

The preacher curl is considered by many to be the king of bicep building exercises. While many believe that the barbell bicep curl is the best bicep builder, some quick Google or YouTube searches will show that the preacher curl is often hailed as the best bicep exercise for a few reasons. 

Firstly, in terms of purely isolating the bicep muscle, there are very few exercises that can offer the same level of isolation (if any). This is because a preacher curl locks you into a position whereby you cannot use any other muscle groups to help with momentum or “cheat” the weight up when you are struggling. 

A preacher curl is a very strict exercise that forces you to use good form. 

Secondly, by bracing the back of your upper arm against a preacher bench you can use this to create more mechanical tension in the muscle in order to stimulate more muscle hypertrophy. 

This point is quite technical but essentially, whenever you can brace yourself against an object during an exercise you can create more force and tension in the targeted muscle group which ultimately leads to more muscle hypertrophy.

Finally, the preacher curl is a good exercise for progressing the load over time. While it doesn’t have the same high ceiling as a compound exercise, you can certainly progress with the preacher curl in weight over time whilst also doing so with the correct form which is crucial for true progression of your weights. 

Below is a useful video to show the correct preacher curl form with a few different variations. 

While I’m going to list a few more excellent exercises for the bicep short head, you might also want to check out my article on preacher curl alternatives for some unique bicep exercises that also target the bicep short head. 

Spider Curl

The spider curl is a good exercise for targeting the bicep short head for those that do not have a wide range of equipment available to them. Though just to note, you can do a preacher curl on a regular bench and do not need a special preacher bench to do them.

Spider curls are excellent for keeping constant tension on the muscle for an increased time under tension and allow for a near maximal contraction in the shortened position. 

You need to use a much lighter weight for spider curls as you don’t have something to brace against so this exercise is more about focusing on the time under tension (especially for the eccentric contraction) and squeezing the peak contraction. 

Cable Overhead Curl

A cable overhead curl is often a misunderstood exercise and is usually confused with the popular crucifix curl. The cable overhead curl replicates the example from earlier, you curl behind the neck from an overhead position in order to fully shorten the bicep muscle for maximum contraction.

This exercise focuses on fully shortening the bicep muscle and the cable machine is needed to keep constant tension throughout the exercise. 

Some people choose to perform this exercise lying down in order to create more stability and lift more weight, however, you won’t be able to fully shorten the bicep unless you are sat/standing and curling behind the neck. 

This is an exercise that will certainly take some getting used to but the noticeable contraction helps to keep mind muscle connection and ultimately better form.  

Inner Bicep Workout

A specialist program is not needed to target the bicep short head and, in fact, specialist arm programs are not needed for 90% of gym goers. Adding an extra 20lbs to your presses, rows, and deadlift will do more for your arm size than most arm programs ever will. 

With that said, there’s no harm in adding a dedicated arm workout to your routine. You only need to utilize 1-2 exercises for the bicep short head per week and below is a recommended workout that will place some additional emphasis on the bicep short head. 

Workout A

Dumbbell hammer curl – 3 sets x 12 reps
Dumbbell spider curl – 3 sets x 8 reps
Cable overhead curl – 4 sets x 12 – 15 reps
EZ bar 21’s – 1 set

Workout B

Barbell curl – 3 sets x 8 reps
EZ bar preacher curl – 3 sets x 12 reps
Cable reverse curl – 3 sets x 15 reps

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