Building bigger arms is a common goal for many fitness enthusiasts, and targeting the short head of the biceps can significantly contribute to achieving this. The short head of the biceps brachii muscle, located on the inner side of the upper arm, plays a crucial role in arm thickness and overall bicep development. In this article, we will delve into the three most effective short head bicep exercises that can help you build bigger arms faster, backed by scientific research.

Understanding the Biceps Anatomy

The Biceps Brachii

The biceps brachii consists of two heads: the long head and the short head. The long head originates from the supraglenoid tubercle of the scapula, while the short head originates from the coracoid process of the scapula. Both heads insert into the radial tuberosity of the forearm. The primary functions of the biceps brachii include elbow flexion, forearm supination, and shoulder flexion (Ahrens & Boileau, 2007).

The Importance of the Short Head

The short head of the biceps is particularly important for achieving arm thickness and fullness. By focusing on exercises that target this muscle head, you can enhance the overall appearance of your biceps, making them look fuller and more robust. Scientific studies have shown that isolating the short head can lead to increased muscle activation and hypertrophy (Youdas et al., 2010).

The Top 3 Short Head Bicep Exercises

To maximise bicep growth, incorporating specific exercises that target the short head is essential. Here are the top three exercises that are highly effective for this purpose:

1. Concentration Curls

Concentration curls are a staple exercise for isolating the short head of the biceps. This exercise allows for a focused contraction and optimal muscle activation.

How to Perform Concentration Curls

  1. Sit on a bench with your legs spread.
  2. Hold a dumbbell in one hand, and rest your elbow on the inner thigh of the same side.
  3. Curl the dumbbell towards your shoulder while keeping your upper arm stationary.
  4. Squeeze the bicep at the top of the movement and slowly lower the dumbbell back to the starting position.
  5. Repeat for the desired number of repetitions and switch arms.

Scientific Backing

A study conducted by Oliveira et al. (2009) found that concentration curls produce significantly higher biceps brachii activation compared to other common bicep exercises. This makes concentration curls an excellent choice for targeting the short head effectively.

2. Spider Curls

Spider curls are performed on an incline bench, which helps to eliminate momentum and ensures strict form, thus maximising short head activation.

How to Perform Spider Curls

  1. Adjust an incline bench to a 45-degree angle.
  2. Lie face down on the bench with your chest supported and arms hanging down.
  3. Hold a pair of dumbbells with an underhand grip.
  4. Curl the dumbbells towards your shoulders, focusing on the contraction in the biceps.
  5. Slowly lower the dumbbells back to the starting position.
  6. Repeat for the desired number of repetitions.

Scientific Backing

Research by Escamilla et al. (2010) demonstrated that incline dumbbell curls, such as spider curls, elicit higher biceps brachii activation compared to other variations. This exercise is particularly effective in targeting the short head due to the angle and range of motion involved.

3. Preacher Curls

Preacher curls are performed using a preacher bench, which helps to isolate the biceps and minimise cheating during the movement.

How to Perform Preacher Curls

  1. Sit on a preacher bench and adjust the height so that your armpits are comfortably resting on the pad.
  2. Hold an EZ bar or dumbbells with an underhand grip.
  3. Curl the weight towards your shoulders while keeping your upper arms pressed against the pad.
  4. Squeeze the biceps at the top of the movement and slowly lower the weight back to the starting position.
  5. Repeat for the desired number of repetitions.

Scientific Backing

A study by McAllister et al. (2014) found that preacher curls significantly activate the short head of the biceps due to the stabilisation provided by the preacher bench. This exercise is ideal for achieving maximum bicep isolation and hypertrophy.

Optimising Your Workout Routine

Frequency and Volume

To achieve optimal results, it’s important to consider the frequency and volume of your bicep workouts. Research suggests that training a muscle group 2-3 times per week is most effective for hypertrophy (Schoenfeld et al., 2016). For each session, aim for 3-4 sets of each exercise, with 8-12 repetitions per set.

Progressive Overload

Progressive overload is key to muscle growth. Gradually increase the weight or resistance used in your exercises to continue challenging your muscles and promoting hypertrophy. This principle is supported by numerous studies, including a meta-analysis by Rhea et al. (2003), which highlights the importance of progressively increasing the training load.

Proper Form and Technique

Maintaining proper form and technique is crucial to prevent injury and ensure maximal muscle activation. Focus on controlled movements, full range of motion, and proper muscle engagement during each exercise. Avoid using momentum or other muscle groups to lift the weight.

Recovery and Nutrition

Adequate recovery and nutrition are essential components of muscle growth. Ensure you are getting enough protein to support muscle repair and growth. A study by Morton et al. (2018) recommends consuming 1.6-2.2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day for optimal muscle hypertrophy. Additionally, allow sufficient rest between workouts to facilitate recovery and prevent overtraining.


Incorporating concentration curls, spider curls, and preacher curls into your workout routine can significantly enhance the development of the short head of the biceps, leading to bigger and more defined arms. These exercises, backed by scientific research, offer targeted muscle activation and hypertrophy benefits. Remember to focus on proper form, progressive overload, and adequate recovery to maximise your results.

Key Takeaways

Exercise Benefits How to Perform
Concentration Curls High biceps activation, isolation of short head Sit on a bench, rest elbow on inner thigh, curl dumbbell towards shoulder
Spider Curls Eliminates momentum, maximises short head activation Perform on an incline bench, curl dumbbells towards shoulders with strict form
Preacher Curls Isolates biceps, minimises cheating Use a preacher bench, curl weight towards shoulders, keep upper arms pressed against the pad


Ahrens, P. M., & Boileau, P. (2007). The long head of biceps and associated tendinopathy. The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery, 89(8), 1010-1015.

Escamilla, R. F., Yamashiro, K., Paulos, L., & Andrews, J. R. (2010). Biomechanical analysis of the biceps curl: Implications for strength training. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 24(6), 1673-1679.

McAllister, M. J., Hammond, K. G., Schilling, B. K., Ferris, S., Bemben, M. G., & Bemben, D. A. (2014). Muscle activation during various upper-body resistance exercises. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 28(1), 75-79.

Morton, R. W., Murphy, K. T., McKellar, S. R., Schoenfeld, B. J., Henselmans, M., Helms, E., Aragon, A. A., Devries, M. C., Banfield, L., Krieger, J. W., & Phillips, S. M. (2018). A systematic review, meta-analysis, and meta-regression of the effect of protein supplementation on resistance training-induced gains in muscle mass and strength in healthy adults. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 52(6), 376-384.

Oliveira, L. F., Matta, T. T., Alves, D. S., Garcia, M. A., & Gonçalves, M. (2009). Electromyographic analysis of biceps brachii muscle in three different types of biceps curls. Brazilian Journal of Physical Therapy, 13(4), 313-319.

Rhea, M. R., Alvar, B. A., Burkett, L. N., & Ball, S. D. (2003). A meta-analysis to determine the dose response for strength development. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 35(3), 456-464.

Schoenfeld, B. J., Ogborn, D., & Krieger, J. W. (2016). Effects of resistance training frequency on measures of muscle hypertrophy: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Sports Medicine, 46(11), 1689-1697.

Youdas, J. W., Amundson, C. L., Cicero, K. S., Hahn, J. J., Harezlak, D. T., & Hollman, J. H. (2010). Surface electromyographic activation patterns and elbow joint angle variability during flexion exercises with the use of elastic tubing. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 24(6), 1605-1610.

By incorporating these scientifically-backed exercises into your routine and adhering to the principles of effective training, you can accelerate your progress towards building bigger and stronger arms.

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