Research has shown that the long head remains active through the full range of motion when performing incline curls.
The long head crosses the shoulder joint and the short head does not, so starting with the arm behind the body will preferentially activate this head. Also, muscles produce the greatest force when they are slightly stretched.
How to work the long head
The orientation of the long head refers to the position of the hand, arm and elbow. The angles of your arm in relation to your body change the load distribution and muscles worked during an exercise.
When I talk about hand position, I mean supination and pronation. These fancy words are the technical terms for hand or wrist rotation.
Targeting the long and short head of the biceps
If the long head of the biceps is used to protect the shoulder joint, what is the function of the short head of the biceps? The short head also helps with forearm supination and elbow joint flexion by supporting the brachialis muscle, which is the prime mover there. The short head acts on the upper arm bone and contributes much to the functions of the long head of the biceps that we have already described, such as stabilizing the shoulder joint.
Since it acts primarily as a muscle with a long bicep, you might think it’s impossible to target either. In fact, many exercises that target the big biceps in the head also work on the short head. You can modify them slightly to target the short head with a wide grip. Essentially what you want to do is make sure that the stretchability of the long head is limited. This will target the short end of the biceps and the limited stretches on the short end will target the long end of the biceps.
Close-Grip Barbell Curl Leaning Against a Wall
What makes the dumbbell curl great is that it’s probably one of the heaviest weights we can lift.
With a tight grip below the bar, a small degree of rotation at the shoulder activates the long head. Leaning against a wall prevents your body from leaning forward and rocking to build momentum at the start of the lift and leaning back to lift the weight.
Grab the bar with a below-hip-width grip. Feet should be hip-width apart with the backs of your heels about 8 to 12 inches from the wall. Lean your back against the wall with a slight bend in the knee. Position your elbows to press against the wall.
How to Perform Close Grip Dumbbell Curls
- Load a barbell with the appropriate amount of weight.
- Grab the bar with an underhand grip (palms forward); your hands should be slightly within shoulder width.
- Stand up straight, let your arms be fully extended with the bar in front of your body, and keep your elbows at your sides throughout the movement. This is the initial position.
- Inhale, then begin to shift the weight toward your body by bending your elbows and contracting your biceps. Don’t let your arm swing excessively forward in the concentric part of the lift.
- At the top of the rep, pause briefly and squeeze your biceps before exhaling and slowly lowering the bar back to starting position, extending your arms.
- Repeat the desired number of repetitions.
Scott Herman demonstrates how to properly perform firm grip dumbbell curls in the video below!