Strong biceps are essential for performance, aesthetics and elbow health. Learn how to target all parts of the biceps.
aving strong biceps isn't just for bodybuilders and people who are interested in showing off their arms.
Whether you are a mover, yogi, martial artist or an athlete, improving the strength and mobility of your biceps will be beneficial for your elbow health and overall performance.
Arms are actually quite complex. The main muscles that work as elbow flexors are bicep brachii (short & long head), brachialis (underneath the biceps) and brachioradialis (forearm muscle).
Working out your biceps will not only make your arms more aesthetically pleasing, but it will ensure your elbows stay healthy and less prone to injuries.
Chronic elbow problems (golfer's elbow, tennis elbow etc.) are some of the most common injuries people experience when they play sports, lift weights or do bodyweight exercise.
Overuse and not enough recovery is one of the reason why these injuries happen, but a lot has to do with the structural balance of your arms.
When ALL MUSCLES of the arms and forearms are strong & functional, it's very hard to experience elbow pain because the muscles will take all the stress off the joints and tendons.
When the muscles aren't working properly (lack of mobility) or they are weak, the stress transfers to tendons. When the tendons can no longer take the stress, they break or become inflamed.
If you want to become bulletproof, then forget about "bodybuilding exercises" and consider bicep curls as the best ways to strengthen your elbow flexors.
How to Target all Parts of the Biceps
Standing Bicep Curls
You can use dumbbells, a cable machine or a barbell for standing bicep curls.
Supinated grip will target the bicep brachii (both long and short head).
Neutral grip (hammer curl) will target the brachioradialis, long head of biceps and brachialis.
Pronated grip will target brachioradialis and brachialis.
Drag curl is a special curl variation where your elbows move behind your body while you lift the weight up.
You can use both dumbbells and barbells for drag curls. Drag curls will hit the biceps in a different fashion compared to the standard bicep curls because you are working more the upper portion of the repetition.
Bent Over Curls
You can use both dumbbells and barbells for bent over curls. The big benefit of dumbbells is that you can freely rotate the shoulder inwards or outwards.
When your shoulder is rotated inwards (internal rotation) as in the picture, you will very effectively target the short head of bicep brachii.
When your shoulder is rotated outwards (external rotation) you will very nicely hit the brachialis muscle.
The best thing about bent over curls is that you will keep the tension in your biceps in the upper portion of the repetition, whereas with the standing bicep curls you will target more the lower and middle portions of the repetition.
Incline curl is a very tough and effective variation to hit all heads of the biceps.
Your biceps are stretched to their maximum which can promote muscle growth because you will build strength in the entire range of motion of the muscle.
Use lighter weights for incline curls, because this curl will be much more difficult than any other curl variation.
If you want to target the brachialis muscle (side arm, beneath biceps), then you should turn your shoulders outwards (external rotation) to really maximize the engagement of the brachialis.
Dumbbells are optimal for this, but you can also use a wide grip on a barbell. Just make sure you pull your elbows into your body when using the barbell, otherwise you will increase the activation of the biceps and use less brachialis.
When your shoulders are internally rotated (close grip, supinated grip), you will typically work the short head and long head of biceps. Supinated grip is the best way to target the short head of biceps.