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Dumbbell Curls Don't Build The Biceps Peak!

Do This Instead!

Posted by Scott_Herman - June 22nd, 2018

I’m going to keep this nice and simple. Your biceps have two heads, the long (outer) head and the short (inner) head. Just like when training upper or lower chest, you can also place more emphasis on the long and short heads of the biceps, with specific exercises.

However, there’s one thing I want to debunk really quick. You can’t just train the PEAK of the biceps. It’s not like you’re going to command ONLY this area to grow…no matter how much you yell at it. If you want big biceps, or you want a big biceps peak, you have to build the entire mountain. You can’t JUST build the mountain top.

Biceps Anatomy

The outer head is of course responsible for the biceps peak, and although it’s mainly genetics that dictate it’s size and shape, you can definitely try to target and place MORE EMPHASIS on the long head, with exercises that focus on contracting it as hard as possible. You can do this by first understanding the functions of the short and long heads.

  • Supination Of The Forearm (short & long heads)
  • Elbow Flexion (short & long heads)
  • Shoulder Flexion (short & long heads)

If there’s an exercise that contains all three functions, then you know you’re training your biceps to the max. But if you want to place a bit more emphasis on the long head, you have to take your training one step further and focus on exercises that allow you to keep a CLOSE-GRIP throughout the entire movement, which means elbows inside of wrists. The perfect exercise for this is the close-grip cable spider curl.

Close-Grip Cable Spider Curl

To set up for the close-grip cable spider curl, you want to make sure that the pulley is all the way at the bottom, and you want to make sure that your bench is relatively close to the pulley, so that you can take advantage of full range of motion (ROM). Remember, you need to hit all 3 functions of the biceps (Supination, Elbow Flexion & Shoulder Flexion). If you can do ALL of that while maintaining a close-grip, you’re going to work on that peak.

Grab the bar with your hands close together, but you’re actually going to take this grip position one step further. Even when you’re holding a straight barbell, it’s still possible that as you curl, your grip will kind of give out, and your hands will start to twist so that you’re losing supination. In order to force as much supination as possible when using a close-grip, I want you to take your thumbs, and put them on the OUTSIDE of the bar. By putting your thumbs on the outside, as your wrists start to turn in, your thumb is going to prevent that. It might feel a little tight at first, but you will get used to it, and you will feel a lot more activation in that long head of the biceps as you’re doing your curls.

Once in position, let your arms hang at the bottom of the movement (remember you ALWAYS want to fully extend at the bottom). From here you’re going to curl up to get your elbow flexion, but instead of curling to your chin or just below your chin, you want to make sure you’re getting shoulder flexion as well. So what you’re going to do is curl up, and bring the bar to your forehead, flexing and squeezing your biceps, before returning back to the starting position, and repeating for reps.

Does This Movement Have To Be Done With A Cable Machine?

Some of you are probably wondering if you can do this with dumbbells or just a regular barbell (or E-Z curl bar) without the cable machine. The answer is that you can, BUT chances are that as you start to fatigue, you’re probably not going to be able to get as much elbow flexion at the top with as much weight. The cable system is great, because it kind of forces your hands to be out in front of you, so that you stay in that position the entire time while doing your curls. When you use dumbbells or a barbell, as you get tired, you might drop your hands lower and lower and lower, because your shoulders are getting tired and you’re not able to just hold the weight out in front of you by itself. So while you can do it with dumbbells, and you can do it with a barbell, if you want to get the most out of this movement, do it with a cable machine.


Now that you’re ARMED with this knowledge, on your next biceps workout, start the workout with this movement so that you can overload with as much weight as possible, and train with about 8 sets of 8 – 10 repetitions. Remember that less is more when it comes to building muscle, because the goal here is VOLUME and PROGRESSION with your movements.

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