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How to ACTUALLY Get Wider Biceps (2 Exercises)

by Jeremy Ethier - April 27, 2024

Nice biceps aren’t just big. They’re wide. Especially from the front. But isn’t this just genetics? Is it possible for you to build wider biceps?

Well, once you understand their anatomy, you’ll see building wider biceps is definitely possible.

And after strapping some electrodes to my arm, I found the best exercises to do so. 

Biceps Anatomy

So before talking about exercises that'll help build wider biceps, here’s what most guys miss: the bicep isn’t just “1 muscle”.

In fact, recent studies have shown there may be up to 6 different parts. So, if you want wider biceps, and the best results, I highly suggest you follow a 6-day bicep split

Just kidding. Don’t do that.

Really, there are only 2 heads of the biceps that, when well developed, give it that full and wide look. And with the right exercises, you can actually choose which one to emphasize.

The long head is the muscle on the outside of your arm — providing that outer thickness.

Long head wider biceps

And the short head runs down the inside — giving you more of that inner peak.

Short head wider biceps

Now whenever you do any bicep exercise, whether that’s a standard dumbbell curl or even a chin-up, both heads are being used to some degree.

But, if you know how to target one more than the other, you can not only create more effective, targeted bicep workouts but you can also prioritize the part of your biceps that may be lacking. 

How To Target The Long Head For Wider Biceps

So, how can you preferentially target the long head for wider biceps?

Here’s a basic rundown. If you want to work one head of your bicep more than the other, it all comes down to positioning.

You need to position your arm so that the effort you’re putting is directed in line with the area you’re trying to target.

Now in the past, I’d often do curls on an incline bench. I used to think that targeting the long-head or outer-thickness for wider biceps was best achieved with “behind the body” curls, like you get with this movement.

But after gaining a deeper knowledge into the anatomy of the biceps and working with some of the top coaches in the industry such as Coach Kassem of N1 training, I learned about some other variations that seem a lot more promising.

And this is where things get interesting.

Using EMG To Identify Exercises That'll Build Wider Biceps

To find out what exercises actually target each of the bicep heads, I did what any normal gym-bro would do.

I attached electrodes to my skin; hooked myself up to an electromyography or EMG machine and measured the level of muscle activation in each movement.

Best exercises for wider biceps EMG

Now, while we’re here, it’s worth mentioning that the EMG is just one way of assessing each exercise.

Muscle activation isn’t the be-all and end-all for muscle growth. But it is a very good indicator of what specific parts of a muscle are working the hardest, especially when you're comparing similar types of exercises, like we are here.

Anyways, using the EMG, I found that the long head was activated 2x more than the short head when performing curls in what’s known as “the scapular plane”.

This might sound technical, but it’s actually really straightforward and you can try it out right now.

To get in this position, all you’ve gotta do is:

  • Stand up straight and bend your elbows into a 90-degree angle.
  • Then, while keeping your elbows at your sides, turn your wrists outward as much as you can
Target the long head in the scapular plane for wider biceps

How To Perform Curls In The Scapular Plane

So, if you want to really target the outer-part of your biceps or the long head for wider biceps, I recommend performing cable curls in this position.

Stand a few steps in front of the cable machine, and then take a small side step towards your working arm. Keep your arms in that scapular plane with your elbow tucked to your side.

How to target the long head for wider biceps with cable curls

Then, use the resistance from the cable to keep your arm locked into position as you curl.

How to target the long head for wider biceps with cable curls 2

For even better results, you can move the cables up by about 2-3 notches to around wrist-height. This adds more tension to the very start of the movement when your arm is straighter and the biceps are more stretched, which research suggests will lead to more growth.

But if you don’t have access to cables, you can always replicate this movement with dumbbells.

Either way, promise me that you’ll at least try this exercise out and let me know what you think. When done properly, you should really feel it in the outer part of your biceps especially once the soreness kicks in the next day or two. This tells you that you're well on your way to achieving wider biceps!

Now before we discuss which biceps head you should focus on to fill out and widen your biceps, I need to show you the best exercise I’ve learned for targeting the “inner” biceps, also known as the short head. 

How To Target The Short Head For Wider Biceps

The long-head is emphasized by external rotation (which is why we rotated our arms out into the scapular plane in the previous exercise).

But the short-head, on the other hand, is emphasized by internal rotation.

And so, compared to the muscle activation I got from the long head dumbbell curls, doing a dumbbell curl with internal rotation now shifted the activation towards my short head.

And one of the best exercises that applies this arm position is a concentration curl. 

You just sit down, pick up a dumbbell, and then perform a curl while resting your elbow against your inner thigh. To really nail down the arm path of the short head, just think about it as if you’re doing the curl across your body and towards your opposite pec. 

Concentration curls to target the short head for wider biceps

The only potential downside with this exercise is that it’s most challenging near the top position of the curl when the biceps are almost fully contracted.

But remember, we ideally want an exercise that’s hardest near the bottom.

Luckily, you can easily accomplish this by using an incline bench or a preacher curl bench, but angling your body sideways against it, and curling the dumbbell across your body towards your neck. 

Preacher curls for wider biceps

Can You Widen Your Biceps With Barbell Exercises?

Now, so far, all of this information on building wider biceps has been focused on exercises with dumbbells and cables. 

You might be wondering if there’s anything you can do with a bar to target one head or the other for wider biceps.

Well, before I said to flare your arms out along your scapular plane to better target the long head. But with a bar, you actually want to use close grip, which will flare your arms inwards.

Now, this might sound contradictory, but I’ll explain.

See, when you’re holding the bar in this way, your elbows are trying to “get back to neutral”. Put differently, when you’re using a close-grip, it’s like they’re trying to externally rotate or “pull the bar apart”.

Close grip on the barbell to target the long head for wider biceps

This is why when I tested close grip curls with EMG, the long head had more activation relative to the short head. 

The opposite happened with a wider grip. 

Because your arms are now trying to internally rotate, the emphasis shifts to the inner part of your biceps, or the short-head.

Wide grip on the barbell to target the short head for wider biceps

But my personal recommendation is that you use these exercises with caution, as I’ve found they can place a lot of stress on your joints, like your wrists and elbows — especially if you’re loading up the weight. So if you have dumbbells or cables handy, take advantage of those instead.

Which Exercise Should You Focus On For Wider Biceps?

Ok, now which exercise should you focus on, in your training?

Well, my advice is to prioritize whichever head seems to be lagging the most. For some guys, exercising the short head will help their biceps look wider, while others might need to focus on the long head if it's less developed for wider biceps.

Of course, if you're still a beginner, I’d recommend you just focus on following a solid routine that builds your biceps big enough to the point where you’d be able to recognize if one head was less developed than the other. 

The easiest way to do this is just to follow a comprehensive program that nails all the basics and lays it all out for you, and my team and I have developed a bunch of these for all different types of bodies, which you can check out below.

Take our quiz and discover what approach is best for you and your body:

Click the button below to take my analysis quiz to discover the best program for you:

But, if you are in that intermediate stage, these exercises are perfect for putting more focus on the area of your biceps that you’re looking to grow for wider biceps.

It also might be a more effective way to grow your biceps in general, since you can be sure that your biceps exercise takes each specific head to failure rather than just using “general” biceps exercises that may not push either head as hard as they could be. 

Now the easiest way to find out which head is lagging is literally just flex like in the mirror, and see which side looks less developed. Or, just test out both exercises and see which one you find more challenging and gives you the better pump.

Let me know what you guys notice with your biceps, but in my case, I noticed my long-head was less developed than my short-head, so I’ll now be spending more time on it to try and bring up some of the outer width.

Practically, this just means that, if I'm doing 3 bicep exercises each week, I'll focus 2 around the long-head and 1 around the short-head.

Jeremy routine for wider biceps


  • To build wider biceps, there are only 2 heads of the biceps to focus on: the short and long head.
  • The long head of the biceps is preferentially targeted during curls performed in the scapular plane where the wrists are turned outwards.
  • The short head of the biceps is emphasized by internal rotation instead.
  • If you want to build wider biceps with barbell exercises, use a close grip to target the long head and a wide grip to target the short head.
  • You don’t have to focus on both the short and long head for wider biceps; a better strategy would be prioritizing whichever head seems to be lagging the most.

Most guys think they want bigger arms.

But what will actually enhance their upper body the most is growing wider shoulders. And for a full shoulder workout designed to do just that, check out this article.

Thanks so much for sticking to the end, and I’ll see ya next time!  

By the way, here’s the article summed up into a YouTube video:

How to Get WIDER Biceps (Actually Works)

How to ACTUALLY Get Wider Biceps (2 Exercises)