Not-So-Gross Anatomy: Biceps

Tickets for the gun show are available now online

Tickets for the gun show are available now online

This week we are talking about biceps here at b3 wellness. Some folks talk about biceps as if they are guns. 

"Hey, did you buy tickets to the gun show?"

or possibly

"Look at the frickin' guns on that dude?!"

If you are a pacifist, the term "guns" may not resonate with you in a positive manner. So, please allow me to translate....

"Oh my, shall we take a gander over there and pay homage to the stout biceps brachii on that fellow?"


"Hello miss. Can you explain to me and my friend how you developed such large and defined elbow flexors and supinators?"

biceps brachii 2.png

Let's talk shop on the bicep brachii. The "bi" in biceps refers to the number two. As in two heads of the biceps (long head and short head). The long head originates at the supraglenoid tubercle of the scapulae. The short head originates on the tip of the coracoid process of the scapula. The insertion points of the biceps brachii is  along the radial tuberosity and also alonmg the fascia of the forearm musculature of the biceps aponeurosis. Consider these locations making them "neighbors", but they do indeed have two distinct heads that perform a job as a unit. The biceps brachii flex the elbow and supinate the forearm. A flexed elbow and supine forearm are magnificently shown in the picture below.


Another look at a peak contraction point for the biceps....I'm guessing you do not buy off the rack with those arms. Impressive!


When programming the biceps, you will want to take into consideration exactly what we are training and why are we doing it. For instance, the biceps will get a great deal of stimulus from pulling patterns. Yes - deadlifts, pull ups, chin ups, rows of varying angles, pulldowns. If you perform chest flyes, do your biceps engage? So be mindful of not asking too much of them throughout the week with a great deral of straight bicep training.

Other things to consider training the biceps at all points of their contraction potential. When deadlifting, the biceps are lit up like Las Vegas and this is with a fully extended elbow. Training at the most flexed position also holds value, as shown below with a flexed arm hang below in the exercise videos. But also training the muscle in all degrees of movement in between these two examples is where we can help shape, define, build, and train these muscles to look better, work harder, and perform better.

Like any muscle, when trained - but not stretched, these muscles can get tight quickly. SO the arms may look big and strong, but if the biceps are tight and immobile - you are losing functionality of the muscle in spite of vanity.

Let's take a look at some mobility patterns and self myofascial release (SMR) techniches to help loosen up:

Lats and biceps go together like pizza and beer, peanut butter and chocolate, or for you more healthy folks....hummus and pita bread?

The insertion of the pec minor and origin of the short head of the bicep are right on top of each other - so loosen up the chest!


Strength training the biceps is a bit more than just barbell curls. I am a big fan of barbell curls, just do not do it in the squat rack. Please do not be "that guy/girl" who curls in the squat rack. The preceding message was sponsored by the unified squatters association of the world.

The biceps need to be strong throughout a full range of motion. Yes, that means you can get some bicep benefits from the bigger lifts.


Start with a 10 second hold. Then 20 seconds. Then start adding weight. Really drive the elbows into the ribs and find your happy place.


Dumbbell preacher curls are a nice alternative to preacher curls with an EZ curl bar. Allows the lifter to concentrate on each arm individually.


Rack walks are a great conditioner and will test your grip in elbow flexion like few other exercises.


Straight bicep training is not something we get many requests for at b3. We tend to train movements and have traditional and non-traditional splits. Linear and undulation periodization work does provide some windows to insert bicep-specific work, but what we believe at b3 is simple - we do not sacrifice function for size. Bigger is not always better (regardless of what "they" say), deceptively strong will always have its place, and the biceps reputation of being just a "show" muscle is incredibly false. Train the body. Train the movement. Always moving towards the goal. 

Be fit. Be fueled. Be full of life.

Don Bahneman

Founder - b3 wellness

(photos taken from The Energy Club in Arlington, VA)