The long head like all the other triceps, is biased by doing elbow extension when the shoulder is also in alignment. This is in the scapular plane with shoulder extension for the short position and shoulder flexion for the lengthened position.
Here are two options you can use to bias a bit more long head, or just have as extra tools in your training toolbox. Remember, the worst case scenario if the opposing argument against using biased exercises were true, is these exercises are equally effective. And remember, no exercises are a must.
How to bias the lateral triceps, both in shortened and lengthened exercises.
The lateral head shows a greater bias when doing extensions in an abducted shoulder position for full shortening, and reaching across the body adducting for the lengthened position. So it’s lined up when the humerus is more in the transverse plane with some relative internal rotation. The videos are easier to take in than the description.
In each case I posted the chart showing the difference between the 3 heads in the respective positions, followed by a comparison of just the lateral head across the other exercises we tested.
There’s a lot of limits to EMG when just comparing means for a single muscle. Our approach is to compare the relationship between all synergistic muscles in a motion, which can help us see how the nervous system changes its bias among exercises.
I think this is the most valuable way to use EMG, and gives us practical training information. We don’t have data to say what the magnitude of difference these positions make on hypertrophy still. But as I will repeatedly say, we are finding the best possible options to bias these tissues, so you’re not really taking any risk by implementing them as long as you still apply volume and effort into your training to the same degree, and follow the principles of using short vs lengthened bias movements to suit your goals.
The biceps has two heads, which both cross the elbow and the shoulder joint. Some may think that with a movement as simple as elbow flexion, that we can’t get a practical difference in training one head or the other. I would beg to differ both anecdotally, observationally, and with the combination of the published research, and what we do in the N1 Lab.
Understanding the most efficient setup for individual muscles, or divisions, can help us choose more effective exercises for our clients. It can help us filter out the “fitfluencer” exercises that are popular because they “look good” versus ones that are actually the best option for what you’re trying to train.
Taking it a step further, understanding the characteristics of different exercises should influence our programming decisions. Helping us produce faster and more consistent results amongst clients.
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