Short Muscle-Belly Syndrome

Can you lengthen your biceps?

Short Muscle-Belly Syndrome

Short muscle-belly syndrome is an age-old issue for bodybuilders. Biceps, in particular, are a muscle group that many of you probably aren’t satisfied with as far as overall length, unless your name is Sergio Oliva or Larry Scott. 

Biceps consist of two bundles of muscle fibers that attach to the radius and scapula via tendons. The proportion of muscle to tendon can vary greatly from person to person. Franco Columbu, for example, has fairly short biceps muscles, while yours truly has biceps of average length. Then there are the Bill Grants of the world, whose biceps seem to reach down to the crook of their arms. Where yours fit in the scheme of things is determined solely by your preprogrammed genetic code. In other words, thank (or blame) your parents. 

This news may not be music to your ears if you want to fill the gap in your upper arms down toward your elbows, but it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to maximize the length of your muscles every chance you get. Let me explain what I mean by maximize. 

I’ve always believed that it is vitally important to stretch muscles every day. By stretching the biceps during and after a workout, you can help prevent them from becoming knotted and tight when they should be relaxed.

By simply holding on to a vertical support with your outstretched arm and gently twisting your torso away from the bar, you can get a pretty good stretch in your bis. I might do this for a count of 10 for each arm after every couple of sets, and then for longer — perhaps 30 seconds for each hold — at the end of my workout.

Stretching is also great for growth; I could literally feel the blood flowing into my muscles after I stretched them. Stretching actually lengthens muscle fibers by adding muscle linearly. Although this is at the microscopic level, it can help add some visible length over time.

Of course, the best way to change the shape of your muscles is through resistance training. Barbell curls are an arm-training foundation, although I personally find that the resistance doesn’t really start to kick in until the elbows have a pretty good bend in them. Barbell curls are a great overall mass builder and should definitely be a part of your biceps routine, but to help fill in your lower bis, you may want to prioritize preacher curls to focus on that specific weakness. Cambered-bar preacher curls provide a good deal of resistance at the bottom portion of the movement due to the angle of the bench.

I’ve designed a routine for you that I believe will help develop the entire biceps, placing preacher curls first to put special emphasis on the problematic lower portion of the muscle. Give this workout at least three months, doing it once per week (no more than twice) and then evaluate what kind of gains you’ve made.  


  • Cambered-Bar Preacher Curls | SETS: 4 | REPS: 15, 12, 10, 8
  • Standing Barbell Curls | SETS: 3 | REPS: 6-8
  • Dumbbell Concentration Curls | SETS: 3 | REPS: 10-12