The biceps brachii are another one of our glamour muscles. They’re one of the two very noticeable muscles on the upper arm. Although they’re mostly known for bending the elbow, they also help lift your arm. Because of this, tendinitis in this muscle can cause shoulder pain.
The “bi” part of biceps brachii refers to the two heads of the muscle. Because there are two heads, there are two origins. However, there is only one insertion. The origin for the short head of the biceps is on the tip, or apex, of the coracoid process of the scapula. The coracoid process is a little hook of bone that comes off the outside, front part of your scapula. It helps stabilize your shoulder joint.
The origin for the long head of the biceps brachii is the supraglenoid tubercle of the scapula. When you look at a picture of a scapula from the front, you’ll see the scapula with a little bony hook up top (the acromion) and a little bony hook below it (the coracoid process). Now, because the scapula is a three-dimensional object, you understand there is space between these two points. Right in between the acromion and the coracoid process, obscured mostly in a two-dimensional drawing, is the supraglenoid tubercle. This is right above the glenoid cavity. If you are completely not understanding what I’m saying, check out the illustrations on this Wikipedia page.
The biceps brachii inserts on the radial tuberosity and on the bicipital aponeurosis. Your radius (which has the radial tuberosity up near the intersection with the bottom of the humerus) is the bone in your forearm that lines up with your thumb. The bicipital aponeurosis is just another way to indicate the connective tissue from the bicep. In this case, it connect with deep fascia on the inside of your arm.
Both heads of the biceps brachii work together to flex the elbow joint and supinate the forearm. This means that they bend your elbow and rotate your palm up.
Although both heads of the biceps technically flex your arm at the shoulder joint, the long head is more active in the process. This means that the biceps are also working whenever you raise your arms in front of you.
Some people also think that the short head of the biceps can perform adduction, bringing your arm toward the midline of your body. From the drawing of the biceps, I could see how this is possible. However, this is not a primary action that the biceps are known for.
According to Yoganatomy.com,
“One of the most common injuries to Biceps brachii is Biceps tendinitis. Biceps tendinitis usually results from overuse from sports. It’s common in swimmers, baseball players, tennis players, and others. It can also occur as a normal part of aging. Symptoms include pain and inflammation usually around the long head of Biceps brachii at the anterior part of the shoulder.”
The biceps can also be injured by lifting objects that are too heavy.
One indication that your biceps may be dysfunctional is the inability to fully straighten your elbow.
Restoring or Maintaining Health
If you think you have injured your biceps brachii in some way, please contact your doctor. Remember, your doctor has the ability to order all of the appropriate imaging, medicine, and therapy necessary to help you heal.
For those seeking some simple exercises and stretches to keep their biceps healthy, I have some suggestions. First of all, keep in mind that we’re using our biceps very frequently. Any time you bend your elbow, that’s your biceps.
So, when you lower down and hold Chaturanga Dandasana, you’re using your biceps. Also, as your arms lift out in front of you, you’re using your biceps. This means that poses like Crescent lunge and Warrior 1 work the biceps in yoga, and exercises like Half roll back and Roll ups work the biceps in Pilates. Out of all the Pilates exercises and yoga poses, the best biceps stretch is Reverse (or Upward) plank, which is also known as Purvottanasana.
I consulted The Concise Book of Muscles by Chris Jarmey. Recently, the book was revised and is in its third edition. I love this book as a quick go-to guide for easy to understand anatomy.
For those who are more interested in technical terminology and smaller muscles, I recommend Flash Anatomy Muscles Flash Cards. Any time a client comes to me with pain, I use these flash cards.
Also, I consulted David Keil’s article on the biceps brachii at Yoganatomy.com.
What’s your favorite way to strengthen your biceps? Let us know in the comments below.
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