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Biceps Brachii – Functional Anatomy

Biceps brachii, like the name implies, is a two headed muscle on the anterior brachium. It has a long, lateral head and a short, medial head.


  • long head – supraglenoid tubercle of the scapula
  • short head – coracoid process


  • tuberosity of the radius


  • flexion of the elbow
  • supination of the radio-ulnar joints
  • assists in flexion of the shoulder
  • assists in the abduction of the shoulder


  • musculocutaneus nerve (C5-C6)
biceps brachii with shoulder and pectoral muscles

Attachment Details

The subscapularis is woven between the upper attachments of biceps brachii. It extends under the coracoid process to the medial lip of the bicipital groove. Often, it extends across the bicipital groove to the lateral lip of the bicipital groove, securing the tendon of the long head into the groove.

The bicipital aponeurosis usually wraps around the entire ulnar forearm. The aponeurosis extends off of the two heads as they attach to the tuberosity of the radius.  

Functional Considerations

Biceps brachii is often the focus of the upper arm but is not the primary flexor of the elbow. Instead, it is a balance of the brachialis, biceps, and brachioradialis. The brachialis is the primary mover but without the biceps, strong flexion leads to instability and injury of the shoulder.

Biceps are very active in supinating the elbow when the elbow is flexed but seem to be disabled in supination when the elbow is extended.

The tendon of the long head of the biceps lies in the bicipital groove between the attachments of latissimus dorsi and pectoralis major. Consequently, the pectoralis major helps secure the tendon when flexing the elbow forcefully, as when lifting suitcases or curling dumbbells. It also allows the bicipital tendon to slip between the pecs and lats when the arm is overhead as when rock climbing or doing chin-ups.

Anomalies, Etc.

Studies of biceps anomalies are numerous but state that the anomalies are rare. They commonly discuss extra heads of the long head that attach to the humerus. Some of them discuss the absence of a long or short head. These cases have proven useful in understanding the importance of how the biceps stabilizes the shoulder. 

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Tony Preston has a practice in Atlanta, Georgia, where he sees clients. He has written and taught about anatomy, trigger points, and cranial therapies since the mid-90s.

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  1. Pingback: Superficial strip of shoulder pain when reaching up - Integrative Works

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