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Pretty much everyone wants to have well-defined biceps that pop under their t-shirt, and if you’ve been spending a lot of time on isolation exercises to develop your biceps brachii but feel something is lacking, it could be that you’ve not dedicated enough time to your brachialis muscle.
Exercises that work the brachialis are the best way to really fill out your biceps, making them wider and thicker, contributing to a more 3D look of your upper arm.
If you want to learn more about the brachialis, what it does, and how you can better isolate it with focused brachialis exercises, then keep reading!
What Is The Brachialis Muscle & What Does It Do
In fact, the brachialis is the primary muscle for elbow flexion and helps to coordinate the biceps through a large range of motion.
Elbow flexion is essentially to bend your arm at the elbow joint, this could be something like bringing your hand towards your shoulder.
The brachialis muscle tends to be overlooked in the gym simply because it’s not visible and not very well known.
Most people looking to develop bigger and stronger arms often focus on their triceps and biceps muscles.
When they don’t see the results they’re hoping for, it can be because of an underdeveloped brachialis.
Stick with us, as this article will help you address that problem by suggesting some of the best brachialis exercises leading to bigger and better gains.
Best Brachialis Exercises To Build Bigger Biceps
Without further ado, let’s consider some exercises to work the brachialis.
When doing these exercises, you’ll need to consider things like the movement of your wrists in order to put more tension onto the brachialis muscle.
Flexing your wrists as you perform each exercise will recruit your brachioradialis muscles.
These are superficial forearm muscles and, when they engage, they help to drive kinetic energy to your brachialis leading to better muscle contraction.
Doing this will also prevent your biceps from taking over, which is common when doing any type of biceps curl movement.
1. Single Arm Rope Curls
You’ll need to do this exercise on a cable machine with a rope attachment.
The great thing about cable curls is that the flexibility of the rope allows you to get your wrists into the right position to put increased stress on your brachialis.
Doing them unilaterally, i.e. one arm at a time, also stops a stronger, more dominant arm from taking over and means you’ll be able to focus on building equal strength and symmetry.
Once you’ve set up, stand side on to the machine so you can grab the end of the rope with a neutral grip.
This will be your starting position.
When you curl your hand towards your shoulder, lean back a little, and at the top of the movement flex your wrist up and out.
Not too much as you don’t want to strain the joint.
2. Seated Reverse Dumbbell Curls
When you do reverse grip dumbbell curls this involves holding each weight in a pronated position with your palms facing the floor.
By sitting you should find it easier to focus on proper muscle contractions as you won’t have to worry about shifting your bodyweight around when performing the exercise.
Unlike a regular curl, holding a pair of dumbbells with an overhand grip allows for greater muscle activation of your brachialis.
This is because of the pronated position of your wrist and forearm which shifts weight load away from your biceps brachii and onto the brachial muscle.
When you’re ready to go and the dumbbells are relaxed down by your sides, curl the weight up while keeping your elbows in a fixed position.
To keep tension on your muscles, always try and keep a slight bend to your elbows and when lowering the weight, do this slowly and then hold at the bottom.
This is a great way of encouraging mind-to-muscle connection and will also help improve grip strength.
3. EZ Bar Reverse Curl
As with the reverse dumbbell curls, you’ll be holding the EZ bar with a pronated grip.
You can use a straight bar for this exercise if you don’t have access to an EZ bar, but you mind it’s a little less comfortable particularly on your wrist joints.
When it comes to how much weight you should be curling, stick with lighter weights so that you don’t lose form and can properly engage your brachialis.
Get into position by holding the ez bar just out in front of you and keeping your elbows tucked into your sides.
Curl the bar towards your chest and at the top of the movement flex your wrists upwards, use control to lower the weight back down until your forearms are parallel to the ground.
At the bottom, flex your wrists but this time going downwards. This will really help to fire up your brachialis muscle.
4. Plate Hammer Curls
Usually, hammer curls involve a set of dumbbells.
But, in the case of the plate hammer curl all you need is a weight plate.
Whether you do plate or dumbbell hammer curls, both will target the same muscle group; the long head of the biceps and the brachialis along with some forearm activation.
There are slight differences in the grip and wrist position between the two variations, and the additional benefits of using a plate include improving your grip strength and wrist stability.
The increased activation of your brachialis will help to
You can perform plate curls either standing or seated.
You’ll find them a little more challenging in a seated position as you won’t be able to use the momentum of your lower body.
If you do find yourself having to swing to curl the weight up, then you might be trying to lift too heavy.
In which case switch to a lighter weight plate.
When doing them, keep your hands in a neutral position when gripping the plate so that your palms face each other.
Perform each rep, slowly and lower the plate all the way down for a full range of motion.
5. Reverse Barbell Preacher Curl
When you perform preacher curls with your hands in a pronated position, this is truly one of the best exercises for the brachialis.
Unlike other free weight exercises the use of a preacher bench keeps your elbows locked in place for complete isolation.
Usually, the preacher curl is performed with your hands in a supinated position but this variation is going to put much more emphasis on your brachialis and brachioradialis muscles helping to improve muscle thickness.
Whether you use a standing or seated preacher bench both will elicit similar results but you may notice more core activation when doing them in a standing position.
Make sure to set it up correctly as you want your armpits to comfortably rest over the top of the pad.
6. Zottman Curl
The Zottman curl is like a combination of a dumbbell reverse curl and a regular bicep curl.
It involves using a supinated grip when you curl the weight up but then rotating your wrists until your arms are in a pronated position before lowering them back down.
This does make the Zottman curl a bit more of an all-rounder when it comes to arm development but it’s still a great exercise for the brachialis muscle.
Aside from recruiting this muscle, it’s all going to work the long and short head of the biceps along with your forearms.
It’s a simple exercise to execute but you want to start off light before moving over to heavier weights as going too heavy can put a lot of stress on your wrist joints.
With each rep, start off with your hands just in front of you and palms facing away.
Slowly curl the dumbbells to your shoulders.
Once at the top, pause and then carefully rotate your wrists, then use control to lower the dumbbells down to the tops of your legs.
7. Reverse Drag Curl
Drag curls are a great way of limiting shoulder activation and putting more emphasis on your bicep muscles.
This is your because your elbows remain behind you as you perform the exercise.
While they’re often done with an overhand grip to improve the biceps peak, you’ll want to stick with a pronated grip for better brachialis engagement thereby focusing more on width and thickness.
You can do it using a standard barbell or an ez bar.
It may look similar to reverse barbell curls but instead of starting with your elbows at your sides and curling the barbell up, what you need to is start with the bar close to your abs and elbows behind you.
From there ‘drag’ the bar up keeping it as close to your body as possible and stop once you get to around mid-chest height
8. One Arm Dumbbell Reverse Curl
Our final exercise for your brachialis is a single arm movement so you can really focus on working each arm at a time.
This is a great way to complete your arm workout as it can help to exhaust the muscle making it a great finisher.
Do this one in a standing position so you can complete as wide a range of motion as possible.
Start by standing with your feet shoulder-width apart and hold a lightweight dumbbell down by your side.
Keeping your elbow fixed in place, curl the dumbbell up and toward your shoulder.
Remember to curl your wrist up at the top of the movement and down at the bottom.
This ensures maximum muscle contraction.
Brachialis Exercises: Tips And Workout Volume
When working out with lighter weights (as you should be when doing any of the above exercises), you want to be aiming for high reps and sets.
This is the only way you’re going to increase muscle mass for bigger biceps.
With that in mind, you want to aim for around 3 to 4 sets of 20 reps for each one.
You don’t have to do all the above as you’ll want to incorporate other exercises specific for working your biceps short head and long head, like unilateral cable curls and concentration curls.
Here are some other tips to light up your brachialis:
- Flex your wrists at the top and bottom of the exercise to recruit your forearms.
- To make things more challenging you can hold your elbows just out in front of you as this will increase the resistance as your muscles have to work more against gravity.
- Always stick with lighter weights. Just because you can curl a heavy dumbbell, doesn’t mean you should. Your primary aim should always be on form and slow reps.
- Each rep should be done to a full range of motion. Your brachialis will miss out on a lot of growth if you stop short of the bottom and don’t allow for a good stretch.
Most of the exercises above require a pronated grip, and there’s a good reason for that.
Studies have shown that performing any curl variation with your palms in a pronated position limits the use of your biceps short and long head.
To create width and thickness to the front of your upper arm, brachialis exercises are a must and you’ll need to incorporate some of our suggestions into your arm day training and do them often.
Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that a few sets of dumbbell curls are going to get you the results you want.
For maximum muscle development (and strength gains) you need to keep exercises varied, and this includes working on your biceps long head and short head.
Another key point is this…don’t cheat!
Using momentum during the concentric phase, i.e. when you curl the dumbbell towards you, is not doing you or your brachialis any favours.
All this will do is shift the weight load onto stronger muscles and pretty much bypass the muscles you want to be recruiting.
Avoid ego lifting and stick to a weight you can curl slowly, with control, and to a full range of motion.