Tyler Sellers
Published by Tyler Sellers
Fact checked by Donald Christman, BHSc FACT CHECKED
Last updated: March 1, 2021

Doing lots of biceps curls just won’t cut it if you want bigger and stronger arms.

There’s actually a forgotten yet more important muscle that you should target to get crushingly powerful arms: the brachialis.

If you want biceps that pop, read on to find out the best exercises you should add to your training

What Is The Brachialis?

man raising his arms

The brachialis is a primary muscle in your upper arm that lies between your biceps and triceps [1].

While people tend to give more attention to the biceps brachii (aka biceps), the little muscle underneath it actually generates about 50% more power and is mainly responsible for elbow flexion [2].

Best Brachialis Exercises

Luckily, brachialis exercises aren’t that difficult to pull off. These beginner-friendly moves are easy to learn and can help you get stronger arms in no time.

1. Dumbbell Hammer Curls

man using dumbbells in a gym

The effectiveness of this hammer curl has to do, in part, with your hand position.

Since this hammer curl workout will have your palms facing inward, you’ll be able to work the brachialis directly rather than sharing the weight with your biceps.

How To

  1. Stand with your body straight.
  2. Grab a pair of dumbbells in each hand with your palms facing each other.
  3. Engage your core and flex your elbows to bring the dumbbells up toward your shoulders, keeping your wrists straight.
  4. Squeeze your arm muscles at the top of the movement for a full second, then slowly lower the weight down to starting position.

2. Cable Hammer Curls

man doing cable hammer curls

The cable hammer curls place extra tension on the brachialis, making it a great addition to your arm workout.

How To

  1. Hook a rope attachment to a cable machine.
  2. Grab one end of the rope attachment in each hand.
  3. Extend your arms and hold them out in front of you with your palms facing inward.
  4. Flex your elbows and pull the rope attachment toward your chest, keeping your wrists straight.
  5. Squeeze your arms at the top of the movement, then slowly lower the rope attachment back to starting position.

3. Resistance Band Zottman Curls

man using bands for workout

This exercise increases the stress in your brachialis as you curl your arms.

How To

  1. Stand on the resistance band with your body upright.
  2. Grip the band just below the handles with your palms facing up.
  3. Contract your biceps and curl your hands up to shoulder height.
  4. Squeeze your biceps at the top and twist your hands so that your palms face downward.
  5. Slowly lower your hands to the starting position and turn them again so that your palms are facing forward.

“You need to select a manageable weight that you can lift and control with perfect form to create and keep tension on the muscles. That gets the blood flowing for the most insane pump possible.” - John Meadows, Bodybuilder

4. Reverse Grip Barbell Curls

man holding a barbell

You can either use a straight barbell or an EZ bar for this exercise. You can minimize wrist strain using the latter, but it will still do an excellent job of activating your brachialis muscle.

How To

  1. Stand straight and grab the barbell with your hands roughly shoulder-width apart.
  2. Hold it with your hands facing down.
  3. Curl the bar up towards your chest.
  4. Squeeze your biceps at the top and slowly lower the bar down.

5. Reverse Grip Barbell Curls

man sitting on a bench in a gym

Dumbbell incline curls are a great isolation exercise for training the brachialis muscle. The incline position ensures that you can’t take advantage of momentum to lift the weight.

How To

  1. Adjust your incline bench to about a 30 to 40-degree angle.
  2. Hold a dumbbell in each hand with your palms facing up.
  3. Face the bench so that your chest is pressed against it.
  4. Keep your feet flat on the floor, and make sure your shoulders and the head of the bench are at the same level.
  5. Flex your elbows and curl the dumbbells upward.
  6. Squeeze your arms at the top and slowly bring them back down.

6. One-Arm Kettlebell Reverse Curls

man using kettle balls

This brachialis exercise is one good way to target each arm independently.

How To

  1. Stand with your torso straight.
  2. Grab a kettlebell with one hand with your palm facing down.
  3. Curl the kettlebell upwards.
  4. Squeeze your bicep hard at the top and slowly bring your arm back down.

7. Reverse Dumbbell Zottman Curls

man holding dumbbells on each hand

This exercise hits three areas, i.e., your brachialis, biceps, and forearm muscles.

How To

  1. Stand with your feet roughly hip-width apart and your body upright.
  2. Grab a pair of dumbbells with your palms facing up.
  3. Curl the dumbbells up toward your shoulders.
  4. Squeeze your biceps, then rotate your wrist so that your palms face down.
  5. Lower the weights back down to the starting position and twist your hands so that your palms are facing upwards again.

The Benefits of Brachialis Exercises

man working out in a gym

If you’ve been relying on standard biceps exercises to get those chiseled upper arms, it’s time to shift your focus on your brachialis muscles.

Here’s why you should add brachialis workouts to your arm training.

  • Gigantic and stronger arms
    Working your brachialis regularly will help you grow your guns and increase your upper arm strength.
    The more developed this muscle is, the more it expands, pushing up your biceps and making them appear larger.
  • Enhanced athletic performance
    Brachialis exercise can help you perform better in a variety of sports where a powerful bending in the elbow joint is needed, e.g.rowing, lifting weights, doing gymnastics, and wrestling.
    But no matter what sport you play, anything you do to strengthen your brachialis can give you the edge you need to outperform your competition.
  • Improved look
    While having perfectly sculpted and bulging upper arms is not the end all be all of fitness, it certainly won’t hurt to have them, right? And if you’re the type who likes the attention, having a bicep that looks like Popeye’s is one surefire way to get it.

Are You Doing Enough Brachialis Exercises?

Although the classic bicep curl can work your brachialis, you can’t get bigger arms by relying on this move alone.

Exercises like the hammer curl, reverse curl, and Zottman curl allow you to lift with your forearms turned inward, which is the best way to target this underrated muscle.

These moves take your biceps out of the picture, putting more strain on your brachialis and making them more prominent.

Go get those gains and try adding these exercises to your weekly training plan.


References:

  1. https://teachmeanatomy.info/upper-limb/muscles/upper-arm/
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK551630

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