With summer now with us, the focus of everyone’s training and questions for me inevitably shift from strength to a six pack for the pool and bigger arms for the bro-tanks. Most people focus their arm training on biceps which is fine but neglecting to put in the work to train the other muscles of the arms will set you back in the long run. For instance, the triceps make up 2/3 of the arms and the biceps only 1/3. Even on the front of the arm there are other elbow flexors often ignored, most notably the brachialis.

The brachialis is an elbow flexor that lies underneath the biceps. It is the primary elbow flexor, despite receiving a disproportional amount of interest. The brachialis can generate 50% more power compared to the biceps brachii(1). This is because it is closer to the joint axis and only crosses one joint as opposed to two by the biceps. The brachialis also serves to keep tension around the elbow joint to prevent damage during hyperextension. The brachialis is innervated by the same nerve as the biceps, but often times they brachialis can be double innervated by both the musculocutaneous and radial nerves(2). The artery that serves the biceps also serves the brachialis. The brachialis inserts into the ulna, as opposed to the biceps which insert on the radius. This means that the brachialis is not as active in pronation and supination. Because of this the brachialis is best trained with a neutral grip, or in a supinated grip with the biceps working at a more mechanical disadvantage

From an aesthetic standpoint, the more you train the brachialis the more it pushes up against the biceps and increases overall arm size. According to <a href="; class="aq cc im in io ip" style="box-sizing: inherit; color: inherit; text-decoration: none; -webkit-tap-highlight-color: transparent; background-image: url("data:image/svg+xml; utf8, “); background-size: 1px 1px; background-position: 0px calc(1em + 1px); background-repeat: repeat no-repeat”>a strength coach if your pronated curling strength (reverse grip) isn’t within 80% of your supinated curling strength your brachialis is weak. The best way to strengthen the brachialis is to either specifically target the muscle, or pre-fatigue the biceps to force the brachialis to work harder later in the workout. Starting with supinated grip bicep exercises but finishing with pronated or neutral grip exercises is the best way to accomplish this. Varying up the grips is a great way to hit the brachialis, and adding eccentric counts can be a great tool to finish off an arm workout with.

Exercises to target brachialis:

  • Hammer curls
  • Reverse curls
  • Straight bar
  • EZ-Bar
  • Preacher curls
  • Zottman Curls
  • Thick bar curls (especially reverse curls)
  • Fat Gripz

Sample Workouts

1. Biceps Pre-Fatigue

A1– Incline Curls 5×6

A2– Chin-Ups 5×6

B1– Straight Bar Curls 4×12

B2-SA Cable Curls 4×15

C1– Reverse Grip Preacher Curls 4×8

C2– Cross Body Hammer Curls (Pinwheel Curls) 4x8ea

2. Brachialis Specific Arm Day

A1– Reverse Grip EZ-Bar Curls 0:0:4 4×8

B1– Reverse Grip DB Curls 4x12ea

B2– Zottman Curls 4x12ea

C1– Rope Hammer Curls 0:0:4 4xFAIL

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