Do you want bigger, stronger arms? If so, it’s not enough to just do tons of biceps curls. You also need to make sure you’re working your brachialis muscle on a regular basis!
Not sure what this muscle is or the best way to train it? Keep reading to learn more about the brachialis and seven of the best brachialis exercises that will help you to build muscle and strength.
What Is the Brachialis Muscle?
The brachialis muscle is one of the primary muscles in the upper arm. It is responsible for flexing the arm at the elbow joint (think about the movement your arm makes when you’re doing a bicep curl).
The brachialis runs underneath the biceps. It is located in the front (or anterior) portion of the upper arm, along with two other muscles known as the Biceps brachii and the coracobrachialis.
Best Exercises for the Brachialis Muscle
If you want to grow your biceps and increase your upper arm strength, you might assume that you just need to do lots of curls. However, there are quite a few brachialis exercises you can add to your workouts that will yield better results.
Here are seven of the best ones to include:
1. Dumbbell Hammer Curls
When researching to find out what exercises work the brachialis, hammer curls are often one of the first options that come up.
The effectiveness of hammer curls has to do, in part, with your hand position in a hammer curl compared to a traditional curl, in which your hand is supinated (or facing upward). With your palms facing inward, you’re able to put more of an emphasis on the brachialis directly, rather than sharing the load with the biceps.
Here are some cues to help you perform hammer curls correctly:
- Start by standing up straight and holding a dumbbell in each hand
- Hold the dumbbells in a neutral grip with your palms facing inward
- On an exhale, flex your elbows and bring the dumbbells up toward your shoulder, keeping the wrists straight
- Squeeze the arms at the top of the exercise for a full second, then slowly lower the weights down as you inhale and set up for another rep
When doing hammer curls and other brachialis exercises, pick a light-moderate weight for the dumbbells. If the weight is too heavy, you could end up putting too much strain on your tendons. Too much weight could also result in you using momentum or other muscles to help with the lifting, which takes away from your ability to target the brachialis specifically.
2. Dumbbell Cross-Body Hammer Curls
Cross-body hammer curls are an effective variation to add to your routine. Some gym-goers even find that they see better results from cross-body hammer curls than they do from regular hammer curls.
Keep these cues in mind when doing cross-body curls for the first time:
- Start as you would for regular hammer curls, with a dumbbell in each hand, palms facing inward
- On an exhale, flex your elbow and bring one dumbbell up and across your torso toward the opposite shoulder
- Squeeze the arm at the top of the exercise, then inhale and lower it back down to the starting position
- Exhale and repeat the movement on the opposite side
Avoid bouncing or using momentum to swing the weights up. To place more of an emphasis on the brachialis and the forearm muscles, grip the dumbbells as tightly as you can throughout the entire exercise.
3. Reverse-Grip Barbell Curls
You can either use a regular straight barbell or an EZ bar (one that’s bent in the center). The EZ bar can minimize wrist strain, but it won’t take away from your brachialis activation.
To perform reverse-grip barbell curls correctly, follow these cues:
- Stand up straight and grip the barbell with the hands separated about shoulder distance
- Hold the bar with the palms pronated (or facing down toward the floor)
- On an exhale, flex the elbows to raise the bar up toward your chest
- Squeeze the arms at the top of the exercise, then slowly lower the bar down as you inhale and set up for another rep
4. Preacher Curls
Preacher curls are a great isolation exercise for the brachialis muscle. They help to isolate the brachialis and ensure you’re not using momentum to help you lift the weight.
Because they eliminate additional assistance, preacher curls typically require a lighter weight than you’d use for other arm exercises. This can be a bit humbling at first, but it’ll provide you with better results in the long run.
Keep these tips in mind when performing preacher curls:
- Adjust the height of the preacher bench so that the sloped section and your armpits touch
- Grasp the weight with your palms facing up
- On an exhale, flex your elbows and bring the weight up toward your body while making sure the upper arms rest on the bench
- Pause and squeeze your arms at the top of the exercise, then inhale and lower the weight back down
5. Zottman Curls
Zottman curls put a unique twist on a traditional biceps curl. They involve a rotation at the top of the exercise, which helps you target both the biceps and the brachialis muscles.
Follow these guidelines when doing Zottman curls to see the best results:
- Start by standing up straight and holding a pair of dumbbells at your sides, palms facing up
- On an exhale, flex your elbows and curl the weights up toward your shoulders, making sure the wrists stay straight
- At the top of the exercise, rotate your hands while keeping the upper arms still so that you end with the palms facing down
- On an inhale, slowly lower the weights back down with the palms facing down
6. Prone Dumbbell Incline Curls
Like preacher curls, prone dumbbell incline curls also make it harder for you to “cheat” and use other muscles to help you lift the weight. If your gym doesn’t have a preacher curl machine, prone dumbbell incline curls can be a good alternative brachialis exercise to add to your workout.
Keep these cues in mind when doing prone dumbbell incline curls:
- Adjust an incline bench to about a 30-40 degree angle
- Grab a dumbbell in each hand and set up facing the bench so that your chest is pressed against the back portion
- Keep your feet flat on the floor and make sure your shoulders are level with the top of the back of the bench
- Make sure you’re holding the dumbbells with your palms facing up
- On an exhale, flex your elbows and raise the weights up toward your shoulders
- Squeeze the arms at the top of the exercise, then slowly lower them back down as you inhale
7. Cable Hammer Curls
Cable hammer curls make a great addition to your brachialis workout because they place additional tension on the brachialis muscle. They also require you to perform the exercise with more control than you might use when doing curls with dumbbells.
To perform cable hammer curls correctly, start by hooking a rope attachment to the cable machine. Then, follow these tips:
- Grasp one end of the rope attachment in each hand
- Start with the arms extended and held in front of you, palms facing inward
- On an exhale, flex your elbows and curl the rope attachment up toward your chest, keeping the wrists straight
- Squeeze the arms at the top of the exercise, then slowly lower the rope attachment back down as you inhale
Put These Brachialis Exercises to the Test Today
If you’re ready for bigger and stronger arms, you need more in your arsenal than just regular biceps curls. Brachialis exercises, specifically, will help you make more progress and build a better physique.
Now that you know which brachialis exercise options will give you the most bang for your buck, it’s time to get to work. Add these exercises to your next workout and prepare for results!