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8 Brachialis Exercises to Build Monster Arms

There are more than 600 muscles in the human body, and all of them are important. Some, like the glutes, biceps, and quads, are both large and well-known. They’re responsible for big or powerful movements and add a lot to your overall shape and performance

Others, like the soleus and anconeus, are smaller and much less famous. However, each and every muscle has a critical part to play in movement or posture. 

Of course, you don’t need to train every muscle in your body. That’s good news because, if you did, your workouts would probably last several days! However, there are a few small, less important muscles that deserve your attention. 

These minor muscles don’t always add a lot to your appearance, directly at least. In many cases, they’re actually located beneath larger, more obvious muscles. But, ignoring them could have a knock-on effect on your progress. One such example is the brachialis. 

In this article, we explain where this muscle is, what it does, and the best way to train it using the best brachialis exercises. 

Thankfully, the brachialis is very easy to train, and you won’t need any special equipment to develop it to its fullest potential. You will, however, soon see and feel the benefits of brachialis training.

Brachialis Exercises to Build Monster Arms

What Is the Brachialis Muscle?

The brachialis is one of the muscles that flex or bend your elbows. The other is the biceps, which areBrachialis Muscles arguably the most famous muscle in the body. The brachialis is located on the front of your upper arm, and it crosses your elbow joint.

Because of its length and position, the brachialis is the strongest elbow flexor and is often described as the workhorse of the elbow. The biceps are bigger, but in a lot of movements, it’s actually brachialis doing most of the work. 

Increasing the size of your brachialis muscle will make your upper arm look thicker when viewed from the front and also “props up” your biceps to make that appear larger too. Functionally, the brachialis is also important for all movements that involve pulling, such as climbing or wrestling. 

8 Exercises to Increase the Size of Your Brachialis

Brachialis gets a workout any time you train your biceps as these muscles always work together. However, it’s also possible to emphasize the brachialis by adopting a specific arm or wrist position. 

The best exercises for building your brachialis are: 

1. Hammer Curls

Hammer curls are so-called because you look like you are driving in a nail when you’re doing them. This is also a very effective biceps and forearm exercise.

hammer curls

How to do it: 

  1. Hold a dumbbell in each hand and sit or stand as preferred. With your arms on your sides, turn your hands, so your palms are facing inward. 
  2. Keep your upper arms pinned to your sides, bend your elbows and curl the weights up to your shoulders. Do not rotate your wrists. Keep your thumbs up throughout. 
  3. Then you want to lower the weights back down to your sides to complete and repeat.

2. Cross-body Hammer Curls

This hammer curl variation involves a little less biceps activation and more brachialis activation

How to do it: 

  1. Holding dumbbells in each hand and sit or stand as preferred. With your arms by your sides, turn your hands, so your palms are facing inward. 
  2. Keep the upper part of your arms pinned to your sides, bend one elbow and curl the weight up and across to the opposite shoulder. 
  3. Lower the weight and then repeat on the opposite side. 
  4. Continue to alternate arms for the duration of your set. 

3. Reverse Grip Barbell Curls

Reverse barbell curls are normally seen as a forearm exercise, but they’re a valuable move for targetingEZ bar hammer curls your brachialis. You can also try this exercise with a cambered EZ bar.

How to do it: 

  1. Hold the barbell with a palms-down shoulder-width grip. 
  2. You want to be standing with your feet about shoulder-width apart, with your knees bent slightly. Squeeze your upper arms into your sides. 
  3. With your elbows bent and curl the bar up to shoulder-height. Do not lean forward or back; let your arms do the work. 
  4. Lower the bar and repeat. 

4. Rope Hammer Curls

Using a rope handle puts your wrists in the ideal position to work your brachialis and also keeps your muscles under constant tension. As an added benefit, using a cable machine makes this exercise perfect for high-intensity drop sets.

How to do it: 

  1. First attach a rope handle to a low pulley machine. Take one end in each hand, with your palms facing inward and your thumbs uppermost. Pin your upper arms into your sides. 
  2. Bend your arms and curl the handles up to your shoulders. 
  3. Lower your arms and repeat. 

5. Neutral Grip Chin-Ups

Chin-ups are typically viewed as a back exercise and not an arm-builder, but they’re actually both of these things. Using a neutral grip means your brachialis muscle is much more active.Neutral grip chin ups

How to do it: 

  1. Hang from a parallel grip chin-up bar, so your palms are facing one another. 
  2. Then pull your shoulders down and back whilst slightly leaning back. 
  3. Bend your arms and pull your chin all the way up and over the bar. 
  4. Descend under control and repeat. 
  5. You can also do neutral grip lat pulldowns instead. 

6. Zottman Curls

This exercise is a reverse curl/regular curl hybrid, which means it’s good for your forearms, biceps, AND brachialis.Zottman Curls

How to do it:  

  1. You want to be sitting or standing with a dumbbell in each hand, arms hanging down by your sides, and palms facing inward. 
  2. Bending your arms and curl the weights up to shoulder-height, rotating your hands, so they’re palms up as you move. 
  3. At the top of your rep, turn your hands, so your palms are facing down. 
  4. Lowering the weights back down to your sides, rotate your wrists and repeat.

7. Prone Dumbbell Incline Curls

The reason this exercise works your brachialis is that it effectively “turns off” your biceps, so they are less active. Your brachialis muscle will have to contract harder to take up the slack. 

How to do it: 

  1. Set a bench to a 30 to 45-degree angle. Sit on the bench with your chest against the backrest. 
  2. Grab a dumbbell in each hand, then let your arms hang down from your shoulders, palms facing forward. 
  3. You will want to bend your elbows and curl the weights up to your shoulders. 
  4. Extend your arms and repeat. 

8. Preacher Curls

Preacher curls are also known as Scott curls because they were a favorite of Mr. Olympia Larry Scott,Preacher curls who is recognized for his massive arms. Like prone dumbbell curls, this exercise is effective because it puts some slack in your biceps so they can’t contract as forcefully, leaving your brachialis free to work that little bit harder.

How to do it: 

  1. Grab a bench a sit on it with your upper arms against the armrest. Hold a barbell, EZ bar, or dumbbells with an underhand, slightly less than shoulder-width grip. 
  2. Then bend your arms and curl the weight up until your forearms are vertical. 
  3. Extend your arms, stopping just short of straightening them fully, and then repeat. 

Bottom Line

Just because you haven’t heard of the brachialis doesn’t mean it’s not an important muscle. Located beneath your biceps, it’s an elbow flexor that’s actually more powerful than its better-known counterpart.

The brachialis works whenever you train your biceps, but, in a lot of cases, it functions as an accessory muscle and not a prime mover. That means it may be under-developed. 

Paying more attention to your brachialis will improve your performance in exercises like pull-ups, pulldowns, and curls, and will also enhance the shape and size of your upper arms. A well-developed brachialis will make your arms look thicker and also pushes your biceps up from below, making them look more impressive. 

There are lots of exercises you can add to your workouts that will help you build bigger brachialis. Most involve doing curls with a neutral or palms-in grip, which forces the brachialis to work harder than usual. There also ways to partially deactivate your biceps, which means the brachialis has to work more than normal. 

Because brachialis is involved in most biceps and back exercises, you probably won’t need to spend a lot of time on it to bring this muscle up to par. 2-4 sets of 1-2 exercises should suffice. 

Train your brachialis at the start of your workouts to give it the attention it deserves.

Patrick Dale is an ex-British Royal Marine and owner and lecturer for a fitness qualifications company. In addition to training prospective personal trainers, Patrick has also authored three fitness and exercise books, dozens of e-books, thousands of articles, and several fitness videos.

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