Best Brachialis Exercises

Trainer Picks Top Exercises for Building Outer Biceps

By: Jeremy Fox, CNC, CPTPublished: April 4, 2022

Everyone knows that the biceps are the big muscles on the front of your arms. And if you want to fill out your sleeves, you must do curls to make your biceps grow.

But there’s another large muscle next to the biceps that often gets overlooked. It’s called the brachialis, and training this muscle can increase your arm gains.

Moreover, you can do specific kinds of movements to target the brachialis. So I’m here to show you the best brachialis exercises for bigger, stronger arms.

Brachialis Exercises

Bicep Muscle Anatomy

When you flex your arm, you probably think about the bicep muscle located on the front of your upper arm. The bicep consists of two heads that divide the muscle into an inner and outer part. These are the short and long heads, respectively.

However, the bicep is not the only muscle to flex your arm. In fact, the brachialis can generate about 50% more force than the biceps muscle1.

Bicep Anatomy for Brachialis Exercises

What Is the Brachialis Muscle?

The brachialis is a primary muscle involved in flexing your arm at the elbow. However, it is not one of the two muscles that make up the bicep.

Instead, the brachialis originates on the outer part of your upper arm bone (humerus). And it inserts on the top part of your outer forearm bone (ulna).

Brachialis Action

Since the brachialis doesn’t attach to the inner forearm bone (radius), it is not involved in supination and pronation of the hand2. In other words, the brachialis gets used in arm flexion with both overhand and underhand grips.

That said, the bicep starts to take more of the load when your hand is supinated. Therefore, an overhand or hammer grip is likely best for targeting the brachialis muscle.

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With my arm flexed in the hammer grip position, you can see the brachialis between the tricep and bicep.

Benefits of Building the Brachialis

Since the brachialis is on the outer part of your arm, building this muscle can make your arms appear wider from the front. So you should consider building it if you feel like you have “skinny” biceps.

In addition, the brachialis is considered a primary mover for flexion of the arm. Therefore, strengthening your brachialis makes you stronger on all pulling exercises.

How To Work the Brachialis Muscle

Any arm-flexing exercise will help develop and grow the brachialis muscle. However, if you want to isolate and target the brachialis, you can use a few techniques.

One of the main considerations is shifting away from the inner biceps to put more loading on the outer biceps and brachialis.

And the best way to target your outer biceps is by using an overhand grip or neutral grip. You can also work the outer bicep by holding your forearm across your body as you flex your arm.

In addition, exercises where you keep your elbow behind your torso work more of the outer part of your bicep.

  • Pronated or Neutral Grip
  • Close Grip or Forearms Angled In
  • Elbows Behind Torso

Next, let’s get into some actual exercises for the brachialis.

Brachialis Exercises

To make this list of brachialis exercises easier to digest, I’ve divided it into sections based on the equipment used. There is a section for dumbbells, barbells, cables, machines, resistance bands, and “others.”

This segmentation also makes it easier to find the exercises that work with your gym equipment. So whether you work out at a fancy health club or in your backyard, there are at least a few brachialis isolation exercises you can do.

Dumbbell Brachialis Exercises

Dumbbells are arguably the most versatile equipment for working the brachialis. The reason is that you have more control over your grip and forearm position.

So here are some of the best dumbbell exercises for the brachialis.

1. Dumbbell Reverse Curl

Reverse curls are when you lift the weight with a grip opposite to the traditional bicep curl. For dumbbells, this means your palms face down throughout the exercise.

With this pronated grip, you minimize the involvement of your inner bicep. And put most of the load on your brachialis, outer bicep, and upper forearm.

2. Dumbbell Hammer Curls

With hammer curls, your hand is somewhere between supination and pronation – this is called a neutral grip. As a result, your palms face inward through the whole exercise, and the dumbbell looks like the head of a swinging hammer.

With dumbbells, you have the option to perform this exercise in an alternating fashion, one arm at a time. This helps you focus on muscle contraction and is useful for learning the exercise.

But you can also perform hammer curls with both arms simultaneously, also called a double hammer curl.

Brachialis Exercises Dumbbell Hammer Curls

3. Seated Incline Hammer Curls

Seated hammer curls are identical to standing hammer curls, except you perform the exercise while sitting on a bench. As a result, you reduce momentum from the rest of your body, which puts more load on the bicep.

Another variation of seated hammer curls involves leaning back on an incline bench. This eliminates momentum and isolates the biceps. The angle also puts more load on the outer biceps and brachialis.

4. Cross-Body Dumbbell Curls

Another way to change your forearm position is by angling your arm across your body on single-arm curls. For example, during a standing dumbbell curl, you would curl the weight up and towards your sternum while keeping your elbow at your side.

You can accentuate the outer bicep and brachialis more by performing this exercise with a neutral or hammer grip.

5. Zottman Curl

The Zottman curl is a bicep exercise named after American strongman George Zottman. In the late 1800s, Zottman popularized this exercise by building exception arm size and grip strength for his era.

A distinct feature of the Zottman curl is that your hand position changes during the exercise. This exercise is usually performed with dumbbells to rotate your wrists at the top and bottom of the movement.

Barbell Brachialis Exercises

Next up, let’s look at some brachialis exercises you can do using various types of barbells.

6. Barbell Reverse Curl

Again, reverse curls are performed with a pronated grip where your palms face down for the entire exercise. In other words, an overhand grip on a barbell or EZ bar.

Also, make sure you keep your elbows pinned at your sides to isolate the biceps and brachialis muscles.

Brachialis Exercises Barbell Reverse Curls

7. EZ Bar Reverse Curl

An EZ bar reverse curl is almost the same as a barbell reverse curl, except the bar is slightly curved. The curved bar allows your hands to maintain a more natural position during curls.

For reverse curls, grab the EZ bar with your palms are down and your thumbs slightly higher than your pinky fingers.

8. EZ Bar Reverse Preacher Curl

Another way to do reverse curls is using a preacher bench. With reverse preacher curls, the bench holds your upper arms in place. So you don’t get assistance from momentum and must use strict form.

9. Barbell Drag Curls

Drag curls are a variation where you pull the weight up towards your armpits against the front of your body. Essentially, you’re curling the weight close to your body instead of away from your body.

This subtle change in form is similar to incline curls, where your elbows move behind your torso. And that’s what brings the outer bicep and brachialis into play.

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Cable Brachialis Exercises

Cables are another good equipment option for training the brachialis. With this apparatus, you can keep more constant tension on the muscles compared to free weights.

10. Cable Reverse Curl

You can do the cable reverse curl with a straight bar or EZ bar cable attachment. Begin by facing the cable about 1-2 feet away from the low pulley. Then perform the reverse curl exercise as you would with a barbell.

11. Cable Rope Curl

The rope attachment is excellent for training the outer biceps and brachialis because it keeps your hands neutral during curls. In this way, rope curls are similar to hammer curls or cross-body curls.

12. Cable Bayesian Curl

Another way to work the brachialis is by facing away from the low cable using a single-hand attachment. Grab the handle with an underhand grip and step forward with your back to the pulley. This should place your elbow behind your torso like an incline curl.

From the starting position, curl the handle up towards your armpit while keeping your elbow behind you, almost like a drag curl.

13. Cable Drag Curls

Cable drag curls are performed in much the same way as barbell drag curls. Stand with the low pulley close to your toes for this variation to drag the cable straight up.

Again, you can use a straight or EZ bar attachment for this exercise.

Machine Brachialis Exercises

If you’re working out at a fitness club, you probably have access to a few machines. One of which is usually a machine preacher curl that you can use to isolate the brachialis.

14. Pronated Machine Preacher Curls

On the machine preacher curl, grab the handles with your palms facing down instead of facing up. Then perform the preacher curl exercise as normal.

Note that this variation only works if your preacher curl machine has straight or rotating handles. This exercise is not appropriate on machines with fixed, slanted handles.

Resistance Band Brachialis Exercises

Fortunately, you can still target your brachialis even if you don’t have free weights, cables, or machines. Here are a couple of exercise variations using resistance bands.

15. Resistance Band Reverse Curls

To perform a resistance band reverse curl, grab the band or handles with your palms facing down. Now perform the bicep curl movement as normal but keep your palms facing down the whole time.

16. Resistance Band Hammer Curls

Before you begin, slide the foam handles off to one side. Or if you’re using a power band, grab the band with your palms facing in. Now perform a standard curling movement but maintain the palms in grip.

Other Brachialis Exercises

Fear not if you’ve read this far and still haven’t found an exercise for you. Here are a few more brachialis exercises with different equipment.

17. Kettlebell Reverse Curl

A kettlebell reverse curl is just like a dumbbell reverse curl except for how the weight is distributed. With the dumbbell, you hold the center of the weight.

But the kettlebell has a handle away from the center of mass of the weight. Therefore, your forearms and brachialis must do more work to stabilize the kettlebell, and you might not be able to curl as much weight.

18. Kettlebell Hammer Curl

Again, the kettlebell places the center of mass further away from your hand. This makes the kettlebell hammer curl more challenging than dumbbells.

19. Any Pulling Exercises Involving Arm Flexion

Lastly, any exercise where you pull the weight with your arms will involve the brachialis muscle. That means you can work the brachialis on exercises like pull-ups, lat pulldowns, bent-over rows, and more.

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Brachialis Workout

Now you have nineteen excellent exercises for hitting the brachialis. But you might have analysis paralysis from all those options.

So I’m going to give you an example brachialis workout. In addition, I’ll explain how to program these exercises in terms of frequency and sets/reps.

Brachialis Workout Frequency

The first thing to establish is how often you train your biceps and brachialis. Of course, the answer to that depends on your experience and your goals.

For beginners or people who can only work out a few days a week, a total body 3-day split works well. That means you would do a couple of biceps/brachialis exercises each workout three times per week.

More advanced lifters might work single muscle groups in each workout with a 5-day or 6-day split. This is called the bro split workout routine, and it works great for growth (despite the name).

In that case, you would work your arms for an entire workout once or twice a week. And you want to include at least a couple of brachialis exercises in those workouts.

Bro Split Side Delt Exercises

Brachialis Workout Sets & Reps

To grow your arms, it’s best to use a hypertrophy training program. That means using weights you can handle for 6-12 reps.

Also, you should aim for 4-6 sets per exercise. And each workout should include from 5 to 8 exercises. So that’s around 24-32 total sets per workout.

Brachialis Workout Example

With all this in mind, a brachialis-focused arm workout starts to take shape. Here is an example using some of the exercises and techniques you just learned.

Remember, most of these exercises primarily work the outer bicep and brachialis. So this isn’t a workout you want to use every arm day. And make sure you also include some inner bicep training as well.

Brachialis Workout

How To Build Bigger Biceps

In this article, you learned how to make your arms thicker and stronger with exercises for the brachialis. But if you want to build overall bicep size, you can’t forget about training the long head and the short head.

So click below to learn the differences in bicep activation between hammer curls vs bicep curls.

With this information, you’re well on your way to building massive arms. And if you found this article helpful, take a look at some of my other great content below!

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By |April 4, 2022|Workouts|0 Comments
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