The brachialis is not a muscle you hear much about around the gym, and this is partly because it is hard to see. This is because it lies underneath the tennis ball-shaped biceps at the front of your arms. Anytime you do a biceps curl exercise, you actually work the underlying brachialis, as both muscles work to bend your elbow. Rotating your forearms internally and then doing a biceps curl almost completely takes the biceps out of the movement, leaving the brachialis doing most of the work. By doing one or two biceps exercises in this fashion, you will better build the brachialis and add more detail to your arm musculature.
Standing Reverse Barbell Curl
Hold a barbell with an overhand grip, so your forearms are internally rotated. Your hands should be slightly wider than shoulder width.
Stand with your body upright and place the barbell in front of your thighs with your arms straight.
Raise the barbell toward your front shoulder region by bending your elbows.
Lower the barbell down to the beginning position by extending your elbows.
Try to keep your elbows by the sides of your torso throughout the movement to minimize the involvement of your anterior deltoid. This is a shoulder muscle that works to raise your arm in the forward direction.
Standing One-Arm Reverse Curl
Do this exercise mainly as a substitute for the barbell reverse curl as part of your regular arm-training regimen. Because you are only working one side at a time, you can better feel the brachialis working.
Grasp a dumbbell with your right hand in an overhand grip.
Stand with your body upright and place the dumbbell in front of your right thigh.
Bring the dumbbell up toward your right front shoulder region by bending your right elbow.
Lower the dumbbell to the initial position by extending your right elbow.
Repeat the exercise with your left arm after you complete the target number of repetitions with your right arm.
- To establish a "mind-muscle" connection with your brachialis, meaning you can really feel the muscle when it is at work, start doing higher repetitions -- in the 15- to 25-rep range -- during your initial workouts. Once you can feel the brachialis during reverse curls, lower the rep range to 12 to 15. This is an effective repetition scheme for muscle building.
- Avoid swinging your back during either variation of the reverse curl. Doing so lessens the work done by the brachialis and shifts some of the emphasis onto other muscles. Do the reverse curls in a controlled fashion and you will not only achieve the greatest brachialis muscular gains, but also minimize injury risks.
Richard Choueiri is a fitness and nutrition expert and the author of "The Human Statue Workout." He began writing professionally in 2007 and his work has been featured in Bodybuilding.com and "Physique Magazine." Choueiri studied exercise science and nutritional science at Rutgers University. He holds an American College of Sports Medicine CPT, and a National Exercise and Sports Trainers Association CMMACC.