The 9 Best Brachialis Exercises | The Ultimate Guide!

Brachialis exercises

Are you curious about the best brachialis exercises?

The Brachialis is one of the most important muscle groups in the upper arms.

In fact, the legendary strength coach Charles Poliquin says that training the brachialis is the key to building big, strong arms!

So what are the best brachialis exercises?

The best brachialis exercises include reverse ez-bar curls, dumbbell hammer curls, zottman curls, and reverse cable curls. All of these exercises use a neutral or pronated grip, which is ideal for targeting the brachialis muscle!

The truth is, the brachialis works during ALL curling exercises.

It does not matter if you are curling with an supinated grip, a neutral grip, or a pronated grip – as long as you are doing some type of curl, the brachialis is working.

This is why some exercise scientists call the brachialis the “workhorse of elbow flexion” – it is always working when you curl your upper arm!

Of course, some grips work the brachialis more than others.

Here are the two best grips to use when trying to work the brachialis:

  • Option #1: The pronated grip
  • Option #2: The neutral grip

Here is a demonstration of the pronated grip curl:

The pronated (or palms-facing-down) grip is ideal for working the brachialis.

Research shows that curling with a pronated grip works the brachialis more than any other grip. However, the neutral grip is also very effective at working the brachialis, so it deserves a place in your workouts as well.

The supinated (or palms-facing-up) grip works your brachialis muscle a little bit. However, this grip primarily targets the biceps muscle.

So if you are trying to work the brachialis, then you should probably stick with the pronated grip.

The Best Brachialis Exercises

There are three main types of exercises you can use to train the brachialis muscle:

  • Option #1: Ez-bar brachialis exercises
  • Option #2: Dumbbell brachialis exercises
  • Option #3: Cable brachialis exercise

All of these exercise variations are extremely effective.

In my experience, the dumbbell brachialis exercises are probably most effective for building size and strength.

There are also a greater variety of exercises that you can perform with dumbbells, as opposed to the ez-bar or cables. However, all 3 types of brachialis exercises deserve a place in your workout programs.

Without further delay, here is a list of the 9 best brachialis movements:

The 9 Best Brachialis Exercises

Let’s take a closer look at each of these exercises.

Exercise #1: The Ez-Bar Reverse Curl

The reverse ez-bar curl is one of the simplest brachialis exercises that you can perform. You simply stand up with an ez-curl bar, and curl the weight using a pronated (or reverse grip).

I recommend you perform this exercise with a wide pronated grip, rather than a narrow one. The bar tends to spin when you use a narrow pronated grip, which makes it difficult to perform this exercise.

So why are we using an ez-curl bar, rather than a regular 45-pound barbell?

The answer is simple: the ez-curl bar puts significantly less pressure on your wrists than a straight barbell.

Over time, this means faster size and strength gains, and less risk of injury.

Exercise #2: The Preacher Ez-Bar Reverse Curl

In my opinion, this is a superior version of the standing ez-bar reverse curl.

The preacher bench prevents you from cheating the weight up using your lower back or shoulders. This means that your brachialis muscle has to work harder to move the weight.

You may find that you have to use less weight on this exercise variation.

Don’t worry – that is perfectly matter. The important thing is that this exercise variation will put more mechanical tension on your brachialis muscle, which means faster size and strength gains.

Of course, both the standing version of this exercise, and the preacher curl version are great for training the brachialis.

However, the preacher curl version is probably a little bit more effective overall.

Exercise #3: The Seated Zottman Curl

Now we’re getting to the good stuff!

In my opinion, the seated Zottman curl is one of the very best brachialis exercises that you can perform in the gym.

To perform this exercise, you curl the weight up using a supinated (underhand) grip, and lower the weight back down using a pronated (reverse) grip.

Why would you want to do this?

The truth is, the Zottman curl lets you eccentrically overload the brachialis muscle. You are stronger with a supinated grip, so by curling the weight up with a supinated grip, you can lower a heavier-than-normal weight with a reverse grip to destroy your brachialis!

How cool is that!?

In my experience, the Zottman curl is one of the most effective brachialis exercises ever. I think you will be shocked at how fast your strength increases when using this exercise.

Exercise #4: The Preacher Zottman Curl

The Zottman curl can also be performed on a preacher curl station.

The preacher Zottman curl does a slightly better job of isolating the elbow flexors (including the brachialis), making this variation slightly more effective than the seated Zottman curl.

You can also perform this exercise with 1 arm at a time.

The 1-arm version of this exercise lets you use slightly more weight, so it may be the ultimate Zottman curl variation!

Exercise #5: The Dumbbell Hammer Curl

One of the cool things about dumbbells is you can train the brachialis with a neutral, or hammer grip. For obvious reasons, this is impossible when using an ez-curl bar!

The hammer grip targets three different muscles, in order of importance:

  • Muscle #1: The brachioradialis
  • Muscle #2: The brachialis
  • Muscle #3: The biceps brachii

The dumbbell hammer curl primarily works the brachioradialis muscle.

This is the large muscle sitting on top of your forearm. However, it also works the brachialis quite a bit, and the biceps brachii receives some stimulation too.

It is just a great all-around grip for training all of the different curling muscles.

Exercise #6: The Meadows Curl

This is a very unique exercise that John Meadows invented. In this video, he calls it his #1 favorite biceps exercise.

In my experience, it is extremely effective for training all of the curling muscles, including the brachialis.

The basic idea is to face away from a lat pulldown machine, and rest your elbows on the pads. Then, you initiate the curl while leaning back slightly with your elbows fixed against the pads.

The Meadows curl is almost like a preacher curl, as your elbows are fixed against the pads.

This is just a great all-around variation for training your brachialis. Of course, you can also perform a dumbbell hammer curl using a preacher curl station.

Exercise #7: The Pinwheel Curl

The pinwheel curl is a very popular exercise with advanced bodybuilders.

This exercise is almost exactly like the regular dumbbell hammer curl, but with one big exception: instead of curling the dumbbell directly in front of you, you curl the dumbbell across your body.

This variation can be performed with a little bit of “cheating,” which can be useful for overloading your brachialis and forearms with a slightly heavier weight.

Exercise #8: The Cable Reverse Curl

Now it’s time to talk about the best cable brachialis exercises!

Cables sometimes get a bad rap. However, they definitely have a place when it comes to training the brachialis muscle.

In my experience, both reverse cable curls and hammer cable curls can be reasonably effective. The reverse cable curl can be performed 1-arm at a time, or using an ez-curl bar. Both options are perfectly acceptable.

For best results, you should perform this exercise while cocking your wrist up and back throughout the entire range of motion.

Exercise #9: The Cable Hammer Curl

The cable hammer curl is another excellent exercise variation for training the brachialis muscle.

As discussed earlier, hammer grip will mostly target the brachioradialis. However, the brachialis and biceps brachii will also receive a reasonable amount of stimulation.

Anatomy Of The Brachialis Muscle

When most people think of their upper arms, they immediately think of two main muscle groups: the biceps and the triceps. However, this is an over-simplified way of looking at your upper arms.

The truth is there are three main muscle groups that help you perform different curling exercises:

  • Muscle #1: The biceps
  • Muscle #2: The brachialis
  • Muscle #3: The brachioradialis

The brachialis sits underneath the biceps muscle.

When fully developed, it looks like a lump sticking out on the outside of your upper arm. Just take a look at Arnold Schwarzenegger making an upper arm muscle for a great visual of the brachialis muscle!

The brachialis is unique because it is active during all curling movements. However, it is most active when using a reverse or neutral grip.

If you made it this far in the article, then you already know this!

Benefits Of Training The Brachialis

The truth is there are many benefits associated with training the brachialis muscle:

  • Benefit #1: Increased upper arm size
  • Benefit #2: Increased upper arm strength
  • Benefit #3: Increased upper body strength

Let’s take a closer look at each of these benefits.

Benefit #1: Increased Upper Arm Size

The brachialis is almost as big as your biceps muscle. When it is fully developed, it pushes the biceps and triceps muscles away from each other, giving the upper arms a much larger appearance.

The truth is, most people neglect the brachialis in their workouts, so their upper arms are much smaller than they could be.

Training the brachialis is a great way to get some fast gains in arm size!

Benefit #2: Increased Upper Arm Strength

The brachialis is probably the weakest curling muscle for most people.

When you start training the brachialis muscle, don’t be surprised if all of your curling exercises increase in strength – including your underhand grip curls!

In fact, you may find that your triceps strength increases as well.

The body likes to be in balance with itself, so when the biceps increase in strength, this facilitates faster strength gains in the triceps as well.

Benefit #3: Increased Upper Body Strength

The truth is a weak brachialis muscle can hold back your strength on many key upper body exercises, like pull ups, rows, bench presses, and overhead presses.

The strength coach Charles Poliquin made this observation many years ago.

He found that when people started training their brachialis seriously, all of their upper body lifts quickly increased in strength.

Verdict | The 9 Best Brachialis Exercises!

The brachialis is easily one of the most important muscle groups in the upper arm. Unfortunately, most people neglect the brachialis in their workouts!

If you are serious about training the brachialis muscle, then you have to give these 9 brachialis exercises a shot.

They may be just what you need to take your training to the next level!

Thank you for reading and I wish you the best of luck on your strength training journey!

Dr. Mike Jansen, PT, DPT

What's going on! My name is Dr. Mike Jansen, I'm the creator of Revolutionary Program Design. If you want to take your training to the next level, then you've come to the right place... My goal is to make RPD the #1 strength training resource available anywhere in the world!

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