This article will begin by focusing on brachialis related workouts and then move into the short head biceps exercises. You may be asking yourself why the brachialis is included here at all. Or you may ask why it is not included in the long head article.
Well, the brachialis is an important muscle as it can be used to create a more prominent muscle peak. This is true since the brachialis is located under and pushes up on the long head. The brachialis also adds girth to the biceps to create a fuller appearance.
Now, every aspect of your training will benefit if you take the time to really understand the anatomy of your muscles (e.g. how the brachialis can give you bigger biceps). That’s why every single one of my programs walks you through the science behind every programmed exercise – and why you’re doing what you do. Interested?
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One thing to note before we start and this cannot be over stated is the importance of concentration. Studies have shown that actively focusing on squeezing the biceps as you work them creates greater muscle hypertrophy and growth. This means that focusing on the muscle, using less weights, and concentrating on form is key to getting the desired results.
This basic principle can be applied to all exercises including those that focus on the arms. Therefore, while you put into practice the tips provided in this series of article, be especially diligent in regards to form and focus on squeezing the muscle which you are hoping to activate with the movement.
Focusing on the brachialis can be a good way to accentuate the biceps. Working out this muscle group increases the peak and girth of the upper arm. It also allows you to utilize a variety for exercises to change up your routine.
As shown above, the brachialis inserts onto the ulna and thus only has one purpose, that is the flexion of the arm. Exercises that isolate this movement and minimize radio-ulnar joint movements (pronation and supination) can be used to focus on the brachialis.
As shown below, the reverse curl uses a reverse grip on the dumbbell to perform a normal curl movement. The knuckles face towards the ceiling throughout this movement.
The range of motion is similar but slightly less than the regular curl. Given that the hand begins and ends the movement in the pronated position, the range is slightly reduced.
In the pronated position, the brachialis is preferentially activated and the level of activity of the biceps heads is reduced as shown in this study.
During this movement, the focus should be to perform the motion slowly and while squeezing the muscle.
The hammer curl achieves flexion of the elbow with the hand in the neutral position. This shifts a greater amount of the work onto the brachialis as shown in this study.
The hammer curl both directly and indirectly enhances the appearance of the biceps long head. The reason for this, is that hammer curls target the brachialis. The brachialis is a muscle group which lies underneath the biceps long head and can be focused on to increase the mass of the outer arm as it pushes the long head upwards.
The direct effects are due to the activity of the biceps long head itself. The long head of the biceps will still be active and producing force throughout the range of motion during the hammer curl. Therefore, performing this exercise will cause hypertrophy and growth of the biceps long head as well.
Another tip would be to lower the weight slowly. That is to say, the eccentric phase of this movement should be done slowly (over 5 seconds or so) to allow for greater activation of the brachialis and to focus less on the biceps itself as shown by this study.
Slow eccentric phase can be applied to many different exercises including the reverse and the hammer curl.
This movement allows you to focus on the brachialis and the brachioradialis. Given that the brachialis does not insert on the radius, it also does not play a role in supination at the radio-ulnar joint. So, starting in the pronated position and staying in this position will shift some of the work towards the brachialis, rather than the biceps as shown by this study.
The reverse curl with the EZ bar is very similar to the dumbbell curl with reverse grip. Slightly heavier weights can be lifted with the bar and greater stabilization is given by the bar itself.
The disadvantage of the bar is the imbalance it can cause. That is to say, one side of the body can compensate for the other. Thus, it is important to utilize both the bar and dumbbells.
The barbell allows you to maximize the hypertrophic effects of heavier weights (and smaller incremental increases). The dumbbell allows you to develop a balanced physique and strengthen nearby muscle which are recruited as stabilizers.
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The short head of the biceps is preferentially recruited when using a wider grip. The grip should be wider than shoulder width (perhaps even wider than the picture above).
Focusing on the short head will help increase the width of the muscle. A well-developed short head of the biceps gives the appearance of a fuller looking muscle in general.
The downside with wider grip barbell curls is reduced range of motion. Due to this, the muscle is required to produce force for a shorter duration of time. Also, varying grip does tend to put greater pressure on the wrists which some may find uncomfortable.
Similar to barbell curl but slightly different. This can be used to add a little variety to your biceps routine.
The downside with preacher curls is that they cause greater activation early in the movement and less as the angle of the elbow is reduced. So, using things like cable assisted curls that provide more consistent resistance across the range of motion is a good alternative as well.
The preacher curl also has similar elements to the next exercise – the concentration curl. In this exercise movement of the upper arm is limited as it is rested against a bench.
Studies have shown that supination and flexion can be used to increase short head activation. Therefore, starting in a neutral position and finishing in a supinated position will target the short head.
Hand position is key to achieving short head activation during the concentration curl. Combined flexion and supination during this activity has been shown to shift the load preferentially towards the short head of the biceps muscle.
Concentration curls are an excellent way to maximally activate the biceps. By resting the elbow against your leg, they also have the advantage of minimizing movement and thus activation of other muscles.
This exercise has the added benefit of reducing activation of the anterior deltoid which is often hard to avoid during curls. Pressing the humerus against the leg does not allow the upper arm to sway, thus reducing the activation of the anterior deltoids.
You can focus on pointing your pinky towards the ceiling as you move though this range of motion.
Biceps exercises, where the arms are held in front of the body are able to target the short head of the biceps. Since the biceps short head does not cross the shoulder joint, this muscle will be more active than the long head as the angle of the elbow is decreased throughout the range of motion.
During this movement, an inclined bench is used and the arms hang in front of the body. The elbows should be locked into place.
Avoid having the elbows point outwards at any point in the movement. Also, focus on supinating the wrists while you move through the range of motion as shown below to maximize short head activation.
Note in the picture above, that the elbows are kept close to the body. Moreover, the hands are supinated so that the pinky finger is pointing upwards at the end of the movement.
That brings us to the end of this article on exercises for the short head of the biceps and the brachialis.
Here is a suggested workout for the biceps short head if you feel that the width and fullness of your biceps is lacking and should be targeted to a greater extent.
Of course, you do not want to neglect the long head either, so see the previously posted article. You can mix-and-match while focusing on each component as needed.
Dumbbell hammer curls (with slow eccentric phase): 3 sets of 6 – 8 reps
Concentration curls (with supinated hand position): 3 sets of 6 – 10 reps
Spider curls (with supinated hand position): 3 sets of 6 – 10 reps
That’s it for this week’s article but stay posted for the next in this series! Please continue sending in your questions in the comments section!! If you have enjoyed this content, Please follow me on Instagram and subscribe to my Youtube channel where I will frequently post videos on a wide range of work-out related topics.
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