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What is the Brachialis?

By Alex Terris
Updated May 17, 2024
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The brachialis is an arm muscle located just above the elbow and beneath the bicep. Its primary purpose is to flex the elbow joint isometrically. The muscle works in conjunction with the bicep to provide elbow flexion. Although the bicep is often more active during flexion, the brachialis is actually the strongest muscle involved in this movement. Due to its location, the muscle is important in any sport or activity where the arm and elbow are used extensively such as tennis or squash.

The brachialis inserts at the ulna, a long bone in the lower arm and originates towards the front of the humerus. To attach to the bone, the muscle becomes a tendon before the ulna. For this reason brachialis tendinitis is an injury that’s common amongst people who overuse the muscle in a repetitive way. The muscle is part of the cubital fossa — a group of muscles located in the upper arm.

Any movement that requires the elbow to flex will involve the use of the brachialis as well as the bicep. Pushing, pulling and lifting with the arms will all invoke the muscle. The muscle also provides stability in the elbow against the triceps, which is important in movements such as throwing.

As the muscle is so commonly used in many sports it needs to be exercised regularly in order to increase flexibility and strength. Some athletes prefer to train the muscle in isolation while others use it in general arm exercises. Either way, to avoid injuries, exercises that use the muscle are vital. Although any movement that flexes the elbow will use the muscle, there are some which are more effective at training it than others.

Examples of exercises that can be used to train the brachialis muscle are barbell curls and cable curls. As the name suggests, to perform a barbell bicep curl the person should hold a barbell and flex the elbow while keeping his or her back straight. The movement should be slow and controlled. A cable curl is similar although a cable machine needs to be used.

Injuries to the muscles in the upper arm are common amongst weight lifters and body builders although they can affect anyone who uses elbow flexion in a repetitive way. For example, elbow tendinopathy and nerve entrapment syndrome are both caused by the overuse of this muscle.

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Discussion Comments

By tolleranza — On Oct 27, 2011

I know this is going to probably sound extremely silly, but I think I may have strained my brachialis muscle while playing tennis on the wii game console. After playing for about a half hour, I started to get a pretty intense pain right above my elbow, so I am guessing this was my brachialis muscle being strained.

I am not used to playing sports or working out where you use your upper body that much, so this probably why I strained my brachialis muscle so easily. I just took anti-inflammatory pain medicine, and the pain seemed to go away after a day, so I am sure it was a minor strain, but still something note worthy.

By allenJo — On Oct 26, 2011

@SkyWhisperer - That’s great. I’m glad that he finally found some relief. I agree with what the article says, however, that any movement which stretches the elbow could cause injury to the brachialis.

I had some tendinitis develop over the years simply by using the computer and not adhering to proper posture. Before I knew it, I had pain in my elbow, wrists and even parts of my back, but it began with the elbow.

You have to keep your elbows and wrists in the correct position when you type on the computer otherwise you will easily get this condition. I used ice packs and exercises that were recommended by an orthopedic specialist, and these helped to alleviate the condition.

By SkyWhisperer — On Oct 26, 2011

My son unfortunately experienced the results of excessive brachialis stretch resulting in tennis elbow.

He took up tennis several years ago and was quite committed to the sport, playing several times a week and competing in tournaments. After awhile he complained about pain in his elbow and his wrist.

So we had to have him rest from the sport for awhile, but of course that was not a permanent solution because he really like playing tennis.

We bought a flexor device that would strengthen his wrists and the brachialis muscle. The brachialis exercise was very useful in making him strong again to the point where he could play again without feeling pain.

By wavy58 — On Oct 25, 2011

I do pullups as part of my exercise routine. I injured my brachialis once while pulling myself up on a bar, and I immediately fell to the ground in pain.

The area around and above my elbow got really inflamed, and it even swelled enough that you could see something was wrong with it. I knew I hadn't broken anything, but this was the worst pain from a pulled muscle I have ever experienced.

I used hot and cold packs on it, alternating between the two. I took plenty of anti-inflammatory medicine while dealing with the pain. I didn't want to go to the doctor for a pulled muscle, but I sure could have used some stronger painkillers.

By Oceana — On Oct 24, 2011

I didn't know the name of this muscle, but I have made it sore many times by doing too many biceps curls! Especially as a teen, I was trying to add muscle to my wiry frame, and I wound up with sore arms for days.

Now, I know to pace myself while weightlifting. I never try to do curls with large amounts of weight, but I have been guilty of doing way too many reps with small weights.

When I overworked my brachialis, I took ibuprofen for a few days. Other than massaging it, that was all I could do for the soreness.

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