Monday, February 25, 2013

BEEFING The Upper forearms. By Vic Goyaram

Researched and composed by Vic Goyaram
Phil Heath is undeniably the king of brachioradialis 
Functional anatomy
The brachioradialis is located at the upper outer region of the forearm. It should not be confused with the brachialis, the latter being an upper arm muscle located between the biceps and triceps. Perhaps the best bodybuilder to use as anatomy chart to display the brachioradialis is Mr. Olympia Phil Heath who is "gifted" with one of the most impressive pairs in pro bodybuilding today.  Of course, those of the two-time Mr. Olympia has a lot to do with genetics but yours can go a long way by using some of the exercises that will be described in this article.
Heath's brachioradialis looks like from another planet
Darrem Charles' biceps are excellent and peaked
The brachioradialis is an elbow flexor muscle and is used when using a palms down or overhand (pronated) grip on pulling and curling exercises. Therefore, exercises that flex the elbow while using an overhand grip will stimulate the brachioradialis. It is interesting to note that the brachioradialis has more or less the same muscle fibre composition as the biceps, meaning a good amount of type II (fast) fibres compared to other muscles of the forearms which have more type I (slow) fibres. This allowance of type II fibres in the brachioradialis has important implications for understanding the function and what repetition range to use to effectively train this muscle.
Muscular anatomy of the forearm. Top and bottom pictures show
the inner and outer forearm respectively
Flexing the elbows using an overhand grip puts the biceps in a mechanically weak position. Just imagine how stronger you are in an underhand grip barbell row or lat pulldown compared to when an overhand grip is used. Therefore, elbow flexion movements using an overhand grip bring the brachioradialis into play to assist the biceps. This may explain why the brachioradialis has a good percentage of type II muscle fibres just like the biceps.
Lat pulldowns involve the brachioradialis to some extent
(when using the pronated grip)
Exercises and repetition ranges
As mentioned above, exercises that involve elbow flexion with a palms down grip work the brachioradialis as a secondary muscle. These include overhand grip rowing and pull-up movements. Good exercises are T-bar rows, rows and chinups/ pullups. Recommended repetition range for hypertrophy is 6-12. I personally like to follow my back workouts with a forearm workout comprising of an isolation movement for the brachialis like reverse barbell curls.
Rowing movements with an overhand grip indirectly work the brachioradialis.
Brachioradialis is also recruited in overhand 
grip chin-ups and pull-downs
Other exercises
1. Reverse barbell curls
Reverse barbell curls can be done standing and seated on a preacher curl bench.  Some trainees find that using an overhand grip with a straight bar can be uncomfortable on the wrists and therefore use a cambered (EZ) barbell.  Generally a shoulder width grip is recommended.  As a personal tip for this exercise I recommend keeping the wrists fixed throughout the movement instead of moving them. I find that this taxes the brachioradialis muscle even more.  Elbows should also be fixed and the weight should be appropriate in order to avoid recruiting assisting muscles excessively. The reverse barbell curl is not only a forearm/ brachioradialis exercise. It is also a very good overall arm exercise as it recruits the brachialis and biceps as synergists. Give this exercise a fair shot for adding mass to your arms. 
 Reverse barbell curls can be done standing or on a preacher curl 
bench with a straight or an EZ bar
2. Hammer curls
Use of a hammer grip also works the brachioradialis and involve a lot of brachialis at the same time.  Hammer curls can be performed using a preacher bench, using rope or dumbbells. In the latter case, there are two variations, namely the conventional hammer curls and the cross body or "pinwheel" variation pictured below. Because this exercise also works the brachialis I recommend doing it on biceps day but can be included as best fits your program.
I prefer using the cross-body variation
for my hammer curl exercise
3. Zottman Curls
This is an old school exercise which is hardly ever used nowadays. In this curl you start with a biceps curl with palms facing up. At the top of the movement rotate your wrists so that the palms are now facing downwards (pronated). Perform the negative part of the curl using a pronated grip. This exercise therefore works both the biceps and the brachioradialis. Elbows should be kept stationary at all times and not depart from the sides of your body. The exercise can be done in an alternate manner as well.
Zottmann curls can be done in both an alternate or simultaneous
manner. This is a great movement to beef up the arm
4. Close grip pronated grip pullups
This exercise will leave you in serious pain but can produce dramatic results. Go under a smith machine bar set at about waist height and using a close and pronated grip (elbows tucked to the side) bring your body up towards the bar. Hold it there.  

©,2013, Veeraj Goyaram, Bodybuilding Mauritius. Any reprinting in any type of media is prohibited.

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