Jan 24, 2019Eric Fortier
Everything you need to know about the BICEPS, the elbow flexors.

The biceps is probably the most famous muscle of all: show me your big biceps.

The elbow flexors are divided into 4 main categories.

Round pronator

Primary muscle that flexes the elbow. It is located under the biceps, like the coraco-brachialis. While the biceps is the muscle that sits on top and is the most visible, the brachialis, on its own, generates 50% more power than the biceps, making it a major component in flexing the elbow.

Unlike the biceps, the brachialis has no function in the pronation and supination of the forearm, on the other hand, it is the only muscle to always be recruited during the flexion of the forearm, regardless of the position of hands and elbows.


Little anecdote about the origin of the word muscle. One thing that people also don't know is that the bicep is where the word "muscle" comes from. Muscle in Latin translates to “musculus,” which means, little mouse, because the Greeks thought the biceps looked suspiciously like the back of a little mouse.

In human anatomy, the biceps, or biceps brachii, is a muscle consisting of two heads, one long and one short, which attaches between the shoulder and the elbow. The two sets form a single whole, their functions: flexion and supination of the forearm.

The biceps also has 3 secondary functions: shoulder flexion as well as elbow and shoulder stabilization.

The primary function of the biceps is when flexing the forearm at the elbow, especially with the hand supinated. When the hand is in pronation, it is mainly the brachialis, the brachioradialis and the pronator teres that are solicited.

Contrary to popular belief, the biceps is not a powerful flexor of the elbow, compared to the brachialis, but on the other hand, it is a powerful supinator of the forearm when it is in flexion.

It is important to distinguish between the two heads, or the two heads of the biceps.

The long head of the biceps is the outer portion of the muscle.

The short head of the biceps is the inner portion of the muscle.

According to the theory, the long head of the biceps would be more recruited when the elbows are located behind the body, while the short head would be more recruited when the elbows are placed in front of the body.


The brachioradialis is the muscle in the forearm that flexes the elbow. This is a powerful elbow flexor when the hand is in a neutral position. When the hand is fully pronated, the brachioradialis is much more activated since the biceps is located in a disadvantageous position.

The brachioradialis is particularly effective when the forearm must flex quickly, such as during a throw.

The pronator teres:

The pronator teres is a muscle located in the forearm, mainly responsible for the pronation of this one. Pronation means turning the forearm towards the ground. Also, it assists weakly when bending the elbow when necessary. While it's impossible to truly isolate any particular muscle, these three flexors work in synergy to allow the arm and elbow to perform to their full potential.

Now, from a practical point of view, here are the main variations in the location of the elbow relative to the body and also the position of the hand when exercising.

Elbow behind body: incline DB curl

Elbow on each side of the body: Standing BB curl

Elbow in front of the body: Scott curl

Supine grip: palms up,

Neutral grip: palms facing each other

Overhand grip: palms down

These 6 different positions play an essential role in the optimal recruitment of the elbow flexors.

In our current world, with our habits of life, the two positions usually the weakest are those with the elbows placed behind the body and the hands placed in pronation.

According to the theory, you may be surprised at this statement, you can hardly increase the size and strength of your elbow flexors just with multi-joint exercises like pull-ups.

On the other hand, you will see a marked improvement in your performance with elbow flexion.

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