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The Biceps & Brachialis – An MSR Approach

Updated: Apr 1

Young Man Performing Biceps Curl Exercise

The biceps brachii and brachialis muscles are fundamental to forearm movement and elbow flexion, playing a significant role in both functional activities and athletic performance. This article will explore the anatomy and biomechanics of these muscles within the Motion Specific Release (MSR) framework, highlighting their integral roles in arm movement and stabilization.

We will assess the influence of the biceps and brachialis on forearm supination and elbow flexion, as well as the effects of their dysfunction on musculoskeletal health. Furthermore, we will introduce MSR techniques designed to enhance the function of these muscles, with the aim of improving interventions for conditions affecting the elbow and upper limb.

Article Index:

In the following sections, we will adhere to this structured index to provide a thorough and technical exploration of the biceps brachii and brachialis, ensuring that the content is appropriate for the medical community.


Anatomy Model

Biceps & Brachialis Anatomy & Biomechanics

The biceps brachii and brachialis muscles are central to elbow joint mechanics and play critical roles in upper limb function. Their anatomy and biomechanics are fundamental to understanding their function and devising effective MSR techniques.

Origin and Insertion:

  • Biceps Brachii: This muscle has two heads; the long head originates from the supraglenoid tubercle of the scapula, while the short head originates from the coracoid process of the scapula. Both heads merge into a single muscle belly and insert onto the radial tuberosity and bicipital aponeurosis.

  • Brachialis: Located deeper than the biceps brachii, the brachialis originates from the distal half of the anterior surface of the humerus and inserts onto the coronoid process and the tuberosity of the ulna.


  • Biceps Brachii: Innervated primarily by the musculocutaneous nerve, with contributions from the median nerve, this dual innervation is crucial for the biceps' flexion and supination actions.

  • Brachialis: Also innervated by the musculocutaneous nerve, and to a lesser extent by the radial nerve, ensuring its role as a powerful flexor of the elbow.

Biomechanical Role:

  • Biceps Brachii: Known for its role in forearm supination and elbow flexion, the biceps brachii also assists with shoulder flexion and abduction due to its origin on the scapula.

  • Brachialis: Primarily a flexor of the elbow, the brachialis provides stability to the joint and is active throughout the entire range of elbow flexion, regardless of the position of the forearm.

MSR Perspective:

In the context of MSR, the biceps brachii and brachialis are approached with an understanding of their synergistic action during arm movements. Therapeutic focus on these muscles includes techniques to improve blood flow, flexibility, and strength, while also addressing any myofascial restrictions that may impair their function. By addressing the specific biomechanics of these muscles, MSR can facilitate recovery from injury, enhance performance, and contribute to the overall function of the upper extremity.


MSR Logo

Motion Specific Release (MSR) Treatment

Initial Setup:

  • Patient Position: The patient is comfortably seated to ensure unrestricted access to the upper arm, with particular focus on the biceps and brachialis muscles, promoting relaxation of the area.

  • Practitioner Stance: The practitioner positions themselves to apply MSR techniques effectively to the upper arm, maintaining a balance of stability and dynamic movement.

Basic Technique:

  • Treatment: Starting proximally, the practitioner employs precise hand placements to apply directed pressure along the biceps, from the short head's origin at the coracoid process to the long head's origin at the supraglenoid tubercle, and down to the insertions at the radial tuberosity. The same proximal to distal strategy is used for the brachialis.

  • Support Hand: The opposite hand aids in creating optimal tension and assists with controlled movements, including pronation, supination, and circumduction of the forearm.

  • Synchronization: Careful synchronization of hand movements and pressure allows for a comprehensive treatment that follows the muscle fibers' course, acknowledging the biceps' role in flexion, supination, and the brachialis’ contribution to elbow flexion.

  • Pressure Application: Pressure is modulated in response to patient feedback and muscle response, ensuring comfort while effectively mobilizing the muscle.

Force Generation:

  • Bilateral Traction: The practitioner applies bilateral traction to elongate the muscle fibers, enhancing the effectiveness of the MSR treatment.

  • Multidirectional Engagement: Adjustments in the patient's arm position cater to the biceps and brachialis fibers' orientation, allowing for a multidirectional approach that addresses the muscles' functional roles. This process involved a coordinated process of traction, circumduction, and pronation and supination of the patients arm.

MSR Demonstration Video:

Dr. Abelson’s demonstration highlights the importance of incorporating movement into MSR procedures, facilitate a deeper release and distinguish between layers of tissue, enabling targeted treatment of restrictions.

Best Practices:

  • Time Allocation: Ample time is dedicated to each MSR session to ensure a detailed and effective treatment for the biceps and brachialis muscles.

  • Kinetic Chains: The interconnectedness of the biceps and brachialis with the kinetic chain is considered, recognizing their influence on forearm and shoulder movements.


  • Safety First: Treatments begin only after evaluating for contraindications and securing informed consent to prioritize patient safety.

  • Gentle Techniques: MSR is performed with caution, especially in the presence of pre-existing conditions, to prevent any discomfort or exacerbation.

  • Monitor Patient Feedback: Continuous monitoring of patient responses allows for adjustments in technique and pressure, ensuring a personalized and responsive MSR experience.


Functional Kinetic Chain Image

Functional Kinetic Chains: Biceps Brachii and Brachialis

The functional integration and kinetic role of the biceps brachii and brachialis are pivotal in upper limb movements. Their contribution is best understood through their myofascial connections and interactions with other musculoskeletal structures.

Direct Myofascial Connections:

The biceps brachii and brachialis muscles are integrally linked to the upper limb's functional anatomy through specific myofascial tracts. These connections include:

  • Bicipital Aponeurosis: This broad fascial extension of the biceps tendon diverges to merge with the deep fascia of the forearm, effectively connecting the biceps brachii to the flexor muscles of the forearm.

  • Brachial Fascia: Enveloping both the biceps and brachialis, this deep fascia forms a continuous sheath that connects with the antebrachial fascia of the forearm, coordinating the action of these muscles with the flexors and extensors of the forearm and hand.


Synergistic muscles that work in conjunction with the biceps brachii and brachialis during elbow flexion include:

  • Brachioradialis: Assists with flexion, especially when the forearm is in mid-pronation.

  • Pronator Teres: Although primarily a pronator, it can assist in elbow flexion alongside the biceps and brachialis.


Stabilizing muscles for the biceps and brachialis during upper limb actions are:

  • Rotator Cuff Muscles: These muscles, particularly the supraspinatus, infraspinatus, teres minor, and subscapularis, stabilize the shoulder joint.

  • Deltoid: This muscle envelops the shoulder and aids in stabilizing the glenohumeral joint throughout the range of motion initiated by the biceps brachii.


Antagonistic muscles that provide balance to the actions of the biceps and brachialis include:

  • Triceps Brachii: Serves as the primary antagonist to the biceps and brachialis, facilitating elbow extension.

  • Anconeus: A small muscle at the elbow that assists the triceps in extension of the joint.

Recognizing these relationships is essential when applying MSR techniques to ensure a holistic approach to treatment that considers the entire kinetic chain. Targeted interventions can then be developed to address specific dysfunctions within this chain, improving overall arm function and movement efficiency.



Exercise plays a crucial role in myofascial therapy, aimed at improving flexibility, building strength, and proprioception. Tailored exercises are chosen to match each individual's unique requirements, and the accompanying videos provide examples of potential exercises that may be recommended depending on the case at hand.

Biceps Myofascial Release

Releasing the Biceps muscles can be difficult with the foam roller. In comparison, a softball myofascial release is ideal to release the biceps.

10 Minute Arm Routine - Dynamic and Isometric

This routine is designed to enhance upper body strength and power by incorporating a combination of dynamic and isometric exercises. These exercises are rooted in anatomy and biomechanics and have been proven to be highly effective.



In conclusion, the biceps brachii and brachialis muscles are not only fundamental to the mechanics of elbow flexion and forearm supination but also to the overall structural integrity of the upper limb. By applying MSR techniques that respect the muscle's architecture and kinetic role, practitioners can significantly enhance muscle function, alleviate dysfunction, and aid in the recovery process of upper limb conditions.

Furthermore, the impact of this comprehensive approach reaches well beyond immediate therapeutic interventions. Informed exercise prescription and rehabilitation protocols result in a deeper understanding of muscle behavior across various physical demands. Such insight enables both clinicians and patients to strive for peak musculoskeletal health through well-founded treatment and exercise regimens.



Image Dr. Brian Abelson

Dr. Abelson's approach to musculoskeletal health care reflects a deep commitment to evidence-based practices and continuous learning. In his work at Kinetic Health in Calgary, Alberta, he focuses on integrating the latest research with a compassionate understanding of each patient's unique needs. As the Motion Specific Release (MSR) Treatment Systems developer, he views his role as both a practitioner and an educator, dedicated to sharing knowledge and techniques that can benefit the wider healthcare community. His ongoing efforts in teaching and practice aim to contribute positively to the field of musculoskeletal health, with a constant emphasis on patient-centered care and the collective advancement of treatment methods.


MSR Instructor Mike Burton Smiling

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  1. Abelson, B., Abelson, K., & Mylonas, E. (2018, February). A Practitioner's Guide to Motion Specific Release, Functional, Successful, Easy to Implement Techniques for Musculoskeletal Injuries (1st edition). Rowan Tree Books.

  2. Akesson, E., & Otto, D. (2019). Functional Anatomy of the Biceps Muscle and its Implications for Clinical Practice. Journal of Musculoskeletal Medicine.

  3. Clarkson, H. M., & Gilewich, G. B. (2012). Musculoskeletal Assessment: Joint Motion and Muscle Testing. 3rd ed. Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.

  4. Ellenbecker, T. S., & Davies, G. J. (2015). Closed Kinetic Chain Exercise: A Comprehensive Guide to Multiple Joint Exercises. Human Kinetics.

  5. Järvinen, T. A., Järvinen, T. L., Kääriäinen, M., Kalimo, H., & Järvinen, M. (2005). Muscle injuries: biology and treatment. The American Journal of Sports Medicine, 33(5), 745-764.

  6. Kibler, W. B., Sciascia, A., & Wilkes, T. (2012). Scapular dyskinesis and its relation to shoulder injury. Journal of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, 20(6), 364-372.

  7. Lewis, J. S., Wright, C., & Green, A. (2005). Subacromial impingement syndrome: The role of posture and muscle imbalance. Journal of Shoulder and Elbow Surgery, 14(4), 385-392.

  8. Magee, D. J. (2014). Orthopedic Physical Assessment. 6th ed. Saunders.

  9. Neumann, D. A. (2016). Kinesiology of the Musculoskeletal System: Foundations for Rehabilitation. 3rd ed. St. Louis: Mosby.

  10. O'Brien, S. J., Pagnani, M. J., Fealy, S., McGlynn, S. R., & Wilson, J. B. (1998). The anatomy and histology of the bicipital tendon sheath. Clinical Orthopaedics and Related Research, (228), 78-84.


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