How To Do Hammer Curls And How It Can Help You Build Bigger Arms

Muscular man doing hammer curls with dumbbells

Proper form, Benefits, Variations, And Mistakes To Avoid When Doing Hammer Curls

For most gym goes, admiring their throbbing bicep muscles while belting out another curl may be a rite of passage. Everyone needs to move on after spending hours at the gym trying to bulk up their biceps with basic curls and chin-ups. But where do we go from here? If you go on to dips because you think you need to focus on your triceps more, you’re overlooking a vital muscle that sits between your biceps and triceps and helps your guns pop. There’s a good chance you’ve never heard of the brachialis muscle before.

On the outside of your upper arms, directly adjacent to the biceps, you’ll find your brachialis muscles. You may help your biceps stand out more by increasing mass to your upper arms by focusing on the brachialis during your workouts. The hammer curl is one of the most effective exercises for working the brachialis.

In simple words: if you want to move on from the bicep curl and ‘up’ the gains, turn your hands 90 degrees and take on the bicep curl’s bigger and badder brother – the hammer curl

A hammer curl is a variation of the biceps curl and targets muscles in the upper and lower arm. While this exercise is normally performed with a dumbbell, you can also do it with bands or cables.

How to Do Hammer Curls

Standing with your legs straight (but not rigid or locked) and knees aligned under your hips is a good way to start. With a dumbbell in each hand and the weights resting next to the outer thigh, your arms are at your sides. Your thumbs are facing forward, your palms are facing the thighs, and your shoulders are relaxed.

  1. Bend your elbows and elevate your lower arms to draw the weights closer to your shoulders. The wrists are in line with the forearms, and your upper arms are stationary.
  2. At the top of the movement, hold for one second. Your thumbs will be near to your shoulders, and your palms will be facing inward, toward the body’s midline.
  3. Return to the starting position by lowering the weights. Keep your core engaged throughout the exercise to prevent movement in the lower back as you lift and lower your weights.

Muscles Worked in Hammer Curls

Primary muscles worked:

Secondary muscles worked:

Anatomy of the Bicep

Image displaying anatomy of muscles involved while doing dumbbell hammer curls exercise
Anatomy of Biceps

Biceps brachii

A double-headed muscle that rests directly in front of the triceps, commonly referred to as the biceps.

The Bicep Brachii’s Long Head

A muscle that runs from just above the shoulder joint to the elbow joint and aids in the regulation of both motions. Hammer curls are very good for isolating this muscle.

Short Head of the Bicep Brachii

The short head of the biceps brachii begins at the top of the scapula and connects with the long head at the elbow. Concentration curls, for example, will work this muscle.

Brachialis

A small muscle that resides directly beneath your bicep brachii’s long and short heads.

Do Bicep Curls or Hammer Curls Build Bigger Arms?

Hammer curls are a version of regular supinated bicep curls, and while they compliment each other, they also target various regions of the arm. The long head of the bicep brachii, as well as the brachialis, are primarily worked when completing a hammer curl.

A supinated bicep curl will improve the peak of your bicep due to increased activation of the short head of the bicep brachii, but a hammer curl is more about increasing the thickness and overall development and strength of the arm and forearm, which will help more with bigger compound exercises like pull-ups or wide grip pull-downs.

Benefits Of Hammer Curls

The biceps brachii are worked when doing a hammer curl. Because it is easily visible on the front of the body, this muscle is referred to as a “vanity muscle.” For a more athletic image and muscular appearance, people often target the biceps.

The biceps brachii is an elbow flexor in the human body, which means it is in charge of bending the elbow joint. It also aids with forearm rotation (supination).

Strong biceps assist you in lifting and carrying large objects in regular activities. Other arm-based activities, such as closing a door or moving objects toward or across your body, are also aided by these muscles.

The hammer curl is one approach to strengthen your biceps muscles and give them more definition and strength. It can also help enhance wrist stability and grip strength if you incorporate it into your workout routine.

Hammer Curl Variations

Seated Hammer curl

Set up a 90-degree adjustable bench so you may sit on the end with your back against it. With your palms facing each other, grab your dumbbells and hang them at your sides. Curl the weights up to your shoulders while keeping your back against the bench and your elbows tucked in, then slowly lower them.

By stopping you from moving your body and using momentum to assist with the curl, putting your back against the bench guarantees your biceps take the brunt of the strain.

Rope Cable Curl

When you use a cable machine, you’ll be working against a constant amount of resistance throughout the action. When talking about hammer curl, this translates to an equal amount of resistance at the top as well as the bottom of the movement. Connect a rope handle to a cable machine’s low pulley. Curl it up with your hands facing each other and your abs braced the entire time.

Alternating hammer curl with twist

Lift one dumbbell at a time and rotate your wrists at the peak of the movement to target the biceps from a different angle in this hammer curl variation. Start with your wrists facing each other, then swivel them around to face you at the top of the curl to achieve the same posture as regular biceps curls.

Incline Hammer Curl

Another option is to do the hammer curl on a seated incline bench. The starting position, when seated, places your arms behind your hips, which helps to reduce shoulder involvement. Apart from that, the same moves apply, i.e; lift the weights to the shoulders before lowing them again.

Preacher Hammer Curl

This move is performed on a preacher bench by certain exercisers. A preacher bench is a padded armrest set at a fixed angle, that lets you isolate your upper arm so you can lift more weight and target your biceps more effectively.

Adjust the top of the padded armrest so that it touches your armpits. While resting your upper arms against the padding, extend your elbows, and hold the weights in front of you with your palms facing each other. Raise the weights to your shoulders, then lower them to their starting position in a controlled manner.

Hammer Curl Power Squat

Add a squat to this technique to make it more difficult. This exercise works your legs, glutes, and arms at the same time. Drop into a squat stance after lifting the weights to your shoulders. Hold for a brief moment, then step up and return the weights to your side.

Lunge with hammer curl

Take a big step forward on your right leg, holding a dumbbell in each hand at your sides, and lower until both knees are bent at a 90° angle. Curl the weights up with your core engaged, pause at the top, then slowly lower them back to the start position. To get back to a standing position, push through your right foot. The weighted lunge engages all of the major muscles in the lower body, as well as your core, as you curl the weights while maintaining the lunge stance. You can do all reps on one side and then the other or you can switch legs with each lunge.

Common Mistakes

Avoid these frequent mistakes to keep the hammer curl safe while enhancing its effectiveness.

Momentum

When you use momentum, it usually means you’re lifting too much weight. Reduce the weight and concentrate on form if you find yourself getting swinging with each repetition.

Curling Too Fast

The hammer curl has a limited range of motion. As a result, it’s all too easy to rush through this exercise and use fast movements, particularly during the lowering portion.

Taking your time on the way up and down allows you to focus on form.  Slowing down your movement increases the difficulty by requiring you to activate the muscles for a longer length of time.

Floating Elbows

Allowing the elbows to drift away from the body during the curl engages other muscles in the lift, such as the deltoids (shoulders). The more other muscles are engaged, the less the biceps are targeted.

During the hammer curl, try to keep your elbows in a solid, fixed position and focus solely on moving your lower arm. You are lifting too much weight if you are unable to lift it without shifting your elbow.

Take Away

Bicep curls and hammer curls are not mutually exclusive workouts. The hammer curl is actually just a modification of the standard bicep curl.

Hammer curls work the long head of the bicep, as well as the brachialis and brachioradialis (one of the key forearm muscles).

Because hammer curls aren’t tough to learn, you shouldn’t settle for anything less than excellent form.

While doing this exercise, you should maintain a strict form, where your muscles are under constant strain, for the best training effect on your arm flexors (i.e. biceps). To do this, prevent allowing your elbows to go backwards during the lift, and maintain muscle tension in the bottom position.

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