Ah, the hammer curl. This gym staple is seen in almost every workout - it's hard to find an establishment without a rack of dumbbells, yet these all-too-familiar pieces tend to be conducted with hesitance or boredom.
Well, no longer. It's time for us to break out of that rut, let go of our doubts (and excuses), and dive into the world of hammer curls.
Not only will you learn proper form, but you will also get familiar with some variations; this way, your workouts will never feel dull again! Pour yourself a cup of coffee and get ready — we're about to have a fun ride as we take on everything from muscle-building benefits to best practices for nailing this exercise each week ahead.
What are Hammer Curls
The hammer curl is a versatile exercise; it's the Swiss Army Knife of strength training. It targets your upper and lower arms and can be performed with dumbbells or cables and bands — so you're sure to find a way that works for you and your workout routine. Isolation exercises like this greatly complement a bigger upper-body program involving compound movements. To do it:
- Start by holding a set of dumbbells and standing straight with the dumbbell set by your sides.
- Keep a neutral grip with your palms facing your body.
- Bend your arms a little to form the tension in your biceps.
- Make sure your body is firm, and your elbows are placed at your sides.
- Then slowly curl the dumbbells upwards as far as you can.
- Squeeze the biceps at the top of the action and then slowly pull the weight back down to the original position.
- Repeat for desired reps.
Benefits of the Hammer Curl
The Hammer Curl is more than just an attractive arm workout for weightlifters - it’s an essential exercise with plenty of benefits.
Works Multiple Muscles
Hammer curls work multiple muscles in your arm. It provides an additional benefit for your triceps as well. This exercise offers a unique benefit for arm exercise by activating the long head of the bicep brachii and the brachialis or elbow flexor muscles.
It can help you build muscle and strength in your arms and make tasks like carrying heavy boxes or even picking up small children and animals easier. Strong upper arms with good grip strength are an excellent balance of looks and utility.
Full Arm Strength
With a few turns of the wrist to face each other during the exercise, this one move gives you an all-encompassing arm workout from elbow to shoulder. It'll strengthen not just your biceps brachii muscle but also your brachialis and brachioradialis muscles.
Improves Grip Strength
This improved grip strength is helpful for compound exercises, like pull-ups, deadlifts, and bench presses. And it's not just about strengthening your arm muscles — strengthened wrists and a better grip can make deadlifting easier.
Hammer curls also require less stress on your wrist than traditional bicep curls because you keep your wrist in a neutral position throughout the movement.
Increases Biceps Size
Hammer curls may look like your standard bicep curl, but they pack a much bigger punch. Those who have added this killer exercise to their workout routine can attest to serious size gains in their biceps.
As an isolation exercise, it strengthens your muscles, unrivaled by other gym exercises. Unlike regular bicep curls, which require more stabilizing force from your shoulders and back, hammer curls stay focused on the biceps.
What Muscles Does Hammer Curl Work?
Hammer curls target the elbow flexors responsible for bringing your hand to your shoulder by bending your elbow. The elbow flexor comprises the biceps brachii, brachioradialis, and brachialis.
The biceps brachii is the outermost of flexors and is the most evident mass on the surface of the arm. It consists of two heads that start from the shoulder joint and a bony structure on the front of the shoulder blade. It inserts on the radius bone, which is right below the elbow.
Due to the biceps brachii crossing both the elbow and shoulder joints, the motion is created. It flexes the elbow and mainly assists in the flexion of the shoulder. The brachioradialis is one of those muscles that help make all the difference in achieving maximum flex potential at our elbows, as it originates on the upper arm near the elbow joint and terminates near the wrist.
Not only does it aid us in elbow flexion, but it's also responsible for helping give that extra bit of visible mass to our forearms. Plus, did you know there's even a stronger muscle than brachioradialis in this region? Yep, it's a close relative, brachialis.
It originates lower down on the upper arm and attaches to the ulna, which is the inside bone of the forearm and is even bigger and stronger.
Hammer Curl Variations
If hammer curls are straightforward, it's time to throw a wrench in that assumption. Hammer curl variations provide a way to mix up your workouts and take your biceps to the next level.
Alternating Hammer Curl
If you think hammer curls are very challenging, you should try alternating hammer curls. This exercise provides slight ease in movements; instead of lifting both arms simultaneously, lift the right arm and lower, then lift the left arm and lower. Continue doing it on both sides.
Incline Hammer Curl
This variation works in a seated position. You need to start by placing your arms behind your hips, which helps reduce shoulder involvement. Otherwise, the same movements are applied in the inclining hammer curl. Lift the weights to the shoulder and then lower again.
Preacher Hammer Curl
Preacher hammer curl variations add a preacher bench to perform the move. A preacher bench is an angled, padded armrest that allows you to hold the upper arm in an isolated position so you can lift more weights and target the biceps significantly.
Rearrange the padded armrest to bring your armpits to reach their top. Settle your upper arms against the padding, extend your elbows and grip the weights so that your palms face each other. Lift the weights to your shoulders and lower down.
Hammer Curl Power Squat
You can modify the hammer curls by adding squats. This targets your legs and glutes along your arms. You can drop into a squat position right after lifting the weight to your shoulders. Pause for a while, stand back and return to the weights to your sides.
Common Mistakes While Doing Hammer Curl
Doing hammer curls wrong can be an incredibly frustrating experience; unfortunately, bad form is very common among weight-lifters. Here are some common mistakes people make while performing hammer curls.
Hammer curls are a great way to build strength in your biceps, but using momentum can speed bump your progress. Not only that, but it can also increase your risk of injury when you lose control, and the momentum takes over.
To avoid momentum creeping in during exercise, always start with a good body position: lean forward slightly and bring the weights behind your hips to help support the workload without relying on momentum.
And if you find yourself winding up more than usual during your sets, it's time to lighten up the load and pay extra attention to form. That's how you make safe strength gains with hammer curls.
Curling Too Fast
Don't be fooled into thinking you can skimp on the hammer curl by doing it quickly. Although there is a relatively small range of motion and the inclination is to rush through it to get done, slowing down helps you control the movement, focus on form, and work your muscles. In other words, no need to hurry; take your time.
Floating your elbows away from your body not only engages other muscles, such as the shoulders, but it also minimizes how effective you can make the curl for targeting your biceps.
So if you want to strengthen those guns with arm curls, just make sure you lift light enough, so you don't feel tempted to move those elbows and cheat the system.
The Bottom Line
Hammer curls are an easy and convenient exercise that offers plenty of benefits, like working multiple muscles, building muscle, grip strength, and better mobility. This exercise also has modifications ready for builders to try a more challenging exercise and add better curls to their bucks.
Some mistakes must be avoided to perform the exercise accurately and gain benefits, like using momentum, floating elbows, and quick curls. Find complete comprehension of hammer curls and enjoy the excellent benefits.
- Marcolin, Giuseppe, et al. ‘Differences in Electromyographic Activity of Biceps Brachii and Brachioradialis While Performing Three Variants of Curl’. PeerJ, vol. 6, July 2018, p. e5165. PubMed Central, https://doi.org/10.7717/peerj.5165.