You may find affiliate links in this post. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. Why Trust Us
The Ultimate Guide to Hammer Curls To Help Build Strong and Powerful Arms
Hammer curls are bicep exercises that focus on developing the brachialis and brachioradialis muscles.
Unlike traditional bicep curls, hammer curls involve a neutral grip, where the palms face each other throughout the movement. This grip variation helps to target different parts of the arm muscles and can help add variety to your arm training regimen.
Hammer Curls Target Muscles
Hammer curls help in developing the upper arm and forearm muscles.
The principal target muscles of hammer curls are the brachialis and brachioradialis muscles.
The brachialis is a muscle that lies underneath the biceps brachii and is responsible for elbow flexion.
The brachioradialis is a forearm muscle that helps with elbow flexion and wrist stabilization.
While the biceps brachii or the biceps are also involved in the movement to some extent during hammer curls, the neutral grip position places a greater emphasis on the brachialis and brachioradialis.
Best equipment for hammer curls
You can perform hammer curls with various equipment.
Dumbbells are the most common and versatile equipment for hammer curls.
They allow for independent arm movement, enabling you to work each arm separately and adjust the weight according to your strength level.
While not as commonly used as dumbbells, a barbell with a neutral grip attachment or EZ-Curl bar is an alternative for hammer curls.
It provides a stable grip and is suitable for those who prefer a barbell over dumbbells.
- Cable Machine
Cable machines with a rope handle or a straight bar attachment are alternatives for cable hammer curls.
Cables provide continuous tension throughout the range of motion and can help with muscle activation and development.
Kettlebells with a neutral grip are also great for hammer curls.
They offer a unique challenge due to their shape and can engage stabilizing muscles.
- Resistance Bands
Resistance bands with handles or looped bands can provide a portable and versatile option for performing hammer curls.
They offer variable resistance and are great for home workouts or when traveling.
- Weight Plates
Weight plates are good options for hammer curls.
Grasp the weight plates’ inner holes to mimic the neutral grip of hammer curls.
- Preacher Curl Bench
You can use a preacher curl bench with a neutral grip attachment to isolate the arms and maintain strict form during hammer curls.
How to do Hammer Curls with Proper Form
Required equipment: Dumbbells
Dumbbells are versatile and are widely accessible to most exercisers. But you can choose the equipment that best suits your needs and allows you to perform the exercise safely and effectively.
Steps to follow
Select your weights
- Begin by choosing a pair of dumbbells appropriate for your fitness level.
- Start with a weight that allows you to complete three (3) sets of 10-12 reps with good form.
Set your stance
- Stand upright with your feet at shoulder-width.
- Keep your chest up and shoulders back.
Grasp the dumbbells
- Grasp a dumbbell in each arm with a neutral grip, with your palms facing each other.
- Point your thumbs forward and parallel to your body.
- Allow your arms to hang naturally at your sides with the dumbbells in your hands.
Perform the curl
- Keep your upper arms close to your torso and your elbows stationary.
- While exhaling, slowly flex your elbows and curl the dumbbells upward.
- Focus on squeezing your biceps as you lift the weights.
- Continue curling until your forearms are perpendicular to the floor and the dumbbells close to your shoulders. That is the top of the movement.
Lower the weights
- Inhale and slowly lower the dumbbells back down to your starting position in a controlled manner.
- Do not swing the weights or use momentum.
- Aim to perform 10-12 reps for a set and 3-4 sets in a session.
- Gently stretch your biceps and forearm muscles after completing your sets. That will help reduce any tension or tightness.
Tips and Best Practices for Hammer Curls
Consider the following tips and best practices to help you get the most out of your hammer curls.
Always start with a proper warm-up to prepare your muscles for exercise.
That can include light cardio, dynamic stretching, or mobility exercises for the arms.
- Choose the right weight
Select a weight that challenges you but allows you to maintain proper form throughout the set.
Gradually increase the weight as you become stronger.
- Maintain Proper Form
Keep your upper arms close to your torso.
Keep your back straight, chest up, and shoulders back.
Do not swing or use momentum to lift the weights.
Ensure a controlled and smooth movement, both up and down.
- Neutral Grip
Maintain a neutral grip with your palms facing each other.
That helps target the brachialis and brachioradialis muscles effectively.
- Full range of motion
Perform the exercise through a full range of motion. Extend your arms fully at the bottom and bring the dumbbells as close to your shoulders as possible.
Exhale as you lift the weights and inhale as you lower them.
Controlled breathing helps maintain stability and control during the exercise.
- Avoid overtraining
Hammer curls can put a strain on your wrist and elbow joints.
Be mindful of your limitations, and don’t overdo it. Stop the exercise if you experience pain or discomfort.
- Progressive overload
Gradually increase the weight or the number of repetitions over time.
That challenges your muscles and promotes growth.
Incorporate hammer curls into a well-rounded arm workout regimen that includes other bicep and forearm exercises.
Variety can help prevent plateaus and ensure balanced muscle development.
- Rest between sets
Allow adequate rest between sets, typically 1-2 minutes, to recover and maintain proper form.
- Focus on muscle-mind connection
Concentrate on contracting your biceps and forearm muscles throughout the exercise.
The mental connection can enhance muscle engagement.
- Cool down and stretch
Perform gentle stretching exercises for the biceps and forearms after completing your workout. That will help improve flexibility and reduce post-workout soreness.
- Proper nutrition and hydration
Ensure you fuel your body with the correct nutrients and stay hydrated to support muscle recovery and growth.
Hammer Curls Common Mistakes
Common mistakes when performing hammer curls include,
- Using excessive weight
Lifting weights that are too heavy can lead to improper form and put unnecessary strain on your joints.
Choose a weight that allows you to maintain control throughout the exercise.
- Swinging the weights
Using momentum to lift the weights instead of controlled muscle contractions is an error.
That reduces the effectiveness and increases the risk of injury.
- Partial range of motion
Failing to perform the full range of motion by not fully extending your arms at the bottom or not bringing the dumbbells close to your shoulders at the top can limit the benefits of hammer curls.
- Curling the wrists
Keeping your wrists bent or flexed during the exercise can strain the wrist joints.
Maintain a neutral wrist position throughout the movement.
- Rounding the shoulders
Poor posture can compromise the effectiveness of the exercise and increase the risk of injury.
Keep your shoulders back and chest up.
- Using incorrect grip
Ensure you maintain a neutral grip with your palms facing each other throughout the movement.
A supinated or pronated grip would turn it into a different exercise and target the wrong muscles.
- Breathing irregularities
Inconsistent or improper breathing can affect your stability and control during hammer curls.
Exhale as you lift the weights and inhale as you lower them.
- Neglecting the eccentric phase
The lowering or eccentric phase of the exercise is as important as the lifting or concentric phase.
Control the weights as you lower them to maximize muscle engagement and strength development.
Overtraining or performing too many sets and repetitions can lead to overuse injuries.
Follow a balanced workout regimen and allow sufficient recovery time.
- Ignoring Pain
Pay attention to sharp pains or discomfort, especially in the elbows or wrists. It’s a sign of improper form or potential injury.
Stop the exercise if you experience pain, and consult a fitness professional or healthcare provider if needed.
- Lack of warm-up and cool-down
Skipping a proper warm-up and cool-down can increase the risk of injury and post-workout muscle soreness.
Always prepare your muscles with a warm-up and stretch after your workout.
Hammer Curls Benefits
Hammer curls offer several benefits when incorporated into your training.
Comprehensive muscle development
Hammer curls primarily target the brachialis and brachioradialis muscles. These often get little attention in traditional bicep exercises. That can help build well-rounded arm strength and size.
The neutral grip in hammer curls emphasizes those muscles, leading to their growth and development.
Muscles respond positively to different stimuli, and by changing the grip and movement pattern, you challenge the muscles in unique ways, promoting growth.
Adding variety to your arm exercises
The body can adapt to the same exercises over time, leading to plateaus in muscle growth and strength gains. Introducing variety in your workout can prevent that adaptation, keeping your muscles guessing and continually challenged.
Hammer curls provide that variation in grip compared to traditional bicep curls.
The variety can stimulate muscle growth by helping you target different parts of the arm muscles and prevent plateaus in your training.
Varying your exercises allows you to engage a broader spectrum of muscle fibers, ensuring comprehensive development and preventing imbalances.
Variety can also keep your arm workouts interesting and encourage long-term adherence to your fitness routine.
Boosting functional strength
The brachioradialis is essential for activities that involve wrist and forearm strength. These include gripping, lifting, and carrying objects.
Hammer curls heavily engage the brachioradialis. Strengthening the muscle can help enhance your functional strength. That can help improve your everyday life and during various physical activities.
The neutral grip used in hammer curls can help improve wrist stability. That stability is crucial for maintaining a firm and controlled wrist position, such as using tools, typing on a keyboard, or performing manual labor.
Functional strength is about maintaining balance and coordination across different muscle groups. Hammer curls can help balance the development of the arms, ensuring they are equally strong and capable of contributing to various movements.
The functional strength gained from hammer curls can translate into improved performance in sports involving gripping and manipulating equipment, such as racquet sports, climbing, martial arts, or even activities like golf or bowling.
Functional strength is also about being physically prepared for life’s challenges. Whether moving furniture, playing with children, or performing outdoor activities like gardening, having a robust grip and forearms can make these tasks more manageable and less physically taxing. Incorporating hammer curls in your training can help you through such activities.
Improving joint stability
Hammer curls can help stabilize the wrist and elbow joints. Strengthening the muscles around these joints can reduce the risk of injury during various activities.
The brachialis and brachioradialis, which are the crucial stabilizers of the elbow joint, become stronger as you perform hammer curls, helping to provide better support and stability to the elbow joint.
Joint stability often depends on the balance of muscles surrounding the joint. Hammer curls help maintain a balanced development of the upper arm muscles, ensuring that the muscles responsible for stabilizing the elbow and wrist are equally strong.
Strengthening the brachialis and brachioradialis muscles can help distribute forces more evenly across the elbow joint during activities that put stress on it. That can help reduce the risk of overuse injuries or strain.
Athletes often benefit from improved joint stability. Hammer curls can help athletes maintain joint stability during sports or activities that involve throwing, hitting, or grappling.
Improving grip strength
The neutral grip used in hammer curls can enhance your grip strength, which is crucial for such activities as weightlifting, rock climbing, and everyday tasks involving grasping objects.
The neutral grip used in hammer curls is biomechanically advantageous for developing grip strength. The grip closely mimics many real-world activities and sports, making it highly functional for enhancing your ability to hold, carry, and manipulate objects.
Many sports, such as weightlifting, tennis, golf, and grappling-based martial arts, rely heavily on grip strength. Hammer curls can enhance your performance in these activities by making your grip more robust and reliable.
Balanced arm development
Incorporating hammer curls into your workout regimen can help balance the development of your arm muscles, ensuring both the front and back receive adequate attention.
Strengthening the brachialis through hammer curls adds depth and size to the upper arm, promoting balanced development. It ensures you develop your forearms proportionately with your upper arms, contributing to arm symmetry.
Aside from enhancing your physique and aesthetic appeal, well-proportioned arms, with attention to both your biceps, brachialis, and brachioradialis, balanced arm development can help create a more sculpted and harmonious look. It ensures all the muscles involved in arm movements are equally strong, enhancing your physical capability. Hammer curls can help you achieve all that.
Helping with injury prevention
Strengthening the muscles involved in wrist and elbow flexion can help prevent injuries related to overuse or strain, particularly in athletes and people with physically demanding jobs.
Hammer curls can enhance joint proprioception, which is your body’s ability to sense and control joint positioning. The improved awareness reduces the risk of accidental misalignment or overextension, which can lead to injuries.
The balanced arm development and joint stability achieved through hammer curls can also help improve your body’s resilience against injuries, particularly in the upper extremities.
Hammer Curl Variations
Hammer curl variations can add diversity to your arm training regimen and help target different aspects of your arm muscles.
Seated Hammer Curls
Sit on a bench or chair with back support while performing hammer curls.
Seated hammer curls isolate the arms and eliminate leg involvement, enhancing strict form.
Alternating Hammer Curls
Alternating hammer curls are a variation of the traditional hammer curl exercise. In alternating hammer curls, you perform the exercise one arm at a time, alternating between left and right arms with each repetition.
Required equipment: Dumbbells
Steps to follow
- Stand or sit with your back straight and feet at shoulder-width.
- Hold a dumbbell in each hand with a neutral grip
- Let your arms hang naturally by your sides with your elbows slightly bent.
- Begin with one arm, for example, the right arm, and exhale as you flex your elbow to curl the weight upward.
- Do not flex or extend your wrist as you lift the weight.
- Continue to lift the weight until your forearm is nearly vertical and the weight is close to your shoulder.
- Inhale and slowly lower the weight back to your starting position, fully extending your arm.
- While the right arm is lowering, start curling the weight in your left hand.
- Repeat the exercise with your left arm, alternating between arms with each repetition.
Incline Hammer Curls
You perform Incline hammer curls on an incline weight bench.
The variation targets the same muscles as standard hammer curls, including the brachialis, brachioradialis, and biceps brachii, while adding the element of working against gravity.
Required equipment: Incline weight bench, Dumbbells
Steps to follow
- Set the incline bench at the desired angle and sit on it with your back against the pads, feet flat on the floor, and a dumbbell in each hand.
- Let your arms hang down naturally at your sides, your palms facing each other in a neutral grip position.
- Keep your back firmly against the bench and maintain a neutral spine.
- Exhale and curl one dumbbell, e.g., the right one, up toward your shoulder while keeping your upper arm stationary.
- Maintain a controlled pace as you lift the weight, focusing on squeezing your bicep at the top of the curl.
- Inhale as you slowly lower the dumbbell to your starting position, fully extending your arm.
- Start curling the weight in your left hand in the same manner while the right arm is lowering.
- Alternate between arms, performing the upward curl with one arm while the other hand is lowering.
Preacher Bench Hammer Curls
The variation uses a preacher curl bench to support your upper arms and isolate the biceps and forearm muscles, making it an effective exercise for targeting the muscles.
Required equipment: Preacher curl bench, dumbbells
Steps to follow
- Set up the preacher curl bench and position the sloped pad under your upper arms.
- Sit on the bench, ensuring your chest is firmly against the pad, and hold a dumbbell in each arm with a neutral grip.
- Let your arms hang naturally, fully extended, with your elbows resting on the preacher bench pad.
- Put your wrists in a neutral position, i.e., neither flexed nor extended.
- Exhale and curl one dumbbell toward your shoulder while keeping your upper arm stationary on the bench.
- As you curl the weight, focus on contracting your bicep and forearms.
- Inhale as you slowly lower the dumbbell back to your starting position, fully extending your arm.
- Start curling the weight in the other hand while lowering the other.
- Alternate between arms, performing the exercise with one arm at a time.
Cable Hammer Curls
Cable hammer curls are a variation of the hammer curl exercise that utilizes a cable machine with a rope or a straight bar attachment.
The variation adds constant tension throughout the exercise, which can help with muscle activation and development.
Required equipment: Cable machine with a rope handle or straight bar attachment
Steps to follow
- Attach the rope handle or straight bar to the low pulley on a cable machine and stand facing it.
- Adjust the weight on the cable machine to your desired resistance.
- Grasp the rope handle or straight bar with a neutral grip at shoulder-width or slightly wider.
- Stand up straight with your feet at shoulder-width and a slight bend in your knees.
- Let your arms hang down naturally with your elbows close to your sides.
- Keep your back straight and maintain a neutral spine.
- Exhale and flex your elbows to curl the rope or bar upward toward your shoulders.
- Maintain a controlled pace and focus on squeezing your biceps and forearms at the top of the curl.
- Inhale as you slowly lower the rope or bar back to your starting position, fully extending your arms.
- Repeat the exercise for the desired number of repetitions, maintaining proper form.
Cross-body hammer curls
Works not only the biceps but also the brachialis and brachioradialis
Helps increase biceps and forearm thickness
Places more emphasis on the biceps long head than the standard hammer curl
The Cross-body hammer curls, or hammer curls across the body, involve curling the weight diagonally across your body, emphasizing a different angle and muscle engagement.
This diagonal movement pattern uniquely engages the muscles, emphasizing different angles and muscle fibers compared to the standard vertical movement of traditional hammer curls.
The cross-body hammer curls work the biceps, brachialis, and brachioradialis, helping to promote well-rounded arm development and muscle balance.
The movement helps to emphasize the bicep’s long head much better than the traditional hammer curls and can help boost forearm and biceps thickness.
This exercise encourages a broader range of motion for your arms and may help enhance flexibility and mobility in the shoulder and elbow joints.
Steps to follow
- Stand or sit with your back straight and feet at shoulder-width.
- Hold a dumbbell in each arm using a neutral grip, and let your arms hang down naturally by your sides.
- Keep your elbows close to your torso throughout the exercise.
- Begin the exercise by exhaling and flexing your right elbow to curl the dumbbell diagonally across your body toward your left shoulder.
- As you lift the weight, focus on squeezing your biceps and forearms.
- Continue to curl the weight until your forearm is nearly vertical and the weight is close to your left shoulder.
- Inhale and slowly lower the weight back to your starting position, fully extending your right arm.
- After completing the desired number of repetitions with the right arm, switch to the left arm and perform the same diagonal curl across your body toward your right shoulder.
Reverse Hammer Curls
Reverse hammer curls, also known as reverse grip hammer curls, target the brachialis, brachioradialis, and biceps brachii differently than traditional hammer curls.
In reverse hammer curls, you hold the dumbbells with a pronated or overhand grip, with your palms face down or backward.
It can improve forearm strength and aesthetics.
Isometric Hammer Curls
Isometric hammer curls are a variation of the traditional hammer curl exercise that involves holding the weight in a fixed position without performing the lifting and lowering phases typically associated with the movement.
Instead of moving the weight up and down, you maintain a static or still position during the exercise. In other words, perform a static hold at the midpoint of the hammer curl for a specified duration, e.g., 10-20 seconds, before completing the full repetition.
The variation can enhance muscular endurance and control.
Resistance Band Hammer Curls
Resistance bands offer variable resistance throughout the range of motion.
Attach a resistance band to a stable anchor point and hold the handles with a neutral grip.
Step back to create tension and perform hammer curls.
Complete a set of hammer curls with a challenging weight.
Then, immediately switch to a lighter weight and continue the set to failure.
The technique can intensify your workout and stimulate muscle growth.
Slow Eccentric Hammer Curls
The variation emphasizes the eccentric or lowering phase of the movement by lowering the weights slowly.
Curl the weight as usual, but take 2-3 seconds to lower the dumbbells to your starting position.
That can create more muscle tension and help with muscle development.
Final words from LiveLIfe
Hammer curls are versatile and excellent exercises with potent variations that can add variety to your upper arm-building process. It can help you to target those often neglected muscles, leading to well-formed arm muscles.
Whether you are working towards sleeve-busting biceps or simply enhancing your functional strength, hammer curls have the potential to transform your arms and improve your results.
Master the technique and incorporate the hammer curls and their variations into your training regimen to help you build the arms of your dreams.
- Kleiber T, Kunz L, Disselhorst-Klug C. 2015. Muscular coordination of biceps brachii and brachioradialis in elbow flexion with respect to hand position. Front Physiol. 2015;6:215. doi:10.2289/fphys.2015.00215
- Tiwana MS, Charlick M, Varacallo M. 2022. Anatomy, shoulder and upper limb, biceps muscle. In: StatPearls [Internet]. StatPearls Publishing.
- Marcolin G, Panizzolo FA, Petrone N, et al. 2018. Differences in electromyographic activity of biceps brachii and brachioradialis while performing three variants of curl. PeerJ. 2018;6:e5165. doi:10.7717/peerj.5165.