Hammer Curl – Exercise Guide

Hammer curls allow you to use heavier weights than standard dumbbell curls. 

Are you looking to develop arms that are so massive they could burst through your sleeves? If that’s the case, incorporating hammer curls into your arm day routine is a must. The hammer curl is a bicep curl variation, explicitly targeting a unique section of your arm while enhancing its overall thickness and strength. This exercise can be done using dumbbells, resistance bands, kettlebells, or a cable machine.

However, despite how deceptively simple this exercise is, you need to use proper form to get its biceps-building gains. In this exercise guide, we look at the hammer curl in more detail, outline its benefits, and discuss the best way to add this exercise to your routine.

Muscles Worked

The hammer curl works on the biceps brachii, brachialis, and brachioradialis, which are your elbow flexors (1). While the regular biceps curl focuses more on the short head of the biceps, hammer curls target the long head. Many experts also believe that the neutral grip used for the hammer curl is the best way to build your brachialis.

How to do the Hammer Curl

  1. Select a dumbbell set and stand with an upright torso. 
  2. Hold a dumbbell in each hand with a neutral grip (palms facing each other). This is your starting position.
  3. Bend your elbows to bring the dumbbells up towards your shoulders. Ensure your arms align with your trunk and your elbows are pinned against your body. 
  4. Pause at the top for 2 seconds, then slowly lower your arms to return to the starting position and complete the rep.

Hammer Curl Tips

As we mentioned before, doing them in the correct form is the best way to get gains. Below are some tips that can further help you maximize this routine.

  1. Hold the dumbbells at the top end rather than in the middle, which helps isolate your muscles more.
  2. Keep your abs engaged throughout the movement, as this helps to prevent the attention of this exercise from shifting to your upper back
  3. Keep your elbows close to your sides and your shoulders back to avoid engaging your delts during this exercise.
  4. The range of motion for this exercise is small, so ensure that you do it slowly and focus on your form to get the best out of it. Controlling the movement also puts the focus muscles under tension for longer, which leads to more muscle growth (2)
  5. Try not to swing the weight or use momentum during your curl. If you find this still happening, you should reduce your weight.

Hammer Curl Benefits

This curl variation is a great way to strengthen and work on the overall girth of your arms. Below are the benefits of this exercise. 

Greater Arm Muscle Mass

The grip positioning of this curl allows you to lift heavier. More weight leads to more muscle mass in the arms. This exercise also targets your brachioradialis, which adds mass to the forearms.

Better Grip Strength

Since this exercise activates the brachioradialis in your forearms, it leads to a more substantial grip strength with carryover to exercises like deadlifts

Improved Arm Strength

It’s a full arm exercise that doesn’t only target the long head of your biceps. It also works the brachioradialis in your forearms. Thus, doing this simple movement can improve your entire arm strength.

More Mobility

It’s a functional routine that mimics daily movements and strengthens the muscles involved. It also leads to more mobility due to the pulling motion during this exercise. Carrying heavy boxes or picking up heavy things will become easier over time. 

Better For Your Wrists

It puts less stress on your wrists than other curling exercises. This is because your wrists stay in a neutral position throughout the movement, emphasizing your forearms more than your wrist, which is better for those prone to wrist pain. 

Hammer Curl Variations

Dumbbell hammer curls are effective but are not the only way you can do hammer curls to build your arms. Below are some other equally effective variations of this exercise. 

Alternating Hammer Curl

Alternating hammer curls could be more accessible for those who find it hard to coordinate lifting both arms simultaneously. In addition, it can help strengthen and grow the weaker and smaller arms. With this routine, you lift one arm first and lower before lifting the other. Alternating hammer curls can also be done with dumbbells to target the same muscles. 

Kettlebell Hammer Curl

Using a kettlebell for hammer curls is very effective. This is due to the kettlebell’s shape, which further improves your grip strength, as stabilizing is more challenging. While this variation may initially feel unnatural, constantly performing this exercise eliminates discomfort.  

Cable Hammer Curl

The cable hammer curl is another advanced variation of the hammer curl. Using a cable machine for this exercise helps to keep constant tension on your muscles throughout the range of motion. 

Preacher Hammer Curl

You do the preacher hammer curl using a preacher bench, putting your arms at an angle to target different areas of your biceps. In addition, the slope of the bench allows an increased range of motion for more biceps contraction. 

Final Word

The hammer curl is one of the best exercises for building size and strength in your arms. When added to your arm day routine, it offers multiple advantages, such as less wrist pain and allowing you to curl heavier dumbbells than the standard dumbell curl that uses a supinated (palms facing up) grip. Hammer curls are a great alternative to traditional bicep curls and can help build the arm strength you need to do other compound exercises.

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  1. Stroyan, M., & Wilk, K. E. (1993). The functional anatomy of the elbow complex. The Journal of orthopaedic and sports physical therapy, 17(6), 279–288. https://doi.org/10.2519/jospt.1993.17.6.279
  2. Mang, Z. A., Ducharme, J. B., Mermier, C., Kravitz, L., de Castro Magalhaes, F., & Amorim, F. (2022). Aerobic Adaptations to Resistance Training: The Role of Time under Tension. International journal of sports medicine, 43(10), 829–839. https://doi.org/10.1055/a-1664-8701

Terry Ramos
As a personal trainer and writer, Terry loves changing lives through coaching and the written word. Terry has a B.S. in Kinesiology and is an ACSM Certified Personal Trainer and ISSA Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist. He enjoys playing music, reading, and watching films when he's not writing or training.