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November 10, 2021 7 min read

If your goal is to build stronger and bigger arms, hammer curls can help.

In this article, we’ll look at this movement in more detail and go over the ways to perform hammer curls with the proper form. We will also list a few variations and alternative exercises, as well as some of the benefits that you can expect when you start doing hammer curls.

An Introduction to Hammer Curls

Hammer curls, also known as dumbbell hammer curls or neutral grip dumbbell curls, is a strength training exercise that specifically targets your biceps and your forearms. A hammer curl varies from a traditional bicep curl because you use a neutral grip with your palms facing each other during the full range of motion.

hammer curls. 3D illustration

So hammer curls are really just a variation of standard bicep curls where your palms point towards each other instead of facing upwards.

Start by picking a pair of dumbbells of your choice.

You will be lifting the weights to your shoulders and lowering them back down to your sides in a controlled way. Although this movement is almost identical to a standard bicep curl, you will find that simply facing your palms in a different direction can work different muscles and challenge your overall mobility. When using proper form, hammer curls can help promote arm strength and upper body stability. 

Benefits of Hammer Curls 

There are several benefits to be had when you perform hammer curls on a regular basis. Hammer curls work your bicep muscles as well as many other muscles, which makes them the perfect exercise if you're bored of regular curls and looking to stimulate more growth.

Multiple Muscles

Hammer curls are ideal for working multiple muscles in your arm, including a small benefit for your triceps. The traditional bicep curl targets the short head of the biceps brachii, but the hammer curl offers a more comprehensive arm exercise for building muscle by activating the long head of the biceps brachii and the brachialis, or elbow flexor muscles. 

Grip Strength

Hammer curls develop your grip strength. By activating the brachioradialis muscle in your forearm, hammer curls improve your grip strength. Good grip strength is one of the best ways to manage compound exercises like pull-ups, deadlifts, and the bench press. There are benefits beyond just strengthening your arm muscles.

Hammer curls challenge your wrist strength and grip, which can prepare you for harder exercises in your weight training regimen, such as the deadlift.

Hammer curls put less stress on your wrist than traditional bicep curls. They keep your wrist in a neutral position throughout the movement, which puts more emphasis on your forearm and less emphasis on your wrist. 

Full Arm Strength

Like a standard curl or even push-ups, this exercise really targets your biceps (which is also sometimes known as your biceps brachii muscle). By rotating your hands to face each other throughout the movement, it also engages your triceps a little as well as your forearm muscles (which are also sometimes called the brachialis and brachioradialis). This results in a full arm workout in one simple move. 

Improved Mobility

Hammer curls are a very functional exercise, which means that they mimic natural movement patterns. The pulling motion that you use when doing hammer curls can help make some of your everyday movements easier and more accessible, such as carrying heavy boxes or picking up children or small animals.

How to Do Hammer Curls 

 

Below is a more detailed step by step guide on how to do these hammer curl exercises effectively. All of these are general instructions, so specific starting positions may vary based on your preferences.

If you are ready to follow all of the steps below and do some hammer curls, always use the proper form to get the maximum benefit out of your body workout.

  1. Start by using a weight that you can easily control for 2 or 3 sets of about 8 to 12 repetitions. Choose a weight that allows you to maintain good technique throughout all of the sets and repetitions that you will be doing.
  2. Pick up a pair of dumbbells and stand firmly with your feet shoulder-width apart and with a slight bend in your knees. Your posture should be standing tall with your shoulders squarely placed over your hips.
  3. Try to maintain a neutral head and neck position. A good piece of advice is to tuck your chin down into your neck throughout the entire movement, as if you were trying to keep an egg safe under your chin.
  4. Stand firmly on the floor with your feet planted to create a stable foot position for your entire body. Your body weight should be evenly distributed between both legs.
  5. Hold the dumbbells by your sides with your palms facing your legs. Your arms should be fully extended and there should be a slight bend in your elbows.
  6. Create tension in your shoulder muscles and hips while engaging your core muscles as much as possible. Your core should be stable and tight to keep your body in an upright position. All of your repetitions should begin from this position.
  7. While keeping your upper arms still, squeeze your bicep and bend your elbows until your lower arms touch your upper arms. The dumbbells should finish very close to your shoulders without actually touching your shoulders. Squeeze your biceps and pause for a few seconds at the top of the movement.
  8. Slowly straighten your elbows to return to the starting position and come to a complete stop at the bottom position before you attempt another repetition.

Four Hammer Curl Variations

Once you have mastered the proper form explained above, you may want to include hammer curls in your regular training program. It is a good idea to consider trying any of these four variations to continue increasing your arm strength and keep yourself from falling into a weightlifting rut.

Alternating Hammer Curls

You can perform this variation simply by lifting the weights one arm at a time. This allows you to focus on achieving perfect form for the lift, which can prove to be especially important during a unilateral movement such as a hammer curl.

Incline Hammer Curls

 

You can perform incline hammer curls on an incline bench, so you’ll probably need to go to a gym for this one. This variation stretches the bicep muscles even more than the other variations because it allows for a greater range of motion.

Kettlebell Hammer Curls

 

The kettlebell handle is perfectly positioned for hammer curls. Be sure to use a lighter bell when you first attempt this variation, because it can feel strange and awkward for the first few reps. But soon it will feel completely natural and comfortable and you'll be able to use a heavier bell to increase the load.

Rope Cable Hammer Curls

Another more advanced variation can be done in the form of rope cable hammer curls. In this exercise, you can use a cable machine as a way to keep constant tension on your biceps during the full range of motion. 

Hammer Curl Modifications 

If you are looking for options, there are a few ways to modify hammer curls to suit your fitness level or preferences better. If you feel your form slipping or are having a hard time getting through all of your reps, then switch to lighter weights. You can keep working your way up to heavier dumbbells once you have built up enough strength and mastered the proper form. 

Another option is to do hammer curls by alternating one arm at a time instead of moving both at once. It might take a little longer to do the exercise this way, but that is not always a bad thing.

If you don’t have access to dumbbells or cable machines, that is not a problem. You can also do hammer curls using resistance bands and get the same benefits of the exercise. 

Common Hammer Curl Mistakes 

Hammer curls are a simple but effective exercise that anyone can safely try. Just remember to focus on your form and take it slow to engage your muscles throughout the movement. Relying on momentum, letting your elbows flare out to the sides, and shrugging your shoulders can compromise your form and potentially lead to injury, so prioritize technique as you build hammer curls into your strength training regimen.

Always Train Safely and Avoid Injury 

Doing hammer curls with heavy weights can present a risk of injury. Always warm up for a long time before you start doing these exercises and be sure to learn the proper form for doing hammer curls before you actually start attempting them.

If you have a previous or pre-existing health condition, be sure to consult your physician before you begin any new exercise program.Be conservative with the weight that you select at the beginning. Always select a weight that allows you to have full control of your body throughout the movement.

When performing hammer curls, pay close attention to your body, and stop immediately if you notice any pain or discomfort. In order to see continual progress and build up your body strength, always include proper warm-ups, rest, and nutrition in your exercise program.

Overall, what matters is your general progress over time.

Do you feel like you are stronger this month than you were last month? Are you stronger this year than you were last year? If so, you are following an effective training program.

Who Should Do Hammer Curls? 

Of course, anybody can benefit from including hammer curls in their training program, but they are especially good for beginners because they are quite simple. If you are struggling to learn how to do hammer curls, look for a local qualified coach or personal trainer (one who is USA Weightlifting Accredited) in your area. If you cannot find a good one, look for a weightlifting coach online who will break down the movements and show you some of the basic skills.

If you plan to do these exercises correctly on a consistent basis, your bicep muscles should start becoming a lot bigger, especially when incorporating ADABOLIC into your training sessions.

Most lifters who want to improve their weightlifting performance and technique should at least completethree training  sessions per week that include hammer curls or their variations.

The amount of exercise you personally need to do depends on your reasons for exercising, on your starting point, and on how quickly you want to achieve your goals. You will find that the more frequently you train, the more you will need to monitor your recovery, training intensity, and general performance.

Besides boosting your strength, this exercise can also help you master grip and form to carry into other strength training moves. Try it with weights, bands, or cables, or simply do the exercise one arm at a time for a little variety. Your results will ultimately be based on your ability to adequately recover from your workouts. Rest for 24 to 48 hours before training the same muscle groups to allow sufficient recovery.