Bigger, stronger arms are normally excessive on the listing of priorities for some lifters, even when they half-whisper it for concern of being labeled “a bodybuilder,” as if there’s something fallacious with coaching particularly so as to add muscle.

While there are numerous sorts of curls to work the biceps with totally different angles or tools, most lifters overlook how merely holding a dumbbell in another way can have an effect on muscle recruitment and total progress.

The hammer curl makes use of a easy thumbs-up place to extra instantly work the forearm muscle tissue and emphasize a distinct a part of the biceps, resulting in extra progress, greater arms, and a stronger grip. Here’s why this basic dumbbell curl shouldn’t be neglected.

How to Do the Hammer Curl

There’s a superb likelihood that anybody who’s picked up a pair of dumbbells has carried out a hammer curl, or one thing that was presupposed to be a hammer curl. It’s an instinctive motion that may be made much more efficient when following some easy approach tips.

Step 1 — Grab Dumbbells Correctly

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Begin standing with a pair of dumbbells at your sides together with your palms dealing with your physique and your thumbs pointing ahead. Rather than gripping instantly within the middle of the deal with, barely offset your grip to have your pinky close to the decrease weight plate. This requires larger grip and forearm recruitment through the train. (You can middle your hand on the deal with should you desire.) Flex your triceps to make sure a straight arm and totally locked out beginning place.

Form Tip: The offset grip barely shifts the dumbbell’s middle of gravity ahead and requires you to squeeze tougher throughout every rep to keep up management of the burden. Gripping with an ordinary, completely centered grip requires much less gripping energy. Offsetting your grip to have your thumb touching the highest weight requires even much less grip energy. Experiment with every slight variation as a method of adjusting the train’s depth.

Step 2 — Curl the Dumbbells to Your Shoulders

Woman at home performing dumbbell curlCredit: antoniodiaz / Shutterstock

Bend your knees barely, pull your shoulder blades again, and flex your abs to make sure an upright posture. Flex your biceps to twist the burden to your entrance deltoids.

The “hammer curl” will get its identify from the visible cue of hammering a nail, so hold your wrists impartial, your palms dealing with one another, and your fingers in a vertical line all through the train. As the weights method your shoulders, permit your elbows to return ahead barely, letting the dumbbells contact the entrance of your shoulders.

Form Tip: With most curls, the elbows ought to stay pinned to your ribs for optimum rigidity. However, the hammer curl considerably recruits the lengthy head of the biceps, which additionally performs a job in transferring the higher arm on the shoulder. Allowing the elbows to return ahead, barely, by transferring on the shoulder lets the lengthy head contract much more strongly. (1) Don’t permit the shoulder motion to develop into a wild swing. Use a managed movement.

Step 3 — Lower to Full Extension

Muscular woman in gym performing dumbbell curlCredit: Jasminko Ibrakovic / Shutterstock

Once the weights contact your shoulders, reverse route. Keep your fingers pointed in the identical route, together with your palms dealing with one another and your fingers stacked vertically. Lower the weights beneath management till your arms are totally prolonged within the beginning place.

Form Tip: Resetting on the backside of every rep and attaining a full stretch by contracting the triceps could seem to be “resting” the biceps, nevertheless it permits a most vary of movement which contributes to total progress. It additionally helps to forestall dishonest by making it harder to swing the weights right into a curled place.

Hammer Curl Mistakes to Avoid

The hammer curl could seem to be a easy motion, which it definitely is, however which means there’s even much less cause to cheat and fewer room for error. Here are the commonest approach errors.

Rotating Your Hands

A “hammer curl” together with your fingers positioned any method aside from thumbs-up is not a hammer curl. Changing your hand and wrist place isn’t essentially fallacious, it’s only a totally different train emphasizing totally different muscle tissue.

Man in gym performing dumbbell curl in mirrorCredit: TheCorgi / Shutterstock

It’s like performing a barbell flat bench press, however gripping the bar together with your fingers practically touching as an alternative of being barely outdoors shoulder-width. It’s nonetheless a legitimate train, nevertheless it’s now a close-grip bench press which emphasizes the triceps, not a barbell flat bench press which emphasizes the chest.

The identical precept applies to hammer curls; it’s meant to be performed together with your fingers vertical and your palms dealing with one another. A special grip creates a distinct train.

Avoid It: Make positive you’re doing hammer curls, not pronated (palms down) curls, supinated (palms up) curls, or an angled grip in-between. Keep the “hammering a nail” visualization in your thoughts. You wouldn’t, couldn’t, and shouldn’t hammer a nail with an angled swing, so make sure you hold your thumbs up.

Swinging Your Body

One of the commonest errors with hammer curls is swinging your torso to convey the weights up from the underside. Not solely does this improve pressure on the decrease again, nevertheless it reduces biceps activation by beginning the train with momentum relatively than muscular energy.

Muscular shirtless man performing dumbbell curlCredit: Jasminko Ibrakovic / Shutterstock

Upper physique swinging can generally be brought on by attempting to carry too heavy, however many lifters instinctively swing their physique for each rep of each set whatever the weight, as if it’s the best way the train “should” be performed.

This unconscious motion is an indicator that they’re not treating the hammer curl with the identical deliberate intention as they probably do for squats, deadlifts, or different extra concerned workouts.

Avoid it: Begin every rep from a strict upright posture together with your arms at your sides, your abs tense, and your shoulders pulled again. Bracing and contracting your abs whereas curling could make higher physique swinging extra noticeable and extra preventable. Raising the weights at a barely slower pace may even discourage swinging.

Benefits of the Hammer Curl

The hammer curl recruits the muscle tissue of the higher arm in addition to the decrease arm, delivering extra total outcomes than many different curl variations.

Man in gym performing curl with two dumbbellsCredit: MDV Edwards / Shutterstock

The elevated muscle activation and potential for comparatively heavier weights make the hammer curl appropriate for all kinds of targets.

Bigger Biceps

Because the biceps are chargeable for elbow flexion (curling and bending), the biceps are instantly activated throughout hammer curls. This makes them a key participant to including dimension to your higher arms.

Bigger Forearms

Few lifters do direct forearm work, however hammer curls are a easy and efficient option to construct the muscle tissue beneath the elbow in addition to above it. The impartial (thumbs up) hand place will increase stress on a number of muscle tissue of the forearm in comparison with supinated (palms up) curls.

Increased Grip Strength

Building a stronger grip cannot solely carryover to enchancment in different workouts, it has additionally been related to improved total well being. (2) Hammer curls are an environment friendly method to enhance grip energy while not having so as to add particular grip-building workouts into your common exercise program.

Muscles Worked by Hammer Curl

Curls are to greater biceps what espresso is to mornings — merely mandatory. The hammer curl, nonetheless, works extra than simply the biceps.

Muscular arm in shadows holding dumbbellCredit: Improvisor / Shutterstock

The particular hand place recruits quite a lot of muscle tissue within the higher and decrease arm, making it an essential addition to an arm exercise.

Biceps Brachii

The biceps brachii is “the biceps muscle” on the entrance of the higher arm. It’s composed of two separate heads, the lengthy head on the outer a part of the biceps and the brief head discovered working alongside the internal a part of the biceps.

Both heads are linked to the elbow, with the brief head attaching to the higher arm bone and the lengthy head attaching to the shoulder blade simply behind the shoulder joint. Because of this, each components of the biceps are concerned in flexing or bending the elbow, and the lengthy head can also be activated when elevating the arm on the shoulder. Both heads are additionally strongly activated when rotating the wrist palm up and palm down (supination and pronation).


The brachialis is taken into account a “hidden” muscle as a result of it’s not usually seen and is positioned beneath biceps brachii, close to the elbow. When the brachialis will increase in dimension, it might probably primarily “push” the biceps larger, contributing to a bigger arm dimension total.

Its main perform is to flex and bend the elbow and it’s not concerned in supination or pronation. For this cause, a neutral-grip (palms dealing with one another) places the brachialis in a powerful mechanical place. (3) This can also be why you may usually use extra weight with any neutral-grip curling, rowing, or pulling in comparison with a pronated or supinated grip.


The brachioradialis runs alongside the thumb-side of the forearm, contributing important muscle dimension notably close to the elbow. It stabilizes the forearm throughout arm motion and instantly acts as an elbow flexor.


The wrist flexors make up the majority of the decrease arm on the palm-side of the forearm, whereas the wrist extensors are discovered on the highest facet of the forearm. Both muscle tissue are closely concerned in any grip-intensive train, just like the hammer curl. The wrist flexors work actively to carry the burden in place whereas the wrist flexors present stability.

Who Should Do the Hammer Curl

The hammer curl isn’t simply used for growing arm dimension. It definitely does play a giant position in arm coaching, nevertheless it additionally carries over to assist different lifts, making it helpful for strength-focused lifters in addition to these prioritizing muscle dimension.

Lifters Training for More Muscle

The hammer curl will assist to pack dimension onto your arms, together with the usually uncared for forearms. While some lifters could also be reluctant to incorporate direct arm coaching of their exercise on account of time or effectivity issues, the hammer curl is a superb option to reap most dimension advantages from only one train.

Lifters Training for Strength

Stronger arms and a stronger grip can carry over to any train that places weight in your fingers. Having a safer grip on the bar, whatever the particular train, might help to enhance bar management and stability. A stronger grip additionally instantly advantages all sorts of pulling workouts, from deadlifts and pull-ups to barbell or dumbbell rows.

How to Program the Hammer Curl

Just as a result of it’s an “arm curl” doesn’t imply the hammer curl ought to be handled with gentle weights and excessive reps. Here’s methods to match hammer curls into your plan for higher outcomes.

Heavy Weight, Low to Moderate Reps

Because the hammer curl makes use of a neutral-grip, the arms are put right into a considerably stronger pulling place than if the fingers have been palm-up. This enables you to transfer heavier weights with out sacrificing approach. Four to 5 units of six to eight reps turns the hammer curl right into a severe strength-builder while not having to swing the weights round.

Moderate Weight, Moderate Reps

Training hammer curls with a traditional bodybuilding-style method utilizing three to 4 units of 8 to 12 reps is a dependable option to construct arm dimension with this basic train. This sort of exercise ought to ship a superb pump within the forearms and biceps.

Hammer Curl Variations

The hammer curl is primarily distinctive for its particularly impartial hand place. There are a number of easy and efficient variations of the essential hammer curl to fine-tune the outcomes to your particular wants.

Single-Arm Hammer Curl

Training unilaterally (one facet at a time) means that you can use a barely heavier weight in both hand in comparison with lifting either side collectively. (4) Training either side individually additionally means that you can extra particularly deal with pure energy discrepancies, since one facet of the physique is usually stronger than the opposite.

Another important advantage of the single-arm hammer curl is stricter approach. Specifically, by bracing the non-working arm on the again of a bench, upright publish, or secure object, you may create extra stability and make sure that you don’t use any upper-body momentum.

Cable Rope Hammer Curl

Curling utilizing a cable gives fixed rigidity and will increase the general muscle-building stimulus. The rope attachment means that you can use a neutral-grip, in comparison with straight-bar attachments.

Cable hammer curls additionally make it harder to cheat together with your torso as a result of the cable disperses a lot of the momentum that will be transferring the burden and retains stress on the goal muscle tissue.

Pinwheel Curl

The pinwheel curl, generally known as the cross-body curl, modifications the vary of movement by sliding the burden throughout the physique relatively than remaining prolonged in entrance. This barely shortened vary of movement modifications the stress on the muscle tissue, recruiting the brachialis and additional emphasizing the lengthy head of the biceps.

Because the burden is nearer to your physique’s middle of gravity, a heavier weight can be utilized in comparison with customary hammer curls. Pinwheel curls are usually performed one arm at a time or alternating arms with every repetition.

Hammer Curl Alternatives

Most lifters could be overwhelmed with curling choices. Here are a handful of choices to include along with, or as an alternative of, the hammer curl.

Supinating Curl

The traditional supinating curl includes rotation through the train, starting with the weights dealing with the physique within the backside and the palms dealing with up within the high place. This recruits each heads of the biceps brachii extra considerably as a result of they work to rotate the forearm.

By specializing in “twisting the pinky up” on the high of the curl, the biceps contract totally. Most lifters are stunned by the extreme muscle activation from this easy approach adjustment.

Reverse Dumbbell Curl

Reverse dumbbell curls use a palms-down grip all through the train. This de-emphasizes the biceps brachii and places elevated muscular stress on the brachioradialis, brachialis, and wrist extensors.

This neglected train is a superb alternative for prioritizing decrease arm dimension and energy, as a result of the biceps should not considerably activated.

Incline Curl

The incline curl is a bodybuilding staple. Using a high-angle incline bench permits the arms to stretch behind the torso within the backside place, which considerably prompts the lengthy head of the biceps.

Incline curls additionally encourage strict type, because of the stretch within the backside place in addition to the totally supported seat again which helps to forestall swinging. Be positive to not lean ahead, which reduces the incline and defeats the aim of the train. Keep your head and shoulders involved with the pad.


How many various curls ought to I do in every exercise?

Programming direct arm coaching, like curls, right into a exercise plan means strolling a effective line between effectivity and effectiveness. Few lifters have to dedicate an enormous chunk of time (a number of workouts on a number of days per week) to coaching arms. However, the opposite excessive (zero direct arm coaching) can compromise outcomes and finally result in arms that do require a major quantity of consideration.

Generally talking, in case your purpose is to construct bigger arms, incorporating one or two totally different workouts two to 3 days per week ought to be ample, relying in your total coaching cut up and the precise units and reps. If your purpose is primarily energy, not dimension, instantly coaching biceps with one or two workouts a few times per week could be an efficient and environment friendly plan.

Why does my elbow harm through the train?

If hammer curls worsen pre-existing elbow ache, you’re probably not preserving your wrists in a impartial place through the curl. By rotating the wrist palm up or palm down, chances are you’ll be growing pressure on the tendons and supportive tissues of the elbow.

Reduce the burden and deal with sustaining a vertically stacked hand when elevating and decreasing the burden. Lifting with a slower tempo also can assist to dial in excellent approach.

Pick Up The Hammer Curls

To paraphrase an previous saying, “Whosoever performs hammer curls, if they be consistent, shall possess bigger and stronger arms.” It’s a helpful carry for physique-focused lifters in addition to performance-based lifters, and is a perfect alternative for mixing dimension and energy right into a single arm train.


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Featured Image: MDV Edwards