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What Muscles Do Hammer Curls Work? A Complete Guide

by Nader Qudimat
Updated November 9, 2023

If you want to improve bicep development, look no further than hammer curls.

This all-in-one exercise targets not just your biceps, but also the hidden muscles underneath and those running along your forearm.

It's the full-service package for anyone aiming for stronger, better-looking arms.

Whether you're a gym newbie or a seasoned athlete, hammer curls offer something for everyone.

Hammer Curls: Quick Rundown

Hammer curls work on both your biceps and the muscles along your forearm.

This exercise gives you a complete arm workout, making your arms stronger and better looking.

The Science Behind Hammer Curls

Hammer curls are not just another bicep exercise; they are backed by science.

The unique grip and motion of hammer curls target the brachialis and brachioradialis muscles, often overlooked in a standard bicep routine.

This study shows that the range of motion and targeted muscles can significantly affect muscle growth in specific arm regions.

The Origin Of Hammer Curls

Hammer curls have been a staple in bodybuilding for decades.

Originating as a variation of the traditional bicep curl, this exercise quickly gained popularity for its ability to target multiple arm muscles.

Over the years, it has been endorsed by fitness experts and professional bodybuilders alike, cementing its place as a go-to exercise for comprehensive arm development.

The Muscles Engaged By Hammer Curls: A Deep Dive

What Muscles Do Hammer Curls Work?

Hammer curls target multiple muscles in your arm, primarily focusing on the biceps brachii, brachialis, and brachioradialis.

  • Biceps Brachii:¬†The go-to muscle people think of when showing off their arms.
  • Brachialis:¬†Located under the biceps, it adds to the overall thickness of the upper arm.
  • Brachioradialis:¬†This forearm muscle assists in flexing the forearm at the elbow.

Your arm is like a well-coordinated team.

The biceps might be the MVP, but the brachialis and brachioradialis play crucial roles too.

Hammer curls ensure that all these muscles get a solid workout, contributing to a stronger and more toned arm.

The biceps brachii has two heads that work together during hammer curls.

The brachialis is a supporting muscle, while the brachioradialis helps stabilize the movement.

Backed By Science

This study shows a significant effect of hammer curls in increasing the volume of the biceps brachii muscle.

Another study reveals that altering the handgrips in biceps curls leads to specific variations in biceps brachii and brachioradialis activation.

The Specifics  On The Biceps

  • Long Head: The part of the bicep that makes it look tall when flexed.
  • Short Head: The part that adds width to your bicep.

Hammer curls target both the long and short heads of the biceps brachii.

They work the part of your bicep that makes it look tall and the part that makes it look wide.

Why This Matters

  • Comprehensive Workout: You're hitting multiple muscles, which means balanced arm development.
  • Functional Strength: Stronger grip and better forearm strength make daily tasks easier.
  • Aesthetic Appeal: Your arms will look bigger and more defined, which is always a win.

So, if you're still doing traditional bicep curls, you're missing out on a lot.

Hammer curls offer a more comprehensive arm workout, functional strength, and aesthetic gains.

It's time to add them to your routine.

The Proper Way To Perform Hammer Curls

The Setup

  • Choose Your Weights: Pick challenging dumbbells but allow you to complete your sets with good form.
  • Stand Tall: Keep your feet shoulder-width apart and stand upright.

The Execution

  • Grip: Hold the dumbbells with a neutral grip, palms facing each other.
  • Arm Position: Keep your arms fully extended and close to your torso.
  • The Curl: Curl the weights while keeping your upper arms stationary, exhale as you perform this portion of the movement.
  • The Peak: Hold the contracted position briefly as you squeeze your biceps.
  • The Lowering: Inhale as you lower the dumbbells back to the starting position.

Common Mistakes To Avoid

  • Swinging: Avoid using your back or shoulders to lift the weight; your forearms should work.
  • Incomplete Range of Motion: Make sure to fully extend your arms at the bottom and fully contract your biceps at the top.

By following these steps, you'll ensure that you're performing hammer curls in a way that maximizes their benefits while minimizing the risk of injury.

Hammer Curls vs. Traditional Bicep Curls

When it comes to arm workouts, the age-old debate often boils down to hammer curls vs. traditional bicep curls.

Both exercises are staples in arm training, but they serve different purposes and target different muscles.

Let's dive deep into the nuances that set these two exercises apart.

The Grip Factor

The most noticeable difference between hammer curls and traditional bicep curls is the grip.

In hammer curls, you use a neutral grip, where the palms face each other.

In traditional bicep curls, you use a supinated grip, where the palms face upward.

This simple change in grip alters the muscles engaged during the exercise.

Muscle Activation

Traditional bicep curls primarily target the biceps brachii, specifically the long and short heads.

Hammer curls, on the other hand, target not just the biceps brachii but also the brachialis and the brachioradialis.

This makes hammer curls a more comprehensive exercise for overall arm development.

Research supports that varying joint angles can enhance total muscle activation, which is what happens when you switch from a traditional to a hammer grip.

Range Of Motion

When it comes to arm workouts, the age-old debate often boils down to hammer curls vs. traditional bicep curls.

Both exercises are staples in arm training, but they serve different purposes and target different muscles.

Let's dive deep into the nuances that set these two exercises apart.

The Grip Factor

The most noticeable difference between hammer curls and traditional bicep curls is the grip.

In hammer curls, you use a neutral grip, where the palms face each other.

In traditional bicep curls, you use a supinated grip, where the palms face upward.

This simple change in grip alters the muscles engaged during the exercise.

Muscle Activation

Traditional bicep curls primarily target the biceps brachii, specifically the long and short heads.

Hammer curls, on the other hand, target not just the biceps brachii but also the brachialis and the brachioradialis.

This makes hammer curls a more comprehensive exercise for overall arm development.

Research supports that varying joint angles can enhance total muscle activation, which is what happens when you switch from a traditional to a hammer grip.

Range Of Motion

The range of motion in both exercises is slightly different due to the grip.

In traditional bicep curls, the supinated grip allows for a fuller contraction at the movement's top.

Hammer curls, with their neutral grip, offer a different range of motion that engages the forearm and brachialis more effectively.

Forearm And Grip Strength

Hammer curls are excellent for developing forearm strength and improving grip strength.

The neutral grip engages the forearm muscles more than the supinated grip used in traditional bicep curls.

If you want to improve your grip for other lifts or daily activities, hammer curls are the way to go.

Versatility And Equipment

Both exercises are versatile and can be performed with various equipment like dumbbells, barbells, or cable machines.

However, the neutral grip used in hammer curls is often easier to adapt to different types of equipment, including ropes and kettlebells.

Risk Of Injury

Both exercises are generally safe when performed with proper form.

However, the neutral grip used in hammer curls is often considered more joint-friendly, especially for those with wrist or elbow issues.

Aesthetic And Functional Benefits

If you're aiming for that peak bicep look, traditional bicep curls should be your go-to.

However, if you're looking for functional strength and a more complete arm workout, hammer curls take the cake.

They offer a balanced approach to arm development, targeting multiple muscle groups.

The Bottom Line On Hammer Curls vs. Traditional Bicep Curls

While traditional bicep curls are excellent for isolating the biceps brachii, hammer curls offer a more well-rounded approach to arm development.

Depending on your fitness goals, both exercises have their place in a balanced workout routine.

Benefits Of Incorporating Hammer Curls

The Multifaceted Advantages Of Hammer Curls

When it comes to arm training, hammer curls are a game-changer.

Here's why you should consider adding them to your routine.

Comprehensive Muscle Engagement For A Balanced Physique

  • Targets Multiple Muscles: Unlike traditional curls, hammer curls work the biceps, brachialis, and brachioradialis.
  • Balanced Development: This leads to a well-rounded arm, both aesthetically and functionally.

Grip Strength That Translates To Real-World Utility

  • Enhances Grip: The neutral grip of hammer curls boosts your grip strength.
  • Daily Utility: Stronger grip makes everyday tasks like carrying groceries easier.

Forearm Development For Both Form And Function

  • Hits the Forearm: Targets the brachioradialis, a key forearm muscle.
  • Functional Gains: Useful for activities requiring a strong grip or wrist stabilization.

Lower Injury Risk Through Muscle Balance

  • Reduces Imbalances: Works multiple muscle groups, reducing the risk of injury.
  • Safer Workouts: Lower risk of issues like tendonitis or muscle strains.

Versatility For Varied Workout Environments

  • Equipment Flexibility: Can be done with dumbbells, barbells, or resistance bands.
  • Anywhere, Anytime: Great for gym workouts or at-home sessions.

Athletic Performance Boost In Arm-Intensive Sports

  • Functional Strength: Improves performance in sports requiring strong arms and grip.
  • Competitive Edge: Gain an advantage in sports like baseball or tennis.

Aesthetic Gains For Bigger, More Defined Arms

  • Targets the Brachialis: Works the muscle under the bicep for a fuller look.
  • Visual Appeal: Makes your arms look bigger and more defined.

Variations Of Hammer Curls

Hammer curls are a staple in arm training, but did you know you can spice them up with some variations?

These tweaks not only keep your workouts interesting but also challenge your muscles in new ways.

  • Seated Hammer Curls:¬†Performed while sitting on a bench, this variation isolates the biceps more effectively.
  • Incline Hammer Curls:¬†Lying on an inclined bench targets the long head of the biceps.
  • Cross-Body Hammer Curls:¬†Bring the dumbbell across your body to your opposite shoulder for increased bicep and forearm engagement.
  • Hammer Curl to Press:¬†Add a shoulder press after the curl to engage the deltoids.
  • Cable Hammer Curls:¬†A cable machine provides constant tension throughout the movement.
  • Resistance Band Hammer Curls:¬†Ideal for home workouts, the resistance band offers variable tension.
  • Single-Arm Hammer Curls:¬†Focus on one arm at a time to correct muscle imbalances.
  • Alternating Hammer Curls:¬†Alternate arms for each rep to maintain muscle engagement on both sides.
  • Hammer Curl 21s:¬†Perform 7 low-half reps, 7 high-half reps, and then 7 full reps to exhaust the muscle.
  • Zottman Curls:¬†Start like a regular hammer curl but rotate your wrist at the top, turning it into a reverse curl on the way down.

Each of these variations has its own benefits, targeting different parts of the arm and providing a diverse range of motion.

Feel free to mix and match to keep your arm workouts fresh and challenging.

Combining Hammer Curls For A Comprehensive Arm Workout

So, you're sold on the benefits of hammer curls and their variations, but how do you incorporate them into your existing workout routine?

The key is strategically combining them with other exercises for a well-rounded arm workout.

Pair With Compound Movements

Start your workout with compound movements like bench presses or pull-ups.

These exercises engage multiple muscle groups and should be performed when you're freshest.

Once you've tackled these, move on to isolation exercises like hammer curls.

Mix With Other Bicep And Tricep Exercises

Hammer curls can be seamlessly integrated into a bicep and tricep workout.

Pair them with exercises like barbell curls, skull crushers, or tricep pushdowns.

This ensures that all aspects of your arms are being worked on.

Use In Strength Training Programs

If you're following a strength training regimen, hammer curls can be an excellent addition.

They can be incorporated into various strength training programs to add variety and target the biceps and forearms specifically.

For Hardgainers

If you're struggling to put on muscle, consider adding hammer curls to your hardgainer routines.

The exercise is effective for muscle hypertrophy and can be a game-changer for those who find it hard to gain size.

Spreadsheet Tracking

To keep track of your progress, you can use workout spreadsheets.

These allow you to log your sets, reps, and weights, helping you to stay organized and measure your progress over time.

Program Finder For Customization

Not sure which program to follow?

Use the program finder to discover a workout routine that aligns with your fitness goals.

Whether you're a beginner or a seasoned athlete, you'll find a program that fits.

By thoughtfully combining hammer curls with other exercises and tracking your progress, you can create a balanced and effective arm workout that yields results.

FAQs

What muscles do hammer curls target?

Hammer curls work on the biceps, brachialis, and brachioradialis, offering a comprehensive arm workout.

How do hammer curls differ from traditional bicep curls?

Unlike traditional bicep curls that focus mainly on the biceps, hammer curls engage multiple arm muscles, leading to balanced development.

Can hammer curls improve my grip strength?

Yes, the neutral grip used in hammer curls can significantly enhance your grip strength.

Are hammer curls good for forearm development?

Absolutely, hammer curls target the brachioradialis, a key muscle in your forearm.

How can hammer curls reduce my risk of injury?

By targeting multiple arm muscles, hammer curls help maintain muscle balance, reducing the risk of injuries like tendonitis.

What equipment do I need for hammer curls?

You can perform hammer curls with dumbbells, barbells, or resistance bands.

How do hammer curls affect athletic performance?

The functional strength gained from hammer curls can improve your performance in sports requiring strong arms and grip.

Can hammer curls make my arms look bigger?

Yes, hammer curls work the brachialis, a muscle that can make your arms look fuller and more defined.

How often should I do hammer curls?

This depends on your fitness level and goals, but generally, 2-3 times a week is a good starting point.

What are some common mistakes to avoid?

Swinging the weights and not fully extending the arms are common mistakes that can reduce the effectiveness of hammer curls.

Bottom Line

Hammer curls are more than just another arm exercise; they're a comprehensive solution for building stronger, more balanced arms.

From improving grip strength to boosting athletic performance, the benefits are manifold.

So, if you're still stuck on traditional bicep curls, it's time to switch to hammer curls for a more balanced arm workout.

Also, check out this complete guide for bigger biceps to further elevate your arm training.

by Nader Qudimat

Forged by iron and cold steel, I'm Nader, a mid-30s natural bodybuilder. Once a 100lb skinny guy, I've transformed into a 200lb muscular athlete with over 15 years of lifting experience. Today, I leverage my transformation and extensive experience to guide countless individuals on their fitness journeys.

Click here to check out my 12 year transformation: Natural 12 Year Transformation

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