Hammer curls are a type of biceps curl that give you a stronger, more defined upper arm. The proper form is important with this type of curl, and you need to keep your wrists stiff and refrain from throwing your body into each lift. A slow lift will give you better results. There are many versions of the hammer curl.
Hammer curls are named for the grip you need to use on the dumbbell as you perform them. If you need to work your upper arms, this exercise will strengthen your biceps and all the nearby muscles.
A hammer curl is only one of the curls and upper-arm strengthening exercises you need to tone and bulk up your body. Use it along with other bicep curls, bent-over rows, deadlifts and overhead dumbbell extension to work your arms, back, and biceps.
Side-tri lifts, deltoid raises, and triceps extensions are other general exercises to strengthen arms and help you get a toned upper body and fight batwings and flab.
There are several different ways you can perform this move. Here are a few of our favorites. If you find one difficult, give the others a try.
The incline hammer curl isn't used as often as the other curls, but it is one of the best ways to build up your biceps. You'll need to use a bench at a 45-degree angle. The bottom pad should be set at an angle.
If you don’t have access to an incline bench, use an arm blaster to avoid poor form. An arm blaster is a piece of aluminum curved to fit your arms and keep them by your sides. It has been around for over 50 years, and many weightlifters and fitness enthusiasts are using them again.
Position yourself on the bench and fully extend your arms. Your dumbbell should be slightly off the floor. Keep your elbows locked. Curl your upper arm until it’s constricted. Squeeze your arm and fingers for a second once the dumbbell is fully lifted.
Lower the dumbbell slowly until it is at your side in the extended position. Repeat the lift with your other arm.
Reap more benefits by doing the incline hammer curl using one arm and then the other arm. Ideally, you should add four sets of five or six repetitions to add strength and size to your upper arms and biceps.
Include weighted chin-ups and barbell bicep curls in your workouts to strengthen your arms and overall physique even more.
Standing hammer curls are simple enough for beginners to master, but still effective when it comes to building up your biceps. Stand up and hold your dumbbells at arms’ length. Your elbows should be close to your sides.
Stand still with your palms across from each other. Bring the dumbbells up until they are even with your shoulders. Hold the position and tighten biceps briefly. Slowly lower the dumbbells Start with five reps and work your way up to 20 or more.
Seated hammer curls help keep your back steady and strong. They stop you from moving back and forth while lifting the weights. Your forearms are biceps must do all the “heavy lifting.” You can use both arms or alternate arms for this curl.
Set the back support on your incline bench to 60 degrees. Sit down and hold a light set of weights in your hands. Lower your arms until they are extended at your sides. Look straight ahead, with your palms towards your body.
Curl the dumbbells towards your body. Your palms should face your side. Now curl the weights upwards, so they are a little lower than shoulder level. Tighten your biceps. Lower the weights slowly, then start the process again. Begin with five reps and work your way up to as many as you can do without straining.
Master dumbbell prone curls and you’ll get better biceps in no time. Hold a dumbbell in each hand and lie on an incline bench, face down. Your shoulders must be close to the top of the incline.
Put your knees on the seat to support yourself. Your arms should hang in front of you with your palms turned to face one another. Your elbows need to be close to your sides.
Raise the dumbbells up until your biceps are contracted, and you can't raise your arms higher.
Hold the position and squeeze before slowly lowering the dumbbells to the original position. Repeat for a few reps to start, but as you get stronger increase the reps to 20 or more.
Place your arms on an isolation bench. Take a dumbbell in each hand and put the back of your arms above the elbows on the isolation cushion. Contract your biceps while lowering the dumbbells. This action stops your hands from slipping farther than the pad when you’re going downward.
Curl the dumbbell and do another repetition. Remember to move slowly.
What Not to Do
There are several mistakes beginners (and even seasoned pros) make from time to time when doing these curls. They include:
- Swaying your torso from side to side while lifting the weights. When you sway during the movement, you put tension on your core and back muscles, not on your arms where it belongs. Use a lighter dumbbell and go for lower resistance. Lifting lighter dumbbells will make it less likely you will sway back and forth, and you will feel the sensation toughening your arm muscles.
- Be sure to squeeze the dumbbell handles. Don’t hold them loosely. Maintain tension during all reps by squeezing the handles as hard as possible with your fingers.
- If you rush through your reps, you’ll cut short your TUT, or time under tension. Lift up the dumbbells for two seconds and pause for one second. Bring the dumbbells down for two seconds to finish each rep with more TUT.
- Variety will help develop your biceps and improve their size and strength. You'll need to do other types of exercises, not just the hammer curl. Train other muscles, like the ones in your back, to aid the development of your biceps. Do pull-ups and other exercises designed to work on the biceps for best results.
Improve Your Form
- Always choose a dumbbell weight you can handle, but not one that's so heavy you have to struggle with it. (You can work your way up to a 20-pound weight or more in time.) Don't stick with a two-pound weight or a starter weight for too long, either; you'll never get results that way.
- Lower the resistance if you find you are using your upper body or shoulder when doing reps instead of your arms. Using your body detracts from building up your biceps and brachialis.
- You may want to use a weight belt to support your body and keep it straight when performing reps. If you have a weak grip, use a wrist wrap. Wrist wraps keep your wrists from bending under pressure. Wraps help you handle heavier dumbbells efficiently than using bare wrists.
Regular Curl vs. Hammer Curl
- Most people include regular bicep curls as part of their fitness routine. You use a supinated-grip (palms face up) while doing this curl. It’s easy to perform a standard curl with barbells or dumbbells, in a gym or at home.
- The standard dumbbell curl engages the brachii, or long head of your biceps. Consistent performance of the standard hammer curl will give your biceps width when you view it from the side.
- Don’t use momentum and swing the dumbbells up quickly, as it will limit tension on the bicep and inhibit growth. That being said, it is harder to cheat when doing a standard bicep curl than a hammer curl.
How a Hammer Curl is Different
- You hold dumbbells at your sides while doing a hammer curl without supinating it. From beginning to end, you keep your palms facing each other. A hammer curl works all three muscle heads – the brachii, brachialis, and brachioradialis, like most other curls.
- The hammer curl will only be successful if you use the right form, and refrain from swinging the dumbbells in the air by employing momentum.
- A hammer curl impacts the small muscle brachialis, which is underneath the short and long muscle heads in your arm. This curl works the brachialis to give your arms overall even tone instead of bulk alone.