Hammer Curls – Techniques, Benefits, And Variations

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A fit man performing hammer curls with dumbbellss

Do you want to grow your dream biceps? You may want to try out hammer curls. Check out the benefits and variations to add to your workout routine!

Many people desire bigger biceps, and you can get that by doing hammer curls. This is an exercise you would want to add to your exercise program to give yourself a full arm workout and visibly increase the size of your arm. More than looking good on you, your biceps play a vital role in your shoulder and elbow health.

Before adding this exercise to your upper body strength exercise regimen, you should know some things about hammer curls. Keep reading to learn more.

What are hammer curls?

Hammer curls are bicep curls that target the upper and lower arm muscles. It is also known as neutral grip bicep curls or dumbbell hammer curls.

The position of your palms when doing this exercise makes it different from the traditional bicep curl. Imagine holding a hammer in each hand and curling it up to your shoulder. These exercises require the use of equipment like dumbbells, cables, or bands. However, the dumbbell hammer curl is the most common type. Here is how you do a basic hammer curl:

  • Start by holding a dumbbell in each hand with your palms facing your thighs.
  • Bend your elbows and curl the weights as close to your shoulder as you can.
  • Squeeze your biceps at the top of the curl.
  • Lower the weights back to the starting position and repeat.

You can add these dumbbell hammer curls in place of your simple bicep curls during your upper body workout. Alternatively, you can swap the dumbbell for other equipment and try kettlebell hammer curls, resistance band curls, and so on.

Hammer curls work more muscles than the regular bicep curl. They primarily target your biceps brachii muscle, brachialis muscles, and pronator teres muscles. They also increase your grip strength. Let us take a look at some common variations of this incredible arm and bicep exercise. You can use the following list and modify hammer curls to suit your fitness levels and goals.

7 Variations of hammer curls

The hammer curls involve lifting weights with a palm-up grip, usually a neutral grip. You move your hand the way you would use a hammer to hit a nail in that movement. This arm movement will be difficult using barbells or kettlebells, so the most suitable equipment is dumbbells. 

However, you can try hammer curl modifications using different equipment and form variations if you wish to switch up your routine a couple of notches. 

1. Alternating hammer curl

Target muscles: Brachialis, brachioradialis, and biceps brachii muscles.

How to do

  • Hold two dumbbells in both hands using a neutral grip by your sides.
  • Curl one of your arms towards your shoulder without moving the other one.
  • Don’t move your elbow much as you curl your arm upward.
  • Squeeze your biceps when the weight reaches up.
  • Slowly lower the dumbbell down till your arms are completely extended. 
  • Repeat the same for the other arm. 

Summary: Alternating hammer curls are simpler than basic hammer curls. They involve lifting one weight at a time. The movement pattern allows you to work one arm at a time and focus on building a mind-muscle connection as you work each arm. Plus, each arm gets time to rest even as you are executing the move.

2. Preacher hammer curl

Target muscles: Forearm extensors and flexors, biceps brachii, brachioradialis, and brachialis.

How to do

  • Get your dumbbell and lean on a preacher curl station.
  • Brace the arms as you hold the weights on the preacher pad. When you do this, your triceps will be pressed against the surface.
  • Lower the dumbbell until you have completely extended your elbow till you feel your bicep stretch.
  • Lift the weight back up by curling the arm towards your shoulder. 
  • Squeeze your bicep muscles as the weight reaches the top.
  • Lower the weight and repeat.

Summary: To perform the preacher hammer curl, you need a preacher bench that has a padded armrest. It helps you hold your upper arm in isolation to aid the exercise routine. This hammer curl variation helps your biceps muscles to become more pronounced.

3. Incline hammer curl

Target muscles: Biceps brachii, elbow flexor, and brachialis muscles.

How to do

  • Get your incline bench, sit, relax your back against the bench, and grab dumbbells in both hands. 
  • Tuck your chin in and maintain a neutral back and neck movement. 
  • Rotate your shoulders out to engage your lats. 
  • Squeeze your biceps as you lift the weight to the top, close to your shoulder.
  • Pause for a while and squeeze your biceps. 
  • Lower your arms as you stretch your arms out back to the starting position. Keep your upper arm still throughout.
  • Stop at the bottom and restart for another rep.

Summary: For this variation, you need to sit on an incline bench while lifting the dumbbell. It is a great exercise for your arms, upper back, shoulders, and traps. You can achieve a maximum stretch on your biceps as you lower the dumbbell. 

4. Hammer curl power squat

Target muscles: Glutes, brachialis, biceps brachii, brachioradialis [1]Cleveland Clinic: Arm Muscles muscles, adductors, quadriceps, hamstrings, and hip flexors.

How to do

  • Stand tall and keep your feet slightly wider than shoulder width apart. 
  • Hold dumbbells in both hands by your sides.
  • Inhale, bend your knees and hips to squat. Maintain a straight back and push your chest out.
  • Simultaneously, raise the dumbbells in both hands upward, bending your elbow to raise the weight close to your shoulders.
  • Breathe as you stand back and return to the starting position. 
  • Simultaneously lower the weight back to your sides.

Summary: This variation combines squats and hammer curls to work some muscles in both your upper and lower body. If you are looking for an arm workout that will  engage your entire body, hammer curl power squat is a great choice. 

5. Cross-body hammer curl

Target muscles: Biceps, forearm muscles, and brachialis.

How to do

  • Grab dumbbells on both hands while standing or sitting. 
  • Maintain a straight back and keep your elbows to your sides.
  • Holding the dumbbell vertically so that it resembles a hammer, slowly curl your left elbow and lift the weight toward your right chest or elbow (depending on your body’s comfort levels). 
  • Pause for two seconds and lower the dumbbell back to your side.
  • Switch to the other hand and repeat reps.

Summary: The cross-body hammer curl is another variation that works all muscles between the tricep and bicep. You can perform this exercise while standing or sitting. Pick your position of comfort!

6. Rope cable hammer curl

Target muscles: Brachioradialis and brachialis.

How to do

  • Connect a rope attachment to the cable pulley machine and stand facing it.
  • Hold the rope ends with your palms facing each other.
  • Straighten your back and keep your elbows against your sides.
  • Curl your elbows and pull the rope upward towards your shoulder while maintaining your upper arm in line with your trunk.
  • Pause for about two seconds and lower the rope to the starting point. Repeat.

Summary: Another hammer variation curl to try is the cable rope hammer curl. It works the brachioradialis and brachialis muscles. It also builds the anterior muscles on the arm, obliques, and rectus abdominis. You need a cable pulley machine to execute this exercise.

7. Resistance band hammer curl

Target muscles: Biceps and brachialis.

How to do

  • Stand on the center of a resistance band and hold the band with your palms parallel to each other.
  • Keep your elbows by your sides and maintain a straight back.
  • Curl your elbows and flex your arms to bring the band up towards your shoulder.
  • Pause for two seconds at the top of the movement.
  • Slowly lower your arms back to the starting position.

Summary: Resistance band hammer curls majorly target the biceps. You work the biceps and brachialis as you bend and flex your elbows. This variation is the same as the traditional hammer curl; the only difference is the equipment. Here, you use a resistance band instead of dumbbells.

Hammer curls workout sample plan

You can incorporate some hammer curl exercise variations into your workout plan. If you stick to the plan, you can start seeing bulging biceps in no time. Remember that form is key in workout routines if you want visible results. 

Here is a workout sample plan to follow:

Days Hammer curl exercise
Monday Regular hammer curl
Sets/Reps – 3 to 4 sets of 10 to 20 reps
Rest – 15 to 20 seconds between reps
Tuesday Preacher hammer curl
Sets/Reps – 3 to 4 sets of 10 to 12 reps
Rest – 15 to 20 seconds between reps
Wednesday Cross-body hammer curl
Sets/Reps –  3 to 4 sets of 15 to 20 reps
Rest – 15 to 20 seconds between each rep
Thursday Hammer curl power squat
Sets/Reps – 4 sets of 10 reps
Rest – 15 to 20 seconds
Friday Resistance band hammer curl
Sets/Reps –  3 to 4 sets of 25 to 30 reps
Rest – 15 to 20 seconds between reps
Saturday Incline hammer curls
Sets/Reps – 4 sets of 10 reps
Rest – 15 to 20 seconds between reps
Sunday Cable rope hammer curl
Sets/Reps – 3 to 4 sets of 10 to 12 reps
Rest – 15 to 20 seconds between reps

You can switch up the reps of hammer curl variations at will. 

Benefits of doing hammer curls

Hammer curls play some role in shaping your upper body. Sure, their results are very visible, but you should know what more comes into play when executing the workout. The benefits of hammer curls include:

1. Improves forearm and grip strength

Hammer curls help to improve forearm and grip strength which helps day-to-day activity. It can also help during other weightlifting exercises. This also helps with protecting the forearm against carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms.

2. Build stronger bicep muscles

You can build stronger biceps muscles with hammer curls. That way, you achieve your body goals and also increase your physical strength. It will also help to increase your wrist stability.

3. Build muscle strength

You can also build muscle strength when you do hammer curls. The muscles that are worked with optimal weights are bound to grow stronger as you pull and work them.

How hammer curls are different from other curl exercises?

Some people mistake hammer curls with other curl exercises because of their similarities. However, they are slightly different. We have listed out a few curl-based exercises and how hammer curls differ from them:

Bicep curls

The standard bicep curl differs from the hammer curl in terms of grip. The former has an underhand grip, while the latter has a neutral grip. 

Dumbbell curls

The difference between both curl exercises again, lies in the dumbbell grip. For dumbbells, your palms are facing up, while for hammer curls, your grip is neutral, and your palm faces the body.

EZ-Bar curls

EZ bar curl [2]Health Guidance: What Is an EZ Bar For? is unique in the fact that it activates the biceps brachii and brachioradialis a lot more than other curl variations and yields better results.

Barbell curl

The Barbell curl differs from a hammer curl in the use of the equipment(a barbell instead of the dumbbell) and at the level of form, grip, and technique.

Reverse curls

The reverse curl works the smaller muscle of the brachioradialis in the forearm; hence, more effective for growing the forearm muscles. 

Zottman curl

The grip for both curl variations is different. Zottman curl grips are a supinated grip and involve rotational movement when lifting weights.

Spider curl

The movement involved in the spider curl creates a more intense pump in your biceps than most other curls. It is very effective in building forearm muscles. 

Common mistakes to avoid while doing hammer curls

Mistakes are common with hammer curls. Injuries and strains caused by those mistakes can keep you from getting your desired results. You need to avoid the following common mistakes:

  • Using momentum and swinging motions.
  • Curling too fast and rushing through the routine.
  • Floating your elbows away from your body while curling.
  • Not maintaining proper form or breathing.

Safety tips to prevent injury

You can protect yourself from injury when you take safety precautions. Here are a few ways you can ensure your safety while performing hammer curls:

  • Modify or refrain from this workout if you have lower arm injuries.
  • Watch out for pain in your arms and stop when it becomes unbearable.
  • Start with lighter weight and shorter reps before increasing them as you improve.
  • Refrain from moving the rest of your body when working out.
  • Combine your weight training with a proper diet rich in lean proteins to ensure muscle growth and recovery.


You can easily grow your bicep muscles and improve arm strength with hammer curls. It is also a good alternative to traditional bicep curls; easy and offers similar results. Try out a few variations to check which ones work for you and incorporate them into your weight training regimen.

In addition, don’t forget safety measures if you don’t want to feel pain after working out. If you keep swinging during hammer curls, it could be that the weight is too much for you, so reduce it and continue your workout.


1 Cleveland Clinic: Arm Muscles
2 Health Guidance: What Is an EZ Bar For?

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