The hammer curl is a popular biceps exercise performed with the wrist in a neutral position. Unlike a standard bicep curl, this exercise targets more of the bicep peak and forearms. It requires minimal equipment to perform and is rather simple to learn.
The hammer curl is an effective exercise for increasing the size and strength of the upper arms. This article covers the top of hammer curl benefits and muscles worked.
Table of Contents
- 1 Hammer Curl Benefits
- 2 Hammer Curl Muscles Worked
- 3 Frequently Asked Questions
- 4 Other Exercise Posts
- 4.1 How to Perform the Overhead Press with Proper Form
- 4.2 How to Bench Press with Perfect Form
- 4.3 Bear Crawls: Benefits, Proper Form, and Muscles Worked
- 4.4 How to Deadlift with Proper Form
- 4.5 Leg Extension Benefits and Muscles Worked
- 4.6 Side Plank Benefits, Form, and Muscles Worked
- 4.7 Arnold Split Workout + Free Example Spreadsheet
- 4.8 Seated Cable Row Benefits, Form, and Muscles Worked
- 4.9 T-Bar Row Benefits and Muscles Worked
- 4.10 How to Do a Lat Pulldown with Proper Form
- 4.11 How to Front Squat with Proper Form
- 4.12 The Top 9 Muscles Worked with Deadlifts
- 4.13 The 8 Main Muscle Groups Worked by Squats
- 4.14 The Top 5 Leg Press Muscles Worked
- 4.15 Romanian Deadlift Benefits and Muscles Worked
- 4.16 The 6 Best Gym Machines For Weight Loss
- 4.17 The Top 5 Bench Press Muscles Worked
- 4.18 Barbell Row Benefits, Muscles Worked, and Form
Hammer Curl Benefits
- Increases bicep muscle size and strength
- Increases forearm size and grip strength
- Places less strain on the wrist
- Can be performed seated or standing
- Helps fix muscular imbalances
Here are the top five hammer curl benefits:
Increases bicep muscle size and strength
The hammer curl is primarily used to increase the size and strength of the biceps, which is one of the main muscle groups that make up the upper arms. Since this exercise is performed with a neutral grip, it primarily targets the biceps brachii long head.
This muscle is positioned on the outside of the upper arm and forms the bicep peak. When flexed, the peak contributes to the overall height of the biceps muscle. Hammer curls targets the long head of the bicep, which offers the best arm aesthetics when developed.
Even though the biceps are more of a “show” muscle, they are still important for various movements and are active in any motion that involves elbow flexion.
Increases forearm size and grip strength
Grip strength is crucial for numerous exercises, such as deadlifts, rows and pull-ups.
A traditional biceps curl also works the forearms; however, a hammer curl engages more of the brachioradialis and brachialis. The brachioradialis is a superficial forearm muscle, whereas the brachialis is located directly under the biceps brachii. As the brachialis muscle grows, the biceps brachii look even bigger.
Places less strain on the wrist
Compared to other bicep exercises where the wrist is supinated (palms facing up) or pronated (palms facing down), the hammer curl uses a neutral grip, which places less strain on the wrist.
It’s important to note that in addition to elbow flexion, the biceps are also responsible for wrist supination. Since the hammer curl does not involve supination, it’s a good idea to perform some exercises that involve that.
Performing hammer curls will also allow for biceps work without placing additional stress on the wrists and elbows. Additionally, varying bicep movements can help avoid risk of golfer’s or tennis elbow.
Can be performed seated or standing
This exercise requires minimal equipment or space and can be performed seated or standing. For the most effective means of isolating the movement, seated hammer curls are recommended. Consider doing standing hammer curls to lift as much weight as possible.
Helps fix muscular imbalances
Due to the neutral wrist position, the hammer curl is considered a unilateral exercise, meaning each arm moves independently. The only hammer curl variation where this is not the case is a rope cable hammer curl.
Traditionally, this exercise is performed with dumbbells, making it unilateral. Some people do alternating or single-arm hammer curls where they focus on one arm at a time. The hammer curl is also helpful in correcting muscular imbalances.
Hammer Curl Muscles Worked
- Biceps Brachii
- Forearm flexors
Here are the primary hammer curl muscles worked:
The biceps brachii, commonly known as the biceps, is a two-headed muscle on the upper arm. Its actions include elbow flexion, shoulder flexion, and wrist supination. The short head originates from the coracoid process of the scapula and attaches to the radial tuberosity. The long head originates from the supraglenoid tubercle of the scapula and attaches to the radial tuberosity.
The biceps short head is located on the medial side of the arm, which means it’s closer to the body. It helps add width to the upper arm. In comparison, the long head is located on the lateral side of the arm and helps add height to the upper arm, also known as the bicep peak.
Although one head of the biceps brachii can’t be isolated, the elbow position can be manipulated to emphasize one more than the other. For example, the long head is targeted better when the elbows are at the sides of the body. In comparison, the short head is engaged more when the elbows are slightly in front of the body.
The brachialis muscle is located underneath the biceps brachii muscle. It originates from the medial and lateral sides of the humerus and attaches to the ulnar tuberosity. This muscle works with the biceps brachii to flex the elbow.
Unlike the biceps brachii, it does not perform any other action. Although the brachialis is a deep muscle, it still contributes to overall upper arm mass because it pushes the biceps brachii upward as it grows.
The brachioradialis is a superficial muscle most prominent when the forearm is half pronated with the elbow flexing, which is exactly the same motion as a hammer curl. This muscle runs from the humerus to the distal end of the radius.
Although it’s in a similar position as the wrist extensors, its primary action is elbow flexion. The brachioradialis is one of the biggest muscles in the forearm. So if you want to increase the size and strength of your forearms, hammer curls are a great movement to accomplish that by targeting the brachioradialis.
The last muscle group that hammer curls work are the forearm flexors, which include: flexor carpi ulnaris, palmaris longus, flexor carpi radialis, pronator teres, flexor digitorum superficialis, flexor pollicis longus, pronator quadratus, and flexor digitorum profundus. The forearm flexors are all located in the anterior compartment of the forearm.
They all contribute to wrist flexion, finger flexion, and forearm pronation. This muscle group is important for every movement that requires a strong grip. They are especially active during a hammer curl because you’re gripping the dumbbell with the forearm in a half-pronated position.
Frequently Asked Questions
If you can’t perform a hammer curl for any reason, here are some alternatives to consider: neutral grip pull-ups; close-grip chin-ups; dumbbell preacher curls; reverse-grip barbell curls; Zottman curls; EZ-bar curls; concentration curls.
Check out this article: The 8 Best Hammer Curl Alternatives for more information on hammer curl alternatives.
The hammer curl targets the bicep’s long head and forearm muscles better than a traditional bicep curl. A standard bicep curl with a supinated grip activates the long and short heads of the biceps.
If someone’s goal is to increase the size of their bicep peak, it’s a good idea to do more hammer curl variations. However, performing various bicep exercises is a good idea if their goal is to increase overall bicep size.
Check out this article: Hammer Curls vs Bicep Curls: Which is Better? for more information on the differences between the two exercises.
Even if you don’t have access to certain equipment, there’s a good chance that you can still perform some type of hammer curl.
Some of the best hammer curl variations include rope hammer curls; single-arm cable hammer curls; resistance band hammer curls; preacher hammer curls; incline hammer curls; alternating hammer curls; standing dumbbell hammer curls; seated dumbbell hammer curls; and kettlebell hammer curls.