Hammer curl – The bicep exercise to gain volume

The hammer curl is a vastly underrated bicep exercise. And when it is practiced, it is often poorly done. Or at least it's underutilized.

ATTENTION: Contrary to appearances, I want to warn you that this article is also extremely useful for women, as you will understand later.

To be clear with everyone, let's say that most people do bicep curls in supination, that is to say the palms towards you (or upwards).

This is what you see in this image (the hand is supinated):

good exercise to strengthen your arms
The majority of biceps exercises are done in supination

This is actually the position that comes most naturally when you start lifting cast iron. And this movement is very popular with novices because it highlights the biceps, this symbol so important to strength. Of course, classic bicep curls have their place in a good bodybuilding program.

But you will learn today:

  1. Why you absolutely must do hammer curls to properly build arm muscles.
  2. How you need to do them to get the most benefit and promote mass gain.

I realize that this article may seem to be made for men only, but it is not. Ladies and ladies, I will tell you at the end why you should also integrate it into your muscle building sessions.

Here we go…

Why This Bicep Exercise Is Important

The fastest way to improve the appearance of your biceps is to focus on the brachialis muscle, formerly known as the brachialis anterior muscle. This is the elbow flexor muscle.

Located under the biceps (long and short portions), it contributes more to the thickness of the arm than the bicep itself. Increasing its volume is therefore an easy way to make the arm bigger, to bring out your muscle mass. Ah ah, that's starting to speak to you, isn't it?

But the way most people train their arms leaves the brachialis muscle understimulated.

And if you already know a little about this muscle, you may think that its training consists only of doing curls with the hands in a neutral position, which are aptly called hammer curls, since it is the natural position of the wrist when you use a hammer. Like what, the expressions are sometimes really well chosen 😉

But it's not enough to have the right wrist position to really use this muscle. And no…

SmartWorkout Elite

Take your time for the brachialis

Indeed, the type of contraction is a much more important factor when it comes to putting the brachialis muscle under tension. The latter is much more stressed when the movement is slow and it remains contracted long enough, as in isometric exercises.

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As the speed of movement increases, the activation of the brachialis decreases in favor of the biceps. So if you are doing hammer curls at high speed, the brachialis will not be stimulated much.

Even though it's in English, this video clip I've chosen shows you how to do this move the right way:

And because I don't want any jealous ones, here's another video for the more feminine among you:

How to make hammer curls

Do your sets of 8 to 12 reps by following the following instructions:

  1. Stand with a dumbbell in each hand and a straight chest. If you use the elastic bands (my favorite choice), take a piece of tube directly in each hand, without handle. Your elbows should stay close to your chest.
  2. Do the repetitions using constant tension. Raise the load or pull the tubes slowly, contracting your muscles as if you were trying to crush your biceps between your arms and forearms. Breathe out slowly as you contract the muscles.
  3. When you have crushed your biceps well, hold the position for 2 seconds, keeping the tension as high as possible.
  4. Inhale while slowly lowering the hands back down to the starting position. Remember to keep your elbows against your chest.
  5. Repeat until the end of the series.
  6. On the last repetition, hold the top position for 10 to 20 seconds, contracting as hard as you can.
Adjustable dumbbells 24kg

The hammer curl with elastic bands

Hammer curl exercise for biceps at home
You can use the elastic bands for bicep curls

You probably know that I highly recommend this equipment for training at home. There is nothing better.

And again I can tell you that elastic bands are great for hammer curls. And the reason is simple: their tension increases as we move.

This is not the case with dumbbells. On the contrary, the tension of the brachialis muscle will be at its maximum with dumbbells when your elbows form a right angle. On the other hand, the joint tension will be strong at the start of the movement since your arms are stretched, and the tension will be almost zero at the end of the movement since your dumbbells simply rest on your forearms which are almost vertical.

Do the movement and you will understand.

In the photo above, you have an example with a latex tube and the ankle straps as handles that allow a hammer grip. For my part, I still prefer to grab the tubes directly without handles. This allows me to do supersets during which I reduce the resistance by changing tubes to exhaust the muscles at the end of the biceps sets.

ALSO READ:  6 arm exercises without equipment

Example of series for larger arms

For example, I conclude my session with bicep curls in a hammer grip like this:

  1. 8 repetitions at 30 pounds (13.6 kg per arm)
  2. 6 reps at 23 pounds (10.4 kg per arm)
  3. 6 reps at 19 pounds (8.6 kg per arm)

The goal, is to work the biceps and brachial muscles to the last muscle fibers on this series. If I feel like I need to pump them again, I add a few reps with an even weaker latex tube.

The main advantage of doing this exercise with resistance bands rather than dumbbells is that the strain on the joints is low at the start of the movement since the bands weigh nothing but the muscle tension, as for it increases as the latex band stretches. 

In other words, the tension is stronger at the end of the movement, exactly when you need it most.

In other words, it's all good for you, and the risk of injury is almost nil. Of course, that's just my old-timer opinion, but I'll be happy to hear yours if you write to me.

Which band kit for the hammer curl

If you are not equipped, I recommend one of the 2 elastic band kits from the European brand SmartWorkout. Not only are they attractively priced, but you get free access to 3 workout programs and videos. In addition, you get 20 % discount with this link. Here's what's included in the Elite Pack:

SW Elite Elastic Kit - EN
  • 7 natural latex 100 % tubes, which can provide up to 120 kg of resistance;
  • 1 bar with integrated fasteners for attaching rubber bands;
  • 2 non-slip silicone handles for a better grip;
  • 2 neoprene padded ankle straps;
  • 1 thick easy to install door anchor;
  • 4 unbreakable stainless steel carabiners;
  • 1 compact bag to carry the kit anywhere;
  • 3 free weight training programs included (Express, SmartGains, Strong & Beautiful);
  • 1 user guide.

You can also purchase the SmartWorkout Pro package which includes exactly the same items except for the bar (click on the link to learn more).

The big advantage of the barbell that comes with the Elite kit is that it also allows you to do classic curls (supination) or reverse curls (pronation) like with a barbell and steel discs.

What does my biceps training session contain?

I always start by working on the lats with the elastic bands or the pull-up bar, because the biceps take part in these movements, for example during rowing. But the same is true for all exercises where you have to pull, just as the triceps are put to work in all the movements where you have to push with your arms.

ALSO READ:  Hammer curl with rubber band to build biceps (video)

It also allows me to do a good warm-up of my arms and forearms, which is important at 51 years old. Especially since I often suffer from tendonitis on the inside of the right elbow (golf elbow).

When my arms are warm enough, I can build biceps with specific exercises.

In order, I often follow this program (but sometimes I change):

  • Pull-ups with the horizontal bar or Curl of the preacher 3 X 10
  • Hammer Curl 3 X 10 (except the last one as you read above)

Of course, I adapt according to my abilities on the day, because at my age, it's no longer “a piece of cake” like it was 30 years ago. But I'm happy to keep up the pace, anyway... you have to take everything you can do with great pleasure 😉


Why girls should do it too

It's true, when we talk about how to build biceps, it mostly makes men drool…and women think they don't want bigger arms.

Still, the hammer-grip curl is arguably the best move for you, ladies, if you want toned arms without bringing out your biceps. I can only encourage you to give it a try when doing muscle building.

Either way, remember that your testosterone levels are too low to build muscle to the point of looking like bodybuilders.

Conclusion on the hammer curl

This is a great exercise for muscular arms.

Whether you're new to weight training or a long-time exerciser, the hammer curl should definitely be part of your arsenal. It will undoubtedly contribute to strongly increase the muscular volume of your arms, while bringing out your biceps. In short, it's all good for you!

In addition, I would add that you have every interest in practicing it if, like me, you have experienced elbow tendinitis problems (tennis or golf elbow). It's a movement that really relieved me while allowing me to continue to gain volume. 

So don't wait! Add the hammer curl to your strength exercises to bulk up and bring out your fabulous biceps.

Leave a message in the comments area below to ask your questions or share your experience. THANK YOU !

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