Hammer curl: Exercise for strength training of the biceps

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. And contrary to appearances, this article is also extremely useful for women, as you will understand by reading until the end.

To be clear with everyone, let's say that most people do supinated bicep curls, that is, with the palms facing you (or up).

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 strength training program.

But you will learn today:

  1. Why you absolutely have to do hammer curls to strengthen your arms.
  2. How you should do them to get the most benefit and promote mass gain.

Here we go…

Why is the hammer curl 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…


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Brachialis, a muscle of the arm that must be solicited

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.

As the speed of movement increases, the activation of the brachialis decreases in favor of the biceps. So if you're doing hammer curls at high speed, the brachialis won't be stimulated much.

How to Do the Dumbbell Hammer Curl

YouTube video

Do sets of 8 to 12 reps following these instructions:

  1. Standing position with a dumbbell in each hand and the bust straight.
  2. Raise the load slowly, contracting the muscles as if trying to crush the biceps between the arm and the forearm. Breathe slowly while contracting the muscles.
  3. When you have crushed your biceps well, hold the position for 1 or 2 seconds, keeping the tension as high as possible.
  4. Inhale while slowly bringing the hands back down to the starting position. Keep the elbows against the chest.
  5. Repeat until the end of the series.
  6. On the last repetition, hold the high position for 10 to 20 seconds, contracting as hard as possible.

Important note: One of the main mistakes to avoid is rocking the body back and forth during the execution of the movement because the weights are too heavy. You have to do this without cheating, that is, by keeping your back straight and your torso still. Only the forearms should move. Don't use heavy weights if you don't already have experience and good muscle volume. The objective is first to isolate the effort well to reach the congestion, not to hurt you. You can always get heavier over time. Be patient !

Execution of the curl with resistance bands

diagram of a man doing the hammer curl with resistance bands
Bicep curls with elastic (source: Bodylastics)

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

And again, remember that resistance resistance bands are great for hammer curls . And the reason is simple: their tension increases as the movement progresses.

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

Do resistance band curls and you'll understand...

In the photo above, you have an example with a latex tube and the ankle straps as handles that allow a hammer grip. But it's often better if you grab the tubes directly without the handles. This allows you to do supersets during which you reduce the resistance by changing tubes to exhaust the muscles at the end of the sets of strength training for the biceps.

Example of series to have bigger arms

For example, you can conclude your session with bicep curls in hammer grip in this way:

  1. 8 repetitions at 15 kg per arm
  2. 6 repetitions at 10 kg per arm
  3. 6 repetitions at 8 kg per arm

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

The main advantage when doing this exercise with strength training resistance bands rather than dumbbells is that the tension on the joints is low at the start of the movement since the bands weigh nothing. But muscle tension, meanwhile, increases as the latex band stretches.  

In other words, the tension is greatest 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.

Resistance Bands strength training SmartWorkout Elite


SmartWorkout Elite is revolutionary strength training equipment that lets you build muscle anywhere. The resistance ranges from 5 to 120 kg (possible extension to 165 kg).

What band kit for hammer curls?

We recommend one of the 2 resistance bands from the SmartWorkout brand. They are offered at attractive prices, and you will have free access to 3 strength training and videos. In addition, you have 10% discount with this link . Here's what the Elite Pack includes:

SmartWorkout Elite
  • 7 natural latex tubes (120 kg resistance expandable to 160 kg)
  • 1 bar to attach elastics
  • 2 non-slip handles
  • 2 padded ankle straps
  • 1 door anchor
  • 4 stainless steel carabiners
  • 1 carrying bag

You can also buy the SmartWorkout Pro pack which includes exactly the same elements, except the bar.

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

How to do your biceps strength training session?

Always start by working on the back muscles with dumbbells, resistance bands or the pull-up bar. You have to start with this muscle group because the biceps participate in movements, for example during rowing.

But it is the same for all the exercises where you have to pull, just as the triceps are put to use in all the movements where you have to push with the arms.

This also allows you to do a good warm-up of the arms and forearms. When your arms are warm enough, you can build your biceps with specific concentric exercises.

In order, you can follow this routine according to your abilities for the day:

  • 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)

Do girls have to do the hammer curl?

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 exercise is arguably the best move for women who want toned arms without showing off the biceps. You absolutely have to try it in your fitness or strength training sessions.

Either way, don't forget that your testosterone levels are too low to build muscle to the point of looking like bodybuilders.

What to remember about the hammer curl

The hammer curl is a great exercise for strong arms.

Whether you're new to strength training or a seasoned practitioner, hammer drills should definitely be part of your arsenal. It will undoubtedly help to greatly increase the muscle volume of your arms, while bringing out your biceps. In short, it's only good for you!

In addition, it is in your best interest to practice it if you have already had elbow tendinitis problems (tennis or golf elbow). This is a movement that can relieve you while allowing you to continue to gain volume. You can do it with a dumbbell, but rubber bands will help reduce joint strain.

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

Frequently Asked Questions

To have big arms, the hammer curl exercise is therefore a good choice. Depending on your expectations, it is possible to consult our selection of possible exercises for the work of the brachialis and the size of the forearms.

This exercise focuses on the lower layer of the biceps and the muscles of the forearm, especially the brachioradialis on the outside of the elbow (also called the supinator longus). This variant of the biceps curl with hands in neutral grip particularly solicits the lower layer of the biceps, often called the brachialis muscle.

To perform this strength training exercise brilliantly, you will have to place the dumbbells on your side, arms stretched downwards. Then, you have to bend your elbows and bring the material to the front of each shoulder at the same time or alternately. Finally, they must be tightened and then lowered until the brachialis is tense again.


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