The hammer curl is a largely underestimated exercise. And when it is practiced, it is often poorly done. Or at least it’s underexploited.
NOTE: Contrary to appearances, I would like 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, i.e. palms towards you (or up).
This is what you see in this image (the hand is in supination position):
This is indeed the position that comes most naturally when you start lifting dumbbells. And this movement appeals to beginners because it highlights the biceps, this symbol so important of men’s strength. Classic bicep curls have of course their place in a good weight training program.
But you’ll learn today:
- Why you absolutely have to do hammer curls to properly muscle your arms.
- How you need to do them to make the most of them and promote mass gain.
I am aware that this article may seem to be made only for men, but this is not the case. Dear Ladies, I’ll tell you at the end why you also need to incorporate it into your muscle building sessions.
Come on, let’s go…
Curl Hammer – Why This Biceps Exercise Is So Important
The fastest way to improve the appearance of your biceps is to focus on the brachialis muscle,formerly called anterior brachialis muscle. It’s the flexor muscle of the elbow.
Located under the biceps (long and short portions), it contributes more to the thickness of the arm than the biceps 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 talk to you, isn’t it?
But the way most people train their arms leaves the brachialis muscle under-stimulated.
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 is quite rightly called hammer curls, since it is the natural position of the wrist when you use a hammer. It makes clear that the expressions are sometimes really well chosen 😉
But it is not enough to have the right wrist position to really solicit this muscle. Nope…
Take your time for your brachialis muscles
Indeed, the type of contraction is a much more important factor when it comes to putting this muscle under tension. The latter is much more stressed when the movement is slow and it remains long contracted, as in isometric exercises.
As the speed of movement increases, the activation of the brachialis decreases in favor of the biceps. So if you do hammer curls at fast speed, the brachialis won’t be much stimulated.
This video will show you how to make this move the right way:
And because I don’t want some of you to be jealous, here’s another video for the most feminine of you:
How to make a series of effective hammer curl
Do your 8-12 reps series following these instructions:
- Stand with a dumbbell in each hand with a straight body. If you use elastic bands (my favorite choice), take a piece of tube directly in each hand, without handle. Your elbows should stay glued to the bust.
- Do the repetitions using constant tension. Mount the weight or pull the tubes slowly, contracting your muscles as if you were trying to crush your biceps between your arms and forearms. Slowly blow while you contract the muscles.
- When you have crushed the biceps, hold the position for 2 seconds keeping the tension as high as possible.
- Inhale slowly lowering your hands back into the starting position. Don’t forget to keep your elbows against the bust.
- Repeat until the end of the series.
- At the last repetition, hold the position high for 10 to 20 seconds, contracting as hard as possible.
The elastic bands are perfect for the hammer curl
You probably know that I highly recommend this equipment for training at home. There is no better equipment at home.
And again, I can tell you that the elastic bands are great for hammer curls. And the reason is simple: their tension increases as you move forward.
This is not the case with dumbbells. On the contrary, the tension of the brachial 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 beginning of the movement since your arms are outstretched, 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 exercise and you’ll get the point.
In the photo above, you have an example with a latex tube and the ankle straps used as handles. As for me, I still prefer to grab the tubes directly without handles. This allows me to make supersets during which I reduce resistance by changing tubes to exhaust the muscles at the end of the bicep series.
Sample series for bigger arms
For example, I conclude my session with bicep curls in hammer grip this way:
- 8 repetitions at 30 pounds (13.6 kg per arm)
- 6 repetitions at 23 pounds (10.4 kg per arm)
- 6 repetitions at 19 pounds (8.6 kg per arm)
The goal is to work the biceps and brachialis muscles up to the last muscle fibers on this series. If I feel that I still have to pump them, I add some reps with an even weaker latex tube.
The main advantage when doing this exercise with elastic bands rather than with dumbbells is that the tension on the joints is low at the beginning of the movement since the bands weigh nothing. But muscle tension increases as the latex band tightens.
In other words, the tension is higher 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 zero. Of course, this is just my opinion, but I’ll be happy to collect yours if you leave a comment at the bottom of this article.
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What’s in my bicep straining session
I always start with the work of the back muscles with the elastic bands or at the pull bar, because the biceps participate in these movements, for example when rowing. But the same is true for all the exercises where you have to pull, just as the triceps are used in all the movements where you have to push.
It also allows me to do a good warm-up of my arms and forearms, which is important at 52 years old. Especially since I often suffer from tendinitis on the inner face of the right elbow (golf elbow).
When my arms are hot enough, I can muscle my biceps with specific exercises.
In order, I often follow this program (but I change it sometimes):
- Fixed Bar Tractions or Preacher’s Curl 3 X 10
- Hammer curls 3 X 10 (except the last one as you have read above)
Of course, I adapt my program according to my capacities of the day, because at my age, it is no longer “a piece of cake” as it was 30 years ago. But I’m happy to keep up, anyway… you have to take everything you can do with great pleasure 😉
Conclusion on the hammer curl
A great exercise for muscular arms
Whether you’re a beginner willing to build muscle or a veteran, this exercise must be part of your arsenal.
It will undoubtedly greatly increase the muscle volume of your arms, while showing up your biceps. In short, it’s really good for you!
I would also add that it is in your best interest to practice it if like me you have experienced problems with elbow tendinitis (tennis or golf elbow). It’s a movement that really relieved me while allowing me to keep bulking a little.
So don’t wait! Add the hammer curl to your strength training exercises to gain muscle mass and let your fabulous biceps shine.
Why girls should also do it
It’s true, when we talk about how to muscle the biceps, it mostly make men drool … and women tell themselves they don’t want bigger arms.
Still, the hammer curl is probably the best move for you, ladies, if you want toned arms without bringing out the biceps. I can only encourage you to try when you are doing your fitness sessions.
Anyway, remember that your testosterone levels are too low to gain muscle to the point of looking like bodybuilding enthusiasts.
So if you’re muscling up at home or at the gym and want to tone your arms, choose this exercise for your arms. You’ll love what you’ll see as a result!