Why Hammer Curls Build Bigger Arms

See how to do Hammer Curls, and learn why they help you build bigger, stronger arms compared to traditional Bicep Curls.

Hammer Curls draw their name from the hammer-handle-like grip you have on the dumbbell when you perform them, but the label suits the exercise in more ways than one. This move will absolutely hammer your arm muscles, especially your biceps. If you're looking for a way to blow up your upper arms, Hammer Curls will get you there.

How to Perform Hammer Curls Form

You can do Hammer Curls in five simple steps (they're also demonstrated in the video above):

  • Grip a pair of dumbbells with a neutral grip (palms facing each other) and hold the weights at your sides
  • Keeping your torso stationary, flex at the elbow to raise the dumbbells towards your shoulders
  • Stop just short of the dumbbell touching your shoulder. Hold at the top of the position for a moment
  • Return the dumbbells to the starting position in a controlled manner to complete one rep
  • You can also perform Alternating Hammer Curls by curling one arm at a time

Sets/Reps: 3x12 reps each arm

Common Hammer Curl Mistakes

Some common form mistakes including swaying of the torso during the movement, performing the exercise too fast and not gripping the dumbbells firmly enough.

Swaying, or moving your torso from side to side as you perform reps, is a form of cheating. You take tension off of your arms and place it on your back and core muscles. If that sounds like you, drop the resistance level that you are using, opt for a lower weight, and notice how much more sensation you feel from a strict curl.

Perform the exercise too fast and you'll limit time under tension (TUT), which is a key determinant of how effective an exercise will be. There are a number of different paces you can use. Opt for a slow and controlled two seconds up, pause at the top for one second, and then two seconds on the way down to get more TUT from each rep.

As for grip, what you do not want to do is hold the dumbbells loosely. Squeeze the handle with each finger as hard as you can, and maintain that tension throughout each rep.

Hammer Curls: Muscles Worked

So, what makes Hammer Curls different than some other popular curl variations?

Hammer Curls are important because of the way they work your arms. The biceps typically get all the attention, but the area of the arm we think of as "the biceps" actually includes two other major muscles—the brachialis and brachioradialis. The brachialis sits under your biceps and the brachioradialis is a long muscle that runs from deep inside the center of your upper arm to the center of your forearm. Along with the biceps, these two muscles work together to flex the arm at the elbow.

Hammer Curls: Muscles Worked

Hammer Curls help build the brachialis and brachioradialis in a way other curl variations simply do not, allowing you to develop additional strength and size. Working the brachialis is particularly important if you're looking to beef up your guns.

There are a few different variations of Hammer Curls you can also utilize in your training.

Seated Hammer Curls are simply Hammer Curls performed from a seated position. This variation may help you keep your torso stationary throughout the movement (as long as the seat you're using has back). You can also perform Rope Cable Hammer Curls, a variation where you use the rope attachment on a cable machine instead of traditional dumbbells. This can be handy if you don't have access to dumbbells. Lastly, there are Swinging Hammer Curls. This movement differs from traditional Hammer Curls in that the shoulder rotates during the movement. Olympic sprinter Tyson Gay uses Swinging Hammer Curls to improve his arm drive.

Hammer Curls Workout: The 4-Move "Gun Show" Circuit

If you're looking for a quick circuit that'll add serious size and strength to your guns, check out this four-move circuit that includes Hammer Curls. Perform these exercises in circuit fashion, taking a 1-2 minute break after each cycle.

1. Pull-Ups: 3x10


Good ol' fashioned Pull-Ups not only challenge the lats and middle-back, but they also target the biceps. Pull-Ups are a great all-around exercise for building mass and increasing upper-body strength. If you can't perform 10 Pull-Ups each set, substitute in 10 Inverted Rows.

2. Hammer Curls: 3x15

Hammer Curls: Top Position

Hammer Curls are a great way to add size and strength to your upper-arms. If you opt to perform Alternating Hammer Curls, remember to do 15 reps for each arm every set.

3. Close-Grip Push-Ups: 3x10

Close-Grip Pushups

The idea here is similar to a standard Push-Up, but you start with your hands a little bit closer to each other (somewhere between 6 and 12 inches apart, depending on your dimensions). This hand placement forces your triceps to become the major mover in the exericse. Remember—your triceps make up roughly two-thirds of your upper-arm. If you don't train them, you're limiting the girth of your guns.

4. Dumbbell Skullcrushers: 3x10

Dumbbell Skullcrushers

Dumbbell Skullcrushers are a killer exercise for your triceps. They keep the triceps under tension for much of the movement and are difficult to "cheat" on.


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