Training

Dumbbell Hammer Curls | Bicep Exercise Technique

Hammer curls are so called due to the alternate grip of this version of arm curls like you’re holding a (heavy) hammer in each hand.

These are more or less a similar exercise to other bicep curls, though due to the different angle with which you hold the dumbbell, they are designed to target different areas of the small muscles group, all of which contributes to building bigger upper arms.

How Do You Do A Dumbbell Hammer Curl?

Essentially hammer curls are similar to regular dumbbell curls, but they build your arms in a different way.

You can perform dumbbell hammer curls in a standing or seated position. Standing will mean that you bring your core obliques and even legs into the exercise to help you to keep balanced.

  1. Stand upright with an ever so slight bend to your knees so that they are not locked out.
  2. Grip the dumbbells with your palms facing each other. Your arms should begin at your sides. You can perform these lifts with both arms at the same time, or alternating one arm at a time.
  3. Begin by bending at the elbows, keeping your upper arms stationary. Bring the dumbbell up short of touching your shoulder and then lower in a slow, purposeful movement to the starting position.

At no point should you be rushing the movement, or flailing. Your elbows should remain close to your sides, not flapping, and the range of the lift should be identical each time. Do not use your legs to bounce or encourage the lift, and do not sway with your torso. This is cheating. If at any point any of these motions differ then the weight you are lifting is probably too heavy.

Which Muscles Do Dumbbell Hammer Curls Train?

As with other curling and pulling arm exercises, dumbbell hammer curls, of course, train your biceps. The question is what do these particular curls do that others don’t?

Your brachioradialis bears the brunt of this workout by controlling the upward motion of your lower arm in the curl. Your brachialis controls the stability of your arm during the movement.

Your brachialis is under your biceps and brachioradialis, which is the long muscle along the inside of your upper arm to the centre of your forearm.

For anyone wanting to build ‘thicker’ guns and finding that the same old curls do not beef up the width of your arms, dumbbell hammer curls address that problem by working the brachialis, which runs along the outside of your bicep.

How Often Should You Perform Hammer Curls?

Every workout is different and you should focus on your own goals as opposed to fixing on a one size fits all mentality for your workout plan. Let’s presume that you get a decent overall coverage with your week’s weightlifting plan.

If you’re looking at dumbbell curls you are after greater arm strength, maybe a bit of core work, but mostly bigger upper arms. Your biceps are a relatively small muscle group. People tend to exercise most what they can see in front of them in the mirror, which is why you get so many people starting with a few vanity curls in front of the mirror when they’re starting out with bodybuilding. Everyone needs to start somewhere, but as your biceps are a smaller muscle group and hammer curls are a single joint exercise, you ought to approach them differently to compound lifts.

Smaller muscle groups have been proven to react positively to frequency training, however, being smaller they will fatigue easily. Overworking your biceps and the curling motion can fatigue you, leaving you unable to effectively perform other lifts such as standing rows, which you can carry out using far greater volumes, which means you can work more muscle fibres and burn more calories in the process.

Pick a comfortable weight and a mid to high range of reps. Many pros, however, advise that the most effective way to develop your biceps is with drop sets. Set the weights on the heavy side for the first set of ten reps, then immediately lower the weight and repeat, then lift immediately for a third time with another drop in weight. Avoid doing this more than three times in a whole week (allowing 48 hours’ rest between).

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Faye Reid

Faye Reid

Writer and expert

Faye has a MSc in Sport Physiology and Nutrition, and puts her passion into practice as goal attack for her netball team, and in competitive event riding. She enjoys a pun, and in her spare time loves dog walking and eating out.


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