Hammer curls vs. bicep curls

Hammer curls and regular bicep curls are two of the most popular exercises for your biceps. However, they may not be as similar as you might think. Their form is very different, and these variations can alter your body’s response to each exercise. This article will compare and contrast the hammer curls vs. bicep curls to help you decide which one works best for you.

Also read: Calisthenics vs. weights – Which is better for you?

What are hammer curls?

Hammer curls are a very popular bicep workout for people just beginning to work out or those that have been training for a long time. It is an isolation exercise that targets your biceps brachii, a.k.a. the “peak” of your upper arm.

The hammer curl is a great exercise for adding size and strength to the biceps, forearms, and delts. It can also be used as an accessory movement in conjunction with other lifts like squats or deadlifts. In fact, it’s one of our favorite isolation exercises because it targets both major muscle groups at once.

The name comes from holding the weights during the exercise when your palms face each other. This causes them to mimic a hammer swinging back and forth between your legs. 

As with almost any weight lifting exercise, this movement has many variations. You can vary it based on what equipment you have available or what muscles you want to emphasize most.

How to do hammer curls properly

  • Stand with your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart and hold the dumbbells in front of you.
  • Slowly curl one weight up and toward your body while rotating it around so that it ends up to the outside of your thigh when you are at the top of the movement. 
  • Hold for a moment, then slowly lower back down. 
  • Repeat this movement for 8-12 reps, then switch arms.

Hammer curl variations

There are several different variations of the hammer curl that you may want to try out to reach your full potential when building muscle, burning fat, and achieving results fast.

Standing hammer curls

The standing hammer curl is performed while standing and holding a dumbbell in each hand. Hold your arms extended at your sides and grasp the bar with an underhand grip with palms facing in towards the thighs. Hold resistance and keep your elbow tight to your side.

Begin the movement by flexing elbows up to your shoulders while keeping your arms tucked close to the body. Then, lower the weight while resisting the pull of the weight stack until arms are fully extended.

You can do this exercise by alternating one by one hand or doing both hands simultaneously. It can also help with strengthening the wrist and forearms.

Seated hammer curls

The movements are identical to standing hammer curls, except you perform it while sitting on a bench. Seated hammer curls require more stabilization of your arms, shoulders, and spine since they are performed seated. While sitting, the body momentum is reduced, and it puts more load on your bicep.

If you lean back on an incline bench, you can completely eliminate the body momentum. It also puts even more load on the bicep because the angle puts the biceps in the stretched position.

The seated hammer grip curl allows more biceps isolation than other variations such as barbell or preacher curl. This variation helps improve the strength of elbows and wrists, but they do place more stress on these joints.

Tricep bar hammer curls

The tricep bar, or tricep extension, more fully engages your triceps and thus more fully works the muscle group. Tricep extensions are typically performed using a cable machine instead of free weights. However, this isolation exercise can be done with any type of weight you choose.

To do tricep bar hammer curls, stand holding on to the tricep bar with both hands facing away from you and knees slightly flexed. If you are doing tricep pull-down bar, hands are facing away from shoulders. With elbows fixed, curl tricep bar up toward shoulder height or down towards knees.

Rope cable hammer curls

Rope cable hammer curls are very similar in execution to the tricep bar, except they use the rope attachment on a cable apparatus.

Tricep cable hammer curls are important for beginners because they help strengthen the wrists and forearms, which is essential for many exercises. They work the entire triceps muscle and isolate the long head.

lt is also easier to perform with rope cable than the tricep bar because it is easier to maintain your grip on a thin cable than on a thick metal bar.

What muscles do hammer curls work?

When you perform hammer curls, the path of the weight concentrates on your brachialis muscle which is located underneath your biceps brachii. Since this muscle doesn’t work much during other arm exercises, hammer curls are a great way to target it and build it up.

Hammer curls benefits

Like other isolation exercises, hammer curls allow you to work on a specific muscle or muscle group. If you are trying to emphasize one part of your arm over the others, this is an excellent exercise for doing so. This exercise will also help build endurance in your biceps muscles. 

  • It allows you to use lower weights because it doesn’t affect any other muscles in your arms. This enables you to challenge your muscles without straining them.
  • It allows you to target your brachialis muscle. This benefits those who want to emphasize arm muscles and make them look more defined.
  • When the movement is properly done, it increases bicep size and strength, improves wrist stability, boosts muscle endurance and strengthens grip

As mentioned, hammer curls allow you to work with lower weights than other exercises because they isolate a smaller muscle group. This means that you will be able to complete more reps at a time and build up strength in your arms with fewer reps than other exercises.

What are bicep curls?

Bicep curls are another isolation exercise that primarily targets your biceps brachii muscle. It also works your brachialis muscle. This is essentially a curl with an underhand grip on a straight bar or EZ bar. It can also be performed with dumbbells, kettlebells, barbells, or cable machines.

While there are several variations of this movement, they all involve bringing the weight up as far as you can to your chest. You can vary it based on what equipment you have available or what muscles you want to emphasize most.

How to do bicep curls properly

  • Stand with feet shoulder-width apart and hold a dumbbell in each hand with an underhand grip. 
  • Slightly bend your knees and curl both arms toward your shoulders at once without rotating your palms.
  • Slowly lower your arms back down until fully extended.
  • Repeat 8-12 reps. 
  • If using a bar, stand upright but do not lean over too much since that places unnecessary strain on the lower back. With a bar, you won’t be able to use the same grip as with dumbbells.

Bicep curl variations

You can also try several different variations and find the one that fits you the best.

Standing barbell bicep curls

The Standing Barbell Bicep Curl is an exercise that will target the two major muscles in your arms. The bicep brachii and brachialis. It ensures that both of these muscles are being activated at full force. This can help you to build muscle size and strength fast.

Standing barbell curls also help you prevent injury by promoting good form throughout the lift phase.

You start with straight arms with the bar in front of your hips. Curl the weight up to your chest before and lower it back to the starting position.

EZ bar bicep curls

EZ bar bicep curls provide many of the same benefits as barbell curls when done with proper form. This variation can be used by individuals looking to maximize their strength in their arms, back, and shoulders.

It minimizes the potential risks associated with many traditional heavy exercises. Also, it helps to ensure that both major muscles of the arm are being targeted simultaneously, which helps you obtain more out of each set.

The difference with this bar is that it’s a bit shorter than a standard barbell and has subtle bends for an easier grip. The slight bend doesn’t make a difference with the workout, except it makes it easier on your wrists. Considering that the bar allows for a narrow or a wide grip, you can shift the load from the inner bicep to the outer bicep.

Dumbbell bicep curls

Dumbbell bicep curls are almost the same as hammer curls except for your hand position. Start by standing and holding a dumbbell in each hand with palms facing in. Keep your elbow tight to your side. As you flex your arm to pull the weight up and rotate your wrist so your palm faces up at the top of the movement.

When performing dumbbell bicep curls, there are some key things to remember. Dumbbells should be heavy enough that you aren’t lifting with your back but light enough to keep good form. A slight bend in the knees is ok if you need support. Keeping your spine straight and your core tight will prevent any unnecessary strain from being put onto the lower back.

Keeping at nearly 90 degrees each time, curling both weights up towards your shoulders will cause an intense contraction in the bicep muscles once they reach shoulder level.

Cable bicep curls

For this variation, you can use attachments such as straight bar, EZ bar, V bar, or wide bar. Whatever you choose, keep in mind that the narrower you go, the more outer bicep you work. If you go wider, you focus more on your inner bicep.

The starting position should already have some tension on the muscles as hands are gripping up against some resistance. Bend elbows behind back and pull shoulders backwards as you bring weights up towards your shoulder.

One downside to doing this regularly is that it places all tension on the elbow joint. This can lead to injuries or strains if not handled correctly.

Preacher bicep curls

A preacher’s curl bench has a seat and angled padding to support your arms while you curl. The pad eliminates all other body movements, isolating only the biceps.

For this variation, you can use any bar or dumbbell. In many gyms, preacher curl machines are also available. They provide the same isolation, but also an even level of resistance throughout the range of motion.

What muscles do bicep curls work?

Bicep curls work primarily works the biceps brachii muscle. Also, it works your brachialis muscle and your forearms and shoulders. If you place your palms facing forward during this movement, it works the brachioradialis muscle. This muscle is located on the lower part of your upper arm. 

This muscle appears to have a definition between your triceps and biceps. But in reality, it is just another part of the same muscle.

Bicep curls benefits

Like other isolation exercises, bicep curls allow you to work on a specific muscle or muscle group. If you are trying to emphasize one part of your arm over the others, this is an excellent exercise for doing so. These are also best if you only do arm exercises since they isolate the biceps more than other muscles in your arms.

Hammer curls vs. bicep curls – what’s the difference?

The most significant difference is that hammer curls allow you to concentrate on one muscle more than the others, while bicep curls work on multiple muscles. Bicep curls are good for emphasizing strength in your biceps brachii muscle, while hammer curls target your brachialis muscle.

It is also important to note that performing these exercises is slightly different. If doing hammer curls, you will end with your palms inward. On the other hand, if doing bicep curls, you will end up with your palms facing each other. This is because it helps target the muscles differently.

You can lift less weight when doing hammer curls since it isolates a smaller muscle group. Using this exercise, you can also execute more reps and build endurance in your arms over time. 

However, when doing bicep curls, you can emphasize different parts of the arm muscles and work them harder than usual.

How to use hammer curls and bicep curls together?

When you put them together in a workout, bicep curls work the upper aspects of your arm muscles while hammer curls target the lower portions. This way, both sides of your arms will get workout evenly and not to one extreme or another.

If you want to emphasize certain parts of your arms, you can do just one exercise for that part to finish off your workouts. Doing this would give you a great workout and emphasize each part of the muscles as much as possible. Doing both exercises about twice a week will give your arms the best workout.


Hammer curls vs. bicep curls isolate and work on specific parts of your arm muscles. Bicep curls target your biceps brachii muscle, while hammer curls target your brachialis muscle.

They usually don’t need any other form of working out before or after completing them. If you’re not doing any other arm exercises, we would recommend using these.

Also read: Arm Blaster: golden era equipment – Complete guide, benefits, alternative


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