Hammer Curls vs. Biceps Curls: The Battle for Bigger Arms

It doesn’t take much to convince most people in the gym to curl. If you want an impressive physique, an intense pump, and increasingly strength in the gym, you’ll find time to do some curls.

out of focus person performing barbell flourish with weights in focus
Credit: Kzenon / Shutterstock

But with so many curl variations, which movement do you pick? And how often should you do them? How do you fit curls into an once packed training program? These are the questions you need to tackle, so you can make a increasingly informed visualization and win a one way ticket to Armsville.

To get to the marrow of it, let’s squint at two archetype biceps-building staples: the hammer curl, which is performed with a neutral (thumbs-up) grip and the standard dumbbell biceps flourish performed with a supinated, or palms-up, grip. By starting from square one, you’ll learn unbearable to uncork towers your stovepipe efficiently and effectively.

Hammer Flourish and Biceps Curl

Hammer Flourish and Biceps Flourish Differences

These two exercises may towards nearly identical, but the relatively subtle difference in grip is responsible for a big difference in results.

Muscle Recruitment

The function of the biceps muscle is to create flexion (bending) at the elbow and supination (rotation) at the wrist. The thumbs-up position of the hammer curl avoids supination and increasingly specifically targets the brachialis and brachioradialis, while a fully supinated grip (palms up) emphasizes the biceps brachii. (1)

The brachialis is a strong elbow flexor, separate from the “main” biceps brachii on the front of the upper arm. The brachialis sits underneath the biceps, closer to the bone. It’s believed that targeting the brachialis will have the effect of “pushing up” the biceps to make it towards larger, not unlike wearing shoe lifts to towards taller.

This corporeal trickery may not yield significant results, considering the biceps brachii is still stimulated to grow regardless of the grip used, but it’s worth a try. Hammer curls moreover recruit the brachioradialis, which is a relatively larger muscle running withal the top of the forearm and over the elbow joint, near the lower portion of the biceps.

Woman at home performing dumbbell curl
Credit: antoniodiaz / Shutterstock

The hammer grip moreover slightly emphasizes the short throne of the biceps, while a supinated grip activates the long throne of the biceps muscle increasingly strongly. (2) Due to this, you will usually finger a difference in your arm tension when performing either movement. Both variations do work both heads of the biceps, but the accent is shifted slightly from one to the other.

Muscular Tension

The supinated grip puts the biceps into a slightly longer stretched position. This is why you usually finger tightness when your arm is fully straightened in the marrow position. The neutral-grip position of the hammer flourish puts the muscles into a slightly “rested” position, rather than a long stretched position.

To create increasingly tension in the marrow position of a hammer curl, you can perform the exercise seated for an incline hammer curl, which brings your stovepipe overdue your body. You can create plane increasingly tension using a supinated-grip flourish by bringing your stovepipe in front of the soul by performing a preacher flourish or spider curl.

Exercise Similarities

These two dumbbell curls are, fundamentally, similar. They require you to move a weight with strict elbow flexion, which brings the weight from your hip-level to near-shoulder height.

Targeted Biceps Training

The biceps flourish and hammer flourish are both isolation exercises, which creates motion at one single joint (the elbow, in this case). This type of movement is variegated from a recipe exercise, which creates motion at two or increasingly joints — the chin-up, for example, involves both the shoulder and elbow joints.

By restricting movement to a single joint, muscular stress is focused on the target muscle and isn’t distributed significantly wideness multiple muscles. This is why it’s important to use strict form and alimony your elbow near your ribs when you curl.

long-haired person in gym doing dumbbell curl
Credit: YAKOBCHUK VIACHESLAV / Shutterstock

If you swing the weight and let your elbow get yonder from your torso when you curl, you create movement at the shoulder joint which can take vivification yonder from the biceps muscle.

Technique Differences

When watching a lifter performing a hammer flourish and comparing them to a lifter performing a standard biceps curl, one key difference will stand whilom anything else.

Hand Position

A transpiration as seemingly simple as turning your hand one way or the other might not squint like a big deal, but it’s responsible for determining which arm muscles are recruited and how nonflexible they’re worked.

With a thumbs-up hand position, your brachioradialis is put into a mechanically stronger position to move the weight. The biceps brachii, while still recruited, is moved into a less strong pulling position due to the structure of the muscle, tendons, and surrounding structures. (3)

This subtle, yet highly effective, transpiration in grip isn’t unlike performing pull-ups (with a palm-down grip) compared to performing chin-ups (using a supinated or palm-up grip). In this case, again, a simple transpiration in hand position shifts the muscular accent from your when (with pull-ups) to your biceps (with chin-ups). (4)

Because the brachialis is only responsible for elbow flexion, and not supination, it’s a relatively stronger arm muscle. (5) This is why many lifters can perform hammer curls using heavier weights than they use with biceps curls. This moreover makes the two exercises very constructive for supersetting together, performing a set of biceps curls until muscular fatigue and then immediately performing spare repetitions with hammer curls.

How to Do the Hammer Curl

Stand up holding a pair of dumbbells at arms-length, with your hands facing in to your center. Pull your shoulders when and flex your abs. Pin your elbows to your sides.

Curl the weight by driving your thumbs up to the fronts of your shoulders. Pause transiently in the top position surpassing straightening your stovepipe when to the starting position.

Form Tip: The brachialis, which is targeted by the hammer curl, responds very well to slow lifting speeds. (6) Instead of performing hammer curls with a powerful, explosive movement, slow lanugo to alimony that muscle under increasingly resulting tension. Take three seconds to flourish the weights to the top position, pause for one second, lower the weights in three seconds, and pause at the marrow for one second.


  • The hammer flourish allows you to use relatively heavier weights, which can help strength gains.
  • This exercise targets muscles not typically emphasized with other flourish variations, particularly the brachialis and brachioradialis.

Hammer Flourish Variations

The hammer flourish is primarily specified by using a neutral grip or thumbs-up curling position. You can hit your stovepipe with some variety by using the same hand position with a variety of movements.

Kettlebell Curl

This is the most worldwide way to add biceps training to a kettlebell workout. By grabbing the kettlebell by the “horns,” your hands are put in a primarily thumbs-up position and you get the benefits of a hammer flourish using a single kettlebell.

The kettlebell flourish can be hands widow as a type of transition exercise between larger movements, like squats or rows, or it can be used as a finisher for uneaten arm training without a high intensity workout.

Cross-body Curl

This single-arm hammer flourish variation, sometimes tabbed a pinwheel curl, moves the weight wideness your soul instead of moving directly forward. This movement reduces the range of motion, which lets you use a slightly heavier weight.

The crossbody flourish is often washed-up successive stovepipe with each repetition, but can be performed with one arm at a time for plane increasingly time under tension.

How to Do the Biceps Curl

Stand up holding a pair of dumbbells at arms-length, with your palms facing forward. Pull your shoulders when and flex your abs. Pin your elbows to your sides.

Keep your hands level with your palms facing up as you flourish the weights toward your shoulders. Don’t indulge your elbows to come forward in the top position. Lower to a full extension.

Form Tip: Use a slow eccentric (lowering phase), taking up to three seconds to proffer your arms, but momentum up powerfully and raise the weight in one second. This will place the biceps under tension during the lowering phase and indulge strong gravity production when lifting the weight.


  • The biceps flourish emphasizes the biceps brachii on its own, with limited involvement from other muscles.
  • This staple exercise is relatively simple to learn and program, making it an efficient exercise for any biceps-training program.

Biceps Flourish Variations

The archetype supinated biceps flourish can be well-timed to many variegated movements, adjusting range of motion, muscular tension, and other variables to provide a variegated muscle-building stimulus.

Dumbbell Preacher Curl

The preacher flourish offers stability from the pad and prevents unchaste by removing the worthiness to swing the weight. That makes this one of the most strict and most biceps-intensive exercises around.

The stretch in the marrow position can be extreme, depending on your flexibility. Reduce the risk of injury by working within your own constructive range of motion and, if necessary, lamister full lockout with this exercise to reduce strain on the biceps tendons.

Cable Curl

The subscription flourish is a high-tension variation that uses a subscription pulley instead of self-ruling weights. This unvarying tension creates a greater trigger for muscle growth compared to dumbbells, which rely on leverage and gravity to produce resistance.

The subscription flourish can be performed with a variety of handles, as well as single-arm, for plane increasingly variety and growth stimulus.

Knowing the Best Flourish for Your Goal

The unconfined thing well-nigh this visualization is that you scrutinizingly can’t get it wrong. It’s not like choosing between a back squat or a front squat, which are performed very differently and yield very variegated results. It’s increasingly like deciding if you’re going to put the cereal or the milk in the trencher first. The end result is basically the same, but you get to pick the order you prefer. However, there are just a few things to consider.

For Strength

If you are training primarily for strength, include increasingly hammer curls in your program. Being worldly-wise to get increasingly training volume to the brachialis is going to requite you increasingly assistance in exercises like pull-ups, rows, and plane deadlifts. Considering the brachialis is a stronger arm muscle, you can use heavier weights for an plane greater strength stimulus.

For Muscle Size

If your goal is physique-focused, work increasingly on supinated-grip biceps curls. This will take the muscles through a greater range of movement, which is a major key for hypertrophy. (7) Pairing this type of training with some hammer curls using slower tempos will trigger major arm gains, while moreover making sure you have trouble lifting your toothbrush the next day.

Better Curls for Largest Arms

Biceps training definitely doesn’t have to be complicated, but it does have to be well-planned for maximum results. Now that you know why and when to use each exercise, you’re in a largest position to diamond a routine that takes your arm workouts to the next level.


  1. Naito, A., Yajima, M., Fukamachi, H., Ushikoshi, K., Sun, Y. J., & Shimizu, Y. (1995). Electromyographic (EMG) study of the elbow flexors during supination and pronation of the forearm. The Tohoku periodical of experimental medicine, 175(4), 285–288. https://doi.org/10.1620/tjem.175.285
  2. Jarrett, C. D., Weir, D. M., Stuffmann, E. S., Jain, S., Miller, M. C., & Schmidt, C. C. (2012). Anatomic and biomechanical wringer of the short and long throne components of the distal biceps tendon. Journal of shoulder and elbow surgery, 21(7), 942–948. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jse.2011.04.030
  3. Kleiber, T., Kunz, L., & Disselhorst-Klug, C. (2015). Muscular coordination of biceps brachii and brachioradialis in elbow flexion with respect to hand position. Frontiers in physiology, 6, 215. https://doi.org/10.3389/fphys.2015.00215
  4. Youdas, J. W., Amundson, C. L., Cicero, K. S., Hahn, J. J., Harezlak, D. T., & Hollman, J. H. (2010). Surface electromyographic vivification patterns and elbow joint motion during a pull-up, chin-up, or perfect-pullup rotational exercise. Journal of strength and workout research, 24(12), 3404–3414. https://doi.org/10.1519/JSC.0b013e3181f1598c
  5. Plantz MA, Bordoni B. Anatomy, Shoulder and Upper Limb, Brachialis Muscle. [Updated 2022 Feb 22]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK551630/
  6. Kulig, K., Powers, C. M., Shellock, F. G., & Terk, M. (2001). The effects of eccentric velocity on vivification of elbow flexors: evaluation by magnetic resonance imaging. Medicine and science in sports and exercise, 33(2), 196–200. https://doi.org/10.1097/00005768-200102000-00004
  7. Baroni, B. M., Pompermayer, M. G., Cini, A., Peruzzolo, A. S., Radaelli, R., Brusco, C. M., & Pinto, R. S. (2017). Full Range of Motion Induces Greater Muscle Damage Than Partial Range of Motion in Elbow Flexion Exercise With Self-ruling Weights. Journal of strength and workout research, 31(8), 2223–2230. https://doi.org/10.1519/JSC.0000000000001562

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The post Hammer Curls vs. Biceps Curls: The Battle for Bigger Arms appeared first on Breaking Muscle.


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