Hammer curls are a popular exercise used to target muscles in the upper arms and forearms.
You can do these exercises using cables or bands, or our hammer curl backpack however, the most popular way to perform these exercises is using dumbbells. The exercise gets its name ‘hammer curl’ because you hold the dumbbell like a hammer and move it in a similar up-and-down motion.
You’ll see plenty of people at the gym doing hammer curls. But are these exercises really worthwhile? Or are they just a way for bodybuilders to flex those biceps?
The truth is that they’re actually a very effective form of arm exercise - and very easy to do. There are of course ways in which you can do them wrong. This post delves more into exactly how to do these exercises and what their benefits are.
How do you do a hammer curl?
The easiest way to do a hammer curl is by standing up using dumbbells. You can use a single dumbbell in one hand, or you can use two dumbbells. Using two dumbbells is recommended as it helps balance out your body and you can exercise both arms together.
Below are some simple steps on how to do a hammer curl.
- Stand with your legs slightly apart and keep your back straight. Hold the dumbbells on either side of your body so that your palms are facing your outer thighs and your thumbs are facing forward.
- Then lift the weights up to your shoulders, moving only your forearms at the elbow while the rest of your body (including your upper arms) remain still.
- Hold the dumbbells by your shoulders for a second and then slowly bring them back down to either side of you while continuing to keep your upper arms and body still. As you bring the dumbbells down, it should be a very gentle hammer motion. Then simply repeat.
Most people do about 2 to 3 sets of about 8 to 15 reps. It’s important to not rush this exercise in order to get the full workout.
It’s worth noting that there are several variations of the hammer curl that some people may find easier. For example, you can do it sitting down (similarly keep your body still and back straight). When exercising with two weights, you also don’t have to lift them up at the same time and can alternate arms instead.
What are the benefits of hammer curls?
Hammer curls help target the bicep and the brachialis in the upper arm, while also targeting the brachioradialis in the forearm. As a result, they help to work multiple muscles in the arms. This can be very useful for toning up your arms or simply building arm strength.
The muscle that they target most is the brachioradialis. In fact, for those wanting to isolate the forearms, hammer curls can be one of the best exercises to focus on.
A benefit of hammer curls is that they don’t require much space. In fact, you can pretty much stand anywhere and do them. It’s also possible to do them sitting.
What’s the difference between hammer curls and bicep curls?
Hammer curls and bicep curls are very similar exercises, but there are a few notable differences. This includes how your arms are positioned and the muscles that are targeted.
Bicep curls start with the palms facing forwards and thumbs facing away from the thighs, as opposed to palms towards the thighs and thumbs facing forward when doing a hammer curl. When using dumbbells, a bicep curl similarly involves lifting the weights to your shoulders with your upper arms and body remaining still, however, your palms should end up facing toward you as you lift them up. This is not the case with hammer curls in which you’re essentially raising your thumbs up to your shoulders.
Both bicep curls and hammer curls exercise the same muscles, however, bicep curls predominantly target the biceps brachii in the upper arms, while hammer curls predominantly target the brachioradialis.
Mistakes to avoid when doing hammer curls
As with any exercise, it’s important to make sure that you’re doing it correctly in order to get the benefits from it. Hammer curls are a fairly simple exercise, but there are still common mistakes that people make with them. A few common mistakes include:
Moving your body
Your body and upper arms should stay still while doing the hammer curl - the action is all in the elbow and the forearm is the only part that moves. Some people sway their bodies as they do this exercise in order to build momentum. Avoid doing this as it can reduce the effectiveness of the workout and increase the risk of an injury.
Tensing your shoulders
While you want to avoid movement, you also don’t want to be too stiff. Your shoulders and body should be relaxed when doing this exercise - the strain should all be in your arms. Tensing your shoulders could just lead to shoulder cramps if you haven’t warmed up this area of your body sufficiently.
Not keeping your elbow in
Your elbows should be positioned above your hips and close to your body when doing this exercise. They don’t have to be touching the sides of your body but should be kept fairly close in. Extending your elbows out can transfer the load to your shoulders instead of your upper and lower arms, which will not give you the right workout.
Doing curls too fast
Finally, it’s important not to rush this exercise. Slowing down the movements helps engage your muscles for a longer period so that they get more of a workout. If you’re able to lift the dumbbells up and down fast, it’s usually a sign that they’re too light and you need to move onto heavier weights.
So, are hammer curls worth doing?
Hammer curls are ideal for toning up the arms - particularly the forearms. Toned-up arms are just as important for women as they are for men, helping to provide strength and balance out your physique.
These exercises require only dumbbells and don’t require a lot of space. If you’re planning a workout in your living room, they’re an ideal option.