Dumbbell hammer curl biceps exercise

How to do dumbbell hammer curls for bigger biceps

Use my dumbbell hammer curl tips to build the bigger, stronger and more defined arms you want, says New Body Plan creator and Men’s Fitness cover model Jon Lipsey 

The dumbbell hammer curl doesn’t get the credit it deserves. After all, if you walk into an average gym there’s a good chance someone will be training their biceps. And there’s an equally good chance that they’ll be doing a dumbbell biceps curl. If that’s the case, it is also likely that their arms aren’t growing.

Doing curls is fine, but it’s not necessarily the optimal way to build bigger arms. To maximise muscle growth you need to do key variations, one of which is the dumbbell hammer curl.

When done properly, it activates more muscle fibres than the standard curl. So it could be the lift you’re looking for to finally add size to your arms. Here’s what you need to know to get the most out of this simple and highly effective exercise. 

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What is a dumbbell hammer curl?

A hammer curl uses a neutral grip on the dumbbell handles. That means you perform the curl with your palms facing each other, rather than facing away from your body, which is the grip position for the standard dumbbell biceps curl.

How is it different to a biceps curl?

Your biceps are made up of different muscles. The standard curl predominantly activates the biceps brachii. The hammer curl activates the biceps brachii as well as the brachialis. It also works the brachioradialis, which is the major forearm muscle. Because it works those muscles it offers a greater potential for muscle growth than a conventional curl. 

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When should I do dumbbell hammer curls? 

You can do them whenever you’re training your biceps. You can do it as a simple set or in an arms superset workout (two moves done back-to-back with no rest). A really smart way to train is to pair a dumbbell biceps curl with a dumbbell hammer curl. If you do them in that order you’ll fatigue the biceps brachii with the first move. This sets you up to activate the brachialis and the brachioradialis in the second move. The result is that all of the muscles involved with get a great workout. 

How will it affect the shape of my biceps?

Theoretically, the dumbbell curl will give your biceps that desirable peak. The hammer curl will contribute to adding overall upper arm and forearm size. A combination of both moves will give you the best all-round outcome. 

How to do the dumbbell hammer curl

• Stand tall and hold a dumbbell in each hand with your palms facing your thighs. • Without moving your upper arm, bend at the elbow to curl the dumbbells up to shoulder height.
• Pause at the top of the rep then lower slowly under control. 

Dumbbell hammer curl expert tips

• Squeeze your biceps muscles hard at the top of the rep to maximise the quality of contraction.
• Avoid swinging your body to generate movement. Swinging means that momentum rather than muscle fibres are powering the move.
• Lower the weights back down to the start position for a count of four seconds if maximising muscle size is your goal.
• Flex your triceps hard at the bottom of each rep before starting the next rep.
• Don’t go too heavy! Leave your ego at the door and use a weight that allows you to be in complete control of each rep.

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Dumbbell hammer curl variations

Alternating dumbbell hammer curl

Doing alternate sides gives you rest between reps, so it is arguable less effective than lifting both sides simultaneously. It is, however, a good option to use when you’re tired. If you reach failure before the end of your set you can switch to the alternate version to help you complete the reps. 

Cross-body dumbbell hammer curl

Instead of curling the dumbbells up to your sides, you curl them across your body. This places slightly more emphasis on the bracialis muscle. Because of that movement, you need to do one side at a time. So be aware that, like alternate curls, the extra rest between reps gives your muscles more time to recover. 

Incline dumbbell hammer curl

This is a really smart variation. You perform the lift while lying on a bench set at about 60 degrees. You let your arms hang straight down so that they are behind the line of your body. This increases the range of motion and makes them incredibly effective. 

Preacher dumbbell hammer curl

Any preacher bench variation of a curl helps to isolate the target muscles. Your upper arm is in a foxed position so it can’t move forwards to assist the rep. It’s a useful exercise and you could drop it in to a superset or tri-set. 

Cable rope hammer curl

Set a low cable and add a rope attachment. Start with your arms straight and tension in the cable. With your wrists in a neutral position, perform a curl and lower under control. This is a nice alternative to the dumbbell hammer curl because the cable keeps constant tension on the target muscles. 

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