What is a dumbbell hammer curl? (A guide to bigger biceps)

What is a dumbbell hammer curl 

What is a dumbbell hammer curl?

In this article, we will take a look at the muscles worked with a dumbbell hammer curl, how to perform the exercise, the variations of movement and the advantages of using it in your routine. But first, what is a dumbbell hammer curl?

The dumbbell hammer curl is one of the more unconventional lifts as it primarily targets the brachialis muscles in the upper arm. Some lifters swear by it for adding mass to the bicep area, strength, and stability for rowing exercises.
Similar to the regular dumbbell curl, the dumbbell hammer curl is a bicep curling exercise that can be performed standing, or seated on a dumbbell bench. It is a great exercise for hitting the biceps from a different angle and activating the forearm muscles. 

Muscles targeted by the dumbbell hammer curl

Dumbbell hammer curls are great for packing on mass to your upper arms. The main muscle targeted is the brachialis, which is responsible for elbow flexion. It is underneath the bicep so increasing its size will obviously make your biceps appear bigger.

muscles worked by bicep hammer curls

Another muscle targeted by the dumbbell hammer curl is the Brachioradialis. This muscle is predominantly in the forearm and is responsible for the flexion and twisting of the forearm. 


forearm muscles worked by bicep hammer curlOther

Other muscle groups engaged

As the hammer curl is a curling exercise, it inevitably brings the biceps in to play as well as the back, and abdominal muscles as stabilisers. Because of the angle of the grip, the forearms play a major part in both gripping the bar and flexing the elbow whilst curling.

If you are looking for overall arm development with big bicep peaks and thick forearms, there are few exercises better than a dumbbell hammer curl.

How to perform a dumbbell hammer curl

Firstly, you will need to select your dumbbells. Start with a light weight that allows you to easily perform 15 reps. Place the dumbbells on the floor and grip them with the palms of your hands facing each other. Stand up with the dumbbells at your side and lift as you would with a normal dumbbell curl but without rotating your hands.

Use a slow and controlled motion. If you are needing to swing the weight or do not have full control, you are using a weight that is too heavy.

For hypertrophy, aim for 12-15 reps per set. If you are looking for strength gains, warm up first and aim for 4-6 reps per set. Make sure you keep your back straight. Common mistakes with this exercise are arching the back, putting pressure on the spine and risking injury by swinging a weight which is too heavy.

Benefits of the dumbbell hammer curl

The main benefit of regularly performing dumbbell hammer curls is the development of the upper arm and forearms. It is a great addition to your arm workout as it provides a different dimension to your regular curls. 

Not only will your arms grow in size and strength, but you will also find it easier to perform other exercises, in particular rows and deadlifts.

If this exercise is new to you, you will experience DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) in the forearms the following day. This can be a painful place to get DOMS as it is difficult to rest a forearm. 

We use it for driving, writing, opening jars and other routine daily tasks. This will only last for a day or two and will stop once the muscles become used to regular training.

Seated hammer curl

The seated hammer curl is exactly the same as a regular hammer curl but it is performed while sitting on a dumbbell bench. 

To perform the seated hammer curl correctly, set the bench in an upright position. Sit on the bench with a straight back and the dumbbells at your side. 

Curl the dumbbells up but do not twist the arm as you get to the top of the movement. Keep the dumbbell sideways on with your lams facing each other throughout the movement.

At the top f the movement, squeeze the bicep for a couple of seconds before slowly lowering to the starting position. 

You can work one arm at a time or both together. Use a moderate weight and focus on time under tension and strict form.

To hit the bicep from a different angle, you can set the bench to an incline position and lean back slightly.  

The main advantage of performing hammer curls from a seated position is the strict form that it forces you to follow. You can not swing the shoulders and hips from the seated position so all of the effort has to be made by the target muscles. No cheating and no shortcuts!

Hammer curls vs. regular curls

Hammer curls are a great alternative to normal curls. One reason is that the muscles in the arms and hands have less resistance when using a hammer curl. 

Secondly, hammer curls allow for more arm extensions which works out four muscle groups rather than just one when using traditional body-weight exercises like push-ups. 

Finally, hammer curls still provide benefits if you need to use a bench or other equipment to assist your exercise routine.

There is space for both regular curls and hammer curls in any arm workout. they both target different parts of the bicep and, when used together, will give you the best all-round results. 


Whether you use dumbbell hammer curls or rope hammer curls, there is no denying that they change the way we look at our arm training routines. 

Bodybuilders can benefit from hypertrophy and strength trainers can develop strength in their biceps and forearms by using hammer curls as part of their training routine.

If you have never used hammer curls before or are still not convinced, add them in to your program for the next few weeks and see the results for yourself. 

We hope that you have found this information useful and that we have answered the original question - what is a dumbbell hammer curl?

What are dumbbell hammer curl alternatives?

Reverse grip barbell curls

Rope bicep curls.

Hammer Curl FAQs

Should I get forearm pain when performing hammer curls?

If forearm pain is just DOMS from a previous workout, you can train through it. If pain is caused by too much strain or the an uncomfortable motion, you should switch it up a bit. STart by training with a really light weight and focussing on time under tension. Slowly increase the weight as your forearm strangth increases. 

If even light weight causes pain, then you should seek advice from a physio or medical professional before continuing the movement.

Should I go heavy with hammer curls?

Most people can lift heavier with hammer curls than they can with standard dumbell curls. It is tempting to push yourself to see how heavy you can train but it is more important to maintain strict form. Swinging a heavy weight around without full control will bring in the shoulder, back and core muscles which will take focus away from the target muscles and can lead to injury.

Are hammer curls the best exercises for forearms?

Hammer curls are great for overall arm development including forearms. If you really want to isolate and target the forearm, it is more beneficial to use wrist curls and reverse wrist curls. 


Gymenix offers a selection of free training programs to suit all abilities and goals. Click on the links below for FREE access. 

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