Hammer curls are great for building strong arms, but they aren't the only way. I'm a big fan of variation when training the biceps, which is why I always provide my clients with a range of exercises to target the muscle in different and effective ways.

If you want to keep your bicep training varied, then read on because I have the 10 best hammer curl alternatives for you to try.

A standard bicep curl and hammer curl are two very popular variations of bicep isolation exercises that many people go to because we know they work, and they work well!

A standard hammer curl works the same muscles as a bicep curl but with a few key differences, which I will highlight further on in this article.

Numerous hammer curl variations have many benefits that help build strong, big biceps. Let's jump straight into my top 10 hammer curl alternatives. 

1. Neutral Grip Pull Ups

young man and woman in sportswear doing pull-ups in gym

You may think of pull-ups as a back-building exercise, but switch your grip into a neutral grip pull-up and it will recruit biceps and forearms, making it one of the best hammer curl alternatives.

This turns pull-ups into a seriously effective upper-body strengthening exercise that targets more arms than the traditional version.


  • Builds a strong back and recruits more biceps.
  • Improves grip and forearm strength
  • One of the most effective exercises for building upper body strength

How To Do It

  1. Assume a neutral grip on the bar, palms facing toward each other.
  2. Gripping the bar, hang from it with your elbows straight. This is the starting position.
  3. Activate your back and lats before attempting to pull; keep your core tight.
  4. Flex your elbows, pulling them towards your ribs, and keep pulling until your chin is past the bar and your hands are at your upper chest.
  5. Lower with control until back at the starting position. Proper form is when you straighten your arms completely between the reps.
  6. Repeat for the desired number of reps.

Tips From A Trainer!

If you don't have access to a pull-up bar that allows a neutral grip, there's no need to miss out on the benefits of neutral grip pull-ups. My secret tip is to use a towel over my pull-up bar and keep my palms facing each other. This also improves my grip significantly.

2. Preacher Curl

man in blue shorts doing ez bar preacher curls

The preacher curl is a great hammer curl alternative that is considered one of the best exercises for biceps engagement and increased biceps size. For the preacher curl, you can use the EZ curl bar, dumbbells, or a straight barbell.

If you don’t have a preacher curl available in the gym or at home, you can try out preacher curl alternatives.

The EZ curl bar is the most popular variation due to its ability to enhance wrist stability with the position of the bar.


  • Using a preacher bench removes the ability to use momentum, so more work is being directed to the biceps
  • Helps you maintain control throughout the whole movement
  • Very effective in creating size and definition of the biceps

How To Do It

  1. Set the height of the seat so you can comfortably rest your elbows on the pad in a seated position.
  2. Pick up the bar and place your elbows and back of your upper arms on the pad and sit down.
  3. Maintaining this position, curl your arms upwards, squeezing your biceps at the top.
  4. Slowly straighten out your elbows, lowering the bar to the starting position.
  5. Repeat for desired reps.

Tips From A Trainer!

I always remind clients (to get the most out of this alternative for hammer curl) to make sure you are utilizing a full range of motion. If you don't allow your elbows to go past the 90-degree angle, you're cheating yourself out of the muscle-building potential this exercise has to offer. 

Related Article - Best Preacher Curl Benches

3. Dumbbell Hammer Preacher Curls

man in red shirt doing dumbbell single arm hammer preacher curl

Sticking with the preacher bench for this hammer curl alternative exercise, the dumbbell hammer preacher curl is a fantastic variation for unilateral training. You can also do a cross-body hammer curl by crossing the weight in front of you.

Dumbbell hammer curls can be done with two dumbbells at the same time or it can be a single dumbbell exercise. I prefer training one arm at a time as there is the added benefit of creating more balance between the two sides.


  • Increases symmetry and strength between the left and right arms
  • Reduces momentum, creating more work for the biceps
  • Keeping the wrist neutral reduces any strain on the wrist or elbow

How To Do It

  1. Set up the preacher curl bench (or set an adjustable bench to an incline) as above, and holding either one or two dumbbells, rest your upper arm on the bench and assume a neutral grip.
  2. Pressing your upper arm into the bench, curl the dumbbell towards you and squeeze your bicep when you reach the top of the curl.
  3. Lower with control to the starting position, ensuring the elbow extends to allow for a full range of motion.
  4. Repeat for desired reps.

Tips From A Trainer!

If you are struggling to maintain control of the eccentric part of this dumbbell hammer curl, try a lighter weight. I often need to remind people (and sometimes myself!) this is so much more effective than trying to go heavier with poor form. 

4. Barbell Reverse Curl

Reverse Barbell Curl

Barbell curls look very different from dumbbell hammer curls, but it works for the same muscle groups, making it a great alternative if you don't have access to dumbbells.

Reverse barbell curls engage more of your forearm flexors and brachialis muscle (upper arm muscle) than a standard barbell curl making it a go-to alternative for a hammer curl.


  • Builds a strong grip and works the same muscles as a hammer curl.
  • Decreases pain felt in the elbow.
  • Improves overall aesthetics of the arms.

How To Do It

  1. Hold onto a straight barbell with an overhand grip and thumbs on the same side as your fingers.
  2. Stand upright with your feet shoulder-width apart and keep your shoulder down and core braced.
  3. Starting with arms straight, initiate the curl by bending the elbows, keeping them tight with the ribs.
  4. Curl up until the bar reaches shoulder height.
  5. With control, lower the bar back down until it reaches the starting position with your elbows straight.
  6. Repeat for the desired number of reps.

Tips From A Trainer!

One common mistake I see with any standing curl is using momentum. Proper form is important during this exercise. Remember that you should not be swinging your body at all to complete the curl motion. If you do have to use momentum or swing, you'll need to try lighter weights and leave any ego lifting behind. 

Related Article - Different Types Of Barbells

5. Banded Hammer Curls

man in grey shirt doing banded hammer curls

Banded curls are great hammer curl variations for strengthening the upper arms and are an ideal alternative if you have access to proper equipment.

This substitute for hammer curls is ideal for beginners or those who want to get a real pump on at the end of their training session.


  • Easy to do anywhere, at home, or while traveling
  • Full tension on the biceps throughout the movement, therefore increased bicep size and strength
  • Increased contraction at the top of the curl

How To Do It

  1. Stand on top of a resistance band under the middle of your feet and stand hip-width apart.
  2. Hold each side of the band with a neutral grip (palms facing toward each other).
  3. Keep the elbows in tight with your body and curl the hands all the way up so the biceps and forearms touch.
  4. Squeeze the biceps and lower back to the start, always keeping tension in the band.
  5. Release to the start position and repeat for desired reps.

Tips From A Trainer!

You need to make sure you keep your elbows stable and don't allow your upper arms to move during the curl. That way, you can do this exercise with proper form, forcing the bicep muscles to do the work. 

6. Cable Hammer Curls

man doing cable hammer curls

The cable rope hammer curl is one of my favorite variations, as your muscles are kept under constant tension, making it an effective and time-efficient arm workout.

Cable rope hammer curls alternative exercise is not accessible to those who don’t have a cable machine. If this is you, you can try the banded version listed above.


  • A cable hammer curl increases time under tension, leading to more muscle growth.
  • The rope attachment helps keep the wrist neutral and can reduce strain.
  • A great option for beginners who need a bit more stability than dumbbells.

How To Do It

  1. Attach the rope handle to the low pulley cable machine.
  2. Grip the rope with your thumbs pressed up again the end stoppers.
  3. Stand tall with your feet shoulder-width apart and a slight bend in your knees.
  4. Curl the rope upwards while keeping your elbows tight at your ribs.
  5. Slowly lower back to the starting position.
  6. Repeat for the desired number of reps.

Tips From A Trainer!

In my opinion, the cable rope hammer curl is perfect for hypertrophy training. An important part of this training is utilizing drop sets, making the cable hammer curl an ideal exercise to do this, as the weight is quickly and easily changed. Try this and watch your biceps grow! 

7. EZ Bar Reverse Curls

EZ Bar Reverse Curls

Barbell curls are very effective at building bicep strength, but the downside of this exercise is that it can place the elbows and wrists into a compromising position, which is why the EZ bar was invented.

EZ bar curls with a reverse grip make great hammer curls alternative due to the recruitment of the forearm muscles.


  • Improves grip strength
  • Reduces the risk of injury and builds better forearm strength
  • Helps improve muscular imbalances

How To Do It

  1. Hold the EZ bar with a pronated (overhand) grip on the zig-zag section of the bar so your thumbs are slightly higher than your pinkie.
  2. Stand tall with feet shoulder-width apart and your shoulder down, and your core braced.
  3. Keeping your elbows tucked into your sides, curl the weight towards you.
  4. Pause at the end position when your forearms and biceps touch.
  5. Lower the weight back to the starting position with control.
  6. Repeat for desired reps.

Tips From A Trainer!

I always remind clients not to allow their elbows to flare during this hammer curl alternative exercise. If you flare your elbows, then you risk other muscles from overcompensating, leading to less isolation of the targeted muscles.  

8. Zottman Curls

Man Doing Zottman Curls

Zottman curls are a bicep isolation exercise that combines a dumbbell hammer curl and reverse curls, giving you the best of both worlds in this dumbbell curls alternative that builds serious size and strength to your arms.

The Zottman curl targets both the upper and lower arms, giving you more bang for your buck.


  • Zottman curls improve range of motion in your forearms
  • Improves strength and size of the biceps
  • Improves the overall function of the arms and transfers to better-pulling movements

How To Do It

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, holding dumbbells in each hand with an underhand grip (palms facing your legs).
  2. Keeping your elbows by your side, curl the weights up towards your shoulders.
  3. During the curl, rotate your wrists so your palms end up facing toward you at the top of the curl.
  4. As you lower the weight, rotate your wrists again so your palms face downwards.
  5. Extend the elbows all the way to around your upper thighs and repeat.

Tips From A Trainer!

I'm a big fan of this exercise, and if you want to really feel the muscles being worked, make sure you go slow and steady and focus on the muscle contraction at the top of the curl. 

9. Concentration Curls

Man in Black Tank Top Doing Dumbbell Concentration Curls

Concentration curls are much-loved bicep-building exercises that work each side separately for superior bicep growth. When doing curls from a standing position, it can be tempting to use momentum to curl the weight up.

Concentration curls are so effective at increasing the thickness and size of the biceps as they eliminate your ability to swing the weight up. You can also do this standing by using an incline bench to support your upper arm.


  • Increase bicep strength by very specifically targeting the muscle
  • Increased mind-muscle connection
  • Reduces momentum in the upper body, which can take focus away from isolating the muscle

How To Do It

  1. Hold a dumbbell with a supinated grip (overhand) on your working side.
  2. Sit on a bench with your feet flat on the floor and knees apart.
  3. Bend forward at your waist, keeping your spine neutral and placing the tricep of your working arm against your inner thigh.
  4. You can rest your opposite arm thigh for added stability.
  5. Keeping your palm facing towards you, curl the dumbbell to the top position and squeeze your bicep hard.
  6. Slowly lower the dumbbell to the start and repeat for desired reps.

Tips From A Trainer!

During the dumbbell concentration curl, don't allow the weight to lower too fast. You could risk injury if the weight is dropped fast, not what you want. I always tell people to use a weight that allows them to maintain good control throughout the movement. 

10. Drag Curls

Man Doing Barbell Drag Curls

Not as popular as a bicep curl, the drag curl is still a very effective exercise to grow your biceps. If you want to add a bit of variation to your arm workout, I highly recommend adding in drag curls.

This bicep isolation exercise can be done using either a barbell or dumbbell, and I'll be walking you through the barbell version below.


  • Drag curls are an intense exercise that very effectively increases strength and size.
  • Eliminates any significant shoulder activation, meaning the target muscles do all the work.
  • Creates more defined bicep muscles.

How To Do It

  1. Holding onto a barbell with a supinated grip, slightly outside of shoulder width, and start with your elbows straight.
  2. Stand with a neutral spine, your feet shoulder-width apart, and a braced core.
  3. Bring your elbows and shoulders back slightly as you curl the barbell upwards, keeping it close to your body (the bar should be traveling straight upwards, not a curved arc like traditional barbell curls).
  4. Squeeze and contract your biceps hard at the top, keeping your shoulders down.
  5. Slowly lower the weight back down again, keeping it as close as possible.
  6. Repeat for the desired number of reps.

Tips From A Trainer!

One common mistake I see often with this exercise is pushing the elbows forward. Keep your elbows back to effectively place stress on the biceps. If you cannot hold this position, you might use too much weight. Go lighter to nail the technique, and you'll be glad you did! 

4 Benefits Of Doing Hammer Curl And Similar Exercises

Doing hammer curls plus hammer curl variations will build strong biceps and help you grow bigger arms that Arnold would be proud of!

The best hammer curl alternatives will provide all the great benefits of biceps strength and size. So what exactly are the benefits you can expect from doing hammer curls and other hammer curl substitute exercises?

I'm going to share exactly why you should be doing a variety of exercises to properly target and grow your arms.

1. Builds Thickness And Size

Hammer curls and bicep curls are the best biceps exercises for building strength and increasing the size of the biceps brachii.

The curling exercises listed here allow for more time under tension, increased resistance at the right part of the exercise, and effective isolation of the muscle, which all lead to muscle growth.

2. Improves Forearm Strength

A forearm exercise as part of your strength training is important for function, and all of these hammer curl alternatives include working the forearms.

Forearm strength will assist in other pulling exercises in the gym, and strong forearms directly relate to a strong grip.

3. Improves Grip Strength

One advantage of hammer curls is its ability to improve grip strength. Choosing other exercises that not only target the bicep muscle group but also work on forearm strength is going to give you a bigger return on your strength training.

A stronger grip translates to better compound lifts, such as deadlifting.

4. Targets Different Muscles

Training methods such as using specifically targeted exercises are important, and modifying things like grip and angle can change the working muscle group.

Standard dumbbell or barbell curls focus mostly on the biceps brachii, hammer curls, and other variations listed here work the brachialis muscle and brachioradialis muscles to a significant degree.

Muscles Worked by Hammer Curls

Now that we have covered the benefits of doing a hammer curl and hammer curl alternatives let's look at which muscles are working.

The hammer curl promotes muscle hypertrophy and strength in the muscle groups attaching along the humerus (upper arm bone), radius (one of two large bones in the forearm), and ulna (the other large bone in the forearm).

The main target of any curl exercise is the biceps brachii, which you might know simply as the biceps, a large thick muscle made up of a long head and a short head.

The main functions of the biceps are flexion and supination (outward rotation).[1] I don't expect you to remember all this, but to simplify it, the bicep's basic function is to move your arms forward, upward, and to the sides.

Differences Between A Bicep Curl And A Hammer Curl

I find that many people are confused about the differences between hammer curls and bicep curls. Changing your grip to a neutral one (hammer curl) activates slightly different muscles and creates a different resistance distribution along the biceps brachii and the forearm muscles.

The hammer curl wrist positioning recruits muscles that are almost completely missed with a bicep curl, which I always highlight to my clients.

Hammer curls work the outer or long head of the biceps muscle group, which improves the thickness of the upper arms.

The hammer curl is unique in its ability to train the brachioradialis (a superficial forearm muscle located in the lateral forearm) alongside the brachialis that sits next to the biceps brachii on the outer portion of the upper arm.[2]

The brachioradialis muscles are responsible for assisting the brachialis in elbow flexion, supination, and pronation of the forearm. Remember, this muscle is key to improving grip strength and can enhance wrist stability.[3]

I program hammer curl alternatives for my clients because by targeting these muscle groups in the upper arms and forearms, you will see awesome improvements in the size and definition of your arms, plus improvements in other pulling movements such as rows, deadlifts, and pull-ups.

Common Questions About Hammer Curl Alternatives

What happens if I do hammer curls every day?

I don't recommend doing hammer curls every day. The reason is that to see strength and hypertrophy gains, we must allow the muscle to recover. When we train, we create stress on the body and break down muscle tissue. It is with proper rest and recovery we get stronger. If you were to train hammer curls every day, you are likely to stagnate with your goals or even open yourself up to injury. I recommend training your biceps 2, maybe 3 times per week, depending on individual goals.

Are hammer curls better than bicep curls?

Both hammer curls and bicep curls serve different purposes, and you can use both of them to increase the thickness, definition, and strength of the biceps. In terms of mass and strength, bicep curls do have an edge! This is because it targets the biceps brachii and utilizes bicep recruitment in the fullest range of contraction.

Are hammer curls safer than bicep curls?

No, hammer curls are not safer than bicep curls. Both the hammer curl and bicep curl are low-impact free-weight exercises that place low risk on a person's joint and muscle tissues. However, doing a bicep curl with bad form, too much weight, or both can lead to conditions such as wrist or elbow tendonitis. Another injury the bicep curl is related to is a bicep tear, which is uncommon but can happen. The hammer curl, therefore, appears to be related to lower risk than a bicep curl.

Summary – Vary Your Curls!

Adding variety to your workout routine keeps things interesting and provides different stimuli for the muscles. Try some of these great hammer curl alternatives at your next workout and watch your biceps grow!


  1. https://www.physio-pedia.com/Biceps_Brachii
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK526110/#:~:text=The%20brachioradialis%20is%20a%20superficial,the%20rotation%20of%20the%20forearm.
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK536975/
Jo Taylor

Jo Taylor

Hi, I’m Jo. I love sunrise swims, cold water immersion and cats. I have been dedicated to strength training for the past 14 years. I became a qualified Personal Trainer in 2020, and am passionate about helping my clients get stronger. Visit Jo Taylors Website