Hammer Curls Vs Bicep Curls: What’s The Difference?

If you want to build larger biceps, then you need to hit both of the bicep heads — the lateral head and the medial head. Both of these heads are important for getting the "Popeye" look, so if that’s the look you’re after, you need to make sure that your workouts incorporate both of them. 

Two of the best exercises for all-over arm workouts are the bicep and hammer curl, but many people are confused about the differences between the two. Both of these exercises hit the biceps, but which one is better?

Let’s take a look at hammer curls vs bicep curls to find out! 

Hammer curls are a great way to strengthen your forearms while targeting your biceps. Unlike barbell curls, hammer curls allow you to really focus on the movement of your forearms, which is great for targeting the muscles in your forearm. 

Hammer curls are a classic bicep training exercise that targets key muscle groups in the arms, including: 

Forearms 

Hammer curls are important for developing the muscles of the forearm as they target the brachioradialis muscle, which runs along the top of your arm. This muscle is responsible for a lot of upper arm mass — it's one of the main reasons why bodybuilders have such massive arms. 

Triceps 

Hammer curls are a great way to build up your triceps. Focusing on the muscles on the back of your arms will help you create a more streamlined-looking physique. 

Deltoids (Aka Shoulders) 

If you want to build your deltoids (your shoulder muscles), then hammer curls are the way to go. Hammer curls are performed the same way as regular curls, but the wider than shoulder-width grip will help build your deltoids. 

Trapezius (Upper Back) 

Hammer curls are fantastic for working the trapezius muscles, which can be found in your upper back. These muscles are responsible for moving your shoulder blades and help to support your arms and shoulders. 

The best part about hammer curls is that they’re an isolation movement, which means you can target each muscle individually. 

What Are Hammer Curls

Pros & Cons Of Hammer Curls 

Let’s have a look at some of the benefits and drawbacks of hammer curls:

Benefits 

  • Great for strengthening the forearms and wrists 
  • Helps build muscle mass 
  • Helps tone and shape the muscles of the upper arm 
  • No special equipment is needed 

Drawbacks 

  • You can injure your wrists, elbows, shoulders, or back if you do them with incorrect form 
  • They can put a lot of strain on your biceps and wrists 
  • Restricted to using dumbbells 

What Are Bicep Curls? (Overview + Muscles Worked) 

A bicep curl is an exercise designed to build the bicep muscles of the upper arms. It works both the biceps brachii and brachialis muscles. It is one of the most basic exercises in weight training, taught to beginners and used by advanced athletes, bodybuilders, and powerlifters alike. 

Some of the muscle groups worked by the bicep curl include: 

Biceps Brachii Muscle 

Bicep curls are a great exercise for building the biceps brachii muscle. The biceps brachii muscle is one of the two muscles that make up the biceps, the muscle on the front of your upper arm. When you flex your biceps, you use your biceps brachii muscle. 

Deltoid Muscle 

If you’re trying to build up the muscles in your shoulders, then you want to focus on bicep curls. These are great for working your deltoids because they hit the muscle from multiple different angles. 

Wrist Extensor Muscles 

The wrist extensors are the muscles that allow you to straighten your wrists. Incorporating bicep curls into your workout will help strengthen these muscles. 

Wrist Flexor Muscles 

Wrist flexor muscles are one of the key muscles that allow us to close our hands into a fist. When you do bicep curls, you are working the muscles at the front of your upper arm, and when you do wrist curls, you are working the muscles at the back of your upper arm. 


Pros & Cons Of Bicep Curls 

Let’s consider the benefits and drawbacks of bicep curls 

Benefits 

  • Great for building muscle mass in your arms 
  • Increases your strength 
  • Enhances your muscle definition 
  • Improves your balance and stability 
  • Increases strength in your hands and fingers 

Drawbacks 

  • Bicep curls can cause or aggravate shoulder pain 
  • Can lead to imbalances between the flexors (biceps) and extensors (triceps) 
  • Isolates the biceps brachii muscle, neglecting other arm muscles 

Hammer Curls Vs Bicep Curls (Differences + Which Is Better?) 

Hammer curls and bicep curls are two different exercises targeting the “Hollywood” muscles in your arms.  

Hammer curls focus on the long head of the bicep, so they're great for isolating and emphasizing this part of the arm. Bicep curls, on the other hand, focus more on the short head of the muscle. 

Muscles They Work (How Effective They Are) 

Hammer curls are isolation movements; they target just the biceps with little help from other supporting muscles.

Of the two biceps heads, hammer curls mostly work the long head. Inclusion of the brachialis and brachioradialis muscles is necessary but only to a small degree. This makes hammer curls perfect for targeting your biceps without involving supporting muscle groups as much. 

When it comes to creating bigger, fuller arms, hammer curls are the way to go. By working the long head of your bicep more than a traditional curl, you'll see better results. 

Hammer Curls Vs Bicep Curls

The Grip 

When doing a bicep curl, your hands will need to be in the supinated position. That means that your palms should face up toward the ceiling. 

The hammer curl is a lifting technique in which you grip the dumbbell vertically - like a hammer - hence the name. We always advise using wrist wraps when working out and specifically doing these exercises.

How To Do Hammer Curls Perfectly (Form Guide & Variations) 

1. Incline Seated Hammer Curls 

  • Sit on an incline bench and hold a dumbbell in each hand. 
  • Pick up the dumbbells and slowly curl the weights up while contracting the biceps. 
  • Exhale as you squeeze the biceps. 
  • Slowly lower the dumbbells back to the starting position and repeat. 

2. Preacher Hammer Curls 

  • Rest the back of your arm(s) on an incline bench or specially designed preacher bench 
  • Grip the dumbbells in the usual hammer curl position 
  • Curl the weights up and lower them under control back to the start position 

3. Cross-body Hammer Curls 

  • Stand tall with feet shoulder-width apart 
  • Hold your dumbbells at your side with a neutral grip 
  • Curl each dumbbell towards the opposite shoulder, one at a time 

4. Swiss Bar Hammer Curls 

The Swiss bar is a versatile piece of equipment that's rectangular in shape with many grip bars in the middle. On the end, you typically attach weight plates, much like a barbell. 

To begin, place your weight at the end of the bar, securing it with bar clamps. Curl the bar while keeping your elbows close to your sides. Slowly bring them down and repeat the motion. 

5. Cable Rope Hammer Curls 

Using a rope attachment connected to the low pulley, stand facing the cable machine about 12 inches away.  

Grasp the rope with a neutral grip and keep your elbows in by your sides. With your back straight, chest up, shoulder blades pulled back, and abs tight, pull the rope toward your stomach until your arms are fully extended. 

6. Kettlebell Hammer Curls 

Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, and hold a kettlebell in your hands in front of your body. Curl the kettlebell up to chest level and slowly lower it back down again. 


How To Do Bicep Curls Like A Pro (Form Guide & Variations) 

1. Incline Dumbbell Curl 

Sitting on a 45-degree angled bench, let your arms dangle down toward the floor. Keeping your back flat against the bench will ensure that you're using only your arm muscles to curl the bar. Avoid using momentum to lift the bar and keep your arms close to your body as you curl upward. 

2. Barbell Curl 

If you own a barbell, you can switch out your dumbbells and instead perform a curl using a barbell instead. Holding the barbell with an underhand grip, slowly curl the barbell upwards, lowering back into the starting position. 

3. 21’s 

This exercise involves performing three sets of seven curls for a total of 21. This exercise is exhausting but also a great overall mass builder because it hits every angle of the bicep. 

4. Concentration Curl

The technique is simple: You use a dumbbell and sit down on a bench, holding the weight in front of you with a neutral grip while using your non-working arm to support your weight. 

Then, simply curl the dumbbell slowly up to your shoulder, pause for two seconds with it at its apex, and then bring it back down slowly, again pausing for four seconds when your forearm is nearly straight. 

5. EZ-Bar Reverse Curl 

Stand with your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart.

Keep your back straight and chest lifted. 

Place your hands palms down on the EZ-Bar with an underhand grip (supinated grip).  

While keeping your elbows stationary, exhale and lift the weight toward your shoulders while keeping them slightly bent.

Slowly curl the weights until you feel a complete biceps contraction. Slowly lower the weights to the starting position. 

How To Do Bicep Curls Like A Pro

6. High-Pulley Cable Curl 

Grasp a single grip attachment with both hands, keeping your upper arms parallel to the floor. Pull the bar towards your head (around eye level), slowly releasing back to the starting position. 


People Also Ask (FAQs)

Do hammer curls make your biceps wider? 

A lot of people think that doing hammer curls will make their biceps wider, but since hammer curls are a biceps isolation exercise, it’s unlikely that they’ll have any effect on your bicep girth. 

Can I do bicep curls every day? 

You can do bicep curls every day, but it might not be the best idea. Bicep curls are the best way to build up muscle in your biceps, but you have to be careful to avoid overuse injuries. 

If you’re a beginner, rest for at least one day in between your strength training sessions. If you’ve been lifting weights for a few months, you can start to train the same muscle group two days in a row. 

Why are my biceps not getting bigger? 

The most common reason why your biceps aren’t growing is that you aren't training your biceps with enough frequency, ensuring each time you train, you are working your muscles to failure.

You need to be training your biceps twice a week at a minimum to stimulate new muscle growth. If you’re not doing that, then you’re not going to grow. 

Should I go heavier on hammer curls than regular curls? 

The truth is, there’s no right or wrong answer here. Both exercises work different parts of your arm and help you achieve different levels of strength. The best answer is to do what’s comfortable and include both of these fantastic exercises in your routine. 


Conclusion

Bicep curls and hammer curls are great exercises to build up your biceps and your forearms. The bicep curl is great for building up the top of your biceps, the muscle right above your elbow.

Hammer curls are great for building up the bottom part of your biceps. Incorporating both into your workouts will help build mass in your arms, giving you those guns you’ve always wanted!