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Hammer Curls vs Bicep Curls: Build Bigger Arms Quickly in 2021

⚡ TL;DR  Want to know which is better between hammer curls vs bicep curls? Know which of these two exercises can build arm muscle fast in this article!
📅 Post Updated on April 17, 2021
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🕒 20 minutes read
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Hammer Curls vs Bicep Curls Build Bigger Arms Quickly Featured image

Introduction

Need bigger arms, quickly? Or perhaps you have hit a plateau for quite awhile and looking for new arms workout to grow those huge guns!

Whichever group of fitness enthusiast or gym-goers you belong to, this article will be focusing on working out on the biceps.

Especially for men, good news for you! Research has shown that those guns are one of the top body parts that women check out when it comes to physical attraction.

Having a nice set of nicely well defined massive arms could be the end-goal for many gym lifters out there, however, cranking out sets after sets of the same type of curls exercises is not going to cut it.

The basis of muscle hypertrophy also comes with a basic understanding of muscle shock.

What does that mean? It means that doing more than 4-5 sets of the same exercise may not be beneficial to you at all as compared to doing 4-5 sets of 3 different exercises that hits the same muscle group.

Not all exercises are created equal. Despite having different variations of exercises in the gym, different exercises hits different smaller parts of the major muscle group.

The slight difference in angle and movement of your muscles in each of the various exercises will contribute to the bigger picture of muscle hypertrophy.

In today's article, we will be focusing on the 2 most popular bicep exercises. They are also known as the Supinated-Grip curls (Regular Bicep Curls), as well as the Hammer Curls.

Why? Because these 2 exercises are staples in most arm training routines.

Is there a clear winner between these 2?

If you want to build bigger arms quickly, then we recommend to include both of them into your arms workout routine.

Both will play their part in shaping your biceps all around to achieve the mass and strength that you want, achieving your end results!

We will cover the target muscles worked, the benefits of each exercise, exercise guides on proper form, and also workout plan to build bigger arms quickly.

Let's dive in into exploring these 2 big arms workout exercises, Bicep Curls vs Hammer Curls.

What Are Bicep Curls?

Bicep curls is the movement of weights which targets the Biceps Brachii (Biceps). It is mainly due to the movement of the elbow flexion.

Bicep Curls Targeted Muscles

As you can see in the picture below, the bicep has 3 different parts. The most common part of the biceps is the Biceps Brachii which consists of the long head (on the inner muscle) as well as the short head (outer muscle).

What are the Biceps Brachii?
Biceps Brachii is commonly known for it's short form name, “biceps”. It is the muscle group used to move the elbow and shoulders. It consist of 2 heads, the long head and short head as shown in the picture below.

Bicep curls Muscles Worked Anatomy

The main bicep curl muscles worked will be the Brachialis (outer side of the biceps) and the Brachioradialis (inner side of the forearm) are also engaged during the movement of Supinated (Underhand-Grip) Bicep Curls, which is the standard usual bicep curl exercise.

The long head of the bicep is the muscle that in the middle of upper arm which contributes to the part of the bicep a peak when being flexed.

The short head is the muscle on the inside of the upper arm which gives the bicep thickness when viewed from the front view.

Do you remember any guy with massive arms from side view but does not look as big from the front view? This shows that his long head of the Biceps Brachii is more developed.

Why Choose Regular Bicep Curls?

Reason #1: Simple yet effective

Standard regular bicep curls is the gold standard for basic, clean bicep workout that is simple yet effective.

The entire movement of the workout will engage the biceps intensely for you to have massive gains to build bigger arms in short amount of time.

Reason #2: Variations

You can also switch it up by using different weights such as using a barbell, dumbbells, kettlebells, or machines and with one or alternate arms.

What Are Hammer Curls?

Hammer curls is the movement of weights which targets the primarily on the Brachialis (outer side of the biceps) and Brachioradialis.

Hammer Curls Targeted Muscles 

As you can see in the picture below, the Biceps Brachii of the long head (on the inner muscle) is being engaged to a greater extent when doing the hammer curls, as compared to the underhand-grip bicep curl.

Hammer Curls Muscles Worked Anatomy

You can also see that the hammer curl muscles worked are the Brachioradialis (inner side of the forearm). They are engaged to a greater extent during the movement of Hammer Curls.

This is because a study has shown that the bicep muscle has a biomechanical disadvantage when the wrist is in a pronated (Overhand) position.

Therefore, when working out in a neutral or hammer wrist position, the Brachioradialis tends to contribute more to the elbow flexion than the bicep, hence engaging the hammer curl muscles at a higher intensity.

What is the Brachioradialis muscle? 
Brachioradialis is the muscle on the forearm that assists with the elbow joint flex. It is also a major contribution to stabilize when the forearm pronate (when the palms faces away from the body) and supinate.

In short, the bicep and hammer curls both engage the same muscle group due to the movement of elbow flexion. However, the movement of the exercises targets the different parts of the muscle group as discussed earlier.

Why Choose Hammer Biceps Curls?

Reason #1: Targets less under-developed muscle group.

It is very common to see most lifters not being able to have a proportionate set of massive arms.

Why? This is because performing regular bicep curls only will grow the biceps but leave the forearms under-developed.

It is the same analogy as the popular chicken-leg syndrome. It is to describe that the calves are tiny compared to the upper legs.

Since the Hammer Curls primarily work the Brachialis & Brachioradialis muscle groups, it will ensure that the outer part of the biceps and biceps are growing as well.

This will contribute to a nice proportionate massive arms.

Reason #2: Trains the strength of your grip

Since the "hammer position grip" is relatively more difficult to hold and stabilize compared to the regular supinated underhand-grip of the dumbbells, it indirectly trains the strength of your grip.

This will have long term benefits when performing other workouts as your grip will get stronger.

Differences between Hammer Curl vs Bicep Curl

Difference #1: Grip

First main difference between bicep curls vs hammer curls would be the grip and position of your hands holding the weights.

The standard regular bicep curl uses a Supinated (Underhand-Grip) while the hammer curl uses a "hammer" grip, when the palms are faced with each other.

What is a Supinated Grip?
Supinated grip is also known as the underhand grip where the palms faces the same direction as your body during the execution of an exercise.

During the execution of the regular bicep curl, at the highest point of the curl, the palms face towards the body.

Difference #2: Targeted Muscles Worked

What Muscles Do Hammer Curls Work? 

Hammer curls will engage the Brachioradialis muscles as well as the brachialis muscles. This will target the outer side of the biceps which will grow the muscles that make your biceps look longer and bigger.

What Muscles Do Regular Bicep Curls Work? 

Regular bicep curls will mainly engage the Biceps Brachii muscles. The supporting muscles engaged will be the Brachialis and Brachioradialis muscles.

Benefits of Hammer Curls Benefits & Bicep Curls

Benefit #1: Gains in Mass Size

Both Hammer Curls and Bicep Curls provide growth in size and strength of the biceps (with the proper workout routine).

The underhand-grip Bicep Curl will maximise that 'rock' pop on your inner bicep when flexing.

If you refer to the picture below, #2 will look bigger with Bicep Curls.

Bicep anatomy Brachialis vs Brachii

On the other hand, Hammer Curls benefits is it will make your biceps look longer and bigger as it targets the Brachialis and Brachioradialis muscles more. This is shown as #1 in the picture above.

Benefit #2: Gains in Strength and Stability

Bicep curls and Hammer Curls are considered isolated exercises as they aim to provide more intensity on a smaller muscle group.

An arms curl variation will also help in strengthening and stabilizing the wrists joints to prevent injuries.

As our body works as one whole, any exercises that we do actually engages more than 1 muscle group.

When we perform compound exercises such as Rows, Pull-Ups, Deadlifts, Lats Pulldown and so on, the biceps are actually engaged as well. 

Having weak biceps may not provide the strength and stability required to perform the compound exercises with proper form, which can lead to injuries.

Therefore, training the biceps progressively to get stronger and more stabilized is definitely important to include inside your workout routine.

We recommend progressive overloading method.

This is training method where you can slowly increase the weights used during the workout so your muscles can grow and adapt to the progressive stress placed on the targeted muscle groups.

Exercise Guide to Hammer & Bicep Curls

We have covered which muscle groups the bicep and hammer curls will target. We have also covered how beneficial these 2 workouts are.

Now we'll be covering on how to be able to do a proper hammer curl and a bicep curl.

Before starting a workout routine on your arms, we strongly recommend to do it at the end of a workout after you have done 3-4 compound exercises.

By doing so, you would've engaged your biceps to a certain extent and worn out your major muscle groups.

If you perform isolation workouts such as your biceps while your major muscle groups are still fresh, there are chances you might engage the major muscle groups instead, and not work on the targeted muscle group.

Towards the end of a workout, when your major muscles are slightly worn, would be the best time to engage isolation workouts for your arms to get the biggest reward out of it.

Do ensure that you practice correct posture and do not feel any pains in joints or muscles while performing your set.

If you are lifting too light, you would not feel any burn in your muscles.

If you are lifting too heavy, you would engage the wrong muscle group to compensate the weaker targeted muscle group.

This will lead to higher risk of injuries which we do not recommend.

How To Do A Standing Dumbbell Bicep Curl

dumbbell bicep curls gif
  1. Squat down keeping your back straight and grip the dumbbells firmly before standing up straight.
  2. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and slowly face your palm the same direction as your body.
  3. Pin your elbows close to the side of your body and curl the weights upwards until you feel a full contraction in your biceps.
  4. Slowly lower the weight back down but do not lock out your elbows at the bottom.
  5. Aim for 8-12 reps for hypertrophy and massive gains.

How To Do A Standing Dumbbell Hammer Curl

alternate standing dumbbell hammer curls gif
  1. Squat down keeping your back straight and grip the dumbbells firmly before standing up straight.
  2. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and slowly face your palm the to the side of your body.
  3. Pin your elbows close to the side of your body and curl the weights upwards, while keeping your wrist at neutral position.
  4. Slowly lower the weight back down but do not lock out your elbows at the bottom.
  5. Aim for 8-12 reps for hypertrophy and massive gains.

Tips To Take Note

  • To fully engage as much biceps as possible, keep your elbows in place throughout the whole curl movement.
  • Lifting your arms and elbows forward could engage your frontal deltoids instead.
  • Lift weights that are heavy enough that will push you for 8-12 reps if you are going for hypertrophy (mass gains).
  • Lifting too heavy will cause unnecessary strains on your joints and wrist which can lead to injuries.
  • If you're training with a buddy, ask them to spot you for the last few repetitions to really get that burn.
  • Do not lock your knees and keep your back and neck in neutral position at all times.

Last but not least, the final pro tip is to focus on the effective range of motion as compared to the full range of motion when it comes to workout out the arms.

What is the full range of motion? 
Full range of motion refers to the potential complete movement of a specific joint, including the range of extension and flexion.

When working out the biceps, the full range of motion is the complete extension of the arm (straight, but do not lock the elbows) to the complete curl position.

Why do we not use full range when working out the arms? When doing arm curls, the risk of injuries increases significantly on the movement of the last 25% of the elbow’s extension.

This is especially true at heavier weights.

What is the effective range of motion? 
Effective range of motion of any particular exercise is the point where muscular tension and engagement is maintained without completing the entire movement of complete extension or contraction.

In the case for arm curls, it will be from the top of the curl up to about 80% extension of the elbow.

80% movement is the recommended range of motion that allows us to lift the optimal heavy weights with minimal risks for injuries such as torn biceps and elbow joint problems.

Variations of Arm Curls Exercises

Bicep Curls and Hammer Curls are already themselves 2 variations of biceps workout that you can include in your workout routine.

There's a further subset of these 2 main exercises that can give countless variations of exercises that targets the same muscle group.

Over here at FitnessMonsterr, we prefer to keep it old school and go for simple movements with the correct momentum for the best massive gains!

We are a strong believer in not making exercises complex, but yet focus on full contraction that provides great intensity for the targeted muscle groups.

Even with carrying a lighter weight, done with controlled momentum and posture can be tougher to perform, as compared to heavier weights with no proper form such as swinging and using body movement momentum.

Put your ego aside at the gym and go with basics. Get the fundamentals and movement right, and you'll see the rewards for a long-term in your fitness journey.

Do take note that due to our bodies built differently, there will be certain exercises that will strain your joints more than others.

In this case, variations of exercises exist so that there will be exercises best suited for everyone.

We will provide variations of both arm curls using dumbbells as free weights are the best in our opinion.

The gravity and controlled free movement of the weights allow you to engage your targeted muscle groups more efficiently.

Bicep Curl Variations

#1: Standing Reverse Bicep Curl (Pronated Curl)

Standing Reverse Bicep Curl gif

The standing pronated curl, also known as the standing reverse bicep curl, is variation you can try out.

On top of engaging the biceps, this movement will greatly engage the forearms as well. Talk about massive gains!

#2: Seated Concentration Bicep Curl

Seated concentration bicep curl gif

The seated concentration bicep curls is one of our favourite moves.

By resting the back of your elbow against your thigh, you will disengage every other muscles except for your biceps.

Curl it upwards slowly while keeping your back straight and you will feel the full concentration on your biceps.

#3: Seated Incline Dumbbell Curl

Seated incline dumbbell bicep curl gif

Another variation of the bicep curls will be the seated incline dumbbell curl.

What we like about this exercise is the full range of motion that the biceps is getting.

At the final position at the bottom of the movement, the biceps is fully stretched out before being engaged again during the curl.

Do avoid swinging too much when doing this exercise to prevent injuries.

Hammer Curls Variations

#1: Standing Cross Body Hammer Curls

Standing crossbody hammer curls gif

Similar to the standing dumbbell bicep curl, the only difference will be the movement that it'll cross body. Refer to the animation above.

The movement will be diagonal across your body but will still engage the forearms and Brachialis greatly!

#2: Seated Incline Hammer Curl

Seated incline dumbbell hammer curl gif

Another similar exercise to the seated incline dumbbell curl, this time round, the palms are facing inwards and your wrist in neutral position.

Curl your weights in the hammer grip and lift slowly until you fully contract your biceps.

This exercise should hit your Brachialis real good for that burn, due to a wide range of motion throughout this exercise.

#3: Standing Cable Hammer Curl

Standing Cable Hammer Curl gif

Due to limited simple hammer curl variations, we'll introduce you to an arms workout using the cable machine.

This exercise would allow you to experiment the movement of your curl. 

Pro Tip: If you would like to target the Brachialis even more, make sure you twist your motion away from your body as you pull up the rope, similar to forming a 'V' with your arms.

Workout Routine of Bicep and Hammer Curls - When To Do For Optimal Arm Growth?

Different people have their own different workout routine. We do not specifically plan a day just for arms, but you can if you would like to.

In our opinion, biceps are too small of a muscle group to dedicate a day of gym session for it.

Therefore, what we usually do is to start off with the compound exercises targeting the major muscle groups such as your back muscles or chest muscles, plus engaging the minor muscle groups at the same time.

For example, a standing dumbbell row which targets the back muscles will also engage the biceps throughout the exercise movement.

After performing 4-5 different compound exercises, your major muscle groups would be worn out by now.

Then when you perform the arms workout, you will tend to not rely on the major muscle group (since they are worn out) but to fully engage the isolated muscle such as the biceps to get the best results for massive gains!

After performing your compound exercises, below is an arms workout routine you can include before ending your gym session.

1) Standing Dumbbell Bicep Curl

  • 3 sets of 8-12 repetitions
  • Rest for 60-90 seconds in between sets

2) Incline Dumbbell Bicep Curl

  • 3 sets of 8-12 repetitions
  • Rest for 60-90 seconds in between sets

3) Standing Dumbbell Hammer Curl

  • 3 sets of 8-12 repetitions
  • Rest for 60-90 seconds in between sets.

Hammer Curl vs. Regular Bicep Curl: Who is the Champion?

Most articles will say there is no clear winner, right? Well that is true because each workout usually has their own pros and cons and the different muscle groups that it targets.

Winner: Regular Bicep Curl

For us, we believe the Champion will be the Regular Standard Bicep Curl.

Reason #1: Engages bigger part of the entire Biceps

The standard bicep curl engages more of the main part of the bicep muscles as compared to the hammer curl.

To build bigger arms quickly and more noticeably, the biceps brachii in which the regular bicep curl engages will contribute to that more than the hammer curl.

The long head of the Biceps Brachii is a bigger muscle than the Brachialis, which means it'll easier to gain mass there as compared to the hammer curls.

Hammer curl engages the Brachialis and the forearms which will be smaller compared to the actual biceps brachii muscles.

Reason #2: Not Easy to Cheat

Another reason why we feel that the standard bicep curl wins is because the hammer curls movements allows easy swinging motion which does not mean proper form.

When you swing and do not engage proper form as much as the regular bicep curl forces you to, you might not be able to see results of a massive arm as quickly as you would like it to be.

Despite going heavier and heavier on your hammer curls, you could just be swinging a lot and not see results

Therefore, we have chosen regular bicep curl as the champion to grow your arms bigger quickly!

However, there is no one best workout exercise that gives one best result.

We will still need to include Hammer Curls to work on getting bigger forearms and gain mass proportionately for your arms.

Therefore, we still recommend to include both Bicep Curls and Hammer Curls into your bicep workout routine so you can have an overall big massive arms in proportionate size giving you a well-balanced physique.

Don't forget to couple your workout routine with good nutrition, adequate rest and good supplements stack to reap the best results.

Conclusion

In this article, we have covered the targeted muscle groups that both Hammer Curls muscles and Bicep Curls muscles will engage.

We also covered the benefits of including Bicep curls and Hammer curls in your workout routine such as gains in mass as well as strength and stability.

We have also included exercise guides on performing various bicep arms exercises for you to follow.

We also provided you 6 different variations of both arm curls exercises which you may use to incorporate in your workout routines.

Last but not least, we also provided you a sample workout routine that you can include at the end of your workout after performing compound exercises for the day.

Ultimately, we believe that proper form, movement and contraction of the muscles will give you more gains than without proper form.

What are you waiting for? Grab some weights and start curling to get those massive guns!

You can learn more about Hammer Curls vs Regular Curls in the video below!

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