Hammer Curls vs Bicep Curls: Which Type of Curling is Best?

If you’re like most guys, a 6-pack and a chiseled chest, topped off with bulging biceps, are probably what come to mind when you envision the ideal physique. While all of those features come together to create a solid, rock-hard look that, there’s one element that stands at the top of most guys’ list of priorities: the biceps. When dudes flex their muscles, they usually aren’t showing off their pecs or abs; no, they’re showing off their biceps.

best curling variation

There’s just something about big, bulging biceps that makes a man look, well, manly. Big upper arms immediately convey strength and masculinity, and chicks subconsciously view physically strong men as protectors. That’s why when you head to the gym and you’ll see tons of men pumping iron as they try to increase the strength and size of their upper arms.

If building bigger biceps is your goal, it’s totally doable, but there’s just one problem: achieving that goal takes a lot of time; it can take months to see results, and if you want to look like those super-buff celebrities, like The Rock, Tom Hardy’s Bane, or Chris Hemsworth in Thor, it might take you a few years! 

Given the time commitment that building biceps requires, it can get frustrating, to say the least. Don’t throw in the towel before you even start! If you know what exercises to do and create a plan of action, you can set yourself up for success. In terms of bicep-building exercises, there are two that stand out: hammer curls and traditional bicep curls.

What are they? How do they work? Which one is better? How can you make the most of your gains? To find the answers to these questions and more, keep on reading. 

Anatomy of the Bicep Muscles

Before we jump in and take a closer look at hammer curls and bicep curls, it’s important to have a basic understanding of the anatomy of the bicep. Anatomically known as biceps brachii, this muscle comprises about 1/3 of your upper arm, and it’s positioned along the front side. It features two heads, the long head and the short head, that rise up on the scapula and they share the same insertion point.

The biceps play a critical role in most of the movements that you make with your arms, like pulling, forearm supination, curling, and even elbow flexion. Believe it or not, the biceps also help to stabilize your shoulder joints when you’re carrying heavy weights, and enables you to draw your arms forward, upwards, and out to the sides. 

Hammer Curl vs Bicep Curl: What’s the Difference? 

Ok, so now that you have a basic understanding of the biceps and how they work, let’s take a look at two of the most popular exercises that are used to build up the upper arm muscles: hammer curls and bicep curls. 

Both exercises isolate and focus on the biceps, and while their function is very similar, how they differ is in the way that they work the biceps, as the angles they work the muscle at differs slightly; thus, they build strength in different parts of the bicep. 

hammer curls

Hammer Curls Explained

Contrary to popular belief, hammer curls and bicep curls aren’t completely distinctive exercises. As a matter of fact, hammer curls are just a variation of the standard bicep curls. The target of the hammer curl is the long head of the bicep muscle, as well as another muscle that sits in the upper arm, known as the brachialis, and the brachioradialis. 

Hammer curls are pretty easy to do; in fact, even if you’re a beginner, you can master it with relative ease, especially when you employ the following tips: 

  • While holding one dumbbell in each hand, stand up straight and tall.
  • Rotate each of your wrists so that one end of the dumbbell is pointed forward rather than toward your body. 
  • Slowly curl the weight forward and upward, making sure to squeeze your biceps until your forearm is in a vertical position. 
  • Hold the pose for a second or two, and then slowly lower the weight back down to the starting position. 

*Expert Tip: Make sure you keep your upper arm still the entire time. If your upper arm moves at all, rather than working the biceps, hammer curls will end up working the deltoids. 

What muscles do hammer curls focus on? 

It’s important to keep in mind that hammer curls are isolation movements, meaning that they target only the biceps. The biceps feature two heads, and hammer curls target the long head. Though including the brachialis and the brachioradialis muscles in order to do hammer curls is a necessity, virtually all of the emphasis is on the bicep. 

What are the benefits of hammer curls? 

There are many ways to slice an onion and just like most muscle bodies you will benefit from a variety in exercises in movements that target and stimulate the muscle in different ways. Hammer curls in particular offer the following exercises: 

  • Improves the size and strength of the biceps
  • Boosts stability of the wrists
  • Enhances muscle endurance 
  • Strengthens grip
traditional bicep curling

Traditional “Regular” Bicep Curls Explained

Like hammer curls, bicep curls are also an isolation exercise that aim to build up and strengthen the bicep muscle. The placement of the muscle growth is the primary difference between hammer curls and bicep curls. While hammer curls mostly activate the long head of the bicep, traditional bicep curls focus on the shorter head of the bicep, which is the part of the upper arm where more of the muscle peak is produced from, and is what you’re probably look at when you’re aiming to fill out your sleeves.

You can do bicep curls with a number of different weights and equipment, incuding: 

To properly execute bicep curls, use the following tips: 

  • Stand straight and tall while holding one dumbbell in each hand. 
  • Pin your elbows into your sides and curl the weight upward while squeezing your biceps until your forearm is in a vertical position. 
  • Hold the position for a second or two before lowering back down to the starting position 

*Pro Tip: Bend your knees slighting to protect your lower back. If you’re having trouble keeping your elbows at your side/slightly in front of you then something like an Arm Blaster might be worth investing in to maintain proper form and maximize the output of your curling sets.

What muscles to bicep curls work? 

Traditional bicep curls work the shorter head of the bicep most but also engage the long head to an extend as well as the muscles in your forearm and hands, improving grip strength as a byproduct.

What are the benefits of bicep curls? 

The benefits of bicep curls are the same as the same as hammer curls, which isn’t surprising, since they’re variations of one another. The main benefit is that bicep curls are pretty easy to do and with dedication, they yield great results.

Biceps and triceps are one of the most attention getting parts of the body that are observable in public while fully clothed and thus are a focal point for a lot of men and women. Additionally, the bicep flex may be one of the most iconic poses of all time and to pull it off you need at least a moderately sized lump to pump up.

bicep long head vs short head

Skinny Yoked Summary

Becoming a successful bodybuilder requires a dedication to your craft that includes understanding your own muscular anatomy. People who just go into the gym blind and do whatever machine is available without aim or purpose will struggle to find results.

If you are willing to put in the time to understand your own physical mechanics, how your limbs move, which muscles are engaged in which exercises, you will then be able to establish a solid mind-muscle-connection which is critical for making continual progress in the gym.

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