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Home > Blog > Hammer Curls vs. Bicep Curls – What Is the Best Way to Build Biceps?

Bicep curls and hammer curls are staples in most arm training routines. They are mass and strength and yield great results, build movements, and huge arms when done right. With slight variations, bicep curls and hammer curls work the same muscles since both are essential for elbow flexion. If you are passionate about fitness and want to achieve bicep strength while simultaneously working your shoulders and back, consult award-winning therapists and physicians at Physical Therapists NYC to learn how to build big biceps fast and get stronger overall. The top rates therapist will break down the difference between bicep curls and hammer curls, explain the benefits and help to determine which one you should focus on for maximum gains.

If you want more thickness in your biceps and forearms to fill out a bit more, you must get ready for some action and hard work to achieve impressive results. Reworking your fitness plan to get bigger and better biceps starts with using the proper form and utilizing exercises that work best for you.

Hammer Curls

Hammer Curls vs. Bicep Curls: What Is the Difference?

Both hammer curls and the bicep curls isolate the biceps brachii muscle, which is a large muscle in the front of the upper arm. The bicep muscle has two heads that adhere to the scapula and connect with a common insertion point.

The bicep’s basic function is to move your arms forward, upward, and to the sides. It stabilizes the shoulder when carrying objects or supporting weight. It also assists with pulling and curling motion. Both hammer curls and bicep curls focus exclusively on working the bicep. They are single joint, isolation movements that work the bicep in curling motions.

The only difference is a slight variation among the both. Hammer curls and bicep curls work the bicep at slightly different angles, building strength in various parts of the bicep. Both of these exercises involve curling a weight upwards using your biceps. The difference has to do with your hand position. This simple variation helps in developing thickness and forearm development.

What Are Hammer Curls?

Hammer curls are one of the most popular moves for thickness and forearm development. It is a great movement for your upper body workout, whether you are a beginner or an experienced lifter. This exercise can increase bicep strength and size, improve wrist stability and boost muscle endurance.

Contrary to what is commonly believed, hammer curls and bicep curls are not two different exercises. Hammer curl is a variation of the regular bicep curl. It targets the long hand of the bicep as well as the brachialis, another muscle in the upper arm and the brachioradialis, one of the key forearm muscles, while engaging additional back and chest muscles.

Hammer curl is a relatively simple exercise that beginners can learn and practice. When performed under a supervised eye and correctly, it can maximize your arm gains and improve grip strength.

Some tips for safely and correctly completing hammer curls include:

  • Stand up straight with one dumbbell in each hand;
  • Rotate each wrist so that one end of the dumbbell points forward, instead of towards your body;
  • Curl the weight forward and upward while squeezing the biceps until your forearm is vertical;
  • Hold the dumbbell to your chest for 1-2 seconds before slowly lowering the weight back to the starting position, inhaling as you go.

You must keep your upper arm still during the whole range of movement. If your upper arm moves then the exercise works the deltoids instead of the biceps.

How to Do a Hammer Curl

What Muscles Do Hammer Curls Focus On?

It is important to remember that hammer curls are an isolation movement. It means that hammer curls just target the bicep muscles. Of the two bicep heads, hammer curls target the long one.

While the inclusion of the brachialis and brachioradialis muscles for the hammer curl is essential, nearly all the emphasis in this isolation movement is on the bicep.

Benefits of hammer curls
Hammer curls are a highly popular exercise due to their numerous benefits when done right. The benefits include:

  • Increase in bicep size and strength;
  • Improved wrist stability;
  • Boost in muscle endurance;
  • Strengthened grip.

What Are Bicep Curls?

The bicep curls are probably one of the most popular upper body movements out there. Just like hammer curls, bicep curls are an isolation movement exercise that is designed to build the bicep muscle. It builds mass and strength, improves physical performance, and shapes your arms. Bicep curls have several variations, and each variation has its benefits.

Bicep curl can be performed with the following:

  • Dumbbells;
  • Kettlebells;
  • Barbells;
  • Cable machines.

Some tips for safely and correctly performing bicep curls include:

  • Stand up straight with one dumbbell in each hand;
  • Pin your elbows to your sides and curl the weight upward while squeezing the biceps until your forearm is vertical;
  • Hold this position for 1-2 seconds before slowly lowering the weight back to the starting position.

You can also perform this exercise with one arm at a time paying attention to your lifting form. You must keep your knees slightly bent and the lower body still to protect your back from injury.

What Muscles Do Bicep Curls Work?

The primary outcome difference between hammer curls and bicep curls is the placement or muscle growth. While hammer curls activate mostly the long head of the bicep, a traditional bicep curl activates the shorter head of the bicep.

The shorter bicep head is what produces most of the muscle peak you might be looking for when trying to achieve desired results.

Benefits of bicep curls

Bicep curls share the same benefits as hammer curls as they are variations of each other. The bicep muscle works in tandem with lats, traps, deltoids, and triceps in shoulders and elbow functions.

Other benefits include:

  • It is easy to perform and learn exercises;
  • There are several variations to try, which includes hammer curls that help you work on both the long and short heads of the bicep;
  • It helps to increase shoulder stabilization and build arm strength which can boost your athletic performance and reduce injury risk;
  • It improves muscle definition and makes a great choice for supersets, drops sets, pyramid sets, and more.

Bicep Curls vs. Hammer Curls – Which One Is Better?

When we compare bicep curls with hammer curls, it is clear that hammer curls are the winner as it is the best way to build biceps. Hammer curls work for more muscle groups and develop biceps in ways that regular bicep curls do not.

If you want bulging arm muscles fast, you may want to try a different bicep variation and consult a trained and experienced physical therapist who will guide you in the right direction. It is essential to know that it can take about a month or two before you start seeing results in your arms.

Functional training vs. traditional strength training

Traditional strength training and functional strength training are great ways to build strength and grow muscles. Functional strength training focuses on using the entire body, or at least multiple muscles, and emphasizes building core strength and stability. It strives to improve the body’s ability to perform everyday functions and makes you stronger by encouraging endurance, core stability, and balance.

On the other hand, traditional strength training is associated with the use of weights in anaerobic activity. It isolates muscles and works them to exhaustion using heavy weights or machines. The bodybuilding industry has a major impact on traditional strength training as it focuses on lifting heavy objects.

What Is Traditional Training?

Traditional strength training exercises help to increase muscle strength and endurance. Primary goals for strength training include:

  • An increase in physical attractiveness;
  • Enhanced general physical health;
  • Rehabilitation or improvement in impairment;
  • Better sports performance;
  • The pleasure of the activity.

Along with its numerous benefits, there are some limitations to the traditional training that you must know about before going for it.

Traditional training exercises often fail to produce the desired results due to the following reasons:

  • They restrict the range of motion;
  • They shorten and tighten the muscle tissues;
  • They are not related to movements performed in daily life;
  • They can result in muscular imbalance;
  • They do not necessarily develop important stabilizer muscles.

What Is Functional Training?

Functional training is the training that strives to mimic the specific physiological demands of real-life activities. Functional training focuses on using the body the way it was designed to be used.

The activities in this training pay special attention to the muscles in the abdomen and lower back and strengthen the core to facilitate the performance of daily activities safely. Consult your physical therapist regarding functional training and how you achieve optimal physical health with the right training and workout.

What Makes Functional Training the Right Option?

Hammer curls and bicep curls focus on isolating a set of muscles that do not normally work in isolation. The bicep is used for heavy lifting when you pick up some heavy object, but it also acts as a stabilizing muscle between the shoulder and forearm.

Biceps are used during the following everyday activities:

  • Carrying groceries up the stairs to your apartment;
  • Holding your child in your arms for a big bear hug;
  • Carrying your dog back to the car after a visit to the vet or if it gets injured;
  • Raising your hand in class;
  • Replacing a book on a high shelf.

The main goal of functional training is to prepare the muscles, including the biceps to ensure you can successfully take part in everyday tasks and activities. It strengthens the group of muscles or the whole body and gives you the chance to gain functional strength to perform all such activities without fear of straining a muscle or causing injury. It makes functional training a suitable option for people of all ages and fitness levels.

Some more reasons to go for functional training

It increases coordination and agility

Most people are not professional athletes and take part in rigorous workouts, but everyone needs agility and coordination to live an active life without feeling any pain. Functional fitness exercises train the muscles and joints to work together and help you enjoy mobility.

This can improve your basic movement patterns which leads to increased coordination and agility. Only having impressive biceps does not help if you cannot perform a squat. Functional fitness focuses on all aspects of movement and activity.

It improves balance

Working on multiple muscle groups at once increases your core stability. It supports your body in a much better way when you perform physical tasks. Functional training uses compound movements that improve balance.

It is very beneficial for everyone, but it is particularly helpful for elderly people who need to be extra cautious regarding their posture and balance. Better balance can reduce the risk of falls and avoid injuries.

Alternatives to biceps and hammer curls

Knowing about the alternatives to hammer curls and bicep curls can help you work on your biceps in some other effective ways too. No one plan suits all as everybody is different with individual needs and stamina. Your physical therapist will guide you in this regard and create a training plan depending on your fitness goals and health.

Here are two functional examples of alternatives to bicep and hammer curls.

Dumbbell iron cross

This functional training exercise works amazingly well with hamstrings, supper legs, shoulders, glutes, and biceps.

Holding a dumbbell in each hand, stand in a low squat with your feet shoulder-width apart and arms held out in front of you with palms facing in.
Standing upright, move your arms out to your sides to form a T or cross position.
Hold this position for a few seconds, then return to the starting position.

Legless rope climbs

All you need for this training is a rope for climbing. If your gym has a rope, it is time to tackle it. Pulling yourself up and down the rope without using a leg wrapping technique utilizes your entire body, particularly your biceps. There are different levels to work your way up to a legless rope climb to work up to transporting yourself up and down.

You can look forward to building bigger biceps, increasing your bent arm pulling strength, and challenging yourself in new ways with this alternative to bicep and hammer curls.

Bicep curls and hammer curls are staples in most arm training routines and are considered the best ways to build biceps and stronger arms. Whether you are moving past physical therapy or interested in gaining muscle and strength, the top-rated therapists at Physical Therapists NYC will guide you the best way and help you achieve desired outcomes. The fitness coaches and therapists assist you to gain muscle with functional fitness programs that build the biceps and strengthen your core most efficiently. They focus on your need to achieve optimal fitness, avoid injuries and improve your range of motion and enjoyment of activities with state-of-the-art facilities and workout programs to fit in with your goals and fitness level.


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