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The Bicep training arsenal is huge! There are so many bicep exercises to choose from, that selecting the correct ones for the biggest gains can be a confusing task!
But do not worry! We are here to take the guesswork out so you can be better informed to decide for yourself when it comes to the hammer curls v bicep curls debate.
So what are the critical differences between these two bicep-building exercises?
The main difference between the hammer curl and bicep curl is that the former works your biceps and triceps equally, while the latter focuses primarily on your biceps.
You see, the hammer curl forces the long head of the bicep and the tricep to work throughout the movement and so stimulates both muscle groups, therefore adding more size and strength to the overall arm muscles.
The bicep curl, however, contracts the long and short head of the bicep and therefore recruits more muscle fibres in the single muscle group and therefore has the potential to add more size and strength to the bicep muscle group.
Our friend over at Bones to Bulk has created a summary video that runs through both exercises and explains the differences in more detail
So as you can see, both exercises target different parts of the bicep \ arm and so are an awesome set of exercises that can actually enable you to pack on some serious size and strength across the entire arm, from wrist to peak bicep!
When should you use each or both? Well, read on to find out!
The upper arm is made up of 4 muscles; brachialis, brachioradialis, coracobrachialis and the bicep (actually known as biceps brachii).
The bicep muscle is made up of two heads, referred to as the long head and short head.
The long head starts at the top of the shoulder and runs down the arm and connects at each end via a tendon. It is the long head that is responsible for creating the bicep peak. So if your aim is to build a peak then hammer curls would be a good exercise to focus on.
The short head runs along the inside of the arm and has a tendon on either end of the muscle. This part of the bicep gives that fuller dense muscle effect and so bicep curls would be a good addition to your routine.
Now that you know more about the bicep anatomy, let’s look at how the two exercises effect the biceps muscles when they are being trained.
Believe it or not, the type of exercise you perform can impact how and when the muscle contracts. Let’s now find out the impact of hammer curls vs bicep curls.
Hammer curls primarily work the long head of the bicep brachii
Hammer curls also work the short head of biceps brachii, brachioradialis, and brachialis
Bicep Curls primarily work the short head of biceps brachii
Bicep curls also work the long head of biceps brachii, brachioradialis, brachialis, and wrist extensors
As we saw from the previous section, the bicep is made up of two muscles. The long head and the short head and each performs a slightly different variation as part of the whole bicep.
Before we can decide which is the better exercise, we need to understand the pro’s and cons’ of each exercise to the arm and bicep.
Bicep curls can be performed with dumbells, barbells, standing or seated. The equipment and posture you choose makes subtle changes to how the muscle fibres in the biceps brachii contract.
The bicep curls causes the wrist to be in a supinated grip and so that puts maximum pressure on the biceps brachii and therefore more muscle fibre recruitment.
Bicep curls are easy to do and beginners can start with light weights and get familiar with the movement very easily.
Bicep curls can help with shoulder stability but do be careful to not use too heavyweight as this can cause your shoulders to do more work then is needed.
Bicep curls are a good exercise to perform drop sets with so that you can exhaust the bicep muscle fibres relatively quickly
Be careful when doing heavier bicep curls as they can force you to use momentum too much and this can cause injury
Use a weight that allows you to slowly control the weight up and down else it can cause your wrists injury
Do not hyper-extend your arms on the downward part of the exercise as this can cause injury in the elbow
Hammer curls are easy to do and as long as you perform the exercise slowly and under control; anyone can do it
You can lift a sizable amount of weight doing hammer curls as the brachioradialis helps the bicep brachii to move the arm.
There is less risk of injury with hammer curls as the wrist and arm position is fairly neutral
Hammer curls will train the muscle fibres in the forearm muscles as well as the upper arm and so have a tendency of exhausting the entire arm more.
Hammer curls will work less of the long head and so it has been known to be less effective for the bicep peak building we all want
Using heavier weight with hammer curls means that people generally tend to cheat by using momentum and this in turn increases risk of injury to arm, wrists, shoulders and back.
Whilst you can perform hammer curls standing or seated, you can only do them with dumbells.
1. To perform hammer curls with strict form, you will need to find a weight that you can lift for 8-10 repetitions.
2. Choose a weight that is challenging, but not so heavy that you cannot complete the desired number of reps.
3. Standing with your feet hip-width apart, hold the weight in your left hand with your palm facing your thigh.
4. Curl the weight up towards your shoulder, keeping your elbow and upper arm stationary.
5. Pause briefly at the top of the curl and then slowly lower the weight back to the starting position.
6. Complete all reps on one side before switching to the other side.
Keep your back straight
Keep your elbows close to your body
Curl the weight up until your biceps are fully contracted
Hold for a count of 1-2 seconds
Lower the weight slowly back to the starting position ensuring you do not hyper-extend
With so much conflicting information on how and when to add these two exercises, I decided to perform some testing to see what worked best for me.
I knew that I wanted to grow my biceps in size and strength so I set myself a weight and size goal. The weight goal was to dumbbell curl 37.5kg. The size was to grow my biceps from 17 inches to 18 inches. I gave myself 12 weeks.
My previous 12 weeks of just bicep curls didn’t see much movement in size and weight and this was largely down to the fact that my arms became overtrained. I was doing up to 12 sets per workout and training my biceps twice every 8 days but wasn’t allowing them to recover and grow.
My bicep training routine was as follows
a. 8 Sets of Barbell bicep curls
b. 8 Sets of Dumbell Hammer Curls
c. 16 Sets total were performed every 10th day
d. As soon as I got to 10 reps on a given set I would increase the weight for the next workout
I performed bicep stretches by handing with hands close together from a chin-up bar and this was performed at the end of the workout.
Bicep Training Results: After 11 weeks of the above, I grew my biceps from 17.1inches to 17.9 inches and I hit my weight goals and currently dumbbell curl 40kg for 5 reps!!!
Let’s be honest, everyone wants a big set of biceps! So comparing hammer curls v bicep curls to get huge biceps is common.
We all want to get the most gains with the least amount of wasted effort! And that’s no more true than the efforts of bodybuilding or resistance training.
We go to the gym to train, get stronger (and bigger) and look good – and we want to do that quickly!
So when it comes to bicep training it is important that you do the right exercises to break down the muscle so it can then rebuild bigger and stronger!
We know that hammer curls force the long head of the bicep to work more. We know that bicep curls force the short head of the bicep to work more.
So adding both of these exercises to your bicep workouts is strongly recommended if you want huge biceps.
Make sure that you perform the exercise correctly and only use weight you can lift under strict form.
Focus on isolating the biceps brachii and force that peak contraction and mind-muscle link to tear down the muscle fibres and force the bicep to grow.
So don’t even think about it anymore – just add them with a minimum of 8 sets each and use a weight that you can do 10 reps with and then just increase the weight!.
Give this workout a minimum of 8 weeks to see results and then adjust accordingly!
Now go get those guns!
No. They are both excellent bicep-building exercises that force the long head and short head of the biceps brachii to grow! They must be in your bicep training routine.
No. Both of the exercises have their own challenges. Bicep curls can cause you to hyper-extend the elbows, if not careful, so could cause injury if you go too heavy. Hammer curls can put excessive stress on the forearm muscles which leads to swinging the weight up.
Both complement each other and so ensuring you perform both will ensure you get big biceps.
Both, hammer curls and bicep curls will thicken the overall muscle heads; but hammer curls will lead to thicket biceps faster as it forces the brachialis to work slightly harder.
For hammer curls, you will always use dumbells. For bicep curls you can use dumbells and barbells.
Yes, EZ bar curls have been proven to recruit more muscle fibres in the biceps and so more opportunities to grow them.
Yes. A recent study revealed that concentration curls are actually one of the best bicep exercises to do to grow the entire bicep.
Cross-body hammer curls are a variation of the standard hammer curl where instead of performing the movement up and down, you perform it across the body.
Pull Ups will pack on size and strength to your biceps brachii so they are worth adding as a starter (pre-exhaust or finisher.
They are the same thing and there are no differences.
Yes, preacher curls will target the long and short head of the bicep muscle and has a reputation of adding muscle size to the arms.
Reverse curls are good for bicep and forearm muscles and so they are a good finishing exercise to add to your workout routine.
There are two; one that’s the standard up and down motion, and the second is across the body.
Yes. You can perform bicep curls with a dumbbell or barbell, seated or standing and change the angle and speed of movement to further stress the bicep heads.
Both must be added to your bicep workout if you want to grow those arms!
Yes, hammer curls put additional stress on the forearm muscles and so they are awesome for forearm development.
Yes, adding this variation has been shown to stress the muscle from a different angle.