Hammer curls can be a good bicep curl variation for some purposes. At the same time, many people will prefer one of its alternatives.
By holding your hands in a neutral position, hammer curls focus more on the brachialis muscles in your upper arm and the brachioradialis muscles in your forearm.
These muscles help your arms achieve more power and look bigger.
Besides these, hammer curls still work your biceps brachii to some extent similar to regular biceps curls.
Some people don’t like the exact muscle engagement of hammer curls, want to switch up their bicep workouts, or want an alternative for other reasons.
If these things apply to you, you may like some of the other exercises below.
1. Reverse curls
Take the following steps to do a reverse curl:
- Stand up straight with a dumbbell in each hand. Hold these with a pronated grip which means with your hand palms pointing backward in this step.
- Slowly fold your arms at the elbows as far as you comfortably can. Keep your upper arms and the rest of your body in the same position throughout the exercise.
- Lower the dumbbells back into starting position in a controlled motion.
Reverse curls take the modification of the hammer curl 90 degrees further. This will work the brachialis upper arm muscle and brachioradialis forearm muscle even more.
At the same time, you want to keep in mind that reverse curls work your biceps brachii to a lesser extent.
This different ratio of muscle engagement can be an upside or downside depending on why you are looking for a hammer curl alternative.
One upside of reverse curls is that there are more equipment options like the barbell and EZ curl bar that can be used for this movement.
2. Crossbody hammer curls
Take the following steps to do a crossbody hammer curl:
- Stand up straight with a dumbbell in one or each hand. Point your hand palms toward the center for now.
- Slowly raise one dumbbell to the shoulder of the opposite while holding the neutral hammer grip. You want to keep your upper arm in position as much as possible but it will inevitably have to move to be able to do the movement.
- Lower the dumbbell back into starting position in a controlled motion.
- Complete your sets on one side and repeat the same number of repetitions with your arm on the other side.
In regular hammer curls, you lift the weight you use straight up. By changing the angle of the movement you will focus slightly more on the outer (aka the long) muscle head of the biceps brachii.
You can also do crossbody curls with your hands in the regular underhanded grip. This leads to even more focus on the long head of the brachii bicep muscle.
One downside of crossbody hammer curls is that you have to work each side separately. That means it will take longer to get in a full arm workout with this alternative.
3. Neutral grip pull-ups
Many people know and do pull-ups and for good reasons. Similar to bicep curls, the way you hold the bar during the exercise influences in what ratio you work the muscles involved.
To be able to do neutral-grip pull-ups you need either a doorway model or a full pull-up bar with neutral handles. Once you have the required gear, take the following steps to do the exercise:
- Hang from the pull-up bar with your hands on the neutral handles. That means your hand palms are pointing toward each other.
- Slowly pull your body up until your chin is above the bar.
- Lower your body back into the starting position in a controlled motion.
Pull-ups are a compound bicep exercise that also works your latissimus dorsi (middle/upper back) muscles and forearm grip muscles a good amount.
Similar to hammer curls, by changing the angles of your hands, you focus slightly more on the brachialis and brachioradialis muscles with neutral-grip pull-ups.
Additionally, this grip modification makes the pull-ups focus slightly more on your arm muscles.
4. Zottman curls
In some of the previous hammer curl alternatives, you could consider using different equipment options. That being said to do Zottman curls you need one or two dumbbells.
Once you have these, take the following steps to do a Zottman curl:
- Stand up straight with a dumbbell in each hand. Point your hand palms forward for now.
- Slowly fold your arms at the elbows as far as you can. Keep your upper arms and the rest of your body in the same position throughout the exercise.
- Take a break at the top of the movement and rotate your hands 180 degrees inward so that your hand palms face forward.
- Lower the dumbbells until your arms are stretched in a controlled motion.
- Rotate your hands back to be able to do the next repetition.
You can describe Zottman curls as a combination of the upward movement of a regular bicep curl and the downward movement of a reverse curl.
This makes the Zottman curl more of an all-around hammer curl alternative that gives a lot of bicep and forearm muscles a nice amount of attention.
5. Preacher curls
Besides a pair of dumbbells or other resistance, you will need a slanted surface to be able to do preacher curls.
The most popular option in the gym is a specific preacher curl bench. That being said, you could also use an incline weight bench to do this hammer curl alternative.
Take the following steps to do a preacher bicep curl with the specific bench:
- Choose a form of resistance that aligns best with your training goals and preferences. This walkthrough will describe the steps with dumbbells.
- Sit behind the preacher bench and put your upper arms on the slanted surface. Point your lower arms up and your hand palms backward.
- Lower the dumbbells until your arms are slightly less than stretched in a controlled motion. Keep your upper arms and body still throughout the movement.
- Slowly raise the dumbbells again until your lower arms are pointing up.
One of the main reasons to do bicep curls on a preacher bench is that it makes it harder to move the weights with your upper arms and the rest of your body.
In turn, this could lead to more focus on the muscles you work with the exercise and more muscle gain.
To work the same muscles as hammer curls, you can also do preacher curls with a neutral grip. This makes the movement a more isolated alternative to regular hammer curls.
6. Regular bicep curls
Regular standing bicep curls are the most standard option when it comes to bicep dumbbell exercises. Take the following steps to do this exercise:
- Stand up straight with a dumbbell in each hand. Point your hand palms forward.
- Raise the dumbbells as far as comfortable in a controlled motion. Keep your upper arms and the rest of your body in more or less the same position throughout the movement.
- Slowly lower the dumbbells back into starting position.
The different muscle engagement of hammer curls can be useful for certain people and training goals.
That being said, the regular bicep curls could still be a better alternative for people who want to focus more on the two muscle heads of the biceps brachii.
These are the parts of your arms that most people know as the biceps.
7. Wide-grip barbell curls
As the name implies, a barbell or straight bar will be useful to really “get” this next hammer curl alternative. At the same time, you could also use other equipment if needed due to reasons like strength capacities.
Take the following steps to do a wide-grip barbell bicep curl:
- Stand up straight with a barbell in your hands. You want to hold the barbell slightly wider than shoulder-width apart and your hand palms pointing forward. Let your arms hang down for now.
- Fold your arms at the elbows as far as you comfortably can in a controlled motion. Keep your upper arms and the rest of your body in the same position throughout the movement.
- Slowly lower the barbell back into starting position.
Wide-grip barbell curls are more of a hammer curl alternative to work different areas of your arms.
By keeping your hands more outward in the upward movement, you target the short head of the brachii bicep muscle, the inner of the two brachii muscle heads, more compared to regular bicep curls.
You can recreate this same angle with dumbbells and resistance bands. However, using a barbell makes it easier to really feel the differences between positions.