8 Great Hammer Curl Alternative Exercises for Biceps & Forearms (2023)

Hammer Curls Alternatives – Introduction

8 Best Hammer Curl Alternative Exercises to Build Your Biceps

The biceps are arguably the most well-known muscle in the human body.

Even non-exercisers can identify their biceps and, when asked, will do a pretty good impression of a bodybuilder and flex them.

As such, almost everyone who works out has at least a passing interest in the size and strength of their biceps.

They may do a biceps-specific workout a couple of times a week or finish their full-body training sessions with a few sets of biceps curls.

And when it comes to biceps training, there are a lot of exercises to choose from.

One of the most popular biceps exercises is the dumbbell hammer curl.

However, as effective as hammer curls are, if you do them too often, they may start to lose their potency.

Plus, doing the same exercise over and over can soon lead to boredom.

The good news is that there are several movements that are just as effective as hammer curls.

So, whether you’re fed up with dumbbell hammer curls or just looking for a change, here are the eight best hammer curl alternatives for bigger biceps and more muscular forearms.

Table of Contents

  • Best Alternative Exercises for Hammer Curls – Introduction
  • What muscles do hammer curls work?
    • Biceps brachii
    • Forearms
  • The Best Hammer Curl Alternative Exercise List
  • Alternatives to Hammer Curls Exercise Descriptions
    • Kettlebell hammer curls
    • Preacher hammer curls
    • Hammer concentration curls
    • Cable hammer curls
    • Barbell reverse curls
    • Zottman curls
    • Isometric towel hammer curls
    • Neutral-grip pull-ups
  • 8 Great Hammer Curl Alternatives – Closing thoughts

What Muscles Do Hammer Curls Work

Before learning the most useful alternative hammer curl exercises, let’s see what muscles they work.

After all, to be considered a good alternate movement, your substitute exercise should target the same muscles.


Biceps brachii

The biceps brachii, commonly known as the “biceps”, are a group of two-headed muscles located on the front of your upper arms.

These muscles are responsible for the flexion of your elbow joint and supination of the forearm.

As you can see in the image below, your biceps is composed of two heads: a long head and a short head.

Each head originates from different points around the shoulder blade.

Both heads merge together near their insertion point at the radius bone in your forearm.

Biceps brachii – short head and long head muscles

8 Great Hammer Curl Alternative Exercises for Biceps & Forearms (1)


As well as being a great biceps builder, the hammer curl also works your forearms, especially the brachialis and brachioradialis muscles.

Brachialis and Brachioradialis muscles of your forearm

8 Great Hammer Curl Alternative Exercises for Biceps & Forearms (2)

The Best Hammer Curl Alternative Exercise List

  1. Kettlebell hammer curls
  2. Preacher hammer curls
  3. Hammer concentration curls
  4. Cable hammer curls
  5. Barbell reverse curls
  6. Zottman curls
  7. Isometric towel hammer curls
  8. Neutral-grip pull-ups

Alternatives to Hammer Curl Exercise Descriptions

Dumbbell hammer curls are so-called because, when you do them, the arm action replicates driving in a nail with a hammer.

However, as effective as hammer curls are, there is more than one way to develop the biceps and forearm muscles.

Here are eight of the best dumbbell hammer curl alternatives!

#1. Kettlebell hammer curl

While most exercisers are familiar with kettlebell swings, cleans, and overhead presses, most are less accustomed to kettlebell hammer curls.

That’s a shame because this unique exercise will not only increase biceps and forearm strength but will also enhance wrist stability and grip strength.


How to do it:

  1. Hold a kettlebell in two hands (as in the video below) or one hand, arm by your side, and palm facing inward.
  2. Stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart.
  3. Bend your knees slightly for balance, pull your shoulders down and back, and brace your core.
  4. Without turning your wrist, bend your elbow and curl the weight forward and up to around shoulder height.
  5. Note how the difficulty increases as the weight gets further away from your body.
  6. Lower the kettlebell back down to your side and repeat.
  7. Do the same number of reps on the opposite side.
  8. You can also do this exercise with two kettlebells, curling them both up together or using an alternating action as preferred.

Hit biceps & forearms with Kettlebell Hammer Curls – Buff Body

#2. Preacher hammer curl

Preacher hammer curls hit the same muscles as regular hammer curls.

However, because your upper arm is fixed in place, it’s a stricter movement that doesn’t allow any cheating.

This is a good option if you find it hard to keep your upper body still during normal hammer curls.

How to do it:

  1. Sit on the preacher curl bench and place your upper arm on the angled surface.
  2. Hold a dumbbell in your hand and extend your elbow so your arm is straight and your thumb points up toward the ceiling.
  3. Use your non-working arm to hold your upper body stationary.
  4. Bend your elbow and curl the dumbbell up until your forearm is vertical.
  5. Lower the weight and repeat.
  6. Swap arms and do the same number of reps on the opposite side.

Dumbbell Preacher Hammer Curl – Generation Iron & Fitness

#3. Hammer concentration curls

No preacher bench?

No problem!

You can isolate your biceps and eliminate cheating with hammer concentration curls.

While this exercise is typically done with an underhand or supinated grip, they work very well with a neutral or hammer grip.

How to do it:

  1. Sit on an exercise bench with your feet about shoulder-width apart.
  2. Holding a dumbbell in one hand, lean forward and place your upper arm against your inner thigh.
  3. Place your other hand on your knee for support.
  4. Keeping your wrist neutral, bend your arm and curl the weight up to your shoulder.
  5. Think about leading with your thumb, and do not rotate your dumbbell.
  6. Extend your arm and repeat.
  7. Swap sides and do the same number of reps on the opposite side.

Concentration Hammer Curl – Joshua David Taubes

#4. Cable hammer curl

Cable hammer curls have a significant advantage over the dumbbell versions.

With this exercise, your muscles are kept under near-constant tension, so it should provide a more effective and time-efficient arm workout.

As an added advantage, cable hammer curls are perfect for muscle-building drop sets.

(Video) 3 Hammer Curl Variations That Will Blow Up Your Arms 💪

How to do it:

  1. Attach a rope handle to a low pulley machine.
  2. Grip the handle with your thumbs pressed up against the end stoppers.
  3. Stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent.
  4. Brace your core and pull your shoulders down and back.
  5. Bend your elbows and curl your hands up to about shoulder height.
  6. Extend your arms and repeat.
  7. Keep your upper arms close to your sides to maximize biceps engagement.

Cable Rope Hammer Curl – Phil Heath, Six-Time Mr. Olympia 2011-2016

#5. Barbell reverse curl

While barbell reverse curls look and feel a little different from hammer curls, they work all of the same muscles.

You can use a thick bar or clip-on fat grips to make this exercise even more challenging.

How to do it:

  1. Hold your barbell with an overhand, thumbless grip.
  2. Stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart, shoulders down and back, and abs braced.
  3. Starting with your arms straight, bend your elbows and curl the bar up to around shoulder height.
  4. Do not use your legs or back to help you raise the weight.
  5. Lean against a wall if you have difficulty keeping your upper body stationary.
  6. Extend your arms, lower the weight, and repeat.

Fat Bar Reverse Curl – Testosterone Nation

#6. Zottman curls

Zottman curls are an old-school bodybuilding exercise that combines regular dumbbell curls with hammer curls and reverse curls.

This hybrid exercise works your biceps and forearms like no other.

Zottman curls do require some additional coordination and practice, but your perseverance will be rewarded!

How to do it:

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, and knees slightly bent for balance.
  2. Hold a dumbbell in each hand by your sides, palms facing your legs.
  3. Keeping your upper arms close to your sides, bend your elbows and curl the weights up to your shoulders.
  4. Simultaneously rotate your wrists so that your palms are turned upward.
  5. Curl the weights all the way up to your shoulders.
  6. Then, without lowering the weights, turn your forearms, so your palms are facing downward.
  7. Extend your arms and lower the weights down to the starting position.
  8. As the dumbbells near your legs rotate the weights, so your palms face inward – a neutral grip.
  9. Continue for the prescribed number of repetitions.

Zottman Curl – Men’s Health

#7. Isometric towel hammer curls

Isometric exercises involve generating muscle tension but without actually moving.

Instead, you contract your muscles against an immovable object.

This type of training is ideal for home exercisers, as you don’t need any special equipment to do it.

So, no cable machine, barbell, or dumbbells?

No problem!

(Video) The Best Science-Based DUMBBELL Biceps Exercises For Size And Shape

All you need is a towel.

How to do it:

  1. Roll up a towel and then stand or kneel on top of the middle of the towel.
  2. Grip the ends so that your thumbs are closest to the ends and your elbows are bent to around 90 degrees.
  3. Gripping the towel tightly, contract your biceps, and try to bend your arms against the unyielding towel.
  4. Tense your arms as hard as possible.
  5. Maintain this contraction for 6-10 seconds (strength) or 20-45 seconds (hypertrophy).
  6. Take care not to hold your breath, as doing so could increase your blood pressure or make you feel dizzy.
  7. Relax and rest for a minute or so and then repeat for 2-3 more sets.

Towel Isometric Hammer Curl –John Papp

#8. Neutral grip pull-ups

While this exercise looks nothing like hammer curls, it actually works your biceps and forearms in much the same way.

However, instead of curling a bar up to your shoulders, you’ll be curling your shoulders up to a bar.

In addition to being a great biceps and forearm exercise, neutral grip pull-ups are a very effective back builder.

How to do it:

  1. Hang from a neutral (parallel) grip pull-up bar so your arms are straight and your feet are off the floor.
  2. Brace your core and pull your shoulders down and back.
  3. Without swinging or kicking, bend your arms and pull your chest up toward the bar.
  4. Lower yourself back down under control and repeat.
  5. Make this exercise easier by using a resistance band for assistance or wearing a weighted vest to make it more challenging.

How To Neutral Grip Pull-Up – Matt Shadeed

Best Hammer Curl Alternative Exercises – Wrapping Up

Imagine eating the same meal every day.

Even if it starts out as one of your favorites, you’ll soon get bored of eating the same food every day.

Something similar happens when you do the same exercises over and over.

Even previously productive exercises will lose some of their benefits, and your progress will grind to a halt.

So, while hammer curls ARE a great biceps and forearm builder, they’ll lose their potency if you do them too often.

Use these eight hammer curl variations and alternatives to avoid training plateaus and make sure your workouts are never boring.

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