Muscles Targeted: The alternating hammer curl exercise, which is also referred to as neutral grip bicep curls or dumbbell curls with a neutral grip, is an integral gym technique which helps to build up the muscles of the arm. This exercise primarily focuses on the bicep muscle group (bicep brachii) which is located on the front part of the arm between the shoulder and the elbow. It also hits the forearm muscle group (brachioradialis) extremely well due to the wrist position with the hammer grip as you curl the weight up. This exercise employs the use of dumbbells which are held with each hand and then raised to shoulder level and returned down to waist level. The dumbbells are held like a hammer and the movement emulates that of hammering a nail, hence the name. This exercise is performed by alternating both arms for a full repetition.
Exercise Instructions: With a dumbbell in each hand, stand with your arms naturally hanging at your sides with your palms facing in toward your body. While keeping your palms facing inward, curl the weight in your right hand directly up toward your shoulder while keeping your wrist in a fixed position (do not supinate or turn your wrist as you curl up). Squeeze the biceps hard at the top for a one-count and then slowly return to the starting position. Repeat this movement with your other arm and keep alternating for several reps. Be sure to keep your wrists locked throughout the movement and facing in toward your body the entire time.
Why This Exercise is Important: The bicep is a very important muscle group in the human body, and as such should be trained effectively. They help with day-to-day activities such as lifting objects (groceries, kids) and other basic daily functions. This exercise is very important due to the fact that it targets and stimulates the biceps very well. For first time beginners, you are advised to use a light weight that you can manage to lift using strict form. There is no need to rush and complete the set quickly. You should then increase the weight of the dumbbells once your technique is spot-on. Remember that doing the exercise correctly is the most important factor for getting the results you want.
Things To Avoid: You should avoid using too much weight when doing this arm exercise. This can be done precariously by choosing dumbbells that are simply too heavy which will lead to “cheating” to get the weight up and not following proper technique. You are therefore advised to start off with less weight and increase with time as your muscle grows and gets stronger. You are also advised not to train your bicep muscle too often (only 1-2 times per week) so as to give it a proper rest period for it to recover.
Reps and Sets: With the alternating hammer curls, you should start off doing 10–15 repetitions per set with a rest period of 60-90 seconds which should be utilized to recover fully after each set. For beginners you should only do 2-3 sets for this exercise and as you can advance later to 3-4 sets and lower reps (8-10).
Other Exercises To Use: While working on your arms, the alternating hammer curls can be coupled with other exercises to complete your arm training at the gym. Since we are placing emphasis on the arms, it’s also important to target the triceps in your workout also since this area is actually the largest muscle group of the arms:
- Barbell Curls
- Preacher Curls
- One Arm Cable Curls
- Close-Grip Barbell Bench Press
- Dumbbell Triceps Extensions
- Triceps Pushdowns
Once again, please ensure to lift weights which are suitable to your fitness level to avoid overstraining your muscles or causing injury due to improper form and technique. Stick to a basic routine when you’re first starting out and then add more exercises and overall sets once you feel you have advanced to the next level. View our extensive database of exercise guides for a comprehensive list of exercises that target the biceps.