10 Hammer Curl Alternatives To Hammer Your Biceps (2023)


Hammer Curl Alternatives

Hammer Curls are easily one of the best exercises for hammering (see what I did there) your biceps and I don’t think very many people would even argue that.

But, sometimes you might an alternative to Hammer Curls.

Maybe you don’t have the proper equipment or maybe you just want to switch up your workout. Whatever the reason, if you need a DB Hammer Curl alternative, you’re in the right place.

In this guide, I’m going to go over my 10 best Hammer Curl alternatives and hopefully at least one of them will work for your particular situation.


Alternatives for Hammer Curls


All ten exercises listed here are broken up into four sections.

Don’t have dumbbells? These first four exercises may work as a good substitution if the reason you can’t do hammer curls is because of a lack of dumbbells.

The next three alternatives still use dumbbells but are different dumbbell curl variations. These can all work great if you’re getting bored with Hammer Curls and looking to change things up.

Finally, the last three exercises are a bit out of the box, but they’ll all still completely smoke your biceps.


Barbell Curl


If you don’t have dumbbells, don’t worry, Barbell Curls are a perfect (some would even say better) alternative to their dumbbell cousin.

Equipment Needed

  • Barbell

Step-by-Step Instructions

  • Stand tall, back straight, head up, feet shoulder-width apart.
  • Hold the barbell with both hands, palms up (supinated grip).
  • Start with the bar at arm’s length against the upper thighs.
  • Curl the bar up towards the shoulders until the forearms touch the biceps.
  • Keep upper elbows close to the side.
  • Lower the bar back to starting position using the same path.
  • Continue until all reps are completed.

Coaching Points

By far the most common mistake with any curl exercise, but perhaps even more so with barbell curls is swinging and rocking in an attempt to lift more weight. If you need to swing the bar, use momentum or generally contort your body to move the weight, it’s too heavy. Lower the weight and use proper form.

Don’t allow the wrists to bow back when holding and curling the bar. Keep the wrist neutral by keeping the forearms engaged. This will take pressure off the wrist that could otherwise lead to Barbell Curls being very uncomfortable on the wrists.


Band Curls


Band Curls not only work great if you don’t have dumbbells but also if Dumbbell Curls bother your wrist or elbow.

Equipment Needed

  • Resistance Band – Advanced athletes will generally use a Green Band. Beginner-level athletes might use a blue or even a red band.

Instructions

  • Grab a resistance band, place one foot ‘inside’ the band and stand on it.
  • Now, slide your hands ‘inside’ the band on the opposite end.
  • Grip the resistance band shoulder-width apart with your palms facing up (supinated).
  • Curl up by flexing the biceps, keeping the elbows tucked close to the sides.
  • Squeeze hard at the top of the rep and then slowly lower back to the starting position.
  • Once you start the set, try to maintain constant tension on the band. Don’t let the resistance band go slack at the bottom of the rep.

Coaching Points

There are two easy ways you can adjust the tension of the band to make the movement harder or easier.

First, stand on the band with two feet instead of one. The wider your stance, the more difficult the curls will be.

The other is to grip lower on the band. Instead of gripping all the way at the end of the band, choke up on the band similar to a baseball player choking up on a bat.


Cable Curls


Although it may seem odd that one would have access to a cable machine but not dumbbells, there is one situation in particular that I’ve been in this situation more than once – hotel gyms.

If you want to really mimic Hammer Curls, grab a rope attachment and use a neutral grip.

Cable Curls

Equipment Needed

  • Pulley Machine

Step-by-Step Instructions

  • Slide the pin to the bottom of the cable machine.
  • Hook your favorite curl attachment – the short straight bar and the rope are both great options.
  • Grab the attachment and stand about a half step away from the machine – just enough room where you won’t hit it as you curl.
  • Stand tall with good posture and a slight bend in the knee, feet shoulder-width apart.
  • Flex the biceps and curl the attachment up towards the shoulders, squeezing the biceps at the top of the movement.
  • Lower back to the starting position under control.
  • Continue until all reps are completed and then gently lower the attachment back down to the floor.

Coaching Points

Don’t just let the attachment go at the end of your set and allow the attachment to go flying and slam back into the machine. This will obviously tear the machine up. It astonishes me that people would disrespect equipment like that, but unfortunately, I see it happen all the time.

As for the actual technique of Cable Curls, the biggest mistake I see (as with almost all curls) is lifters using too much weight and then swinging and rocking the weight up. If you need to contort your upper body to curl the weight, it’s too heavy. Lower the weight and go back to using proper form.


EZ Bar Curls


I would imagine EZ Bar Curls are probably most lifters’ favorite bar to do curls with. Often times I would simply write ‘curls’ on athletes’ programs and it was always safe to assume that all 3 EZ Bars (also called cambered bars) would find their way off of their storage rack.

EZ Bar Curl

Equipment Needed

  • EZ Curl Bar

Step-by-Step Instructions

  • Stand tall*, back straight, head up, feet shoulder-width apart.
  • Hold the EZ Curl Bar with both hands, palms up (supinated grip).
  • Start with the bar at arm’s length against the upper thighs.
  • Curl the bar up towards the shoulders until the forearms touch the biceps.
  • Keep upper elbows close to the side.
  • Lower the bar back to starting position using the same path.
  • Continue until all reps are completed.

Coaching Points

*Instead of standing, using a Preacher Curl Rack is a very popular variation to use with an EZ Curl Bar. For more details, check out the variations listed below.

By far the most common mistake with any curl exercise, but perhaps even more so with EZ Bar Curls is swinging and rocking in an attempt to lift more weight. If you need to swing the bar, use momentum or generally contort your body to move the weight, it’s too heavy. Lower the weight and use proper form.

Don’t allow the wrists to bow back when holding and curling the bar. Keep the wrist neutral by keeping the forearms engaged. This will take pressure off the wrist that could otherwise lead to them being very uncomfortable on the wrists.


Concentration Curls


Concentration Curls are a biceps curl Hall-of-Famer. They are probably one of the most well-known and beloved exercises, right next to Bench Press.

DB Concentration Curls

Equipment Needed

  • Flat Bench (although almost any kind of chair or box that you can sit on will work)
  • Dumbbells

Instructions

  • Start in a seated position on the edge of a bench, knees bent with feet flat on the ground slightly wider than shoulder width.
  • Hold a dumbbell in the right hand, lean slightly forward and rest the right elbow on the inside of the right thigh.
  • Now, curl the dumbbell up to shoulder level by flexing the biceps. Palm should finish up, facing the shoulder.
  • Squeeze the biceps at the top of the rep and then lower back down to the starting position.
  • Repeat for the desired number of reps and then switch to the other side.

Coaching Points

The biggest mistake I see with Concentration Curls is bad technique stemming from trying to use too much weight. If you need to swing the dumbbells or contort and twist your body to curl the weight up – it’s too heavy. Lower the weight and use proper form.


Seated Alternating DB Curls


Seated Alternating Dumbbell Curls is a very close cousin to Dumbbell Hammer Curls. You know, the cousin that you see at every family get-together, not just every five years at a family reunion – that close.

Seated Dumbbell Curl
Turn a Hammer Curl into a Regular Curl by simply turning the palm up as you curl.

Equipment Needed

  • Dumbbells
  • Bench (a chair or sturdy box can also work)

Step-by-Step Instructions

  • Sit at the end of a bench with good posture, feet and knees close together in front of you.
  • Grab a dumbbell in each hand and start with them hanging straight down at your sides, palms facing you.
  • One at a time, flex the biceps and curl the dumbbell up toward the shoulder
  • As the dumbbell rises, rotate the arm so the palm is facing up at the top
  • Follow the same path to return the dumbbell to the starting position
  • Repeat on the opposite arm and alternate back and forth until all reps are complete.

Coaching Points

By far, the biggest mistake I see with Seated Dumbbell Curls is lifters swinging the weight up and down. Stay under control of the weight throughout the entire movement, both going up and coming down.

Staying under control doesn’t just apply to your arms either, keep your torso still as well. Do not rock back and forth in an effort to lift more weight.

Basically, if you have to cheat – rocking, swinging, using momentum – to curl the weight, it’s too heavy. Lower the weight and go back to using proper form.


4 x 4s


This is probably the least well-known of all the exercises on the list. But, I can almost guarantee you that once you try 4 x 4s, they’ll immediately become one of your favorite biceps exercises.

Grab a dumbbell for each hand (can be done standing or seated). Curl one dumbbell up (palm facing up) so that your elbow is at a 90-degree angle and the forearm is parallel to the ground. Hold it there.

Now perform 4 dumbbell curls with the opposite arm. After the fourth rep, bring that arm up to 90 degrees and freeze it there. Then release the first arm and perform 4 curls with that arm.

Finally, perform 4 more curls with both arms at the same time. If you have the proper amount of weight, 4 x 4s will absolutely toast those biceps.


21s


Perhaps best of all you can do 21s with any of the implements I’ve discussed so far – barbell, dumbbells, cable, etc.

21s Curls

Equipment Needed

  • Barbell (Curl Bar will also work great if you have one)

Step-by-Step Instructions

  • Grab a bar – either a barbell or a curl bar – with a supinated (palms up) grip.
  • Have a partner place their hand at the bottom of your sternum.
  • Now curl the bar up to your partner’s palm, lightly tapping it each rep. This should equate to about half a full rep.
  • Once you’ve completed seven reps, curl the bar all the way to the shoulders.
  • Your partner should now flip their hand over, palm facing up.
  • Now lower the bar down, lightly tap your partner’s palm again, and curl back up. This should equate to about half (the top half now) a full rep.
  • Once you’ve completed seven reps, have your partner remove their hand and lower the bar back to your thighs.
  • Finish the set of 21s with seven full reps – all the way up and down.

Coaching Points

First, a word of advice to the “partner”. Always have your palm facing the bar because if the lifter loses control of the rep and whacks the back of your hand it hurts. Trust me on that one.

If you don’t have a partner, use a mirror. If you don’t have a partner or a mirror, just make your best estimation of ‘halfway’. At the end of the day, you’re still going to be doing 21 reps. It’s going to burn.

This probably goes without saying, but you’re going to end up using considerably less weight than you would for a normal ‘set of 10’. Go light to start out and stay strict with your form.


Partner Curls


Partner Curls, or Buddy Curls, are one of my all-time favorites to quickly, and brutally, finish off the biceps at the end of a workout.

Grab a partner and a barbell. You won’t need very much weight at all. A 10-pound plate on each side is more than enough for most lifters.

Do one curl and hand the barbell over to your partner. They’ll do one curl and hand it back to you. Then you do two curls.

Continue handing the bar back and forth and increasing the reps each set by one. Once you both do a set of 8, start reducing the reps each set by one until you both finish with a set of one rep each.

The key to partner curls is not to sit the bar down the entire set.


Chin-ups


My final alternative for Dumbbell Hammer Curls isn’t even a curl exercise at all.

However, if the point of working out is to get strong and build mass then it would be a crime to not include Chin-ups. (Neutral Grip Pull-ups are a similar variation that is also a great substitute for Hammer Curls)

Equipment Needed

  • Pull Up Bar (Either as part of a rack or a wall-mounted bar)
  • Weight belt (For weighted variations)

Step-by-Step Instruction

  • Approach the pull-up bar and grab the bar with a supinated grip (palms facing toward you).
  • Use a bench to get to the bar if it is too high.
  • Squeeze the bar and engage the core muscles and do not cross your legs.
  • Engage the upper back and pull up until your chin is over the bar.
  • Pause for 1 second with your chin over the bar.
  • Slowly lower yourself back to the starting position.
  • Repeat until all reps are completed.

Coaching Points

Take your time and master the chin-up. The benefits of doing sound chin-ups will pay dividends for your shoulder health and the potential to maximize your upper body strength.

I would highly recommend this movement to any lifter or athlete. It provides all the benefits of an upper-body pulling movement with little to no risk.

Final Thoughts

Dumbbell Hammer Curls are one of the best biceps exercises that there is. However, there are situations where you either can’t do Hammer Curls or maybe just want to do something a little different.

Either way, hopefully, this list of Hammer Curl alternatives has given you at least one option that you can use to still get the biceps pump you’re looking for.

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Ryan Horton

Horton Barbell was created by Ryan Horton who has served as a Strength and Conditioning Coach and Sports Scientist for almost 20 years at schools like the University of Tennessee, Temple University and Georgia Tech. The mission of Horton Barbell is to create a training resource to help as many coaches and athletes as possible maximize their potential.

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