The cable hammer curl is a variation of the hammer curl exercise, that is utilized to build the anterior muscles of the arm. It’s very similar to the biceps curl with the only difference being the neutral (hammer) hand position. However, the big advantage of using cables is that they keep constant tension on the muscles at all angles and throughout the entire range of motion.
Hammer curls are typically included with biceps training, however, there are a few different ways to incorporate this non-negotiable exercise in your workouts. And we’ll definitely cover that aspect after we go over the more important ones first.
Here’s a guide to the cable hammer curl…
In This Exercise:
- Target Muscle Group: Brachioradialis, Brachialis
- Type: Hypertrophy
- Mechanics: Isolation
- Equipment: Cable machine
- Difficulty: Beginner
Here are the target muscles in this exercise.
The brachioradialis is a forearm muscle located on the thumb and knuckle side that also crosses the elbow joint. It’s primarily an elbow flexor regardless of forearm position (pronation, supination, or neutral). It also stabilizes the forearm during elbow flexion and facilitates the opposite action of whatever the position of the forearm (e.g. supinates the forearms when the forearm is pronated and vice versa).
The brachialis is the other target muscle group when performing hammer curls. It’s located deep to the biceps on the outer portion of the upper arm and is a pure elbow flexor.
The biceps is a two-headed muscle located between the forearm and shoulder, although the long (outer head) crosses the shoulder joint. Its primary function is forearm supination and it also flexes the elbow but to a lesser degree.
How To Do The Cable Hammer Curl
The cable hammer curl is a very simple exercise. However, many exercisers do not maximize its effectiveness due to poor form and using too much weight, which can also be said for any curl variation.
Here are step-by-step instructions for executing this exercise properly.
- Attach a double or single rope handle to a low point on the cable machine.
- Stand with feet about hip-width apart and grip the ends of the rope using a neutral/hammer grip (hands should be neutral by default).
- Stand up straight and make sure there’s resistance so that the portion of the weight stack that you selected is not touching the rest of the weight stack.
- Keep your shoulders neutral, elbows close to your sides, then curl the weight up to the top and squeeze. The elbows may move an inch or two forward but no more.
- Slowly lower the weight back down just before your elbows are fully extended and repeat.
Cable Hammer Curl Tips
- Choose a weight that’ll allow you to perform the exercise using a full range of motion.
- The upper arms should be tucked to your sides.
- You can use a thumbless grip as shown in the above video to better emphasize the forearm muscles.
- The elbows can move slightly forward but avoid moving them too far forward as this will allow the front delt to start taking over.
- You can do this exercise using a single rope attachment that allows you to train each arm separately.
- If you feel pain, stop immediately.
3 Hammer Curl Variations
While the cable hammer curl is an excellent variation that is as good as any other, variety never hurts. Here are a few variations that you can do.
Dumbbell hammer curl
The dumbbell hammer curl is undoubtedly the most popular variation of this exercise. There doesn’t seem to be much advantage over the cable variation. However, dumbbells may allow for slightly freer range of movement, and they’re no doubt a more convenient training tool that does not require any setup.
Cross-body hammer curl
The cross-body hammer curl can be done using cables or dumbbells. The advantage of this variation may be that it allows for more weight to be used. This can be a very effective training method for really overloading the target muscles and squeezing out as many reps as possible.
Preacher or incline hammer curl
Either of these exercises make for great hammer curl variations and they sort of contrast each other.
The dumbbell hammer preacher emphasizes the lower biceps, while the incline dumbbell hammer curl (seated against a high inclined bench so that the arms are positioned behind your body) emphasizes the biceps near the shoulder. Both are very popular exercises that many swear by and so you will likely get the benefits of both by including them in your training.
How To Incorporate The Cable Hammer Curl Into Your Training Routine
There are a few ways to do this, and the beauty of the hammer curl is that it’s also very versatile.
The hammer curl is typically trained with the biceps and this is one effective way to do it. You can do hammer curls before your biceps curls without having to worry about really tiring out the biceps before you get to them. During hammer curls, the brachioradialis and brachialis take the brunt of the work.
This could even be useful as a pre-exhaust method which would force the biceps to work harder during standard curls because the forearms have been exhausted beforehand.
You could also use hammer curls as a pre-exhaust method since the brachioradialis, brachialis, and biceps are heavily involved during back training/pulling exercises. Not to mention, hammer curls are also a great exercise to finish out a day of heavy pulling. And training them directly will have carryover to heavy pulls, therefore, improving your performance overall.
The cable hammer curl is one of the best exercises that you can do to build your arm muscles. While it’s not a must, we really like it because it offers the constant tension on the muscles regardless of the angle and range of motion. Therefore, it seems to have advantages that make it worth including in your training regime.