Want to build bigger arms? You’re not alone. A well-developed pair of biceps and forearms can mean big things for your appearance and your confidence. But the traditional dumbbell and barbell curls can only do so much.
When it’s time for a change of pace, try the cable hammer curl. Not only does this exercise add to an awesome bicep and forearm workout, but it also helps to increase balance in your arms. In this article, I’m going to show you how to master the cable hammer curl so that you can get the most out of this exercise for incredible arm gains.
You’ll learn about which muscles are activated during a cable hammer curl, as well as some tips on form and variations. And by incorporating this exercise into your regular routine, you’ll be on your way to achieving those elusive bicep-bulging gains.
What Is the Cable Hammer Curl (Rope Hammer Curl)?
If you’re looking for a great way to build your biceps and forearms, the cable hammer curl (or rope hammer curl) is an excellent choice. This exercise involves using a rope handle attached to a weight stack, which allows for continuous tension throughout the entire range of motion, helping you maximize your reps. This exercise primarily targets the long head of the bicep, and unlike regular bicep curls, it also engages the forearm muscles.
To perform a cable hammer curl correctly, you need to keep your upper arms stationary and elbows close to the body throughout each rep. As you move through each repetition, keep your palms facing up and away from your body. Focus on squeezing with your biceps at the top of each rep to really get those arm muscles pumping.
This exercise can be done using both arms at once or alternating arms one at a time – whichever works best for you. Both options can help you build those guns in no time!
Why the Cable Hammer Curl Is Great for Arm Gains
If you want to achieve incredible arm gains, the cable hammer curl should be at the top of your list. It’s an effective isolation exercise that targets multiple muscle groups in the arm—particularly the biceps and forearms—helping you to build strength and size in the muscles worked.
This is due to its easy-to-control range of motion, which allows you to use heavier weights than other moves like a regular curl or even a dumbbell hammer curl. Plus, it also boasts less stress on your joints than those too, so you can use higher reps with minimal joint strain.
Moreover, in comparison to other cable exercises like tricep pulldowns and lat pulls, the cable hammer curl has more flexibility for working out different areas. Try experimenting with close-grip, wide-grip and neutral grips for a variety of intensities.
How to Do a Cable Hammer Curl Properly
Now let’s talk about the most important part—doing a cable hammer curl properly. If you choose this exercise for your arm gains, here are some tips to remember:
Keep Elbows Stationary
The first tip to remember when it comes to doing the cable hammer curl is to keep your elbows stationary and close to your side. You don’t want your upper arm moving away from the body as you do the exercise.
Keep Upper Arms Stationary
Your upper arms should also remain stationary throughout the entire cable hammer curl. Focus instead on tucking in your elbows and keeping them close to your sides as you drive up with the weights in full control. The only movement should be coming from your forearms.
Drive Forearms Upward
Finally, drive your forearms up with control, letting gravity bring it back down slowly once you reach the top of the movement. This is essential so that you get a good squeeze on those biceps and pull each one up separately when doing hammer curls on both arms at the same time.
Here’s a quick demonstration video:
Cable Hammer Curl Variations
There are several variations of the cable hammer curl that you can incorporate into your workout routine to target different aspects of your biceps and forearms. Here are a few cable hammer curl variations:
Single-arm cable hammer curl
This variation is performed one arm at a time, allowing you to focus on each arm individually and potentially address muscle imbalances. Attach a single handle to the low pulley, stand facing the cable machine, and perform the hammer curl with one arm while maintaining proper form.
Cross-body cable hammer curl
This variation targets the brachioradialis muscle more intensely by curling the weight diagonally across your body. Attach a single handle to the low pulley, stand sideways to the cable machine, and curl the weight diagonally across your chest, keeping your elbow stationary.
Seated cable hammer curl
Performing the cable hammer curl while seated can help to stabilize your upper body and minimize momentum, leading to greater muscle activation. Sit on a bench facing the cable machine with your feet flat on the floor, and attach a rope or single handles to the low pulley. Perform the hammer curl with both arms or one arm at a time.
Wide-Grip Hammer Curl
A wide-grip version of the regular hammer curl done with a rope or cable attachment will focus on working the long head—the outer bicep muscle. While maintaining a neutral grip, stand perpendicular to the cable with an overhand grip, slightly wider than shoulder width apart. Curl your arms while remaining in neutral positioning before slowly returning your arms to the starting position.
Cable hammer curl with a V-bar attachment
Another option is to use a V-bar attachment, which can provide a comfortable grip and a slightly different angle for the curl. Attach the V-bar to the low pulley, stand facing the cable machine, and perform the hammer curl, grasping the V-bar handles with a neutral grip.
Experimenting with these cable hammer curl variations can help to keep your workouts fresh and challenging while targeting different muscles within your biceps and forearms. Always maintain proper form and technique throughout each exercise to maximize effectiveness and minimize the risk of injury.
Cable Hammer Curls VS Dumbbells
For the best bicep gains, you should use both cable hammer curls and regular dumbbell curls in your arm workouts. Here’s why:
Cable Curls Provide Constant Tension
Unlike regular dumbbells, cables provide constant tension throughout the entire range of motion. This means that your muscles are always being worked, even during the top and bottom of the rep. This leads to an improved muscle pump and stronger contraction.
Dumbbells Are Most Difficult at 90-Degree Flexion
Dumbbells are most difficult at 90-degree flexion, which is when your elbows are bent to a right angle with your upper arms and forearms forming a “V” shape. This means that you can lift heavier weights as you move through this range of motion, but also increases risk of injury due to form breakdown or improper lifting technique.
Cable Curls Elicit a More Powerful Muscle Pump
Cable hammer curls elicit a more powerful muscle pump than dumbbells because they force your muscles to work harder through the entire range of motion. Plus since cable curls provide constant tension with every rep, you can build up more metabolic fatigue in less time than with dumbbell curls—so you get better pump faster!
What Exercises Can Be Used to Supplement the Cable Hammer Curl?
The cable hammer curl is great for building big biceps and forearms, but what other exercises can you do to supplement it? Here are a few that are good for an overall arm-building routine.
The barbell curl is often seen as the foundation of any arm-building routine. It’s great for targeting your biceps and helping you develop overall arm strength. You can use a straight barbell or an EZ curl barbell – whichever you find more comfortable. Just make sure to keep your elbows close to your body and squeeze your biceps at the peak of the movement.
If you want to really isolate your biceps, the preacher curl is a great choice. This exercise helps to improve muscle balance between both sides of the arms and works both lower and upper arm muscles simultaneously. When doing this exercise, make sure that you keep your elbows tucked in while slowly curling the weight up towards your shoulder.
The concentration curl is great for really dialing in on one specific muscle group—your biceps! It helps build peak contractions at the top of each rep, builds strength and size, emphasizes different angles of motion depending on where you place your hand on the handle, and helps unlock areas of growth that regular curls may miss. Try starting out with lighter weights until you get used to the movement before going heavier.
Tips and Tricks to Get the Most Out of Your Cable Hammer Curls
The cable hammer curl is an excellent way to add mass and definition to your biceps and forearms. Here are a few quick tips and tricks for getting the most out of your cable hammer curl:
Keep your elbows in and stationary.
The secret to getting the most out of this exercise is keeping your elbows in a fixed position. If you let them swing, you won’t be able to experience the full range of motion—not to mention, it’s not great for proper form.
Remember to keep the upper arms stationary.
Your arm movement should only come from the elbow joint—the upper arms should remain fixed while you lift.
Use a neutral grip with palms facing each other.
Grab the rope or handle with both hands and make sure that your palms are facing each other—this will help you maintain proper form and execute the movement correctly.
Single Arm Cable Hammer Curls
The single arm cable hammer curl is an exercise that targets the biceps and forearms, making it a great addition to your arm workout routine. The added cable resistance allows you to really get those muscles working, converting into greater strength and growth over time.
To perform the cable hammer curl, stand with your feet hip-width apart, facing the cable machine with the rope handle in one hand. Keep your upper arm at your side, with just a slight bend in your elbow and lock out your shoulder. Then without bending too far forward or back, curl the rope up toward your chest, before slowly lowering it back into the starting position.
Make sure you grip the rope handle off-center to emphasize the biceps rather than forearms during each repetition. If you are new to this exercise, start with a lighter weight and focus on form until you build up strength and confidence. With practice and progressive overload, you’ll soon be way ahead of everyone else in terms of arm gains!
Cable Hammer Curls Alternatives
If cable hammer curls don’t fit your workout routine or you simply want to get creative with those arm gains, there are a few alternatives you may want to consider.
A Zottman Curl is a unique variation of the traditional dumbbell curl that targets both the biceps and the forearm muscles. It combines a regular dumbbell curl with a forearm pronation movement at the top, followed by a reverse curl descent.
Here’s how to perform a Zottman Curl
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and hold a pair of dumbbells at your sides with your palms facing forward.
- Curl the dumbbells up towards your shoulders in a regular bicep curl motion, keeping your elbows close to your body.
- At the top of the movement, rotate your wrists to face your palms downward (pronate your forearms).
- Slowly lower the dumbbells back down to your sides in a reverse curl motion while maintaining the pronated grip.
- At the bottom of the movement, rotate your wrists back to the starting position with your palms facing forward.
- Repeat for the desired number of reps and sets.
Here’s a quick demonstration video from “Buff Dudes”:
Zottman Curl VS Cable Hammer Curl
The Zottman Curl differs from the Cable Hammer Curl in several ways:
- Equipment: Zottman Curls use dumbbells, while Cable Hammer Curls use a cable machine with a rope or single-handle attachment.
- Muscles targeted: Both exercises target the biceps and brachioradialis (forearm) muscles, but Zottman Curls place more emphasis on the forearm muscles due to the combined supinated and pronated grip during the curl.
- Grip: Cable Hammer Curls use a neutral grip (palms facing each other) throughout the entire movement, while Zottman Curls involve a grip rotation from a supinated grip (palms facing upward) during the ascent to a pronated grip (palms facing downward) during the descent.
Both exercises are effective for developing the biceps and forearm muscles, but the Zottman Curl provides a more pronounced focus on the forearm muscles due to the grip rotation. Including both exercises in your workout routine can help you target different aspects of your arm muscles, leading to well-rounded development.
Pinwheel Curls (aka Cross Body Hammer Curls)
Pinwheel Curls, also known as Cross-Body Hammer Curls, are a bicep curl variation that targets the biceps and brachioradialis (forearm) muscles. The exercise is performed using dumbbells and involves curling the weight across the body in a hammer grip position.
Here’s how to perform Pinwheel Curls
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and hold a pair of dumbbells at your sides with a neutral grip (palms facing each other).
- Curl one dumbbell up towards your opposite shoulder, keeping your elbow close to your body and maintaining the neutral grip throughout the movement.
- Slowly lower the dumbbell back down to the starting position.
- Repeat the movement with the other arm, alternating between arms for the desired number of reps and sets.
Here’s a demonstration video from John Meadows. He’s not alternating like I suggest, but you get the idea:
Pinwheel Curls VS Cable Hammer Curls
Pinwheel Curls differ from Cable Hammer Curls in a few ways:
- Equipment: Pinwheel Curls use dumbbells, while Cable Hammer Curls use a cable machine with a rope or single-handle attachment.
- Movement: Pinwheel Curls involve curling the weight across the body towards the opposite shoulder, while Cable Hammer Curls are performed with both arms curling the weight simultaneously in a standard hammer curl motion.
- Stabilization: Pinwheel Curls require more stabilization from the core muscles due to the cross-body movement, while Cable Hammer Curls offer constant tension on the muscles throughout the exercise due to the nature of cable resistance.
Both exercises effectively target the biceps and brachioradialis muscles, but the cross-body movement of the Pinwheel Curl may provide slightly more activation of the brachioradialis. Including both exercises in your workout routine can help you target different aspects of your arm muscles and promote well-rounded development.
There are also incline dumbbell curls, dumbbell reverse curls, and dumbbell hammer preacher curls that will help keep things interesting for those big arm gains. All these variations help build muscles by stressing different parts of them in different ways, giving you a stronger foundation from which to work from!
For even more alternatives and more information about hammer curls, check out the Ultimate Guide to Hammer Curls
The cable hammer curl is an incredibly effective exercise for building big biceps and forearms. It’s also a great way to build strength and stability in your upper arms. To get the best results, be sure to use perfect form, work your way up to heavier weights, and be sure to give your muscles plenty of rest between sets. With consistency and dedication, you can master the cable hammer curl and start seeing incredible gains. And don’t forget to enjoy the process – because once you start feeling the burn, you’ll know you’re achieving the results you want.
Thanks for reading! Time to go Pump Some Iron!