Skip to Content

Are Hammer Curls A Compound Exercise? (Or Isolation?)

Hammer curls are a popular bicep exercise that feature in many workouts in gyms all around the world.

As effective as hammer curls are at building muscular arms, most people would agree that compound exercises are some of the best you can do for all-round strength and muscle building.

That’s why using compound exercises in your workouts is a good idea if you want to make some serious gains.

In this article, we dive deep into the world of compound exercises, hammer curls, and other bicep exercises, to find out whether hammer curls are considered a compound exercise, or if there are other movements that are a better match for this category.

What is a compound exercise?

A compound exercise is an exercise that requires multiple joints and multiple muscle groups to work simultaneously.

An example of a compound exercise is the humble deadlift.

During deadlifts, muscles in your back, legs, core, and upper body all have to engage.

Deadlifts work multiple joints too.

For example, your hips and knees have to put in lots of work to perform the movement successfully.

Are hammer curls a compound exercise?

Thinking that hammer curls are a compound exercise could be an easy mistake to make.

Technically, you could argue that hammer curls are, in fact, a compound exercise as they require several muscles to engage to perform the movement.

But, the main reason why hammer curls aren’t considered a compound exercise is that they recruit different parts of the same muscles in your arms.

(Rather than lots of different muscle groups.)

While hammer curls do work your forearms and biceps, the forearm muscles aren’t needed to a huge extent. So, hammer curls are much more of an isolation exercise than a compound exercise.

Predominantly, only your elbow joint is used during hammer curls too, making them even less of a compound exercise.

Although your wrists and shoulders have a role to play during hammer curls, they act more as stabilizing joints than working joints.

Which muscles do hammer curls activate?

Hammer curls are a beneficial arm exercise that helps build your biceps and forearms. 

They also help increase your grip strength, which can be useful for the large compound exercises such as deadlifts and bench press.

As long as your technique is good, the weight you’re lifting is suitable, and the level of training you’re doing matches your current fitness levels, hammer curls can give you lots of development in your overall arm size and strength.

The muscles worked during hammer curls are:

  • Brachioradialis
  • Bicep Brachii
  • Supinator
  • Radials
  • Brachialis

Each one is worked to varying degrees during hammer curls, but these are from the same muscle group since they’re upper and lower arm muscles.

Are there any compound biceps exercises?

There are a number of compound exercises that can help build your biceps.

Now, as compound exercises, multiple muscle groups and joints are being activated, but most of the effort is placed on the biceps.

One compound exercise that works your biceps is close-grip pull-ups. 

During close-grip pull-ups, your biceps have to work hard to grip bar, placing them under a great deal of stress.

They also have to pull your elbow into flexion. 

This means that your biceps will get a great pump during the movement, despite pull-ups being predominantly a back exercise.

Another compound exercise that’s great for building your biceps is the single-arm hammer row.

This is similar to single-arm rows, which are common in back workouts. 

The difference is that instead of the standard row movement, the upward phase of the exercise involves performing a hammer curl-like motion.

This not only works your back muscles, as the single-arm row would, but also puts a lot of work on your biceps during the top part of the movement.

Most compound exercises are beneficial for other exercises too, so they’re great additions to any training program.

Many compound exercises activate your biceps. So while hammer curls may not be one, there are plenty of others that can help you get those muscular arms you’re looking for.

That’s all for this article, but do hammer curls make biceps wider? Or perhaps you’re interested in concentration curls vs hammer curls?

Hope this helped!


Compound Exercises

Hammer Curls Muscles Worked