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Do Hammer Curls Work Shoulders? (Shoulder Pain Causes)

Hammer curls are an awesome exercise for building those sought-after bulging biceps.

They do a great job of working your biceps and forearms as well as helping to improve your grip strength. 

But are hammer curls a good exercise to work your shoulders?

That’s a good question when you consider how good hammer curls are for working your arms.

With that in mind, it makes sense that hammer curls could work your shoulders too.

In this article, we look at whether hammer curls work your shoulders, as well as looking at other reasons why they might cause pain or discomfort in the non-working muscles.

Do Hammer Curls Work Shoulders?

The main focus of hammer curls is your biceps (biceps brachii).

That’s not the only muscle being worked though. Your forearm muscles (brachialis and brachioradialis) come into play, as do your triceps (just a little bit).

Hammer curls provide pretty much a full arm workout, so they’re a great exercise if your goal is to have strong, muscular arms.

If done correctly, hammer curls do not work your shoulders.

While your shoulders could be seen as part of your upper arm, the hammer curl movement comes from the flexion of the elbow.

Other muscles and joints (like the shoulders) should not be assisting in the exercise.

If other muscles assist in the movement, less focus is placed on your biceps.

The more muscles being used, the less effort each one needs to exert.

By making sure your technique is correct when performing hammer curls, your biceps and forearms should take pretty much all of the load without needing your shoulders to assist.

Man doing seated hammer curls in a gym

Why Some People Feel Shoulder Activation During Hammer Curls

There are some common reasons why some people feel shoulder activation during hammer curls. These include:

  • Incorrect technique
  • Trying to lift too much weight
  • Injury

Incorrect Technique

As with all exercises, you can end up working the wrong muscles if your technique is wrong during hammer curls.

Your shoulders shouldn’t be assisting in the movement during hammer curls. Instead, the biceps should flex your elbow to lift the weight.

If your technique is incorrect, it can be quite easy for your shoulders to start doing some of the work during hammer curls. You’ll feel your shoulders activate if this is the case.

If you feel your shoulders activate, it’s a good idea to stop and check your technique before continuing with hammer curls.

Trying To Lift Too Much Weight

Another common reason why you may feel your shoulders activate during hammer curls is if you’re lifting too much weight.

Lifting more than you’re able to can quickly result in poor technique, causing other muscle groups to get involved.

During hammer curls, if the weight being lifted is too heavy, your shoulders are the nearest muscle group that can assist in the movement.

If your shoulders are activating and your technique is good, reducing the weight can make a big difference.


If you have an arm injury (whether you realize it or not), this can cause your shoulders to activate to help protect the injured muscle.

For example, if you have an injury to your bicep, your shoulders may activate to take some of the efforts from your injured muscle.

Can Hammer Curls Hurt Your Shoulders?

If performed correctly, hammer curls should not hurt your shoulders.

However, if your technique slips, then your shoulders can be pulled forwards putting extra stress on your shoulders and your back muscles.

Hammer curls, as an exercise, shouldn’t hurt your shoulders, but if you perform them incorrectly, then you could face some shoulder issues.

Should You Do Hammer Curls If You Have Shoulder Pain?

A common cause of pain in your shoulders is an injury to your bicep.

As hammer curls predominantly work your biceps, any injury to the muscle could potentially be made worse by performing the exercise.

If you’re experiencing pain in your shoulders (or anywhere else on your body), it’s always a good idea to speak with a medical professional to rule out any injury before continuing with exercise.

That’s all for this article, but are hammer curls good for triceps? Or perhaps you’re interested in Zottman curls vs hammer curls?

Hope this helped!


Hammer Curls Muscles Worked