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1 Easy Tip For Wider Arms!

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Posted by Scott_Herman - March 24th, 2020
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Have you ever gone to the gym and seen one guy standing by the dumbbell rack doing hammer curls straight up and down, then the guy right next to him doing hammer curls across his body and wondered what the heck the difference is and does it even matter doing it to the front, or doing it across your body? Well, the answer is of course it matters! I’m going to explain to you right now as to which variation you should be doing, depending on what your overall goal is.



This topic actually came up because one of my buddies, Nick, is going to be competing soon and when we were training back this week, he told me he wanted to improve his biceps. Now granted, my buddy Nick is about 100 times bigger than me and he looks like Kratos! But believe it or not, his triceps pretty much dwarf his biceps, so one of the things he was doing was hammer curls to try to target his brachialis a bit more, which is the muscle that separates the biceps and triceps. We’ve talked about this many times but we haven’t specifically gone over the form techniques or cues when doing hammer curls, in order to ensure you’re training the right muscles.


What’s The Difference Between Hammer Curls & Cross-Body Curls?

Whether you’re lifting straight up and down or across your body, you’re pretty much activating all the muscles within your biceps, you’re activating the brachioradialis, the brachialis and you’re activating both heads of the biceps. What it comes down to is where you want to place more EMPHASIS. When Nick was telling me he was doing hammer curls, he said he was doing them across his body. And I said to him “well you know, if you’re hammer curling in this way, you’re still targeting the brachialis and brachioradialis, but you’re actually placing a bit more emphasis on the outer head”.


Of course the outer head is still going to be part of the peak for when you’re flexing your biceps and it is a part of the biceps you want to work on, but it’s important to know that if you’re trying to create more separation or more arm thickness, yes working on the outer peak is a good thing, but if you can utilize an exercise like a hammer curl to really target that muscle in the middle (the brachialis) and get it to grow, for more separation and a bigger look from the side, then you want to make sure you’re hammer curling in front of your body.


We’ve already determined that your overall goal right now isn’t so much working on the outer head. When you’re doing a cross body hammer curl, the centre of gravity in the weight is still basically in the centre, you’re keeping the dumbbell really close to your body. You still have to flex your core obviously and you still have to stabilize to be able to stand and do this, but the same amount of weight becomes a lot heavier as you move it away from your body because now the weight is basically pulling you forward so you have to flex harder and focus more on keeping that elbow locked as you come up.


Why Seated Is Better Than Standing

You might even see a lot of people where the elbow travels back and then you’re not really doing the exercise correctly as it changes the whole movement pattern. So you want to be able to keep it out in front of you the entire time. So if the overall goal is the brachialis, why not just sit down? That’s why you’ll notice that whenever I’m training with hammer curls, I’m always doing them seated, ESPECIALLY if I’m trying to take advantage of form techniques like Cheat & Recover in order to overload my biceps and brachialis more when doing the exercise.


What you can do is sit (you still have to flex your core and keep your chest up), but now you have the seat holding you in place and you have a back-pad you can lean against. Then you can lift straight up and come straight down and put a lot more focus into moving your arm up and down because you don’t have to put as much energy into stabilizing your body.


One thing though is, whenever I do hammer curls, I never do both arms at the same time. If I’m going to be using dumbbells, I like to take advantage of the fact that I can lift a little bit more weight (even if it’s just 5lbs more) by doing one arm at a time and really focusing on that single arm, then going to the other side and really focusing on that one and going back and forth. I’ve always been able to lift a bit heavier and get a bit more overload on my biceps.


Hammer Curls With Cheat & Recover

If you want to try advanced techniques like Cheat & Recover, you can still do it seated as well, you can get a little momentum, throw the weight up and then fight the negative all the way down on both arms. For those of you who have never heard of my Cheat & Recover program or don’t understand the concept of using momentum and fighting the negative, it’s because you’re 40% stronger in the negative. That’s why you’ll always realise, for example if you’re bench pressing, you can always bring the weight down but as soon as you get stuck, your spotter has to bring it back up. But if you want to do another rep, you can still control it on the way down because you’re stronger in the negative and it’s also where you get the most micro-tears. What that basically means is even when doing an exercise like a hammer curl, I’ll never be able to fully exhaust my biceps or my brachialis with the amount of weight I can lift clean on the way up and then fight on the way down.


As a rule of thumb, if you’re trying to work on an exercise like this, I would do about 4 sets and keep the rep range anywhere between 6 – 10 reps and make sure you’re doing it at least twice a week, because when you’re trying to bring up a lagging area, you want to give it multiple growth periods which is why you train twice a week when you do programs like Push, Pull, Legs or Full Body Evolution workouts.


Conclusion

If you go into the gym and you’re trying to work on increasing the overall size of your arms and you want to go for width (so that from the side when you flex, it’s bigger and wider from there), you’ve got to hit that brachialis and the best way to do it is by hammer curling!



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