Most bodybuilders use palms-up curls to target the biceps and a neutral hammer grip to better activate the brachialis, the muscle that snakes under the biceps, as well as the brachioradialis, the muscle on top of the forearm.
A recent post by respected researcher Chris Beardsley may have us rethinking that conclusion and our biceps workouts…
He looked at a study comparing grips and muscle activation in the biceps brachii. (Kohn, S., et al. Physiological Reports. 2018).
The study used voluntary isometric contractions at various degrees of flexion to measure the muscles’ force production…
Interestingly, the neutral, or hammer grip, produced higher voluntary activation and twitch potentiation in the biceps than a pronated grip (palms down) or a supinated grip (palms up).
The explanation of why the hammer grip did best is leverage. The biceps appear to favor the neutral grip for activating the most muscle fibers when the upper arms are at the sides of the torso.
Another explanation could be better synergy. With the hammer grip, the biceps work with the brachioradialis and the brachialis to create a higher degree of force production. (For more on synergy and fiber recruitment, see Old Man, Young Muscle.)
I’ve always included hammer curls as part of my biceps training, but after seeing this, I may put them at the beginning instead of the end of my arm workout.
Note: For a chart of stretch-position exercises for each muscle, as well as the ideal and contracted-position moves, see pages 42 and 43 of Old Man, Young Muscle.
Sculpt your perfect physique: Get the ideal exercise for each muscle, the best stretch and contracted add-on moves for ultimate mass, complete 35-minute workouts, exercise start/finish photos, and details on building muscle fast and efficiently in Old Man, Young Muscle.
Till next time, train hard—and smart—for BIG results.
Former Editor in Chief, Iron Man Magazine
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