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Rope Hammer Curls – Overview, Benefits, How-To, Variations, and Mistakes

Cable Rope Hammer Curls.

If you’re bored with the same bicep workout and want to switch it up with some variations, you need to try the rope hammer curls. It’s a simple yet effective exercise that uses a cable machine to increase tension placed on your biceps.

A lot of the arm exercises we do are performed with dumbbells and we tend to forget the importance and benefits using cables. I mean we all are familiar with the standard dumbbell hammer curl, right?

And yes, free weights are amazing but including cables is a great way to build strength by placing your working muscle under constant tension. For biceps, one of the best cable movements is the rope hammer curls.

So, what is the proper form? What are some variations or alternative exercises? What are the benefits of this exercise compared to others?

We will get into all of this throughout this article but let’s start with all the primary muscles worked during this movement.

Muscles Worked

The rope hammer curls primarily work three arm muscles: Biceps, Brachialis, and Brachioradialis. The grip and the angle of the movement allows you to target mainly the long head of the bicep and cable machine places consistent tension on your forearms. Let’s look at this in a little more detail.


Having big biceps is attractive, makes daily activities lot easier, and reduces chances of injuries. Which is why training them becomes so important. However, most of us go in the gym without understanding the function of our biceps. And perhaps, you don’t really need to but understanding the movement pattern of our biceps may help you choose which exercise is right for you.

The primary function of our biceps is the flexion of the elbow and supination of the forearm.  Now, the biceps have two parts: the long and short head.

We’ve recently posted an article for the best long head bicep exercises, so check that out!

The short head is on the inner or medial part of the biceps. It’s what gives your arm that thickness.

The long head is on the outer or lateral part of the biceps. It’s responsible for the height or the “peak”.

So, which part does the hammer curl focus on? Well, you can’t completely isolate each bicep head however the hammer curl has more emphasis on the long head (the bicep “peak”).  

The rope hammer curls also have a strong focus on the Brachioradialis.


The reason why hammer curls are an amazing exercise is because of the forearm involvement. And we all know that having big forearms is not only attractive but also helps our grip strength which is essential in many compound movements.

The rope hammer curls target the brachioradialis which is a forearm muscle located on the lateral side of our forearm. It primarily flexes the forearm at the elbow. It also functions to supinate or pronate depending on the position of the forearm.

So, if you want to increase your forearm strength as well as get those big beefy biceps, rope hammer curls are an excellent choice.


The other primary muscle targeted during the rope hammer curls is the brachialis. It’s located in the anteroinferior area of the upper arm and under the bicep.

The brachialis is an elbow flexor and provides flexion of the forearm at the elbow.  

How To Perform the Rope Hammer Curls?

  1. Attach a double rope to a low pulley and stand facing the machine with your feet around hip – width apart.
  2. Grab the ends of the rope using a neutral grip and take a slight step back to ensure that the weight selected is off the stack and your arm is straight out in front of you. This is your starting position.
  3. Keeping your elbows fixed by your sides and your core tight, exhale, and bend at the elbow as you lift the weight up slowly until your forearms touch your biceps.
  4. Pause at the top of the movement and slowly lower the weight back down to the starting position.
  5. For best results, perform 2 – 3 sets of 10 – 12 repetitions.

Pro Tips When Doing the Rope Hammer Curls

  1. Remember to keep your elbows tucked by your sides and as stationary as possible. The movement of this exercise won’t allow you to COMPLETELY keep your elbows still. So, it’s okay if YOUR elbows move forward by an inch or two but they should NOT move excessively.
  2. Make sure the only muscle that’s moving is your forearm and not your upper arm.
  3. The grip must be a neutral grip. If you find it more comfortable, you can use a thumbless grip as well.
  4. Take that slight step back so that the weight is off the stack and your arm can get that maximum stretch at the bottom of the movement.
  5. Try performing this in front of a mirror or have someone record you and compare yourself with the video above. This is a great practice to perfect your form and maximise your gains!

Common Mistakes When Performing the Rope Hammer Curls

Like any exercise, your need to make sure you’re performing it with proper form and technique. Here are some of the common mistakes when doing the rope hammer curls.

Going to Heavy

Instead of increasing the weight and sacrificing your form, go with a weight that is both challenging and one that you can do with proper form.

Going to heavy will result in surrounding muscle being used, elbows moving excessively, and increases the chances of injury.

So, leave your ego at the door and decrease that weight!

Going To Fast

One key element when it comes to building muscle is your mind-muscle connection. This is achieved with slow and controlled movements.

The slower your repetitions are, the more time your working muscles are under tension. And with proper tracking and progressively overall combined, this will directly lead to muscle growth.

Improper Form

If it’s your first time trying this movement, it’s likely that you won’t have the best form. That’s why I recommend performing this in front of a mirror or have someone record you. This way you will get a visual representation of the movement.

Also, make sure that the weight you are lifting isn’t too heavy. Start with lighter weight and gradually start increasing them.

And, I know, if it’s the last few reps or your last set, your form won’t be the best. That’s why I recommend a drop set. Simply perform the movement with the desired weight until failure then drop the weight and finish your set.

This way you won’t be sacrificing your form and will achieve the best results.

Variations of the Rope Hammer Curls

It’s always good to have variety in your workout, right? I mean doing the same exercises again and again is boring. So, here are some variations of the rope hammer curls that I include regularly in my workout.

Single rope hammer curl.

Simply attach a single rope instead of a double rope. But what difference does this make? Well, training one side of your body (unilateral training) will prevent a muscular difference with your dominant hand.

I’m sure you all have experienced one side of your body being stronger than the other. Perhaps your right arm is bigger than the left?

This is entirely normal but if you want a proportional look, you need to start including unilateral training into your workout routine.

Standard Dumbbell Hammer curls

The rope hammer curls are in fact a variation of the dumbbell version. Simply perform the same movement however this time using a pair of dumbbells.

Dumbbell hammer curls are one of the most popular bicep exercises. It’s simple, convenient, and an effective way to get that bicep “peak”. But which one is better? Cable rope hammer curls or dumbbell hammer curls? We will investigate this in a little more detail later in this article.

Cross Body Hammer Curls

Another variation is the cross-body hammer curls. It’s like the standard dumbbell curl however you curl the dumbbell across your body holding the dumbbell with a neutral grip.

I’ve included both standard and cross-body hammer curls in my routine however I personally feel tension more with the cross-body variations.

Rope Hammer Curls Vs Dumbbell Hammer Curls

So, which one is better? Well, unfortunately there is no correct answer. Both cables and free weights are good for muscle hypertrophy and including them both in your routine will give you the best combination. It will provide you with variety and you will be hitting your muscles from different angles.

Cable machines will place constant tension on your working muscles and offer much more stability compared to free weights.

Free weights, on the other hand, forces you to use other muscles to help stabilize the movement. For example, your core muscles will be used when performing the dumbbell hammer curl.

Ultimately, free weight uses more muscles whereas cables will help isolate one specific muscle group.

I would recommend you include both cables and machines in your workout for the best results.

Key Takeaway

Rope hammer curls are an effective exercise that targets the biceps, brachialis, and brachioradialis. With the use of cables, it allows for these primary muscles groups to remain constantly under tension and maximises their strength and growth.

I hope this article provided everything you need to know about the rope hammer curls. Try it out and let me know if you found it useful!

As always, stay Fit & Healthy and I will see you guys’ next week!

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Hey, I'm Shalin

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Shalin Anam

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