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Hammer curl to press for your shoulders: The ultimate guide

Hammer curl to press for your shoulders: The ultimate guide

If you want to strengthen your shoulders and biceps muscle simultaneously—while burning a ton of calories in the process—then the hammer curl to press is one of the best exercises for the job.

This little-known twist on the traditional hammer curl packs a real punch by getting your heart pumping and your muscles burning. All the while it saves you valuable time by training multiple muscle groups together, just like in the regular curl to press exercise.

Related Exercise: Seated dumbbell hammer curls

Hammer curl to press exercise details

  • Main Muscles: Biceps brachii, brachialis, brachioradialis, deltoids, triceps
  • Secondary Muscles: Forearm extensors, forearm flexors
  • Exercise Type: Strength
  • Exercise Mechanics: Compound
  • Difficulty Level: Intermediate
  • Equipment Needed: Dumbbells

How to do a hammer curl to shoulder press

  1. Grab two dumbbells with a neutral grip, and then stand tall with your feet hip-width apart.
  2. Curl the weights toward your shoulders.
  3. As the dumbbells reach your shoulders, press them over your head until your elbows are locked out.
  4. Lower the dumbbells back down to the top of your shoulders.
  5. Then, release the dumbbells back down to the starting position by letting your biceps stretch out.
  6. Repeat for 3-4 sets of 12-20 reps.

Hammer curl to overhead press benefits

The hammer curl to shoulder press is a unique upper body exercise that offers a variety of benefits not provided by movements such as the hammer plate curl. While this high-intensity drill may not be optimal for bodybuilding-style training, the fat-burning and cardiovascular benefits make it ideal for general fitness and body recomposition. [1]

Higher calorie burn

A man doing a hammer curl to shoulder press

When you do the hammer curl press, you’re performing two exercises in one movement—a hammer curl and a shoulder press. As such, each repetition requires more energy expenditure. This, in turn, leads to a higher calorie burn and, if you’re eating in a caloric deficit, more fat loss at well.

So if you’re trying to improve your health or body composition via weight loss, then doing compound exercises like the hammer curl to overhead press will give you the most bang for your buck.

Sure, you could just do similar movements like the hammer barbell curl and shoulder press individually. But then your workout would take twice as long. Plus, you wouldn’t burn as many calories on a per-set basis because your reps wouldn’t be as intense, and so they wouldn’t require as much energy expenditure.

If you struggle to balance the dumbbells, then you could do a barbell curl into a shoulder press to reduce the stability requirements of the exercise.

Provides a great cardio workout

An exhausted runner

Performing the hammer curl shoulder press for high reps (ideally 12+) is a great way to get your heart pumping while also sculpting your muscles.

Try to do the exercise at a quick yet controlled tempo so that you work up a sweat while still keeping tension on the target muscles.

If you’re primarily doing the DB hammer curl and press for fat loss, then lift lighter weights and stick to sets of 20-30 reps to maximize your calorie expenditure.

If muscle growth is your main goal, then your best bet is to do sets of 12-20 reps with a heavier weight. This way, you won’t get so tired that your form starts to degrade toward the end of your set.

The dumbbell squat curl press is a similar exercise that works even more muscles, so it’s the ideal full-body move to do if you’re training for maximum fat loss.

Strengthens your shoulders and arms

A man performing a hammer curl to press for his shoulders

The decline dumbbell hammer curl certainly blasts your biceps, brachialis, and brachioradialis. But you can take the upper body stimulation a step further by doing the hammer curl to military press instead.

This high-intensity compound movement works the already mentioned muscles. Yet, it also strengthens your shoulders and triceps at the same time. So if you’re looking for an exercise that’s functional, as well as one that’s primed for promoting fat loss, then the hammer curl to press is a top choice.

On the other hand, you can lift with lower reps to focus on mass gain if you’re a bodybuilder in the middle of a bulking season (the dead/curl/press is another good exercise in this respect).

Of course, you can also stick to high reps to blast your fat and kick up your metabolism if you’re training for weight loss or body recomposition. This is the most popular reason for performing the exercise.

To strengthen your abs and obliques to the max, your best bet is to perform the half kneeling curl to press because it requires a lot of core stability.

Conclusion: Should you perform the hammer curl to press?

A man doing a hammer curl shoulder press

The hammer curl to shoulder press is an exercise that truly ticks all of the boxes. Since it requires only minimal equipment, you don’t even have to go to the gym to perform it.

Moreover, the movement works far more muscles (abs, shoulders and biceps) than regular hammer curls. This extra muscle recruitment naturally leads to higher energy expenditure and thus calorie expenditure. The end result for you is more fat loss and muscle definition if your diet is healthy and high in protein. [2]

It’s recommended to perform your reps explosively so that you engage the fast-twitch muscle fibers while simultaneously getting your heart pumping. Just be sure to use the correct form as explained in the tutorial so that you keep the tension on the target areas, namely, your biceps and shoulders.

If you’re performing the hammer curl to press for low reps in order to gain mass, then do it at the start of your workout when you’re freshest and can lift the most weight. For burning calories, you can do the movement anytime during your training session. But since it’s a highly challenging exercise, you may wish to perform it close to the beginning of your workout when you have the most energy.


  1. Khammassi, M., Ouerghi, N., Hadj-Taieb, S., Feki, M., Thivel, D., & Bouassida, A. (2018). Impact of a 12-week high-intensity interval training without caloric restriction on body composition and lipid profile in sedentary healthy overweight/obese youth. Journal of Exercise Rehabilitation, 14(1), 118–125.
  2. Geliebter, A., Maher, M. M., Gerace, L., Gutin, B., Heymsfield, S. B., & Hashim, S. A. (1997). Effects of strength or aerobic training on body composition, resting metabolic rate, and peak oxygen consumption in obese dieting subjects. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 66(3), 557–563.