How to do Hammer Curl: Variations, Proper Form, Techniques

The Hammer Curl is a strength training exercise that targets the biceps. You can perform this weight training exercise with two dumbbells and palms facing together in a curved downward motion.

The hammer curl works both the biceps brachii and the brachialis muscles, with emphasis on the former. The Hammer Curl is an isolation exercise that isolates the biceps. It involves one joint movement and benefits pulling performance, grip strength, and wrist and elbow stability.

Hammer Curls are sometimes known as Arched Hammer Curls to avoid ambiguity with dumbbell curls where both arms are supinated. It is named after its hammer-like motion which resembles that of using a hammer to drive nails into wood.

How to Perform Hammer Curl with Proper Form?

Proper form for this workout entails using an arc motion with palms facing inward toward each other. It’s called a Hammer Curl because your hands move in a hammer-like motion simultaneously when performing this strength training exercise. You can use the following steps to dominate the Hammer Curl.

  1. Straighten your legs without locking them.
  2. Align the knees beneath the hips.
  3. Place your arms at your sides with dumbbells against your outer thigh.
  4. Relax the shoulders and palms against the thighs, this pose is a good start.
  5. Bend the elbows, upper arms elevated, lower arms raised, upper arms raised.
  6. Place your palms facing inward, toward your body’s midline.
  7. Return to the starting position by lowering the weights.

Whether you are performing a bicep curl, a hammer curl, or even a preacher curl, it is important to change up your routine from day to day. Despite doing the biceps exercises, your muscle development will stall if you do not change your routine.

What are the Benefits of Hammer Curl?

Before you begin, you should understand the benefits of Hammer Curl.

The Hammer Curl increases grip strength. In this exercise, you’re forced to clasp the dumbbells tightly when curling them. In doing this, you’re strengthening your grip and forearms to a greater extent.

Hammer Curl works the long head of the bicep as well as the brachialis. The short head of the bicep gets activated to a lesser degree. As a result, it makes your arm look defined and sculpted.

Performing the proper hammer curl form can benefit you in the several ways listed below.

  1. Develop bicep size and strength
  2. Improve wrist stability
  3. Develop muscle endurance
  4. Improve grip
  5. Boost forearm strength
  6. Increase bicep definition

What are the Mistakes for Hammer Curl Form?

If you are not careful, you can sabotage your efforts by making Hammer Curl form mistakes. Below, we’ve listed a few of those common mistakes. 

  1. Elbows in a resting position right below the shoulders, generally when curling your wrist moves even lower than this point. Avoid this at all costs.
  2. Moving the elbows closer to the body without moving them below the shoulder line is a Hammer Curl form mistake. It can lead to injury if not corrected carefully.
  3. Using the momentum of the weight and swinging it back without using your biceps can also slow down the development of the biceps muscles.
  4. Using a narrow grip makes you more susceptible to an elbow injury, so avoid it at all costs.
  5. Curling the weights too high like a preacher curl can cause back injury as well as bicep tendon damage.
  6. The Hammer Curl is a full range of motion exercise. That means you should be going from the starting position to the endpoint and vice versa in a full range of motion. Keeping your arms still at the top of the move is a mistake that will prevent biceps growth and can also trigger elbow injury

Remember, good hammer curl form intensifies bicep growth so it’s important to be consistent with the Hammer Curl exercises you do.

How to Determine Proper Weight for Hammer Curl?

The best method for picking the ideal weights for this exercise is to start with low weights and gradually increase them once you feel comfortable. Start with a manageable weight, nothing too light or too heavy, as you want to be able to feel some impact. You also want to avoid injuries like pulled muscles.

How to Determine Proper Weight for Hammer Curl
Proper Weight for Hammer Curl

According to lifting standards, a healthy man should be able to average about 35 lbs on a hammer curl.

Which Muscles are Involved While Performing Hammer Curl?

The prime movers in the Hammer Curl are biceps brachii, brachialis, and brachioradialis. The biceps brachii consists of two heads — the long head and the short head. In the Hammer Curl, you work both heads of the biceps because you’re using a neutral grip.

The brachialis is beneath the biceps brachii, and it is the primary elbow flexor. The brachioradialis is on the outside of your forearm, and it too is an elbow flexor. The brachialis and brachioradialis assist with arm flexion when your grip is neutral, which will be in the Hammer Curl.

The forearms also do tremendous work during this exercise since you must use your wrist to curl the dumbbell.

The Hammer Curl works the entire arm. It specifically targets your biceps, brachialis, and brachioradialis. However, because of the positioning of your arms and wrists, you can’t avoid strengthening your forearms with this exercise.

What are the Hammer Curl Variations?

Hammer Curl variations increase the resistance to a Hammer Curl movement. Generally, you can change a Hammer Curl variation by changing a few techniques.

What are the Hammer Curl Variations
Hammer Curl Variations
  1. Standing while doing the Hammer Curl: Standing more closely resembles the traditional Hammer Curl. However, standing can cause changes in muscle activation because you’re putting your body into different positions that may or may not target different muscles.
  2. Seated Hammer Curl: This position helps you to maintain proper form. This variation is ideal for those who have lower back pain or who have never done the Hammer Curl.
  3. Elbow position in relation to the forearm: Your elbows can be in front of your trunk (frontal plane), besides your trunk (transverse plane), or behind your trunk (sagittal plane).

Specific types of Hammer Curl variations

  1. Alternating Hammer Curl: Grab a dumbbell in each hand with palms facing your thighs. Curl one arm up as high as possible without moving the shoulder joint. Alternate arms, one at a time, until you have completed the required number of reps for each arm.
  2. Incline Hammer Curl: Sit on an incline bench or use the preacher curl machine. Curl one arm up as high as possible without moving the shoulder joint. Alternate arms, one at a time, until you have completed the required number of reps for each arm.
  3. Preacher Hammer Curl: Sit on a preacher bench, lean forward, and place your upper arms against it. Use an EZ curl bar or a Hammer Curl bar with the curl handles pointing down. Curl one arm up as high as possible without moving the shoulder joint. Alternate arms, one at a time, until completion.
  4. Hammer Curl Power Squat: Stand holding dumbbells at your side, then do a power squat (squat down with knees bent and hips back) while simultaneously curling the dumbbells. As you come up, do a shoulder press with the arms. Return to the starting position and repeat.

What is the Necessary Equipment for a Hammer Curl?

You will need the specific equipment listed below to perform a hammer curl.

What is the Necessary Equipment for a Hammer Curl
Necessary Equipment for a Hammer Curl
  1. A set of dumbbells
  2. A preacher bench or an incline bench
  3. A Hammer Curl bar – if you want to try the hammer curl power squat

Who Named the Hammer Curl?

The name “Hammer Curls” comes from the hammer-like grip you have on the dumbbell when you do them. In the 1800s, strongman George Zottman developed the precursor to this exercise.

Hammer curls became popular in the 50s when bodybuilders began using them.

Below, you can find some of the important and frequently asked hammer curl facts.

Does Hammer Curl Affect the Hormones?

Yes, Hammer Curl can affect the hormones since it is an intense muscle workout. Intense muscle workouts can affect the hormones and increase muscle mass and strength.

Hormones such as testosterone and cortisol are released in the body during physical activity. Their levels vary based on the type of exercise, intensity, length of exercise, and other factors.

Is Hammer Curl Practiced Within CrossFit?

The chief characteristic of a CrossFit athlete is strength and endurance. They often train at very intense levels but don’t focus on bulging biceps and triceps. As a result, Crossfit athletes do not usually practice Hammer Curls.

Is Hammer Curl Dangerous?

Yes, Hammer Curls can be dangerous when you do them wrong. It is best to avoid excessive bouncing or jerking when you curl. If you do so, there’s a chance of injury. Going beyond the normal range of motion or having incorrect form increases your risk of injury.

Is Hammer Curl Push or Pull?

The Hammer Curl is a pull exercise. They can enhance pulling performance, grip strength, and wrist and elbow stability. When you push, your deltoid muscles contract and the biceps work as synergists. When you pull, the antagonistic function of the biceps gets reduced.

Is Hammer Curl a Compound Exercise?

No, Hammer Curl is not a compound exercise. A compound exercise works multiple muscle groups, such as the squat.

The main muscles involved in Hammer Curl are the biceps. It requires the use of only one joint. So it is an isolation exercise.

What Can replace Hammer Curl?

Yes, replace it with other exercises that focus on isolating and building the biceps. Below is a list of alternative exercises you can perform.

  1. Alternating Dumbbell Concentration Curl (one arm at a time)
  2. Dumbbell Alternate Hammer Curl
  3. Alternating Dumbbell Preacher Curl (one arm at a time)
  4. Preacher Curl
  5. Zottman Curl
  6. Neutral Grip Pull-Ups

Is the Hammer Curl Beginner-friendly?

Yes, Hammer Curl is beginner-friendly. Since it’s an isolation exercise, you can choose the appropriate weight for your strength level. Add more weight as you get comfortable or plateau.

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