How to Do Hammer Curl: Muscles Worked & Proper Form

Hammer Curl exercise technique

Muscles Worked in Hammer Curls

Muscles worked in the hammer curl exercise

Primary muscles worked:

Secondary muscles worked:

How to Do Hammer Curl

  1. Hold a pair of dumbbells in a neutral grip (palms facing each other), arms hanging by your sides.
  2. Lift the dumbbells with control by flexing your elbows.
  3. Don’t let your upper arms travel back during the curl. Keep them at your sides, or move them slightly forward.
  4. Reverse the movement and lower the dumbbells back to the starting position.

Text and graphics from the StrengthLog app.

Introduction to the Hammer Curl

The hammer curl is a variation of the classic dumbbell curl, in which you hold the dumbbells in a neutral grip (“hammer grip”).

This places the brachioradialis in a stronger position, and can likely lead to an increased training effect of this muscle.

Which Muscles Do the Hammer Curl Work?

The hammer curl primarily targets your biceps and brachialis, but the forearm flexors and especially the brachioradialis are also involved as a secondary muscle group.

Muscles worked in the hammer curl exercise

For the best training effect on your biceps, you should maintain a strict form, where your muscles are under constant tension.

To accomplish this, avoid letting your elbows travel backward during the lift, and also keep tension in the muscles in the bottom position.

Benefits of the Hammer Curl

  • Stronger and bigger arms. Hammer curls emphasize the brachialis and the brachioradialis more than regular curls, which primarily target the biceps brachii muscle. Therefore, including the hammer curl into your routine is a good idea if you want those big guns.
  • Accessible. All you need to perform the exercise is a pair of dumbbells, which are available at most gyms. This makes the exercise very accessible.
  • Variety in training. Incorporating different exercises into your workout routine can stimulate muscles in different ways, and can make your training more fun. Hammer curls can offer a nice variation from standard curls.
  • Functional. Ironically enough, most bicep curls are actually very functional, as they are one of the most common movements we do with our arms in our daily life.

Hammer Curl: Proper Form & Technique

Hammer curl starting position
Hammer curl starting position
Hammer curl top position
Hammer curl top position


Stand with your feet about hip-width apart and make sure that you’re standing in a stable position. Keep a good posture, and brace your core during the entire movement to avoid your body to start swinging back and forward.

Hold the dumbbells with a firm grip, with your palms facing your thighs (neutral grip). Avoid twisting the wrists or changing your grip during the curl.


Curl up the dumbbells, and make sure that you keep your elbows close to your body the entire time.

Your body shouldn’t move, just the arms. If you start to swing to move the weights with help from the momentum of the body, you should probably remove some weight instead and focus on performing the movement with control.

Common Mistakes in the Hammer Curl

  • Elbow positioning. If your elbows move forward while you’re lifting the weight, it will put an additional load on your front delts, instead of focusing on your biceps. If your elbows move backward, you’ll also move the load from your biceps and be able to “cheat up” the weight.
  • Using too heavy weights. By adding more weight than you can lift, you might start to swing your body and use its momentum to get the weight up. Another sign of using too much weight is if you’re not using the full range of motion and start doing half reps instead.
  • Changing grip. Keep your grip neutral during the movement. It’s easy to start twisting the wrists during the lift, without thinking about it. Avoid this to maintain the correct form and maximize the benefit to the intended muscles.

Hammer Curl Alternatives & Variations

  1. Dumbbell Curl
  2. Cable Curl with Rope
  3. Bodyweight Curl

1. Dumbbell Curl

In a standard dumbbell curl, you have a supinated grip as you curl the weight. This grip places a greater emphasis on the biceps brachii.

With hammer curls, your palms face towards each other in a neutral grip. This grip targets more of the brachialis and brachioradialis.

They are both good for developing big biceps, and you might benefit from incorporating both into your workout routine.

2. Cable Curl with Rope

The cable curl with rope is similar to the hammer curl, but with the difference that the cable machine provides constant tension, which can lead to a longer time under tension than the hammer curl.

By pulling the rope apart at the top of the movement, you can also make the movement a bit longer than the regular hammer curl.

3. Bodyweight curl

The bodyweight curl is a good alternative for working your biceps if you don’t have access to any external weight. All you need is a TRX or something similar to hang on to, and then use your own body weight and gravity as resistance.

How Many Sets and Reps Should You Do of the Hammer Curl

How many reps you should do of an exercise depends on your goal: do you mainly want to increase your strength or build muscle?

  • For muscle growth, around 6–15 reps per set is good to aim for.
  • For strength, around 3–8 reps per set are good.

Of course, you will see an increase in both muscle and strength regardless of which rep range you choose, but you can emphasize one or the other slightly by working in the right number of reps.

Read More: How Many Reps to Build Muscle vs. Strength?

Regarding how many sets you should do, that depends more on your training background and your capabilities. How much work are you used to doing, and how much does it take for you to stimulate growth?

It also depends on how many workouts you do per week. You can tolerate (and grow from) a higher training volume if you distribute it over more workouts.

When it comes to biceps, it’s important to remember that they are often worked in big compound exercises as well. Don’t forget to take this into account while looking into your training volume for the biceps.

Workouts and Training Programs That Include the Hammer Curl

Bicep Training Programs

  • Armageddon. 3x/week. A four-week program focusing solely on high-volume and high-intensity arm training, forcing your biceps and triceps to respond with muscle growth.
  • Bodybuilding for Hardgainers. 4x/week. A hypertrophy program for those having trouble building mass.
  • StrengthLog’s 4 Week Home Workout Plan. 3x/week. A training program only using your own body weight and a pair of dumbbells.

Bicep Workouts

All of these, and many more, are available in our free workout log app StrengthLog. You can download it via the buttons below.

Download StrengthLog Workout Log on App Store
Download StrengthLog Workout Log on Google Play Store

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