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Are you doing hammer curls the right way? Your complete guide

Perfect your hammer curl form

Person standing on asphalt holding a dumbbell in each hand.
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A hammer curl is one of the most common isolated gym exercises targeted toward growing the bicep muscle. Performing isolated movements that work a specific area of the body can help you achieve the toned, muscular look you’re going for. Although a hammer curl is a simple exercise, ensuring proper form is key to seeing the gains you want. Once you perfect your hammer curl form, this exercise is perfect to add to your upper body routine — and easy to perform in nearly any gym. Here’s how you can achieve the perfect hammer curl form in no time.

Why you should try hammer curls

Man with dumbbells
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The most important part of perfecting the form of any gym exercise is to understand the specific muscle group it targets. In the case of a hammer curl, this isolation exercise targets the bicep brachii. The bicep brachii is the part of your bicep that is visible on the front of the body, which means it is outward-facing. If you’re looking to achieve a sculpted, toned look, building up the bicep brachii muscle can help you achieve this look.

Although your primary goal may be aesthetic, the bicep brachii also serves an important role as a muscle in your daily activities. This “elbow flexor” muscle is responsible for bending at the elbow and rotating the forearm. Strengthening your bicep muscles through arm exercises like a hammer curl can help make daily tasks easier, such as carrying items or pulling objects. Some research also suggests that strong bicep brachii muscles can help to improve wrist stability and grip strength.

Another great benefit of hammer curls is that they require minimal equipment. All you’ll need is a set of simple dumbbells to perform hammer curls — which means you can easily do this exercise either at home or at the gym.

Mastering hammer curl form

Dumbbells on a track
Alora Griffiths / Unsplash

To perform a hammer curl exercise, begin by standing upright with knees aligned under your hips. This exercise requires that you hold a dumbbell in each hand (a total of two dumbbells). If you’re new to upper body exercises, start with a lower weight until you get used to the form. The weight you select should be one that you can perform 8 to 12 reps on while still being challenged. If it does not feel challenging, this is a sign you need to increase the weight.

Begin the hammer curl exercise by holding a dumbbell in each hand, with your arms by your side. You’ll want to hold the dumbbell upright, meaning that your palms are facing your thighs instead of outward. After setting up in this starting position, perform a full hammer curl repetition by:

  1. Bend your arm at the elbow, using your lower arms to pull the dumbbell weight upwards towards your shoulder. Throughout the exercise, your upper arms should not move, and your wrists should remain in line with your forearms.
  2. Once your arms reach the top of the movement, hold momentarily. On the downward movement, remember not to go too fast and try to feel the burn throughout the movement. Going too quickly can compromise your hammer curl form and impact the results you’ll see.
  3. Slowly lower the weights to return to your starting position. From here, repeat in sets of 8 to 12 reps until your muscles feel exhausted.

Common mistakes in hammer curl form

All gym exercises take a period of trial and error to master, so be patient with yourself as you learn the correct form for a hammer curl. One of the most common mistakes in hammer curl exercises is using too much momentum and trying to complete the exercise too quickly. You’ll want to avoid a “swinging motion,” which does not isolate the muscles you are trying to strengthen. If you find it too difficult not to use momentum when performing hammer curls, try lowering your weight until you get a bit stronger.

Variations of hammer curls

man in gym wearing black looking in mirror lifting up weights next to weight rack
Anastase Maragos / Unsplash

As with most gym exercises, there are multiple ways to approach a hammer curl exercise. Changing up the types of hammer curls you include in your fitness routine will continue to challenge your muscles and keep things interesting.

  • One common variation is the alternating hammer curl, which can be a great variation for beginners. A standard hammer curl exercise requires the movement of both arms at once. However, the alternating version focuses on only one arm at a time. By alternating each arm throughout the movement, you can maintain more focus on ensuring proper hammer curl form.
  • Another variation to consider is the incline hammer curl. An incline hammer curl is performed while on a workout bench set to a slight incline (in a seated position). Some gymgoers find they enjoy this variation more than the traditional standing form because it provides an increased range of motion.

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Emily Caldwell
Emily is a freelance writer with a special focus on health, fitness, lifestyle, food, and nutrition topics. She holds a B.S…
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