Hammer Curls

Dumbbell Hammer Curls (How To, Muscles Worked, Benefits)

Dumbbell Hammer Curls are a great finisher to toast the biceps at the end of a tough workout. Then again, what biceps exercise isn’t a great option to finish the day with?

In this guide, I’m going to teach you how to do Dumbbell Hammer Curls, what muscle groups they work and a few alternatives in case you need them.

How To Do Dumbbell Hammer Curls

Equipment Needed

  • Dumbbells


  • Start standing with feet flat on the ground about hip-width apart, knees slightly bent.
  • Hold one dumbbell in each hand and stand tall with good posture.
  • Start with palms facing in toward the body.
  • Now, curl both dumbbells up to shoulder level by flexing the biceps. Palms should finish still facing one another. Do not rotate the palm up.
  • Squeeze the biceps at the top of the rep and then lower back down to the starting position.

Coaching Points

The biggest mistake I see with Hammer Curls is swinging the dumbbells at the bottom of the rep. Lower the weights down under control and do not swing them at the bottom.

The other mistake I see usually comes when an athlete is trying to use too much weight. Instead of keeping the elbow in place at their side, they allow the elbow to drift back behind the torso which turns the movement into more of a row than a curl.


Some potential benefits of hammer curls include increased strength and size in the biceps and forearms, improved grip strength, and enhanced upper-body muscular balance and symmetry.

Additionally, hammer curls can help to prevent common issues such as elbow pain and wrist strain that can arise from performing traditional bicep curls with a supinated (underhand) grip.

Muscles Worked

3D View of the Brachioradialis muscle which receives much of the focus of Hammer Curls. (Photo Credit: Chu KyungMin)

Hammer Curls is an isolation movement that focuses on the biceps of the upper arms as well as the forearm.

More specifically, Hammer Curls is one of the best biceps exercises to really focus on the Brachioradialis (the forearm muscle that aids in flexing the elbow). It also works the Biceps Brachii and the Brachialis.

Best Rep Schemes for Hammer Curls

How Many Sets?

Hammer Curls are a supplemental strength exercise that is generally assigned toward the end of a workout. 2 to 4 sets are best, with 3 sets being the most common. The exact number depends on how much volume has been done up to that point in the workout.

How Many Reps?

Hammer Curls are an isolation movement that are best utilized for building muscle mass. 3 sets of 8 to 12 reps is the best rep scheme to get those biceps to grow.

Dumbbell Hammer Curl Variations

Looking to shake up your workout a bit? Here are a couple of Hammer Curl variations.

Alternating Dumbbell Hammer Curls

The simplest variation (and the one many of us probably do anyway) is to alternate curling one arm at a time. It allows you to focus on each arm individually and usually allows you to lift just a little more weight.

Dumbbell Curls

Dumbbell Curl

Regular Dumbbell Curls are a simple, but effective Hammer Curl variation.

Instead of keeping the palms neutral (facing in), turn and rotate the palms up as you curl the weight. This puts a little more emphasis on the Biceps Brachii (the major biceps muscle).

Seated Hammer Curls

Another variation for Hammer Curls is to do them seated instead of standing. With Seated Hammer Curls, everything stays the same except they are performed sitting down on a bench instead of in a standing position.

DB Hammer Curl Alternatives

If you can’t do Seated Dumbbell Hammer Curls, for whatever reason, here are a couple of alternatives. If you want even more alternatives, here are my 10 favorite Hammer Curl Alternatives.

Barbell Curl

Barbell Curl

If you don’t have dumbbells, don’t worry, Barbell Curls are a perfect (some would even say better) alternative to their dumbbell cousin.

Stand tall, grip the bar shoulder-width apart, keep elbows tucked and curl the bar up to shoulder level. Slowly lower back to the starting position and repeat for the desired number of reps.

Band Curls

If you’re traveling or on vacation and all you have is a resistance band, you can give Band Curls a try.

Stand on one end of a resistance band and grab the other end with both hands. With Band Curls, you can use the same neutral grip by keeping your palms facing each other.

If you have an issue that is hindering your ability to grip, band curls can be a great alternative because you drape the band over the hand or even the wrist and eliminate the need to grip a dumbbell or barbell.

Seated Dumbbell Curls

Seated Dumbbell Curl
Turn a Hammer Curl into a Regular Curl by simply turning the palm up as you curl.

Similar to Seated Hammer Curls, Seated Dumbbell Curls can be done sitting on a bench as well. Sitting down typically helps keep a more strict range of motion and less twisting and rocking with the upper body (although it’s still easy to cheat reps if you don’t put an emphasis on good technique).

More Links and Info

Looking for more Biceps and Triceps exercises? Check out the Arm Farm section on the Exercise Library where you’ll find plenty of exercises to help you ‘fill the sleeves’.


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