If you’re looking to bulk-up those biceps, be it for weightlifting, strength training, making day-to-day chores involving heavy-lifting a breeze, or even simply for enviable definition in your upper arms, then it’s time to get incline hammer curls into your fitness regime.
A step-up from hammer curls in a standing position, the addition of an incline bench, adds a larger range of motion to the lift, forcing the muscles in your arms to work even harder.
Before we dive into how to perform incline hammer curls it’s worth noting the difference between this exercise and bicep curls, especially given both isolate the same muscle – the bicep. The key difference is the angle your arm works at to raise the dumbbell, with hammer curls being an overhand grip and bicep curls being an underhand grip.
It means that each exercise works slightly different parts of the bicep. Combining the two different exercises together makes for a match made in heaven when it comes to working all parts of those bicep muscles for overall strength, muscle mass and definition.
In this guide, the focus is on hammer curls. Follow our step-by-step instructions below to learn how to perform this exercise to perfection.
How to Perform Incline Hammer Curls
- Step 1. First up, you’ll need an incline bench and some dumbbells for this one. Set the incline to an angle of around 60-70 degrees, position a dumbbell on either side of the bench and sit yourself down, facing forward.
- Step 2. Firmly place your feet on the ground, shoulder-width apart in front of you.
- Step 3. Reach for the two dumbbells, one on each side of your body, and hold them with your palms facing inwards in an overhand grip. The ends of the dumbbells should be pointing forwards.
- Step 4. Straighten your back and rest it flat against the incline of the bench, with your arms hanging straight on either side of your body gripping the dumbbells. You are now in the starting position.
- Step 5. Hinging at the elbow, raise the dumbbells in a vertical movement without twisting, towards your shoulder until your forearm is vertical and hold the position for a few seconds. Do not change the angle of the dumbbell. Top-tip: keep your back and shoulders stable, making sure not to use momentum from your shoulders for the lift. If you find this is too difficult then swap to a lighter weight.
- Step 6. Slowly lower the dumbbells back to the starting position in a controlled movement. Do not allow your arms to drop.
- Step 7. Repeat the lift for 6-15 repetitions per set.
Incline Hammercurl Variations & Modifications
The obvious way to vary the intensity of this exercise, is to increase/decrease the weight of the dumbbells. Always start small, making sure that the movement is performed without momentum from your body and you are able to control the return to starting position.
Not only will this ensure you work the right muscles, it also reduces the risk of injury. When you’re ready to advance, a general guide on weights is that the heavier you go, the more effective the exercise becomes at building muscle mass and size, whereas keeping the weights lighter but building sets and repetitions is better for definition and toning.
Our recent buyer’s guide on the best dumbbells highlights how adjustable dumbbells have become very popular in recent years due to the ability to change up the weight very easily.
If you don’t have the right weight dumbbells, or perhaps someone is already using them at the gym, then this exercise can be performed with resistance bands instead.
Rather than working both arms at the same time, you could chose to alternate between each arm. You’ll still be working the exact same muscles but this variation allows each arm a period of greater rest between each curl.
Remove the Incline
The incline bench adds challenge to a traditional hammer curl, which is performed from a standing position. If you want to work the same muscles but are finding the larger range of motion too difficult, begin with hammer curls from standing position before introducing the incline.
Slow the Pace
The slower you lower your arms back into the starting position, the greater the you’ll feel the burn.
Incline Hammer Curl Benefits
Strength in Bicep
Strong biceps are not only handy for lifting heavy weights but also important in stabilizing the shoulders, supporting your own weight and assisting with any pulling or curling motions from the arm.
Improve Range of Motion
The use of the incline bench, rather than being stood straight, forces the muscles in your arm to perform a larger movement to further improve the range of motion in your elbow joint.
Stability in the wrist is not only important for reducing the risk of injury during everyday activities, it is also useful for many other exercises and stretches where performance can suffer as a result of weak wrists.
Of course, by building strength in your biceps, it won’t take long to notice the increase in size of your arms. Perhaps a lesser known muscle; the brachialis, is also engaged for hammer curls and sits beneath the bicep. Because of its position, strength and muscle mass here pushes up the bicep adding further bulk and size to the appearance of your upper arms.
The incline of the bench makes it harder for you to use momentum in other parts of your body, such as your shoulders and so forces you to rely on the muscles in your arm. This helps to ensure you target the muscles you intended from the exercise.
As mentioned, hammer curls are similar to the bicep curls in that they target the same muscles, but they do work slightly different parts of the bicep due to the angle of the lift. Arguably neither is better than the other and instead, the two exercises complement each other for a more complete workout of the arms.
Muscles Worked During Incline Hammer Curls
Incline hammer curls are an isolation movement meaning they primarily target one muscle, the bicep. That said the movement does require activation of the lesser known muscles in the arm including the brachialis (largely on the upper arm, between the bicep and tricep) and brachioradialis (largely on the forearm, connecting the upper-arm to the forearm).
It’s also worth understanding that the difference between this and the bicep curl, with the former targeting mostly the long head of bicep, whilst the latter targets mostly the shorter head.
Now you’re ready to get those biceps bulging, as always, don’t forget to take caution with any weight training and start small to avoid injury and to perfect your form first.