Incline Hammer Curls: Exercise Video & Tips

image of man demonstrating how to do a incline hammer curl

Want to know how to do incline hammer curls? 

We can’t say that we blame you, as they are both a highly effective exercise for building strength and muscle mass in the upper arms. Plus, they are fun and easy to execute despite being a staple bodybuilding exercise! 

Before we jump straight into this incline hammer curl guide, if you happen to be interested in pursuing a career within the fitness industry, be sure to take a look at OriGym’s Level 4 Personal Trainer course here, or download our full course prospectus for more information. 

What are incline hammer curls?

Firstly, it’s important to note that the hammer curl requires you to grip the dumbbells using an overhand grip and a pronated wrist, so that they are suspended vertically (as opposed to the regular horizontal position). 

You can find out more in our full guide to hammer curls, but for now we’ll focus on what differentiates incline bench hammer curls from the standard version of this exercise. It’s incline hammer curls vs hammer curls in this article! 

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Incline hammer curls are performed by sitting on an incline gym bench, and dumbbells are used as the main form of resistance. The fact that they are performed by using a bench rather than in a standing position means that the biceps and brachialis muscle are worked across a larger range of motion, and therefore put under increased pressure.

Stephen E. Alway (Ph.D) in Thicken Your Arms with Seated Hammer Curls writes (of the seated version of hammer curls): 

They are especially well suited for their assigned task because not only do they activate the biceps muscle, but also strongly activate the deeper, thicker and stronger brachialis muscle. The brachialis muscle is important because thickening this muscle will push the biceps out and up and increase your overall upper arm mass.

This statement speaks for itself. It’s true that working these muscles over a larger range of motion has a favourable effect on the brachialis muscle in particular, which in turn improves the appearance of the biceps. 

So, the short response to the question of what are incline hammer curls? is this; they are performed on an incline bench, and they are arguably more effective for training the biceps and the brachialis muscle than regular hammer curls. So, when it comes to incline hammer curls vs hammer curls, they’re favoured by many. 

How to Do Incline Hammer Curls 

Set Up: The incline dumbbell hammer curl is one of the most popular variations of the regular hammer curl, since it’s so effective for working the brachialis (a deep muscle within your upper arm). All you need to perform it is two dumbbells and a bench, which you can find in our list of the 19 best weight benches on the market. 

Starting Position:

incline hammer curls image

  • Start the incline bench hammer curls by sitting on a weight bench, and ensure that you have a dumbbell placed on the floor at either side of you. 
  • The bench should be set in the upright position, and you should have your back straight against the backrest. 
  • Your feet should be placed on the floor at around shoulder-width apart.
  • Grip the dumbbells with an overhand grip (your palms facing inwards), and lift them so that they are suspended below knee height. 
  • Your arms should be fully extended. 


incline dumbbell hammer curl

  • First things first, make sure that your back is straight and that your neck is in line with your spine. You should have your back wedged against the backrest. 
  • Lock your elbows into place. 
  • Carefully curl the dumbbells upwards, maintaining proper incline hammer curl form, until your elbows reach a 45-degree angle. 
  • Hold this position for at least two seconds.
  • Begin to lower the dumbbells so that they end up back in the starting position. You should move your arms slower than you did during the first phase of the exercise to really feel the burn. 
  • Repeat! 

Incline Hammer Curls Muscles Worked 

Primary Movers: Biceps 

Secondary Muscles: Brachialis, brachioradialis

Incline Hammer Curls Mistakes to Avoid 

  • Using momentum to curl the dumbbells. You should avoid this at all costs, the main method being to drop the weight that you’re curling. You should go for a lighter dumbbell if you find yourself using momentum, and gradually work your way up to a heavier weight. If you can’t maintain proper incline hammer curl form, then the weight that you’re using is too heavy. 
  • Swinging the dumbbells. Incline curls are notorious for causing this, since they provide you with a greater range of motion to work the weight through. While this is a great thing for many people (and one of the most favourable incline hammer curl benefits), it can also be detrimental to those who lift weights that are too heavy for them. So, if you happen to notice yourself swinging the dumbbells during this exercise, swap out the weight that you’re lifting for a lighter one. That’s it for the most common incline hammer curls mistakes! 

Incline Hammer Curls Benefits 

  • We have to talk about the increased range of motion that the incline hammer curl provides you with. Since you’re literally positioning yourself at an incline as opposed to standing upright, you’re forcing your muscles to work through a longer movement, thus placing additional pressure on them. This is great for building strength and muscle mass in the biceps as part of a weight training bench routine, but it’s also good for targeting the brachialis that is difficult to reach during the regular exercise. So, if you’re looking for a powerful move to add to your bigger arms workout, the incline dumbbell hammer curl would be a great choice. 
  • Ever heard of cheat curls? You may even practice them regularly as part of your weight training routine. Whether you’ve heard of them or not, it’s good to note that this exercise makes it almost impossible to perform them, due to the fact that your back is wedged against the backrest of the bench. This is one of the most favourable incline hammer curls benefits, as it forces you to use only the muscles in your upper arm rather than relying on the rest of your body for assistance, and this will in turn help you to achieve better results.  

Incline Hammer Curl Regression & Progression

incline hammer curls vs bicep curls

To make the exercise easier (incline hammer curl regression):

  • It may sound obvious, but switching to a lighter set of dumbbells is the most effective way of making this exercise easier if you’re struggling to make it through all of your reps. You may be hesitant to try this, especially if you’re using heavier weights for other exercises, but it will be worth it in the long run. Curling with weights that are too heavy will only hinder your progress, and progressive overload is the way to go after all! 
  • If the weight that you’re using isn’t an issue, and it’s the mental toughness aspect that’s getting in the way of your progress, you could try an alternate version of the exercise. This would involve curling one weight at a time, and would mean that your biceps and secondary incline hammer curl muscles worked were given a longer rest period. 

To make the exercise more difficult (incline hammer curl progression): 

  • Is this exercise becoming too easy for you? The first thing that you should try when looking to up the difficulty level (and simultaneously boost your progress) is to upgrade the weights that you’re lifting. It sounds obvious, but without progressive overload you won’t make progress, so it really is essential! 
  • Alternatively, you can slow the tempo. This will force your muscles to work harder still if you’re not quite ready to increase the weight that you’re lifting, and will help to boost your strength. 

Incline Hammer Curls vs Bicep Curls

How to incline hammer curl image

One of the most frequently asked questions by those who haven't previously involved incline hammer curls as part of their regular workout regime is this; how do they weigh up against traditional bicep curls? 

That's why before you go ahead and try them out for yourself, we're going to talk about the battle of incline hammer curls vs bicep curls. It helps to look at the exercises individually before jumping straight into trying to prove why one is more effective than the other. 

The bicep curl is performed using an underhand grip, with the wrist in a supinated position. It chiefly targets the biceps brachii (both the long and the short head), but does involve the brachialis and the brachioradialis as secondary muscles. 

The incline hammer curl, on the other hand, targets the brachialis further as well as the brachioradialis (forearm muscle). Its purpose is to target the brachialis in a way that the standard bicep curl cannot, and this makes it a great exercise to use alongside them. 

How to do a incline hammer curl

In short, when viewing incline hammer curls vs bicep curls, the truth is that while they do have certain advantages over each other, they work best when used in unison. It would be almost impossible to select one exercise over the other. 

However, if you wanted to maximise strength and muscle gain, the best idea would be to perform both exercises on an incline, as the increased range of motion places extra pressure on the muscles. Incline hammer curls are more effective than regular hammer curls for this reason, and the same goes for incline bicep curls. 


Now that you know exactly how to do the incline hammer curl, and you’re confident in your knowledge of the muscles that the exercise works and the benefits that it can have on your overall progress, it’s time to give it a try for yourself. 

Feel free to refer back to this free guide as you wish, whether you’re trying the incline dumbbell hammer curl from home or within a gym setting! 

Want to turn your passion for fitness into a profitable yet rewarding career? If so, take some actionable steps by checking out our range of PT qualifications, or download OriGym’s free course prospectus before you go. 


  1. Alway, S.E., Thicken Your Arms With Seated Hammer Curls

Written by Abbie Watkins

Fitness Enthusiast & Blogger

Abbie is a work-hard, play-hard fitness junkie turned blogger. She loves a scenic run and a good upbeat exercise class. You can usually find her on the front row of a spin class on a Saturday morning.

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