Incline Hammer Curls

Complete Exercise Guide to Execution, Muscles Targeted, and Variations

By: Jeremy Fox, CNC, CPTPublished: August 7, 2023

If you want to focus on your outer biceps, hammer curls are a great exercise choice. And doing them on an incline bench can increase the activation of your outer bicep muscles even more.

However, it’s important to maintain proper form while doing incline hammer curls in order to get the most out of the exercise. To help you with this, I’ve put together a guide that includes a brief video and some helpful technique tips.

Incline Hammer Curls

What Are Incline Hammer Curls?

The incline hammer curl is a modified version of the regular bicep curl. It involves using a neutral grip and sitting on an incline bench. This new position affects the mechanics of the exercise and targets different parts of your arm muscles.

Incline Hammer Curls Muscles Worked

To fully comprehend the structure of the bicep, it’s crucial to note that it is made up of two distinct muscle fiber bundles known as the long head and short head. Furthermore, the outer arm contains an additional muscle called the brachialis.

According to Electromyography (EMG) studies, performing incline curls activates a greater portion of the long head and brachialis muscles. Additionally, performing incline curls with your palms inward provides further isolation for the outer bicep and upper forearm muscles.

Incline Hammer Curls Muscles Worked

Incline Hammer Curls Benefits & Limitations

Performing incline hammer curls can be highly beneficial for building the peak of your biceps due to the isolation of the long head. Also, the targeting of the brachialis can add thickness to your arms, making them appear wider.

Additionally, the back stabilization provided during this exercise helps to eliminate momentum and forces your biceps to work harder. This isolation allows you to use less weight and still achieve hypertrophy and growth.

However, it’s important to note that this exercise is not ideal for overall strength, which can be better achieved through heavier compound movements.


  • The incline bench reduces momentum.
  • Great for building biceps peak (long head).
  • Also builds bicep width (brachialis).


  • Isolation movement is not ideal for strength.

How to Do Incline Hammer Curls

In this section, I will guide you on how to set up the incline bench for the exercise. Following that, I will provide you with step-by-step instructions on how to perform the incline hammer curl.

Additionally, I have included a brief video demonstration and some extra form tips to assist you in perfecting the incline hammer curl exercise.

Incline Hammer Curls Bench Angle

The angle of the incline bench has a direct impact on which part of the biceps is targeted during exercise. If the bench is more upright, the bicep’s long head is less involved as your arms move closer to the front of your torso.

On the other hand, a flatter bench will work your outer biceps more. However, if the angle is too shallow, it can cause unwanted stress on your shoulder joints.

Therefore, the optimal angle for performing incline hammer curls on a bench falls within the range of 45 to 60 degrees.

Incline Hammer Curls Angle

Performing Incline Hammer Curls

To start this exercise, grab a dumbbell in each hand and lean back on the incline bench. Allow your arms to hang down by your sides, with your palms facing your body. This is called the neutral grip or hammer grip position.

Slowly curl the dumbbells towards your shoulders while keeping your upper arms still and your back pressed against the bench. Maintain a neutral grip throughout the entire movement, making the dumbbells resemble the head of a swinging hammer.

When your biceps are fully contracted at the top of the movement and hold this position for a brief moment. Then lower the dumbbells in a controlled manner back to the starting position, fully extending your arms but not locking your elbows.

To complete your set, perform the desired number of repetitions. Start with a weight that allows you to complete 8-12 reps with proper form.

Here are the basic steps to perform the incline hammer curl exercise:

  1. Adjust the incline bench to an angle of 45-60 degrees
  2. Grab dumbbells and sit back on bench with arms hanging, palms in.
  3. Curl the dumbbells while maintaining a neutral grip.
  4. Slowly lower the weight back to the starting position.
  5. Repeat for the desired reps.

Incline Hammer Curls Video (<1 minute)

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Incline Hammer Curls Form

The description and video above should give you a great starting point for performing incline hammer curls effectively. But here are some additional tips to help you master perfect form.

  • Upper Arm Position – Your elbows should remain behind your torso but in line with or slightly in front of your shoulder during the incline hammer curl. Also, keep your upper arms still while pivoting around the elbow.
  • Range of Motion – When performing an incline hammer curl, your arms should form roughly a 45-degree angle at the top of the range of motion. At the bottom, your arms should be almost straight but not locked out.
  • Loading – Use a weight you can handle for 8-12 repetitions with perfect form and a slower tempo. Do not go so heavy that you must swing the weights or use momentum.
Incline Hammer Curls Arm Angle
Incline Hammer Curls Arm Angle 2
Incline Hammer Curls Form 1

Incline Hammer Curls Variation

The incline hammer curl variation covered so far involves simultaneously performing the exercise with both arms. But you can also do this exercise with one arm at a time.

Alternating Incline Hammer Curls

To perform the alternating incline hammer curl, you curl the dumbbell with one arm while the other hangs by your side. Then, you switch arms with each repetition.

By alternating arms, you can concentrate more on one bicep while contracting. Additionally, each bicep receives more total time under tension since the set usually takes longer.

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Incline Hammer Curl Alternatives

Of course, incline hammer curls are not the only exercise you can use to target your outer biceps. Here are some alternative exercises to target the long head and brachialis.

Supinated Incline Dumbbell Curl

To work both heads of your biceps, you can try doing incline dumbbell curls with a palms-up or supinated grip. This hand position engages the inner bicep while the angle of your upper arm targets the outer bicep.

Standing Hammer Curls

When you do hammer curls while standing, your upper arm aligns with or goes in front of your torso. Although this arm position slightly reduces activation of the outer bicep, the neutral grip still focuses on the long head and brachialis.

Reverse Curls

You can perform reverse curls by holding the weight with an overhand or pronated grip, with your palms facing downwards. This grip is effective in targeting the outer bicep and upper forearm muscles.

More Bicep Exercises & Workouts

Incline hammer curls are a superb exercise for building the bicep’s peak by working the outer arm. But a complete arm workout should still include some exercise for the inner bicep as well.

So here are some additional articles that should help you design your ultimate bicep training routine.

Full Dumbbell Back & Bicep Workout

Simple Bicep Stretches Before Workout

Hammer Curls vs Bicep Curls for Building Arms

Mr. Olympia Chris Bumstead Arm Workout

Top Cable Arms Exercises for Biceps & Triceps

3 Easy Steps to Wider Biceps

15 Short Head Bicep Exercises for Sleeve Busting Arms

Based on the information provided, you have a solid foundation for achieving your goals of building bigger arms. If you found this article helpful, I believe you may also find these additional resources to be valuable.

6 Best Post-Workout Meal Ideas

The post-workout meal is the most important meal of the day. Give your body the right nutrients after training to gain muscle & lose fat.

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By |August 7, 2023|Workouts|Comments Off on How to Do Incline Hammer Curls for Building Big Biceps
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