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Hammer Curls vs Incline Curls (For Huge Biceps!)

If you’re looking for a hammer curls vs incline curls comparison guide, then you’ve come to the right place.

In this article, I compare these 2 exercises in terms of which is best for biceps, which is best for forearm, and more.

woman doing incline curls

What’s The Difference Between Hammer Curls And Incline Curls?

As their name suggests, incline dumbbell curls are done while sitting on an incline bench.

This is different from the standing position that hammer curls are usually performed in.

While both hammer curls and incline dumbbell curls are done using dumbbells, your grip and overall arm positioning are different in both exercises.

A supinated grip (palms up) is used for incline dumbbell curls whereas a neutral grip (palms facing your body) is used for hammer curls.

Hammer Curls vs Incline Curls: For Biceps

When compared to hammer curls, incline dumbbell curls are better at building biceps.

During incline dumbbell curls, your arms move behind your body which increases the range of motion the exercise creates.

This added range puts more stress on your upper arms, in particular, the biceps brachii which is the largest muscle in your upper arm. 

Putting more stress on your biceps results in greater muscle growth in that area.

Hammer Curls vs Incline Curls: For Forearms

Hammer curls are fantastic at building overall arm size.

This is because they require activation of your biceps and your forearm muscles to be performed correctly.

As your forearms work hard in hammer curls, they’re better at building forearms than incline dumbbell curls.

Difficulty Level

Hammer Curls

The movement needed to perform hammer curls comes from flexion of the elbow. This is a very easy thing to achieve so most people will be able to do it.

As flexing your elbow is a simple movement, the only real difficulty caused by hammer curls is the amount of weight you’re trying to lift.

As long as you use the appropriate dumbbells, hammer curls have a pretty low difficulty level.

Incline Dumbbell Curls

Incline dumbbell curls are more of an intermediate difficulty arm exercise.

This is mainly because they place your biceps under a lot of stress, which can be challenging if you don’t have strong biceps to begin with.

The movement involved in incline dumbbell curls is fairly simple, although you need to be wary of not bringing your shoulders into the exercise.

The Verdict

Incline curls are harder than hammer curls.

The technique is more challenging to get right and they do a better job at isolating your biceps.

While hammer curls do work your biceps, the fact that your forearms do a lot of work too means that each muscle group has to put less effort into the movement as they work together to make it happen.

Ease of Access

Hammer Curls

As dumbbells are the only equipment needed for hammer curls, they’re a very accessible exercise.

Providing you have the appropriate weight dumbbells, you can pretty much do hammer curls anywhere regardless of where you’re training.

Incline Dumbbell Curls

To perform incline dumbbell curls, you need a pair of dumbbells and an incline bench. These are easy to access in pretty much all gyms.

However, accessing an incline bench may be more difficult if you train at home and have limited equipment.

That being said, on the whole, incline dumbbell curls are an accessible exercise for most people.

The Verdict

Both exercises only need very basic fitness equipment in the form of dumbbells and a bench (for incline dumbbell curls).

Although these are readily available in gyms, if you prefer training at home, then hammer curls probably offer more accessibility than incline dumbbell curls.


Hammer Curls

Hammer curls are a very versatile exercise with multiple variations.

They can be performed with kettlebells or a cable rope if you prefer to use these over dumbbells and the movement itself can be altered into cross-body hammer curls too.

This exercise brings in more muscle groups and provides a more challenging variation of the original exercise.

You can also mix things up by doing hammer curls seated or standing depending on your usual starting position.

Incline Dumbbell Curls

Incline dumbbell curls also offer variations although not quite as many as hammer curls. 

You can add a pause to the top end of the movement before lowering the weights back down.

This keeps your biceps under tension for a bit longer causing them to have to work harder.

You could also do alternate arm incline dumbbell curls.

Rather than lifting both dumbbells at the same time, performing the movement one arm at a time can help you focus on the technique and ensure the right muscle groups are working throughout the exercise.

The Verdict

Both hammer curls and incline dumbbell curls offer some level of variability although hammer curls tend to offer a little bit more.

Being able to do the exercise with different equipment as well as adding in new aspects to the movement (like cross-body hammer curls), gives hammer curls a slight advantage in this category.

Are Incline Hammer Curls Better Than Incline Dumbbell Curls?

The answer to this depends on what you’re trying to achieve in your arm workouts.

If you want to increase your overall arm size and strength, then incline hammer curls could be a better choice than incline dumbbell curls as your forearm muscles will come into play much more, resulting in the development of several arm muscles.

If you prefer to isolate your biceps during your training though, then standard incline dumbbell curls are probably better.

Hammer Curls vs Incline Dumbbell Curls: Which Is Better?

Both of these exercises perform well in all the categories discussed in this article.

There are some slight advantages and disadvantages to both, so ultimately, it’ll probably come down to your fitness goals and your personal preferences as to which one you find better.

Hammer curls are a fantastic exercise for working several muscle groups in your arms in one movement whereas incline dumbbell curls are better for putting your biceps under more isolated pressure.

Hammer curls are slightly easier to do and offer a few more variations. Other than that, the two are pretty evenly matched.

That’s all for this article, but why do hammer curls cause elbow pain? Or perhaps you’re interested in reverse curls vs hammer curls?

Hope this helped!


Hammer Curls Muscles Worked

Incline Dumbbell Curls Muscles Worked