Hammer curls have long been a favorite exercise of gym-goers. Another very popular exercise for building big strong arms is the preacher curl.
If you walk into any gym, you’ll likely see someone sitting on a preacher bench curling a heavy bar while someone else is standing performing hammer curls not far away. Both exercises have a strong following.
As so many people prefer one of these exercises to the other, you may be wondering which one is the better exercise.
Well, that’s what we explore in this article.
Are hammer curls better than preacher curls?
Are preacher curls better than hammer curls?
Or is there a place in your training for both of these very effective exercises?
What’s The Difference Between Hammer Curls And Preacher Curls?
The most obvious difference between hammer curls and preacher curls is the position in which you perform each exercise.
Hammer curls tend to be performed standing up with dumbbells by your sides.
Preacher curls are performed using a preacher bench which helps to isolate your biceps throughout the movement.
Preacher Curls vs Hammer Curls: For Biceps
If your main aim is to increase the size of your biceps, then you’ll probably find preacher curls to be more beneficial to you.
As your hands are in a supinated position (palms up) during preacher curls, this causes more engagement of your biceps brachii and brachialis resulting in more work being done in your biceps.
When performed correctly, preacher curls can very quickly add good levels of size and strength to your upper arms.
Preacher Curls vs Hammer Curls: For Forearms
One of the reasons why hammer curls are so popular is for their ability to add size and strength to more of your arms than just your biceps.
That’s not to say that hammer curls don’t work your biceps. They most certainly do, however, they also bring your brachioradialis into play which helps build up your forearms.
The palms-in grip used during hammer curls is fantastic for working your forearms as well as your biceps, making hammer curls a great forearm-building exercise.
Hammer curls are a pretty easy exercise in terms of both the physiological movement required and the amount of weight you can lift with them.
When it comes to the actual movement of hammer curls, it’s all about flexion of the elbow which isn’t particularly difficult to do.
As there are several of your arm muscles working during hammer curls too, it’s likely going to be the biceps exercise where you can lift the most weight.
In terms of the movement required for preacher curls, they aren’t much harder than hammer curls.
When it comes to the amount of stress the exercise puts on your muscles though, preacher curls are harder.
This is because, as your arms are being supported by the pad on the preacher bench, you aren’t able to bring in other muscles to help your biceps lift the weight.
Momentum and assisting muscles are almost completely removed which can make preacher curls quite challenging to do.
Preacher curls have a higher difficulty level than hammer curls.
As the exercise does a good job of isolating your biceps and minimizing the use of momentum or supporting muscles, it’s a challenging exercise that puts a lot of emphasis on your biceps.
While hammer curls work more muscles in your arms, they tend to be more comfortable to perform than preacher curls.
Ease of Access
Accessibility isn’t much of an issue with hammer curls as you only need a set of dumbbells to perform them.
Pretty much all gyms will have multiple sets of dumbbells to choose from, so finding an appropriate set shouldn’t be a problem.
Even if you’re training at home, dumbbells are readily available to buy so hammer curls in your home gym are very accessible too.
Preacher curls are typically performed using a weighted bar and a preacher bench.
Both of these things aren’t normally in great supply in gyms, so it can be hard to do preacher curls exactly when you want to.
There’s usually only a small number of bars and benches available at any one time, so you may have to wait for the equipment to become available before you can do preacher curls.
Doing preacher curls at home would also require a bar and a preacher bench which can be quite expensive, so they definitely lack some level of accessibility.
Hammer curls are more accessible than preacher curls simply because they only require basic equipment in the form of dumbbells to do correctly.
While preacher curls are fairly accessible in a gym environment, it can be a struggle to gain access to the appropriate bench and barbell when you need them.
Hammer curls are a pretty versatile exercise.
There are multiple variations you can perform including using alternative equipment such as kettlebells or a cable rope.
You can even alter the movement of hammer curls by performing cross-body hammer curls. These bring more muscles into the exercise and can make things more challenging.
Another variation is to change from standing to seated hammer curls.
Hammer curls have a high level of variability thanks to the options of doing them without dumbbells and adding new muscles groups to the exercise.
Preacher curls tend to lack variability when it comes to the equipment you can use for the exercise.
You’ll need access to a preacher bench to perform standard preacher curls or any other variation of them.
There are some variations in terms of using dumbbells instead of a barbell and you can change from standard preacher curls to hammer preacher curls.
Both exercises have good levels of variability.
Hammer curls are slightly more versatile than preacher curls as you can use more varied equipment when adapting the exercise to suit you.
You can make slight changes to the equipment being used in preacher curls but you’ll always need a preacher bench, which does limit your versatility somewhat.
Are Hammer Preacher Curls Better Than Regular Hammer Curls?
Hammer preacher curls can be more beneficial than regular hammer curls if they’re done correctly.
As hammer curls are great for building size and strength in your biceps and forearms, doing them on a preacher bench can help to ensure your arm muscles are being targeted without bringing in other muscle groups to assist.
Preacher Curls vs Hammer Curls: Which Is Better?
Hammer curls and preacher curls both have some pros when trying to decide if either exercise is better.
Preacher curls are better at isolating your biceps and have some useful variations that can be used to further build your arm muscles.
Hammer curls are easier to do and have greater variability. They’re also better at building your forearms as part of your arm workouts.
Your fitness goals and personal preferences will likely be the biggest factor in deciding which of these exercises is better for you though.
That’s all for this article, but perhaps you’re interested in preacher curl vs cable curl?
Hope this helped!
I’ve been in the fitness and strength training industry for nearly a decade. In that time, I’ve gained 30 pounds of muscle, written hundreds of articles, and reviewed dozens of fitness supplements. As for my educational background, I’m a currently studying for my Active IQ Level 3 Diploma in Personal Training.