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Reverse Curls vs Hammer Curls (For Biceps And Forearms)

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

In this article, we compare reverse curls and hammer curl in terms of which leg muscles they target most, difficulty, and how to do each one safely.

Man doing reverse curls with an EZ curl bar

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

With the hammer curl, your palms face inwards towards the body throughout, in a neutral grip.

With the reverse curl, the palms face downwards towards the floor. This is called a pronated grip.

Reverse Curls vs Hammer Curls: For Building Biceps

Without a doubt, the hammer curl is a better choice for building biceps. It allows you to use much more weight.

That was straightforward enough!

Reverse Curls vs Hammer Curls: For Building Forearms

Conventional broscience dictates that reverse curls are better for forearms, owing to the grip component.

I think that’s hard to prove. I mean, you could just grip a hammer curl really hard too, and for longer.

The reverse curl is definitely a useful addition to your forearm training arsenal, though.

If you’re trying to build your forearms, I would attack it from multiple angles. The hammer curl works one particular part of the forearm extremely well. The reverse curl gets into areas the other curls don’t.

Do both, of course! I don’t have a clear winner for you here.

Difficulty Level

Hammer Curls

Hammer curls are incredibly simple to learn, and easy to implement.

Reverse Curls

Reverse curls are also simple to learn, but they are much harder to perform.

The Verdict

For lighter weights, hammer curls are the easier of the two movements. As the weight increases though, there will be a cut-off point where the reverse curl is no longer viable.

Ease of Access

Hammer Curls

Hammer curls can be performed with many commonly found pieces of gym equipment.

  • Dumbbells. The most obvious choice and probably the most versatile.
  • A low cable column, if you have a rope attachment, or one of those squiggly bars that allows for a neutral grip.
  • A band. Using a band has limitations. You aren’t getting much work at the bottom of the movement. To increase difficulty you’ll either need to up the band tension by choking more band off, or using a thicker band. Both options will eventually become limited by the amount of force you are able to generate at the top of a curl.
  • A kettlebell, believe it or not! These are actually a great choice as they work your grip and forearms pretty hard.

Reverse Curls

Reverse curls are also versatile and can be executed with a wide variety of equipment.

  • Dumbbells. A common choice.
  • A barbell. I think I actually prefer this setup better than dumbbells. It allows for a little heavier weight. You can use Fat Gripz to add thickness to the bar for an additional grip challenge.
  • A band. Without some sort of handle attachment this is going to feel pretty rough on the hands, though. The hammer curl is easier to execute with a band. I can’t recommend this variation without a handle attachment, but I am including it for completeness.
  • A low cable column, if you have a straight bar attachment. I would exercise caution here, because if the handle slips the cable will zip back, which could then rebound off the frame. This could be injurious to you, or damage the cable column. I can’t recommend this variation because of the safety risk.
  • Kettlebells. Like the hammer curl, this is a fine choice. The handles on a kettlebell are usually thicker than dumbbells, which makes for a different grip challenge if you don’t have access to Fat Gripz.
  • Sandbags. Or any bag, really. Anything with a handle and a dangling weight. You could use a rucksack filled with books.
  • Chains. If you’re in one of those hardcore gyms with chains, you can reverse curl the chains and feel pretty badass while you do it.

The Verdict

Both exercises are very accessible in most gyms. While the reverse curl can be performed with more implements, not all of those variations are particularly useful.

Overall though, there are more options with the reverse curl.


Hammer Curls

Aside from cross body hammer curls, there isn’t much variability in the movement. The tool pretty much dictates the variation.

You can, however, change from standing to seated hammer curls on an incline bench at varying angles.

Reverse Curls

Outside of switching up the implement, the only other reverse curl variation I can think of is the Zottman curl, in which you lift a dumbbell with a supinated grip (palms facing up) and lower the dumbbell with a pronated grip (palms facing down, reverse curl).

This is basically using a regular grip to curl bigger weight up, so you can focus on a heavier negative eccentric movement.

The Verdict

I have to give this one to the reverse curl as well, I think. The hammer curl is fairly rigid in how it functions.

With the reverse curl, there’s more implements and variables you can toy with, hence more variability.

Hammer Curls vs Reverse Curls: Which Is Better?

Both of these curl variations are simple, accessible and elbow friendly.

If you’re seeking a movement that is rehabilitative in nature the reverse curl could be helpful.

Given that the primary function of curls for most people is to grow the biceps, though, you need a certain amount of weight for stimulus.

Here, the hammer curl has the clear advantage. The grip and position of the reverse curl severely inhibit the amount of weight you can use.

And while the forearm building benefits of the reverse curl are useful, you can also build forearms with any other type of curl.

So, if you’re pressed for time and nothing is hurting, the hammer curl should be your first choice. The difference in muscle building potential is too great.

That’s all for this article, but can hammer curls cause tennis elbow? Or perhaps you’re interested in incline dumbbell curls vs hammer curls?

Hope this helped!


Hammer Curls Muscles Worked

Reverse Curls Muscles Worked