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Zottman Curls vs Hammer Curls (For Biceps And Forearms)

Hammer curls are an extremely popular upper arm exercise. If you walk into pretty much any gym, the chances are you’ll see someone performing them.

Zottman curls sound like they aren’t a common exercise but you probably see people do them all the time. Perhaps you just didn’t realize what they were actually called.

Both of these exercises are awesome bicep-building exercises, but you may be wondering which one is better for you to add to your arm workouts.

This article will help you get a better understanding of the similarities and differences between hammer curls and zottman curls.

By the end of it, you should be able to look at both exercises and make a decision as to which one is better suited to your fitness goals.

Man doing seated hammer curls in a gym

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

The main difference between hammer curls and zottman curls is that zottman curls include a rotational movement during the lift.

Hammer curls are effectively an exercise where you lift a weight straight up and then lower it straight down.

Zottman curls require an upward, rotational, and then downward style of movement that makes them look quite different from hammer curls.

Zottman Curls vs Hammer Curls: For Biceps

Zottman curls are generally considered better at building biceps than hammer curls. 

This is because the brachialis (upper arm muscle) is placed under greater strain during the lowering phase of the movement.

(Assuming the movement is done properly.)

This is in contrast to hammer curls, where your biceps and forearm muscles are both working throughout all parts of the exercise.

As your biceps are working to a greater extent on their own during part of the zottman curl movement, they tend to benefit more than they would from hammer curls.

Zottman Curls vs Hammer Curls: For Forearms

While zottman curls may put more focus on your biceps – hammer curls keep your forearm muscles working throughout the movement.

During hammer curls, your wrist and forearms are in a powerful position meaning they can engage and put a lot of work into moving the weight. While your biceps obviously do a great deal of the work, your forearms play a huge role in hammer curls.

Hammer curls definitely help build big biceps but they also bring your forearm muscles into play much more than zottman curls do.

Difficulty Level

Hammer Curls

Hammer curls are a simple exercise suitable for all levels of experience.

The movement comes from simply flexing your elbow so there’s no real complexity to the exercise. 

Hammer curls allow you to lift more weight than other curl variations, so this tends to point to an easier exercise in general.

That being said, hammer curls activate quite a few different arm muscles. So in that respect, they can be challenging.

However, looking at the movement as a whole, hammer curls are relatively simple to perform.

Zottman Curls

Zottman curls require quite a lot of complex movement which can make them reasonably difficult to perform correctly.

The technique is hard to master as the rotational movement from supinated to pronated grip takes some getting used to.

Zottman curls also put more emphasis on your biceps (particularly on the downward phase) which makes things more challenging as other muscle groups are removed from the exercise.

As fewer muscle groups are working at certain points in the movement, zottman curls can require a decent amount of strength and mobility to do correctly.

The Verdict

When it comes to difficulty level, zottman curls are more challenging than hammer curls.

Just the rotational aspect of the movement alone makes them a bit harder to do.

This in addition to your biceps placed under more pressure makes zottman curls more challenging than hammer curls.

Ease of Access

Hammer Curls

You only need dumbbells to perform hammer curls.

Hammer curls are an easily accessible exercise and you can perform them anywhere you want to do them.

Whether you work out in a gym or at home, you can do hammer curls as part of your training as long as you have a set of dumbbells to hand.

Zottman Curls

Like hammer curls, zottman curls only require a set of dumbbells to perform them effectively.

As dumbbells are widely available in gyms and as part of most home gym setups, you’ll very likely be able to perform zottman curls wherever you train.

The Verdict

As far as accessibility goes – both hammer curls and zottman curls are very accessible exercises.

There isn’t really a clear winner in this category, other than you may need heavier dumbbells when performing hammer curls.

This could limit how much you can progress the exercise, but you could quite easily increase rep and set numbers instead of weight if you need to make things more challenging.


Hammer Curls

Hammer curls have multiple variations that you can perform to mix your training up from time to time.

Changing from standing to seated hammer curls by using an incline bench is an easy way of mixing things up.

You can also use kettlebells or a cable rope instead of dumbbells. 

In regards to variations of the actual movement, cross-body hammer curls can bring in additional muscle groups to the exercise making it more challenging for you.

Zottman Curls

Zottman curls are pretty much a standalone exercise with very few variations you can add to the movement.

Reverse curls and standard bicep curls are alternatives that bring in elements of zottman curls, but there aren’t many exercises that compare to the zottman curl movement as a whole.

The Verdict

Hammer curls offer far more variability than zottman curls

While there are alternative exercises that work similar muscle groups as zottman curls, you can’t really vary the movement too much.

You can perform hammer curls with different equipment and make changes to the technique, with cross-body hammer curls being a good example.

Zottman Curls vs Hammer Curls: Which Is Better?

Depending on your fitness goals, your exercise experience, and your personal preferences, both hammer curls and zottman curls could be seen as the better exercise.

If you want to perform a more complex movement that targets your biceps on a more individual basis during parts of the exercise, zottman curls are a good choice.

However, if you want more variation options and a simpler movement, hammer curls might be the better option for you.

That’s all for this article, but do hammer curls work triceps? Or perhaps you’re wondering why you get shoulder pain from hammer curls?

Hope this helped!


Hammer Curls Muscles Worked

Zottman Curls Muscles Worked