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Reverse Curls Vs Hammer Curls: Which One Builds Bigger Arms?

 Written by 

Damect Dominguez

 Last updated on 

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Ask any serious weight lifter which muscle groups they wish they had bigger and it’s a safe bet that they will say biceps and triceps. And hey, who wouldn’t want stone-strong biceps and ham-hock triceps bulging out of their skin-tight T-shirt sleeves?

But how can you get that kind of arms? While sure, training them is a good start, but how exactly should you train them for maximum muscle growth? Just like driving around aimlessly won’t get you to your destination, just training your arms with any random exercises that come to mind won’t result in big gains, or big guns. 

You need to Reverse-Vs-Hammer-Curlsdo just the right exercises for those muscles to pop, and we’ve got the answers for you today. Wondering which exercise is better for building bigger arms – reverse curls or hammer curls? Let’s see their strengths and weaknesses.
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You need to do just the right exercises for those muscles to pop, and we’ve got the answers for you today. Wondering which exercise is better for building bigger arms – reverse curls or hammer curls? Let’s see their strengths and weaknesses.

No Diet, No Arms

First things first, it will be very hard for you to notice any muscle gains if your diet is not in line. The truth of the matter is, nutrition is more important than training itself. If you don’t give your muscles the needed energy for recovery and growth, they won’t get bigger or stronger.

Eat clean and in a surplus of calories. That way, your body will be primed for growth. Your best bet is eating no less than 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight. For instance, if you’re 200 pounds, it’s best to eat 200 grams of protein in a day, equally divided into six to eight meals. As for carbs, eating 1.5-2 grams per pound of bodyweight daily would be the best ratio.

Compound Arm Movements Are Essential

Compound Arm Movements Are Essential
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Well-planned and properly executed compound movements are the bread and butter of gaining mass. While sure, having a separate day for arms is great, you should also have a separate day for back, shoulders, and chest. Performing compound movements in those body parts will significantly help you build overall body mass and mass on your biceps and triceps.

Improving and strengthening a certain muscle group can be challenging, especially if it hasn’t responded with new growth in several months. This calls for drastic measures – the most effective solution would be prioritizing that body part over the rest of your body. 

Reverse curls and hammer curls are a great addition to your training regimen as they can develop peaks in your biceps.

What Are Hammer Curls?

Hammer Curls
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Hammer curls are a variation of the traditional bicep curl – they target muscles in the lower and upper arm. The standard curl is usually performed with a dumbbell, however, you can also perform it with bands or cables. Hammer curls are a great addition to your upper-body strength training.

How Do Hammer Curls Work?

Just take a pair or dumbbells and hold them by your sides with your thumbs facing forward. Make sure not to supinate the forearm and curl the weight up toward your shoulder. The whole process should look like a hammering motion. Return the dumbbells to your side and repeat the dumbbell curl.

Quick Performance Tip for Bigger Gains from Hammer Curls

Another excellent and maybe more effective exercise is cross-body hammer curls. To do it, just perform the movement we described above, but instead of doing dumbbell curls by your side, curl them across your upper body toward your opposite shoulder. Alternate each arm.

What Are Reverse Curls?

Reverse Curls
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Reverse curls are a variation of regular bicep curls. Wondering how reverse curls work? When performing a regular curl, instead of gripping the weight with your palms up, it should be done with palms facing down. Add the reverse curl exercise to your current strength training routine to build stronger and more toned arms.

Quick Performance Tip for Bigger Gains from Reverse Curls

For the ultimate gains in isolated forearm training, you can do preacher curls, that is, reverse curls on a preacher bench. This will help you execute the exercise with proper form and will also help better isolate the muscles you’re training. When doing preacher curls, choose a moderate weight you’re comfortable with as reverse curls can be challenging to perform with more weight than you’re used to.

Reverse Curls vs Hammer Curls? An In-Depth Comparison

In the world of weight lifting, there are so many bicep curl variations that it can be challenging to choose just one exercise to focus on. You’re probably wondering – which exercise will help me build bigger upper arms – the hammer curl or reverse curl? Which one will help me increase grip strength?

Reverse Curls Vs Hammer Curls 2
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Let’s see which exercise excels where – see how reverse and hammer curls work and compare their benefits and drawbacks.

Which Builds Bigger Biceps – the Hammer Curl or Reverse Curl?

Practice has shown that hammer curls can help you build bicep muscle faster and more effectively than reverse curls. Mass building requires overloading your muscles with more weight for 3–5 sets of 8–12 reps. 

In this case, hammer curls are better as they enable you to workout with heavier weight than reverse curls. This means your biceps will be overloaded easier which will eventually result in bigger bicep size. Bottom line is, do hammer curls if you want bigger biceps.

Which Builds Bigger Forearms – the Hammer Curl or Reverse Curl? 

If your goal is building bigger forearms, reverse curls will be your best ally. When you’re curling with your palms down (a supinated grip), you’re taking your arms out of the neutral grip and forcing your grip to work. As you perform the curling motion, your grip stops the bar from dropping to the floor. 

Ultimately, the more your grip works, the more you’re engaging your forearm muscles. In other words, doing reverse curls will help you get bigger and stronger forearms than doing hammer curls.

Which Is Better for Developing Bicep Strength – the Hammer Curl or Reverse Curl? 

Developing Bicep Strength
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If you are looking for a curl exercise to increase your overall strength, hammer curls are the obvious winner. They enable you to lift heavier weights than reverse curls, making it easier to push your body to its limits. Hammer curls strength training requires performing 3–5 sets of 3–5 reps.

For best results, these reps should be performed with bigger weights. Doing hammer curls for strength will still work your upper forearm, but will mainly help you increase bicep strength.

When lifting heavy weights, hammer curls will also increase strength in your forearm muscles and brachioradialis.  

Which Is Safer to Perform – the Hammer Curl or Reverse Curl? 

If you want to avoid injuries, it’s best to perform reverse curls. While, yes, hammer curls will help you lift heavier weights, but this also puts more stress on your elbow joint. When compared to them, reverse curls require a lighter weight range, which, in turn, reduces the risk of injury to your elbow tendons. So, if you start feeling pain in the elbows when doing hammer curls or regular bicep curls, give reverse curls a try.

Hammer curls are not inherently dangerous. Just make sure to start with lighter weights and slowly increase them as you build your arm strength and endurance to avoid injury. Reverse curls do not entirely eliminate the risk of injury. One of the safest ways to prevent elbow pain while doing reverse curls is to do EZ bar curls or super barbell curls. 

Reverse Curls Vs Hammer Curls: Which Exercise Is Better?

Reverse Curls Vs Hammer Curls3
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If your goal is building bigger and stronger biceps, hammer curls are a much better option than reverse curls. However, if your goal is focusing on your forearms, reverse curls outperform hammer curls. Here’s a quick summary of the battle between hammer curls vs reverse curls:

  • Hammer curls provide more focus on your  biceps muscles;
  • Reverse curls engage the brachioradialis and other forearm muscles much better;
  • Hammer curls are more suitable for building both arm strength and mass;
  • Reverse curls are less likely to cause injury when performed with proper form.  

Training Tips to Get the Most Out of Your Biceps Workout

Biceps Workout
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If your goal is building bigger guns, doing hammer and reverse curls is a great way to do it. To get the best results, it’s essential to test different curl variations and lifting techniques that will work your targeted muscles.

Do not Overtrain Your Biceps

Since the biceps is a small muscle group that gets a lot of additional work every time you train back and chest, it’s good to avoid doing more than two biceps training sessions per week if you’re an advanced lifter. If you’re just a beginner or an intermediate lifter, however, one session of hammer curls or reverse curls would be enough. Aim for six to nine sets of specific biceps work to prevent overtraining this muscle group.

Aim for Size – Shape Will Follow

One of the biggest misconceptions in the world of bodybuilding is that you can do particular exercises to get a specific biceps shape. The truth of the matter is, your body’s shape is usually determined by genetics and specific workouts will further develop only what your genetic blueprint dictates. 

Having said that, your best bet is training for size with the basic movements and avoiding those so called ‘shaping exercises’ – at least in the beginning stages of your training journey (six months to a year).

Keep Proper Form While Exercising

Ensuring you’re training with the correct form will help you to fully isolate the biceps and help them grow bigger and stronger. Maintaining a good form and technique will also help prevent training injuries.

Train Your Biceps Separately

Training biceps separately (it would be best if done on the same day as back training) is a great idea for two reasons: it will help you focus on their development exclusively with maximum intensity, and it will give you longer recovery time as the workouts will be shorter and the bigger muscle groups will not limit the intensity you train with.

For instance, if you train your biceps right after training your back there will be residual fatigue in the elbow flexors from all the rows, chins and pull-downs you’ve done. This, in turn, will significantly affect and limit the training resistance you can give while performing all biceps curling movements and will potentially limit the growth of your biceps.  

Warm-Up Correctly

To avoid injuries and correctly prepare your biceps for high intensity workouts and doing hammer curls or any type of bicep curls, it’s recommended to stretch for several minutes before working out. Do at least one warm-up set of 15-20 repetitions with weights that are about 50% of your typical working weight.

Reverse Curls Vs Hammer Curls: Our Verdict

resistance training
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Properly warming up and keeping your exercises simple is a great starting point for resistance training and growing steel-hard biceps. Keep your training sessions simple and short by sticking with a plan that works for you. It’s always best to follow a routine that is based on several basic movements, and follow a list of guidelines that are proven to get results.  


Damect is the visionary who brought BoxLife Magazine to life. As the author of “Training Day – 400+ original WODs,” he has played a pivotal role in shaping the CrossFit community. His passion for the sport and dedication to the community are the foundation upon which BoxLife was built.

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