Barbell Curls vs Hammer Curls

Barbell Curl vs Hammer Curl (Is One Better For Arm Day?)

Barbell Curls and Hammer Curls are two popular exercises that target the biceps. Both are excellent choices for arm day, but there are a few differences between them.

One difference is the equipment used. In barbell curls, a (spoiler alert) barbell is used while in hammer curls it’s dumbbells. This difference in equipment can affect the muscles worked and the range of motion of the exercise.

Another difference is the grip used.

In barbell curls, the hands are placed shoulder-width apart and the palms face upward. This grip places the emphasis on the biceps and brachialis.

In hammer curls, the palms face each other and the hands are positioned at the sides of the body. This grip puts a heavy focus on the brachioradialis and the muscles in the forearm as well as the biceps.

In this article, I will compare barbell curls and hammer curls, highlighting the similarities and differences between the two exercises. I will also discuss the benefits of each exercise and provide tips for incorporating them into your workout routine.

Barbell Curls

Equipment Needed

  • Barbell

Step-by-Step Instructions

  • Stand tall, back straight, head up, feet shoulder-width apart.
  • Hold the barbell with both hands, palms up (supinated grip).
  • Start with the bar at arm’s length against the upper thighs.
  • Curl the bar up towards the shoulders until the forearms touch the biceps.
  • Keep upper elbows close to the side.
  • Lower the bar back to starting position using the same path.
  • Continue until all reps are completed.

Coaching Points

By far the most common mistake with any curl exercise, but perhaps even more so with Barbell Curls is swinging and rocking in an attempt to lift more weight. If you need to swing the bar, use momentum or generally contort your body to move the weight, it’s too heavy. Lower the weight and use proper form.

Don’t allow the wrists to bow back when holding and curling the bar. Keep the wrist neutral by keeping the forearms engaged. This will take pressure off the wrist that could otherwise lead to Barbell Curls being very uncomfortable on the wrists.

Related –> 11 Alternatives for Barbell Curls that also Develop Strong Biceps


Some potential benefits of performing barbell curls include:

  • Increased upper arm strength and size
  • Improved grip strength
  • Enhanced athletic performance in activities that require upper body strength

Additionally, the barbell curl is a relatively simple and convenient exercise that can be performed using a standard barbell and weight plates. This makes it a popular choice for strength training at home or in the gym.

Hammer Curls

Hammer Curls

Equipment Needed

  • Dumbbells


  • Start standing with feet flat on the ground about hip-width apart, knees slightly bent.
  • Hold one dumbbell in each hand and stand tall with good posture.
  • Start with palms facing in toward the body.
  • Now, curl both dumbbells up to shoulder level by flexing the biceps. Palms should finish still facing one another. Do not rotate the palm up.
  • Squeeze the biceps at the top of the rep and then lower back down to the starting position.

Coaching Points

The biggest mistake I see with Hammer Curls is swinging the dumbbells at the bottom of the rep. Lower the weights down under control and do not swing them at the bottom.

The other mistake I see usually comes when an athlete is trying to use too much weight. Instead of keeping the elbow in place at their side, they allow the elbow to drift back behind the torso which turns the movement into more of a row than a curl.


Some potential benefits of hammer curls include increased strength and size in the biceps and forearms, improved grip strength, and enhanced upper-body muscular balance and symmetry.

Additionally, hammer curls can help to prevent common issues such as elbow pain and wrist strain that can arise from performing traditional bicep curls with a supinated (underhand) grip.

Barbell Curls vs Hammer Curls: Is One Better?

Now let’s see how these two exercises stack up based on specific lifting goals.

Better For Developing Size and Strength: Barbell Curls

Both Barbell Curls and Hammer Curls can be effective for developing strength in the biceps and forearms, but I’ll give a slight edge here to Barbell Curls.

Barbell Curls allow you to lift heavier weights, which can be beneficial for increasing overall strength. Generally speaking, the more weight you’re able to move, the more size and strength you’re going to build.

On the other hand, Hammer Curls are a good option for targeting the muscles in the forearms, specifically the brachioradialis. Additionally, the neutral grip of hammer curls puts less strain on the wrists, which can be beneficial for individuals who are prone to wrist pain or injury.

Better For Beginners: Hammer Curls

For beginners, hammer curls may be a better option than barbell curls. This is because hammer curls are a simpler exercise to perform, and they place less strain on the wrists and elbows, which can be beneficial for individuals who are new to working out.

Of course, as a beginner, it is important to start with a light weight and to focus on proper form no matter what exercises you choose to do. As you become more comfortable with the exercise, you can gradually increase the weight to challenge yourself and continue to progress.

In general, it is a good idea for beginners to learn the proper form for various exercises and to incorporate a variety of bicep and forearm exercises into their routine in order to promote balanced muscle development. This might include both hammer curls and barbell curls, as well as other exercises such as chin-ups, tricep extensions, and wrist curls.

Final Thoughts

I’ve just spent the last section of this article comparing which is better – Barbell Curls or Hammer Curls. However, the truth is, there is no reason you shouldn’t have both exercises in your strength training program.

Both are excellent exercises for developing strong biceps and forearms. Incorporating both exercises into your training program can also add variety and keep your workouts from getting stale.

So, my suggestion would be instead of trying to decide between the two exercises, figure out how you can utilize both Barbell Curls and Hammer Curls in your training plan.

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