You may find affiliate links in this post. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. Why Trust Us
Master the Preacher Curls to help maximize your biceps muscle growth
Preacher curls are bicep-focused strength training exercise that isolates and target the upper arm muscles.
You will usually perform preacher curls with a preacher bench, which supports the upper arms as you lift a barbell or dumbbell.
Maintaining a stable upper arm position allows preacher curls to effectively work the biceps, helping you build muscle mass and strength in the muscles.
Preacher curls are some of the most popular strength-building and isolation exercises among those looking to enhance the appearance of their biceps and improve arm strength.
Target muscles: Biceps
Required equipment: Preacher curl bench, barbell, or dumbbell.
Preacher Curls proper form
Step to follow
- Adjust the preacher curl bench so that the inclined pad is at a comfortable angle, usually around 45 degrees.
- Sit on the bench
- Press your chest against the pad and rest your armpits on top of it.
- Place your feet flat on the floor, shoulder-width apart, for stability.
- Grasp the barbell or dumbbell with an underhand or supinated grip, slightly wider than shoulder-width apart.
- Position your hands outside your shoulders to help target the outer part of the biceps more effectively.
- Fully extend your arms and allow them to hang straight down.
- Press your upper arms against the preacher pad and place your elbows directly below your shoulders.
- Keep your upper arms stationary throughout the movement. The only joint that should move is the elbow joint.
- Exhale, flex your elbows and curl the weight upwards. Focus on contracting your biceps, and try to avoid using momentum.
- Continue lifting the weight until your forearms are almost vertical and you have reached a fully contracted position. That is the top of the movement.
- Hold the contracted position briefly to emphasize the squeeze in your biceps.
- Inhale, and slowly lower the weight back to your starting position under control.
- Repeat 8-12 reps for a set and 3-4 sets per session.
- Focus on the mind-muscle connection. Concentrate on feeling the contraction in your biceps throughout the movement.
- Use a controlled and deliberate motion; do not swing or use momentum to lift the weight.
- Press your chest against the pad and your feet on the floor to help maintain proper posture and stability.
- Perform the exercise smoothly and fluidly. Do not jerk or suddenly move.
- Start with a weight that allows you to complete the desired number of repetitions with good form.
Tips and best practices for Preacher Curls
Always start with a proper warm-up.
Light cardio and dynamic stretching can help increase blood flow to the muscles and prepare them for lifting.
- Adjust the bench
Ensure the bench is at the appropriate angle. A 45-degree incline is a common starting point, but you can adjust it slightly to find the most comfortable position for your body.
The key is to get a full range of motion without straining the shoulders or elbows.
- Stabilize your body
Press your chest against the pad and rest your armpits on top of it.
The stability prevents cheating and ensures your biceps do the work.
- Placement of your elbow
Position your upper arms and shoulders so they’re stationary throughout the movement.
The elbow joint should be the only joint that moves.
Avoid swinging or lifting your elbows. That will take the tension away from the biceps.
Use a comfortable supinated grip on the barbell or dumbbell.
Ensure your palms are further than shoulder-width apart. That will help target the outer part of the biceps more effectively.
- Mind-muscle connection
Focus on the muscle you’re working. Concentrate on feeling the contraction in your biceps as you curl the weight upward.
The mental connection can enhance the effectiveness of the exercise.
- Control the movement
Use a controlled and deliberate motion to lift the weight. Avoid using momentum to swing the weight up.
The controlled movement ensures the biceps are under tension throughout the exercise.
- Aim for a full range of motion
Lower the weight all the way down, allowing your arms to fully extend without locking out your elbows.
That will help maximize the range of motion and keep tension on the biceps.
Exhale as you lift the weight (the concentric phase) and inhale as you lower it (the eccentric phase).
Proper breathing can help stabilize your core and maintain focus.
- Progressive overload
Gradually increase the weight as you become stronger.
Progressive overload is essential for muscle growth. However, prioritize proper form over heavy weights.
Give your muscles time to recover between sets. Rest for about 1-2 minutes between sets to maintain performance.
- Incorporate Variations
Consider using different grip widths or trying variations like dumbbell preacher curls, EZ-bar preacher curls, or single-arm preacher curls. That will help target various parts of the biceps and enhance your results.
Preacher Curls common mistakes
Several common mistakes can occur when performing preacher curls, which can compromise the effectiveness of the exercise and increase the risk of injury.
Below are some mistakes to watch out for and avoid.
- Cheating with momentum
Swinging the weight or using excessive momentum to lift it is a common mistake.
That takes the focus away from the biceps and can strain other muscles or joints.
- Partial range of motion
Not fully extending the arms at the bottom of the movement or not properly contracting the biceps at the top is another error.
That can reduce the effectiveness of the preacher curls.
- Lifting your elbows
Allowing your elbows to lift from the preacher pad during the curl can shift the tension away from the biceps and reduce the isolation of the exercise.
- Rounded your back
Allowing the upper back to round or hunch forward during the movement can strain your back and compromise the stability of the preacher curls.
- Overarching your back
Arching your lower back excessively, especially when using heavier weights, can strain your lower back and lead to discomfort or injury.
- Using too much weight
Using excessive weights that are too heavy for your current strength level can lead to poor form and potential injury.
Start with a weight that allows you to maintain proper form throughout the set.
- Neglecting stability
Another common mistake is not stabilizing the body on the preacher bench.
Press your chest firmly against the pad and rest your armpits on top of it. That will provide stability and prevent cheating.
- Lack of mind-muscle connection
Going through the motions without focusing on the contraction in the biceps is another error.
The mind-muscle connection is essential for maximizing the benefits of the preacher curls.
- Not breathing properly
Holding your breath or not synchronizing your breathing with the movement can impact your stability and performance.
- Improper grip
Using a grip too narrow or too wide can affect the effectiveness of the preacher curls.
Aim for a grip slightly wider than shoulder-width> That will allow you to target the outer part of the biceps.
- Not adjusting the bench
Failing to adjust the preacher curl bench to the appropriate angle for your body can lead to discomfort and suboptimal form.
- Not progressing
Sticking with the same weight for long periods without gradually increasing the resistance, i.e., progressive overload, can hinder muscle growth and strength gains.
Preacher Curls benefits
Preacher curls offer several benefits, making them one of the most popular upper body building exercises for athletes looking to develop their biceps and upper arm strength.
Preacher curls specifically target the biceps muscles. They help stimulate muscle growth or hypertrophy in the biceps, leading to larger, more defined arms.
Preacher curls are isolation exercises.
The isolation capability allows you to focus the work on the biceps, helping to target and work the muscles much better.
Form and control
Performing preacher curls with a bench, with your upper arms resting on a pad, encourages better form and control.
That is essential for building muscle safely and effectively, as it minimizes using momentum or improper technique.
The preacher bench provides a stable platform that reduces the temptation to cheat by using momentum or swinging the weight.
That makes it easy to maintain proper form and isolate the biceps.
Preacher curls offer the possibility of working the biceps from different angles by using various equipment.
That variation can help prevent plateaus and stimulate new muscle growth, enhancing and boosting your arm development effort.
Stabilizing your upper arms on the preacher bench can help reduce the risk of excessive strain on the shoulders and elbows.
That makes it a safer option for those with joint issues.
While the primary goal of preacher curls is hypertrophy, they can also contribute to comprehensive bicep and upper body strength.
Thus, incorporating preacher curls into your arm-building regimen can help you in various functional activities.
Preacher curls encourage a mind-muscle connection.
Focusing on the contraction in the biceps during the exercise can help improve the effectiveness of your workouts and help you develop better control over your muscles.
Well-developed biceps are a common aesthetic goal for many athletes.
Preacher curls can help you achieve that “peak” in your biceps, an often sought-after feature for its aesthetic appeal.
Strengthening your biceps can have practical benefits in daily activities that involve lifting, carrying, and pushing.
Preacher Curls limitations
While preacher curls offer several benefits, they also have limitations and may not suit everyone.
Below are some limitations to note.
- Limited muscle activation
Preacher curls mainly target the biceps brachii muscle. However, the exercise doesn’t engage other muscles.
Thus, athletes looking for a more comprehensive upper body workout must incorporate additional exercises.
- Joint strain
Although preacher curls can be safer than other bicep exercises when performed correctly. But they can put some strain on the elbow joints.
Exercisers with existing elbow or shoulder issues may need to be cautious.
- Lack of functional transfer
While strengthening your biceps can benefit you in certain activities, preacher curls are not exceptionally functional in replicating real-world movements.
Most daily tasks involve more compound movements that engage multiple muscle groups simultaneously.
You may hit a plateau in your muscle growth if you rely solely on preacher curls for bicep development.
The body adapts to the same stimulus over time, so it is essential to introduce variety in your training to continue seeing progress.
- Equipment dependency
Preacher curls require access to a preacher curl bench, which might not be available in all gym settings or home setups.
The limitation could be a factor, especially when looking for workout alternatives.
- Overemphasis on biceps
Overemphasizing bicep training at the expense of other muscle groups can lead to muscle imbalances and may not result in a well-rounded physique.
Balanced training that targets all major muscle groups is essential for comprehensive strength and symmetry.
- Isolation vs. compound movements
While isolation exercises like preacher curls have their place, compound movements that engage multiple muscle groups (e.g., pull-ups, rows) can be more time-efficient for building overall strength and muscle.
- Not suitable for beginners
Preacher curls may not be the best starting point for complete beginners to strength training.
Building a foundation of strength with compound movements and full-body exercises may be more appropriate initially.
Preacher Curl variations
Preacher curl variations can add diversity to your bicep training routine and help target different aspects of the biceps muscle.
Dumbbell preacher curls
It involves using dumbbells for the preacher curls instead of a barbell.
The variation allows for a more natural range of motion for each arm, potentially reducing muscle imbalances.
EZ-Bar Preacher Curls
The variation uses an EZ-curl bar for preacher curls instead of a straight barbell.
The curled design of the EZ-curl bar is kinder on the wrists and may be more comfortable for some athletes and can help target the biceps from slightly different angles.
Single-Arm Preacher Curls
It involves performing preacher curls with one arm at a time.
The variation can help improve symmetry and allow you to focus on each bicep individually.
Reverse grip preacher curls
It involves using a pronated grip to curl the bar.
Sit at the preacher curl bench and grasp the bar with your palms facing down.
The variation targets the brachialis muscle underneath the biceps to create a more balanced arm appearance.
Incline Dumbbell Preacher Curls
Adjust the preacher bench to a steeper incline (e.g., 60-75 degrees) to change the angle of the exercise.
This variation can emphasize the lower part of the biceps.
Perform spider curls using an inclined preacher bench, but position yourself face-down with your chest against the incline.
The variation puts more tension on the biceps at the peak contraction.
Rope Preacher Curls
You can use a rope attachment on a cable machine for preacher curls.
The variation provides continuous tension throughout the movement and can help improve your results, making it a valuable addition to your cable workouts.
Wide-Grip Preacher Curls
Widen your grip on the barbell or place your upper arms with a much wider gap between them if using dumbbells to help target the outer part of the biceps more effectively.
Preacher Curls with Isometric Holds
It involves performing preacher curls with an isometric hold at different points in the range of motion.
For example, hold the weight at the fully contracted position for a few seconds before lowering it.
Preacher Curls Drop Sets
Start with a relatively heavy weight and perform a set of preacher curls. Then, immediately reduce the weight and perform another set.
The technique is effective for maximizing muscle fatigue.
Dumbbell Hammer Preacher Curl
Dumbbell Hammer Preacher Curls combine elements of hammer curls and preacher curls to provide a unique way to target the biceps muscles.
Dumbbell hammer preacher curls involve using a preacher bench to support your upper arms, just like in a regular preacher curl.
However, instead of using an underhand grip like in a traditional preacher curl, you would use a neutral grip with your palms facing each other as you hold the dumbbells.
The grip variation engages the biceps, brachialis, and brachioradialis muscles in your forearms.
The Dumbbell Hammer Preacher Curls is a great way to add variety to your bicep workout routine and target different parts of the arm muscles. It can help improve arm aesthetics and strength by working on multiple muscles simultaneously.
Stability Ball Preacher Curls
The Stability Ball Preacher Curl involves performing preacher curls while using a stability ball for added instability, which engages more muscles to maintain balance during the movement.
A stability ball replaces the preacher bench in a stability ball preacher curl as the support for your upper arms.
Performing preacher curls on a stability ball adds a dynamic element to the exercise. The ball’s instability challenges your core muscles and requires additional stabilization efforts, which can help enhance muscle engagement and coordination.
The stability ball preacher curl can be a great way to work your biceps and core muscles simultaneously, making your workout more dynamic and engaging.
Steps to follow
- Sit on a stability ball and lean forward so that your chest rests against your thighs and place your armpits on top of the stability ball.
- Hold a dumbbell or barbell with an underhand grip and let your arms hang straight down toward the floor.
- Flexing your elbows and curl the weight upward while maintaining your balance on the stability ball.
- Pause at the top of the movement, focusing on squeezing your biceps.
- Slowly lower the weight back down to your starting position.
Zottman Preacher Curls
Zottman Preacher Curls is a variation of the traditional preacher curl exercise that incorporates an additional twist involving the grip and movement of the dumbbells.
The variation is named after the 19th-century strongman George Zottman and adds a unique element to the standard preacher curl, engaging multiple muscles in the arms.
Steps to follow
- Set up on a preacher bench, with your chest pressed against the incline and your armpits resting on the pad.
- Hold a dumbbell in each arm with an underhand grip and let your arms hang straight toward the floor.
- Rotate your wrists as you curl the dumbbells upward so your palms face your shoulders at the top of the movement.
- Squeeze your biceps and pause briefly at the top of the movement.
- Rotate your wrists again as you lower the dumbbells so your palms face downward at the bottom of the movement.
- Continue the rotation with each repetition, alternating between a supinated and a pronated grip as you curl the weight up and lower it.
The Zottman Preacher Curl adds an extra challenge and variety by engaging different muscles during the lifting and lowering phases. The supinated grip targets the biceps more directly, while the pronated grip engages the brachialis and brachioradialis muscles in the forearms.
Preacher Curls safety precautions
Safety is paramount when performing any exercise, including preacher curls.
Adhering to proper safety precautions can help prevent injuries and ensure a productive workout.
- Start with proper form
Master the proper form for preacher curls before adding weight. Focus on maintaining good posture, stabilizing your body on the bench, and executing the movement smoothly.
Always warm up your muscles before starting any exercise. Perform light cardio or dynamic stretches to increase blood flow and prepare your joints and muscles for the workout.
- Use a spotter (if needed):
Consider having a spotter nearby, especially if you are lifting to failure and lifting heavy weights.
A spotter can assist you if you struggle with the weight during the set.
- Use appropriate weight
Start with a weight that allows you to perform the exercise with proper form. Gradually increase the weight as you become more comfortable and confident.
- Progress gradually
Avoid the temptation to lift too much weight too soon. Gradually increase the resistance to avoid overexertion or straining your muscles.
- Control the weight
Use controlled movements throughout the exercise.
Avoid jerking or swinging the weight. That can lead to muscle strains or joint injuries.
- Keep your elbows stabilized
Keep your upper arms and shoulders stationary on the preacher bench.
Do not let your elbows drift away from the bench. That can lead to unnecessary strain on the shoulders.
- Maintain a neutral wrist position
Keep your wrists in a comfortable, neutral position. Avoid excessive extension or flexion. That can put stress on the wrists and forearms.
- Breathe properly
Remember to breathe. Exhale as you lift the weight (concentric phase) and inhale as you lower it (eccentric phase).
Proper breathing helps stabilize your core and maintain focus.
- Listen to your body
Pay attention to how your body feels during the exercise. Stop immediately and seek guidance if you experience sharp pain, discomfort, or any unusual sensations,
- Stay hydrated
Maintain proper hydration throughout your workout. Dehydration can affect your performance and increase the risk of cramps.
- Consult a professional
Newbies to weightlifting or athletes with pre-existing medical conditions should consider working with a fitness professional or personal trainer.
Final words from LiveLIfe
Preacher curls are one of the most effective exercises for targeting and building your upper arms. It can help carve out impressive biceps while enhancing arm strength.
It can offer a targeted solution to any athlete striving for bicep symmetry, seeking that coveted ‘peak,’ or aiming to boost their arm aesthetics.
Incorporate the preacher curls into your training regimen to help achieve your bicep-building goals.
- Marcolin G, Panizzolo FA, Petrone N, et al. 2018. Differences in electromyographic activity of biceps brachii and brachioradialis while performing three variants of curl. PeerJ. 2018;6:e5165.