How To Do Preacher Curls (5 Variations For Best Results)

Tyler Sellers
Published by Tyler Sellers | Senior Coach
Last updated: December 28, 2023
FACT CHECKED by James Cunningham, BSc, CPT
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Although the preacher curl cannot replace a traditional bicep curl in routine workouts, it can undoubtedly reward you with bigger biceps.

But, it's quite a challenging exercise, and my clients always want to know the best techniques to enhance hypertrophy without straining their biceps.

As a certified personal trainer, after a month of researching and using this training, I've discovered tricks you can perform and mistakes that can prevent you from achieving the most benefits.

Let's talk about how to do a preacher curl properly.

Quick Summary

  • To effectively perform preacher curls, it's essential to start by positioning your upper arms on the preacher bench and gripping the bar, then lifting it until your wrists nearly touch your shoulders.
  • Preacher curls can be executed using various equipment like EZ bars, dumbbells, regular barbells, kettlebells, and resistance bands, offering versatility in your workout routine.
  • According to the study from the National Center for Biotechnology Information website, both cable and barbell preacher curls led to significant increases in elbow flexion peak torque and biceps brachii thickness after a 10-week training period.
  • In my experience, preacher curls are a highly effective exercise for targeting the biceps, providing a unique stimulus that can lead to impressive muscle growth and definition.

How To Do The Preacher Curl

Man performing Preacher curl with EZ bar

There are five different types of equipment you can use for this workout, including:

  • EZ bar
  • Regular barbell
  • Dumbbells
  • Resistance bands
  • Kettlebells

Choose your sets and repetitions wisely based on your gym equipment and ability to maintain a perfect form. You can use an inclined bench if your gym does not have a standard preacher curl bench.

One of the studies from the National Center for Biotechnology Information website found similar responses to preacher curl training, which were obtained with CAB and BAR apparatus [1]. The BAR group obtained greater strength gains at 20° of the elbow flexion, while no difference was observed between groups for strength gains at the 60° and 100° positions and the muscle thickness.

EZ Curl Bar or Barbell Preacher Curl

Preacher Curl
  1. Place your upper arms on the pad with your armpit area and chest touching the preacher bench. It should mirror the angle of the preacher bench.  
  2. Grip a barbell or EZ bar with an underhand grip while seated or standing with your feet flat on the floor.
  3. If you're using a straight bar, keep your palms facing inwards by placing your thumbs out with other fingers.
  4. With your body leaned on the preacher bench, lift the EZ bar or barbell by bending your elbows until your wrists nearly touch your shoulders.
  5. Squeeze your biceps brachii as you finish the movement.
  6. Slowly straighten your arms and lower the barbell to the starting position.

According to another study from the National Center for Biotechnology Information website, dumbbell curl (DC) and barbell curl in its two variants, straight (BC) or undulated bar (EZ) are typical exercises to train the elbow flexors [2].

Related: How To Do Barbell Curls

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Kettlebell or Dumbbell Preacher Curl

Dumbbell-Preacher-Curl

In my training experience, I've emphasized the use of dumbbells for preacher curls to my clients, especially for those with muscular imbalances. This unilateral approach has effectively helped in balancing muscle development on both arms.

  1. Place your arm on a preacher bench with your armpit area touching its edge.
  2. Grab a dumbbell with an underhand grip and lower your forearm on the inclined surface, so your upper arm mirrors its angle.
  3. Slowly lift the dumbbell towards your head while keeping your wrist, your elbow joint, and your shoulders in line with your head.
  4. Squeeze your bicep at the end of the motion.
  5. Slowly lower your dumbbell and straighten your forearm starting position.
  6. Repeat the above process.
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Resistance Band Preacher Curl

Resistance-Band-Preacher-Curl

From my personal practice, I've found resistance bands to be a fantastic alternative for doing preacher curls at home. They offer a versatile and effective way to maintain bicep training without needing heavy gym equipment.

  1. Fasten the resistance bands on door anchors, slip the anchors in place, and shut the door.
  2. Attach handles to both sides of the resistance bands, grab and stretch them while sitting on the floor.
  3. Sit on the floor with your feet flat and your knees up, then place your elbow joints on your kneecaps while your hands are fully extended.
  4. Slowly bring your forearms towards your head and squeeze your biceps at the end of motion.
  5. Bring your forearms to the starting position and lengthen the muscle.
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Pros
  • It completely isolates the lower biceps brachii, enhancing bicep muscle growth.
  • It forces you into a negative movement, thus giving a unique stimulus for biceps hypertrophy.
  • Its posture deters cheating and promotes a full range of motion compared to the bicep curl.
Cons
  • Using excessive weights can cause stress on your ligaments.

Preacher Curl Variations

If you’re training in a gym that doesn’t have a preacher curl bench, you can try these great exercises that target the short head of your bicep:

  • Dumbbell concentration curls
  • Incline dumbbell curls
  • Prone incline curls
  • Single incline bench curls
  • Overhead double cable curls

Mistakes You Should Avoid

Don’t stop halfway while doing a barbell preacher curl. This can prevent you from stretching the bicep muscles fully and gaining the desired results.

In my own training experience, I've found that using lighter weights for preacher curls is crucial to maintain focus on the biceps and avoid engaging unintended muscles. This approach has helped me and my clients achieve more targeted muscle growth without unnecessary strain. [3]

“Done in the usual way, preacher curls produce flat-looking biceps instead of a nice full, round look. To work the outer head of the biceps, you should keep the elbows in and the hands out wide.”

- Vince Gironda, The ‘Iron Guru’

From personal observation in my training sessions, bending the wrists backward while performing preacher curls is a common error that can weaken the effectiveness of the exercise. I always advise my clients to maintain a neutral wrist position to ensure maximum bicep engagement and prevent wrist strain.

You should also do warm-ups, take a good night’s rest, and consume a good diet to increase body strength. Besides that, I suggest that my clients try one of the protein powders listed below.

FAQs

Are Preacher Curls Better Than Regular Bicep Curls?

Yes, preacher curls are better than regular bicep curls as they provide a more effective bicep stretch, leading to increased hypertrophy. However, it's beneficial to integrate preacher curls into your fitness program alongside regular bicep curls.

How Many Repetitions Should I Do for Preacher Curls?

For preacher curls, doing five sets of 8-10 reps or three sets of 5-8 pause reps with 3-5 second pauses is recommended for most people to get positive results. This approach has been found effective in enhancing muscle growth and strength.

How Do You Preacher Curl at Home?

To do preacher curls at home, using a straight bar with lighter weight and an adjustable chair or bench covered by a wide cushion is an effective method. This setup allows for a range of motion and muscle engagement similar to that of gym equipment.

What Is a Preacher Curl Good For?

A preacher curl is good for enhancing bicep growth. This exercise is essential for those looking to improve their bicep size and shape.

What Variations of Preacher Curls Are Suitable for Different Skill Levels?

Variations of preacher curls suitable for different skill levels include seated and standing positions, as well as using diverse equipment like dumbbells, barbells, or EZ bars. These variations cater to beginners and advanced users, offering a range of difficulty and muscle engagement.

How Can Preacher Curls Be Incorporated into a Full Bicep Workout Routine?

Preacher curls can be incorporated into a full bicep workout routine by combining them with other exercises, such as hammer curls and concentration curls. This approach provides a comprehensive workout targeting various aspects of the biceps.

How Do Preacher Curls Compare with Other Bicep Exercises?

Preacher curls compare with other bicep exercises in terms of unique benefits and muscle engagement. A detailed comparison with exercises like hammer curls or concentration curls highlights the distinct advantages of each.

What Does Scientific Analysis Say About Muscle Activation in Preacher Curls?

What scientific analysis says about muscle activation in preacher curls is that it is significant for bicep development. This research-based approach adds factual depth to understanding the effectiveness of preacher curls.


References:

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7460162/
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6047503/
  3. https://www.today.com/health/how-do-bicep-curl-right-way-t211479
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About The Author

Senior Coach
Tyler Sellers is a trained athlete and author with contributions to publications like Men’s Health, The Healthy, Fox Business, NerdWallet, Weight Watchers, and MSN. His unique approach extends beyond physical techniques, emphasizing the significance of mental techniques like the flow state and mind-muscle connection.
Learn more about our editorial policy
James Cunningham, BSc, CPT
Staff Writer & Senior Coach
James Cunningham, BSc, CPT holds a BSc degree in Sport & Exercise Science from University of Hertfordshire. He's a Health & Performance Coach from London that brings a unique blend of academic knowledge of health supplements and practical exercise experience to the table for his readers.
Learn more about our editorial policy
Dr. Harshi Dhingra, MBBS, MD is a published peer-reviewed author and renowned physician from India with over a decade of experience. With her MBBS from Bharati Vidyapeeth and an MD from Rajiv Gandhi University, she actively ensures the accuracy of online dietary supplement and medical information by reviewing and fact-checking health publications.
Learn more about our editorial policy

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