The preacher curl is a variant of the barbell biceps curl. The exercise allows you to completely isolate your biceps.
The implementation of the preacher curl is as follows.
- Traditionally, the exercise is performed with a preacher curl bench and an EZ-bar. Load the EZ bar with the desired weight*.
- You usually do the exercise sitting at the bench, with your feet flat on the floor. At some benches you have to stand. Adjust the height of the bench so that your armpits rest on the top of the bench. That way, your entire upper arm rests on the pillow. Don’t lean back.
- Place your arms shoulder-width apart on the pad, palms facing up and elbows very slightly bent. So don’t stretch your arms completely, because then there will be too much stretch on the attachment of your biceps. Your elbows will rest on the pad throughout the exercise.
- Grab the bar with an underhand grip. Move the weight toward you until your hands are in front of your shoulders. As you curl, focus on squeezing your biceps for maximum muscle activation. Hold that at the top.
- Return the weight to the starting position in a controlled motion. So don’t drop the weight! The starting position means that your arms are almost straight (the elbows remain slightly bent), so don’t bring the weight back up halfway through the eccentric phase.
* See also the last paragraph of this article.
The big advantage of preacher curls is that you can almost completely isolate the biceps. This is in contrast to barbell curls, in which your core and buttocks participate as stabilizing muscles. In addition, barbell curls allow you to cheat by creating momentum; this is much more difficult with preacher curls, although you must make sure that you do not lean forward or backward during the exercise.
Another advantage lies in the positioning of your arms. Research shows that the biceps are best trained through a variety of exercises, with different positions of the arms in relation to the torso. With preacher curls, your arms are in front of your body, so that the biceps are trained slightly differently than with barbell curls, where your arms are next to your upper body. In addition, with preacher curls you can achieve a slightly larger range of motion.
Finally, the preacher curl forces you to perform the eccentric phase in a controlled manner, more than is the case with other biceps exercises. A controlled negative is important for muscle growth and also makes the exercise safer.
Many gyms have a machine preacher curl, an alternative that is just as good as the preacher curl with bar.
A disadvantage of preacher curls is that you need a preacher bench for it. If you don’t have one in your gym, you can still do the exercise, standing, with a dumbbell on the sloping upper back of a bench.
The preacher curl is a real isolation exercise, why you should use a not too heavy weight. Aim for a minimum of ten reps and train to one or two reps for muscle failure (1-2 RIR). You can train the last set to complete muscle failure (0 RIR).