The preacher curl is one of the most important pieces of equipment in any gym. It is the key to building big, strong arms in record time! Continue reading to learn 12 amazing preacher curl benefits!
Do you think you know everything there is to know about preacher curls?
If you are an experienced lifter then you may be familiar with some of the points made in this article.
However, I’m confident that even advanced lifters will be shocked at how much they don’t know!
In this article we will cover the following preacher curl benefits:
- Benefit #1: Preacher Curls Prevent Cheating
- Benefit #2: It’s A Most Bang-For-Your-Buck Bicep Exercise
- Benefit #3: Maximally Stretches The The Elbow Flexors
- Benefit #4: Great For Accumulation And Intensification Phases
- Benefit #5: Exercise Variety
- Benefit #6: An Underhand Grip Targets The Biceps Brachii
- Benefit #7: A Neutral Grip Targets The Brachioradialis
- Benefit #8: An Overhand Grip Targets The Brachialis
- Benefit #9: You Can Overload Different Points In The Strength Curve
- Benefit #10: You Can Use Cables For Added Variety
- Benefit #11: Build 20 Inch Arms With The Preacher Curl
- Benefit #12: Useful For Upper Body Structural Balance Testing
Trust me, you don’t want to miss out on this cutting edge information, not to mention all of the incredibly helpful training videos!
Now let’s get down to business…
Benefit #1: Preacher Curls Prevent Cheating
One of the biggest reasons that the typical trainee fails to build a big, strong pair of arms is that they cheat too much on their curling exercises!
Just think about the typical trainee performing standing barbell curls.
With how much cheating and momentum they use they are training their anterior delts and lumbar spine at least as much as their biceps!
This is a huge mistake!
When it comes to isolation exercises, the following rule applies: the more you can isolate the target muscle, the better.
This is true for all body parts but especially for the biceps.
If you want to maximally recruit the biceps with curling exercises then you must do everything in your power to completely isolate the biceps.
And this means no cheating!
This is the most obvious benefit of the preacher bench. It is practically impossible to cheat on this exercise!
Your elbows and upper arms are completely fixed against the preacher bench padding and if you are sitting down then you can’t use your lower back to gain momentum at the start of the lift.
Here’s a great demo of the seated preacher curl:
This bodybuilder has done a tremendous job of isolating his biceps so that no other muscle groups help out.
There is one drawback to this though: you won’t be able to use as much weight as you can with something like standing barbell curls.
Don’t get me wrong, the preacher curl is a more effective exercise, even if the weight on the bar is less.
After all, the effectiveness of an exercise is always a function of how many motor units you recruit, not necessarily how much weight you can lift.
No, the problem is that your ego might take a hit!
Many people are shocked at how much less weight they can use when they use proper form, and some people’s egos just can’t handle it!
My recommendation is to swallow your pride, ditch the cheat curls for some ultra-strict preacher curls using nothing but your biceps to lift the weight and watch as your arm strength and size goes through the roof!
Benefit #2: It’s A Most Bang-For-Your-Buck Bicep Exercise
The scientific literature is quite clear on this one: preacher curls are one of the best exercises for recruiting the biceps brachii!
In fact, according to EMG studies the preacher curls are one of the two best exercises in the entire world for training the biceps.
The other major exercise is the incline curl.
These two exercises complement each other extremely well.
For example, the preacher curl is superior when it comes to recruiting the short head of the biceps.
However, absolutely nothing beats the incline curl for recruiting the long head of the biceps.
The preacher curl and the incline curl really do make a fantastic one-two punch when it comes to training the biceps.
I highly recommend you make these two exercises staples in your arm routines.
Benefit #3: Maximally Stretches The The Elbow Flexors
One of my favourite Charles Poliquin quotes is that “the muscle that is stretched the most is recruited the most.”
Athletes and coaches with a lot of in-the-trenches experience all seem to agree that placing a muscle group under a significant stretch during an exercise can help to create a powerful stimulus for strength and size gains.
For many years these experienced athletes and coaches were called out for not having any scientific studies to back them up.
Well, it turns out these guys were right all along!
Newer research is confirming that loaded stretches really do have a synergistic effect on hypertrophy when combined with traditional training methods.
This is very important because preacher curls place a better stretch on the biceps than almost any other exercise in the world!
Seriously, I dare you to perform a set of preacher curls where you extend your elbows ALL THE WAY in the bottom position and tell me that isn’t the best stretch you’ve ever had in your biceps!
I sometimes see coaches recommend avoiding this very bottom position because of fear of injury or because you can’t use as much weight.
I respectfully disagree with these guys. The fully stretched position in preacher curls is perhaps the most important part of the entire exercise!
If you want to get the maximum benefit out of the preacher curl, then make sure you fully extend your arms in the bottom position to overload the stretched position of the exercise!
Benefit #4: Great For Accumulation And Intensification Phases
This is one of those things that I absolutely LOVE about the preacher curl.
I know some of you may not be familiar with the terms accumulation and intensification phases, so I will give a brief primer on them here.
Accumulation workouts are your typical bodybuilding workouts where you are trying to build muscle or lose body fat.
These workouts typically include higher repetitions (perhaps 6-20 reps per set), fewer sets per exercise but more overall exercises per body part, and shorter rest intervals.
Intensification workouts are more geared towards getting stronger and maximizing adaptations to the central nervous system.
These workouts typically feature lower repetitions (perhaps 1-6 reps per set), fewer exercises overall but more sets per exercise, and longer rest intervals.
One of the things that I love about preacher curls is that it is very easy to perform both high-rep and low-rep sets with this exercise!
Most curling exercises work fine for performing moderate or higher-rep sets.
However, once the reps go below 4 it is often really hard to maintain proper form on many bicep exercises.
This is not the case with the preacher curl!
For example, it is very easy and safe to perform multiple sets of 1-3 reps on the preacher curl during an intensification phase.
This is much harder to do on something like standing barbell curls because it is so difficult to maintain strict form.
Many of my clients find their curling strength improves by 50% in less than 3 months by emphasizing the preacher curl in their workouts.
Benefit #5: Exercise Variety
This is one of many preacher curl benefits.
In fact, I cannot think of another piece of equipment for training the elbow flexors that gives you so much variety!
Generally speaking most trainees will use either dumbbells or an ez-curl bar to do their preacher curls.
As it turns out, you have many exercises you can perform on the preacher bench with either of these weights.
For example, the ez-curl bar preacher curl gives you 4 separate grips:
- Narrow overhand grip
- Wide overhand grip
- Narrow underhand grip
- Wide underhand grip
On the other hand, dumbbells also give you 3 excellent options:
- Overhand grip
- Neutral grip
- Underhand grip
This does not even consider variations such as holding the dumbbell with an offset grip (the pinky touches the inside of the dumbbell), or using a supinating grip (you start the movement with a neutral grip and supinate on the way up so you finish with a supinated grip).
As you can see, one simple piece of equipment gives you an absolutely massive number of exercise variations to choose from.
The preacher curl bench really does pack a punch!
Benefit #6: An Underhand Grip Targets The Biceps Brachii
One of the great benefits of the preacher bench is that you can target nearly all of the elbow flexors quite effectively just by changing your grip.
For example, you can use an underhand grip to target the biceps brachii muscle:
This variation will target the short (inside) head of the biceps brachii the most, although the long (outer) head will still receive some stimulation.
Benefit #7: A Neutral Grip Targets The Brachioradialis
It is usually pretty easy to convince people to include some neutral grip curls in their training because this is the grip that lets you lift the most weight!
It turns out that the sum of the strength of all 4 of the major elbow flexors (biceps brachii, brachialis, brachioradialis, and pronator teres) is strongest with a neutral grip.
The brachioradialis does work the hardest in this position though, so if you want to beef up your forearms then the neutral grip preacher curl is your best bet.
This exercise can also be performed with a special curling bar that has neutral grip handles, but not every gym has one of these bars.
Benefit #8: An Overhand Grip Targets The Brachialis
The brachialis is probably the most neglected of all the major elbow flexors.
This is a serious problem because the brachialis plays a critical role in upper body structural balance!
Simply put, a weak brachialis muscle will limit the strength and size of both your arms and your entire upper body.
The fastest way to correct this muscular imbalance is to focus on curls with a pronated grip.
The pronated grip preacher curl works great for this purpose, for example:
However, if you are willing to try something new then I have a preacher curl variation that will absolutely smoke your brachialis muscle.
This exercise is the preacher zottman curl. I consider this the greatest brachialis exercise of all time!
This exercise can also be done one arm at a time, which is normally my preference as yuo can use a little more weight this way.
The idea behind this exercise is you curl the weight up on the preacher bench with a supinated grip. However, at the top you pronate your hand before lowering the weight back down.
You are stronger with a supinated grip than a pronated grip, so this exercise allows you to lower with a pronated grip a weight that you normally couldn’t lift this way.
In other words, the preacher zottman curl is really a form of supramaximal eccentric training for your brachialis muscle!
Benefit #9: You Can Overload Different Points In The Strength Curve
The typical preacher curl bench in most gyms will be angled at about a 45 degree.
This means your arm is right in between pointing straight forward and straight down to the ground.
However, some of the better equipped gyms in the world have preacher benches where you can change the angle of the preacher bench.
This is a massive benefit because when you change the angle of the preacher bench, you overload a different point in the strength curve!
Preacher curls with a very low incline are great for really overloading the stretched position even more than normal.
On the other hand, performing really steep preacher curls are better for overloading the mid-range of the strength curve.
Variety is the spice of life.
If you have access to an adjustable preacher bench then make the most of it by overloading different points in the strength curve!
Benefit #10: You Can Use Cables For Added Variety
Cables are yet another awesome way to train using a preacher curl.
Cables have the awesome benefit of actually letting you overload the shortened position of the strength curve on preacher curls.
This is normally very hard to achieve.
Trust me, using cables on the preacher curl bench gives this exercise a completely different feel.
The contraction you get in your biceps is literally off the charts! I highly recommend you give them a try.
Benefit #11: Build 20 Inch Arms With The Preacher Curl
Larry Scott, the first ever Mr. Olympia and the first man to achieve a legitimate pair of 20-inch arms used the preacher bench as his primary arm-building exercise.
In fact, Larry Scott used the preacher bench so much that many people today call this exercise the “Scott curl!”
- A1: Dumbbell Preacher Curls, 3 x 6**, 2/0/X/0, 10 seconds rest
- A2: Barbell Preacher Curls, 3 x 6**, 2/0/X/0, 10 seconds rest
- A3: Reverse Ez-Curl Bar, 3 x 6**, 2/0/X/0, 180 seconds rest
**Perform 4-6 “burns” in the stretched position after achieving muscular failure.
Note: if you are having trouble reading this workout then please read this article 🙂
Talk about a workout!
If you want to learn more about how Larry Scott built his legendary biceps then I highly recommend you check out the following article:
Benefit #12: Useful For Upper Body Structural Balance Testing
This is perhaps the least well-known benefit of the preacher curl.
Usually On the other hand, dumbbells also give you 3 excellent options: is that their brachialis muscles are underdeveloped relative to their biceps brachii.
A very easy way to test for this is to compare someone’s 1-rep max on the preacher curl with a supinated grip with their standing pronated grip curl.
Here is a demonstration of the preacher curl I use for this test:
And here is a demonstration of the standing reverse curl I use for this test:
Note: both exercises performed on a 4/0/X/0 tempo.
If the trainee has optimal structural balance then their performance on the reverse curl will be 82% of their performance on the supinated preacher curl.
In reality I often find my first-time clients can only reverse curl 50-60% of what they can curl with a supinated grip!
This is actually quite pathetic!
The good news is that with the proper program design they can quickly correct this muscular imbalance and absolutely destroy their old upper body strength and size plateaus.
Not a bad deal if you ask me!
The preacher curl will never go out of style.
It is easily one of the top 2 most effective bicep exercises of all time (incline curls is the other one).
If you are new to this exercise you may need to swallow your pride and use a little less weight than you are used to using.
Don’t worry, this will only be temporary.
I am confident your curling strength will shoot through the roof once you dedicate yourself to improving your numbers on this exercise!
Of course if you are looking for some one-on-one guidance on how to get bigger, stronger arms then you can learn more about by online coaching program.
Thank you for reading and I wish you the best of luck on your strength training endeavors!
Chad Wesley Smith is one of the brightest minds in the fitness industry today. Chad has competed at the absolute highest levels in three different sports: shot put, powerlifting and strongman....
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