Preacher Curls (Complete How To Guide)

Preacher Curl

Preacher Curls are a classic biceps curl exercise that typically requires a preacher curl bench or machine. They are great for isolating the biceps and removing the swinging and rocking that plagues many biceps exercises.

In this guide, I’ll not only teach you how to do Preacher Curls, but I’ll show you how to set up your adjustable bench to allow you to do them. I’ll also give you a few Preacher Curl alternatives in case you need them.

How To Do Preacher Curls

Equipment Needed

  • Preacher Curl Bench (or an adjustable bench)
  • Barbell or EZ Curl Bar

Step-by-Step Instructions

  • First, adjust the preacher curl bench so that the bench sits comfortably into the armpits.
  • This position should allow the triceps to lay flat against the bench.
  • Grab the bar (barbell or cambered bar) or have it handed to you by a partner.
  • Flex the biceps and curl the bar towards the shoulders, squeezing the biceps at the top of the rep.
  • Lower back down under control and stop just short of lockout.
  • Raise the bar back up and continue until all reps are completed.

Coaching Points

Stop the arm short of locking out at the bottom. Fully extending the arm at the bottom of a Preacher Curl rep can place a lot of unnecessary strain on the elbow. Stop just short of lockout each rep and then curl back to the top.

Using An Adjustable Bench For Preacher Curls

If you don’t have a preacher curl bench, there is a way to still do Preacher Curls with an adjustable bench. Simply incline your adjustable bench up, stand behind it, grab your bar and place your triceps on the bench.

If the bench isn’t wide enough to be able to fit both your arms on it, you can also switch to dumbbells and lift with one arm at a time.

Finally, if your bench doesn’t adjust, try just placing your elbows toward one side of a flat bench. This doesn’t work quite as well, but it will keep your elbows in a fixed position while you curl.

How Many Reps?

Preacher Curls are generally done as a supplemental exercise toward the end of a workout. The suggested rep range is 3 to 4 sets of 8 to 12 reps.

Muscles Worked

Biceps Muscle 3D Body

Preacher Curls work the entire biceps – the Biceps brachii, Brachialis and Brachioradialis.

Preacher Curl Alternatives

Need an alternative for Preacher Curls? Here are a couple of exercises you can sub in their place. Need more options? Here are my 11 favorite alternatives for Preacher Curls.

Barbell Curls (Back Against Wall)

Not just any Barbell Curl, but Barbell Curls with the lifter’s back against the wall. This will remove the ability of the lifter to slide the elbows back in an attempt to take some strain off the biceps (and ultimately lift more weight).

The wall essentially acts as a sort of preacher curl bench by not allowing the lifter to rock the torso and swing the weight up (at least not as much).

What you’ll find when doing them is an exercise that puts much more emphasis on the biceps to actually move the bar.

DB Concentration Curls

DB Concentration Curls

Dumbbell Concentration Curls can work perfectly as a substitution if you don’t have a preacher curl bench or even a barbell.

What makes them similar to Preacher Curls is the setup. Concentration Curls are done one at a time, using your own thigh to set your elbow on. This gives the lifter leverage and removes the ability to swing the weight – just like a Preacher Curl does.

More Links and Info

Looking for more exercises that target the biceps and triceps? Check out the Arm Farm section of the Horton Barbell Exercise Library and you’ll find dozens are arm movements all with detailed instructions.

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Ryan Horton

Horton Barbell was created by Ryan Horton who has served as a Sports Performance Coach for almost 20 years. My mission is to create a training resource to help as many coaches and athletes as possible maximize athletic potential.

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