How To Do The Preacher Curl

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Bigger biceps. That’s the promise of preacher curls. While we like to go into great detail about the benefits of a particular exercise, there’s really no need with the preacher curl. If you want to sculpt guns worthy of Navarone, add this move to your workouts.

It’s not an exercise that should replace the standard biceps curl in your training schedule, but rather one that works alongside it to provide variation to your curling routine, since it hits the biceps in a different way.

To do the preacher curl you need a preacher bench, which for the vast majority of people means heading to a gym. Although if your home gym is so well-stocked that it includes a preacher bench, then we salute you. The preacher bench is designed so you sit with your upper arms resting on a slanted surface that slopes down away from you. Along with the preacher bench you’ll need some kind of weight. You can use a barbell, dumbbells or an E-Z bar, while some gyms have a machine designed for preacher curls.

You should be using lighter weights for the preacher curl than you do for biceps curls. Because the bench forces you into an unstable position, slow, controlled movements with perfect form are essential. If your form is off, at best you’ll get little benefit from the exercise and at worst you’ll risk injury.

How To Do The Preacher Curl

Sit on the preacher bench and adjust the height so your armpits are just touching the top of the sloped section. Hold the weight using an underhand grip (palms facing up) with your arms extended and your upper arms resting on the bench. Curl the weight up, keeping your upper arms on the bench, until your forearms are vertical. Pause for a second at the top of the curl, then slowly lower the weight until your arms are fully extended once again. Count for three beats as you lower. Make sure your feet are planted on the ground, and that your torso and shoulders stay still throughout the movement.

Preacher Curl Variations

Thumbless overhand preacher curl

In a world where you can’t use thumbs for your curls, the man with the strongest grip is king. This thumbless variation on the classic preacher curl not only builds handshake-dominating power, but will also improve the strength of your forearms. It’s best to use an EZ-bar for this exercise, though you can also use dumbbells or a barbell, and naturally make sure you’re adept at the standard preacher curl before removing a digit from the equation.

Set up as normal on the preacher bench, holding the bar in an overhand grip using just your fingers. Curl it up to your shoulders until your forearms are vertical. Pause here and squeeze the bar with your fingers, then lower it slowly.

Zottman preacher curl

The rotating grip used in the standard Zottman curl means that it hits both your biceps and your forearms hard. When you do the Zottman curl on a preacher bench the focus moves to the biceps, which are worked from different angles, but you’ll also still get a handy forearm strength boost from the move.

Set up on the preacher bench, holding a dumbbell in each hand by your shoulders with your palms facing away from you. Lower the weights slowly until your arms are fully extended, then rotate your hands so your palms face towards you and curl the dumbbells back up to your shoulders.

Nick Harris-Fry
Senior writer

Nick Harris-Fry is a journalist who has been covering health and fitness since 2015. Nick is an avid runner, covering 70-110km a week, which gives him ample opportunity to test a wide range of running shoes and running gear. He is also the chief tester for fitness trackers and running watches, treadmills and exercise bikes, and workout headphones.