Preacher Curl: Muscles Worked, How To Do, Form, Variations and Alternatives

Discover the secret to stronger and bigger biceps with the preacher curl. This time-tested bicep blaster stands out among the many bicep workouts. It promises a bigger body and more muscle growth.

The preacher curl is one of the best bicep isolation exercises for building bigger arms and an impressive bicep peak.

This unique curl variation uses a preacher bench to fix your upper arms in place. This eliminates momentum and shoulder/back involvement so that the biceps do all the work.

In this article, we are going to explain:

  • What is preacher curl
  • Its benefits
  • How to do the preacher curl with the proper form.
  • We’ll then discuss the training tip 
  • Best variation and alternate of preacher curl

What Is Preacher Curl

The preacher curl is a biceps isolation exercise that allows you to focus on building bigger, stronger biceps muscles. It is performed using an inclined bench called a preacher curl bench or preacher bench.

The preacher bench has padded arm rests that are positioned at about elbow height. This helps to ensure that the upper arms remain locked in place throughout the entire movement.

The preacher bench removes involvement from other muscle groups, such as the shoulders, back. If you isolate the biceps this way, you can fully fatigue them through a complete range of motion.

This makes the preacher curl one of the most effective exercises for building bigger, stronger biceps.

Preacher Curl Bench and Equiment

Equipment and Setup For Preacher Curl

  • The exercise requires a specialized piece of gym equipment called a preacher bench (or preacher pad).
  • The exercise can be performed using a variety of equipment, including barbells, dumbbells, or an EZ curl bar.

Preacher Curl Muscles Worked

The preacher curl is going to primarily work the biceps, particularly the short head bicep.

In addition to its target, the bicep. The preacher curl has the involvement of several synergist muscles, these muscles include,

A handful of other muscles worked or play the role of stabilizer muscles during standing preacher curl, including your

Preacher Curl Muscles Worked

How to Do a Preacher Curl

  1. Adjust the preacher bench to fit your height and sit down on the seat.
  2. The arm pads should be at about elbow height when your arms hang down relaxed.
  3. Grab a barbell and hold them at arm’s length using an underhand grip (palms facing up).
  4. Keep your elbows extended and arms relaxed.
  5. Lean forward slightly and rest your upper arms firmly against the preacher bench pads.
  6. The pads should dig into your armpits slightly. Do not lift your arms off the pads during the set.
  7. Initiate the curl by flexing at the elbows and bringing the weights toward your shoulders.
  8. Focus on using only your biceps to lift the weight.
  9. Squeeze the biceps hard at the top of the movement. Hold this contracted position for a second.
  10. Slowly lower the weights back down toward the starting position by straightening your arms.
  11. Do not let the elbows lock out fully.
  12. Repeat for the desired number of reps.
How to Do a Preacher Curl

Set and Reps

  • Beginners: Lightweight, 3 Sets, 12- 15 repetitions, 60- 90 seconds rest in between sets.  
  • Intermediate: Light to Medium Weight, 4 sets, 8-12 repetitions, 45- 60 seconds rest in between sets.
  • Advance: Medium to Heavy Weight, 4 sets, 8- 12 repetitions, 30-45 seconds rest in between sets.

Preacher Curl Form And Tips

It is difficult to cheat during the preacher curl, since you are working on the bench. However, this does not rule out the possibility that you are making some errors.

Proper exercise technique is essential to ensure the safety and effectiveness of an exercise program, but you may need to modify each exercise to attain optimal results based on your individual needs.

  • Make sure to keep your upper arms flat on the bench during the exercise to eliminate cheating. Only your biceps should be used to move the weight.
  • The ideal bench angle for preacher curls is between 30-45 degrees.
  • Don’t underestimate the pause at the top of your curl, and take a moment to squeeze your bicep when you get there.
  • slow controlled descent will increase time under tension, leading to more effective sets, and less risk of injury.
  • Always select a weight that allows you to have full control of your body throughout the movement.
  • Breathe normally, avoiding holding your breath to lift the weight.
  • Incorporate proper warm-ups, rest, and nutrition into your exercise program.
  • Rest for 24 to 48 hours before training the same muscle groups to allow sufficient recovery.

Best Prone Incline Dumbbell Curl Variations

There are many variations of preacher curl that you can do with dumbbells, barbell and machine

The preacher Curl can be done in different ways to suit your fitness level.

If you are new to performing preacher curl, you may want to apply a few modifications to make the exercise easier. One way to counter this problem is to use a lighter weightAnother option is to do preacher curl with a single dumbbell, and do machine preacher curl.

If you are looking for a more advanced variation to stimulate different muscle fibers in the bicep, then try reverse preacher curl and heavier weight.

1. Close Grip Bench Preacher Curl

The close grip variation places more emphasis on the outer head of the biceps brachii. It is the best exercise to build a long head of biceps.

If you have a long tendon, then close grip preacher curl is the best barbell exercise to build a long head biceps and get a full biceps pump.

Preacher curl

How To Do It

  1. Get seated on the Preacher Bench with your chest against the support.
  2. Grasp a bar with a narrow grip, with your palms facing up.
  3. Curl the bar as in standard barbell curl and get maximum contraction at the top.
  4. Pause and squeeze the bar with your fingers at the top of the movement.
  5. Slowly lower the weight back down to the starting position.
  6. Repeats the desired number of sets.

2. Standing Dumbbell Single Arm Preacher Curl

The standing dumbbell single arm preacher curl is an isolation exercise that targets the biceps, while simultaneously stimulating the forearms, brachialis, and brachioradialis muscles as secondary movers.

Using dumbbells allows for unilateral training, meaning you can work on one arm at a time. This can help address muscle imbalances and ensure equal strength development on both sides.

Standing Dumbbell Preacher Curl

How To Do It

  1. Adjust the bench to an incline level so that you can comfortably rest your arm down the back of the headrest.
  2. Grab a dumbbell in one arm and extend it over the bench so that your forearm and tricep are rested upon the bench.
  3. Hold on to the top of the bench with the opposite arm to stabilize your body and to balance the weight.
  4. Slowly curl the dumbbell up towards your shoulder, isolate the bicep and squeeze your muscle.
  5. Hold the position for 1-3 seconds and then lower the bar so that your arms are again fully extended.

3. One Arm Dumbbell Preacher Curl

The one-arm dumbbell preacher curl is a variation of the preacher curl exercises, uses dumbbells and single arm movements for better control and targeting of the bicep muscles.

One Arm Dumbbell Preacher Curl

How To Do It

  1. Adjusting the preacher bench seat so that your arm is level with the top of the bench.
  2. Sit on a preacher bench with your upper arm resting on the surface.
  3. Grasp a dumbbell with one hand, with your palm facing up.
  4. Slowly curl the dumbbell up towards your head. Keep your arm on the bench until you get to the top position.
  5. Squeeze your biceps at the top of the movement.
  6. Repeat the desired number of repetitions, then change to your other arm.

4. Dumbbell Reverse Preacher Curl

The reverse preacher curl is a variation of the standard preacher curl targeting your brachialis muscle, which lies deeper than your biceps brachii in the upper arm.

The reverse bicep preacher curl may be performed by a barbell, dumbbells, or EZ-curl bar. But dumbbell reverse curl provides better stability and the full range of motion.

Dumbbell Reverse Preacher Curl

How To Do It

  1. Adjust the preacher bench seat so that your arms are level with the top of the bench.
  2. Grab a dumbbell in each hand with a pronated (palms down) grip.
  3. Keep your arms on the bench as you curl the dumbbells up towards your head.
  4. Hold for a count, squeeze and isolate your biceps.
  5. Repeat the desired number of repetitions.

5. Dumbbell Hammer Preacher Curl

It is recommended that this exercise be included in your list of bicep workouts with dumbbells. It is a very effective exercise that targets the brachioradialis, brachialis, and bicep muscles.

Using a hammer/neutral grip targets more of the brachioradialis and brachialis than the biceps. It is a great variation of the preacher’s curl.

Dumbbell Hammer Preacher Curl

How To Do It

  1. Adjust the preacher bench seat so that your arms are level with the top of the bench.
  2. Grasp a dumbbell in each hand with a neutral grip, with your palms facing inwards.
  3. Curl the weight up towards your shoulder until your forearm is vertical.
  4. Pause and squeeze the dumbbell with your fingers at the top of the movement.
  5. Slowly lower the weight back down to the starting position.
  6. Repeat the desired number of repetitions.

6. Cable Rope Preacher Curl

If you’re looking for one more effective preacher curl exercise, try the cable preacher curl.

It is a single-joint arm exercise that builds strength and size in the biceps using a cable stack, a preacher bench, and a rope grip.

The neutral or “hammer” grip amplifies activation of both the grip and the brachialis muscles, building arm thickness. The angle of the bench also effectively removes the shoulders from the movement, largely isolating the biceps.

Cable Rope Hammer Preacher Curl..

How To Do It

  1. Start by setting up a rope extension attachment to a low pulley cable machine and placing a preacher bench in front of the machine.
  2. Grab onto the rope with a neutral hammer grip, then sit down on the bench with your forearms rested over the padding.
  3. Slowly curl the bar up towards your chest, isolating your bicep, and squeeze.
  4. Hold for a count, then return to the starting position.
  5. Repeat for as many reps and sets as desired.

7. Standing Barbell Preacher Curl

With your arms standing at about 30-45 degrees in front of your body, the long head of your biceps is not much active during preacher curls as it is in other biceps exercises. This puts more tension on the short head, which is what gives your biceps their thickness.

The standing preacher curl, as the name implies, is the standing version of the basic seated preacher curl. You may also stand on the reverse side of the bench to execute the movement similar to a spider curl.

The body should be positioned to allow the armpit to rest near the top of the pad. The back of the upper arm should remain on pad throughout movement.

Standing Barbell Preacher Curl

How To Do

  1. Standing with a staggered stance close to the preacher curl bench.
  2. Place the back of your upper arms on the preacher bench pad, grab the barbell or EZ bar.
  3. Curl the EZ bar until it reaches your shoulder level and gets maximum contraction at the top.
  4. Hold the position for 1-3 seconds and then lower the bar so that your arms are again fully extended.
  5. Repeats the desired number of sets.

8. Machine Preacher Curl

The Machine Preacher Curl is a bicep-targeting exercise performed using a specialized gym machine that is designed to simulate the preacher curl movement.

The machine offers a fixed path of motion, which can help beginners learn the movement with better form. Machines provide constant resistance throughout the entire range of motion, in contrast to free weights.

Machine Preacher Curl

How To Do

  1. You should adjust the machine so that the pad is under your armpits.
  2. Grasp the handles with an underhand grip (supinated grip).
  3. Curl the handles towards your shoulders until your forearms are vertical.
  4. Squeeze your biceps at the top of the movement.
  5. Slowly lower the weight back down to the starting position.
  6. Repeat for the desired number of repetitions.

What Are The Benefits Of Preacher Curls?

Apart from the obvious advantage of thicker-looking biceps, preacher curls are a great way to increase general upper-body strength. This makes it a brilliant choice of exercise to train for other weightlifting exercises.

The following are some benefits of the preacher curl exercise:

  • Lifters who do the same exercises over and over will reach a plateau and cannot seem to get their biceps any bigger.
  • The main advantage of executing incline prone curls is that having your arms stretched. This causes more metabolic stress, which in turn leads to an increase in the size of the biceps. 
  • While there is a lot of emphasis on building the bicep peak through workouts that focus on the long head, using exercises that exercise the short head like the preacher curl will give the arm a more symmetrical look.
  • The Preacher curl provides a broader range of motion, thus, increasing movement efficiency. It gives a greater possibility of strength as well as size growth. 
  • It is a versatile exercise that can be performed with barbells, dumbbells, or cable systems. This allows for varied resistance.
  • It will add freshness to your bicep workout and help to fill up the biceps and increase muscular growth.

Best Preacher Curl Alternatives

The preacher curl is one of the most effective exercises for building the bicep muscle because the stability of the pad really lets you isolate the target area. But what if you don’t have a preacher curl bench?

Before we deep dive into the best preacher curl alternatives. We must remember, a good preacher curl alternative will be able to satisfy the following criteria:

  • Activate the bicep muscle groups, which is trained in the preacher curl
  • Isolate the muscle groups during execution
  • Train the bicep muscle through a longer range of motion

Well, you needn’t worry. There are a variety of preacher curl alternatives that you can do without a bench.

Here are the 3 Alternate of Preacher curl that you can do without a bench at home or at the gym.

1. Barbell Curl

The standing barbell curl serves as an effective alternative to the preacher curl for building the biceps. Both exercises use a barbell, but the standing curl is done from an upright standing position instead of sitting at a preacher bench.

Without a preacher bench to stabilize your arms, the barbell curl requires more control and tension from your upper body to keep the movement isolated in your biceps.

This enhanced muscle activation from standing helps overload the biceps through the entire curl range of motion

2. Zottman Curl

A good alternative to the preacher bicep curl is the zottman curl. The Zottman curl utilizes different hand positioning at different portions of the lift.

The first portion, the regular curl, focuses on bicep strength. You can perform Zottman curls with both arms at the same time, or alternate the arm you lift with.

3. Concentration Curl

The Concentration Curl is one of the best bicep exercises to build a biceps peak and thickness. This exercise should be a part of your arms exercise, as peaked biceps are very impressive to look at.

This exercise is done by bending at the torso using a dumbbell. Resting the upper arm against the thigh prevents movement at the shoulder and is an excellent way to isolate the biceps.

4. Hammer Curl

Hammer curls place a strong emphasis on the brachialis, brachioradialis, and biceps muscles, which results in greater muscle activation and growth. It also helps to improve grip strength and forearm development.

Hammer curls allow for a greater range of motion than traditional bicep curls.

5. Standing Inner Biceps Curl

There are many possible variations for this movement. For instance, you can perform the exercise sitting down on a bench with or without back support.

You can (and should) turn your hands from the position when palms are facing each other to the position when palms are facing upwards.

No preacher curls bench? No problem! Use any of these alternatives to build your best biceps ever.

Frequently Asked Question

Are preacher curls safe?

Yes.  Preacher curls are safe.  Some will raise a concern due to the stress that it can put on the elbow. Now, there is some truth to this, but it doesn’t mean it’s dangerous, just that you need to follow precautions.  The main point is to use light weight.  This is an isolation movement.  Don’t try to use excessively heavy loads.  80%1RM (8 rep max) should be the max weight you should use.

Do preacher curls work forearms?

Yes, preacher curls work the forearms, but to a lesser extent than the biceps muscles. During the exercise, the forearms are used as stabilizers, and the grip strength needed to hold the weight can help improve forearm development.

Why are preacher curls so hard

Preacher curls are hard because they isolate the biceps and prevent you from using momentum to lift the weight. The preacher curl bench provides support to your upper arms, thereby preventing you from swinging your elbows back and forth to generate momentum. This makes your biceps do all the work, which makes the exercise harder.


After reading this article, you should have a better understanding of how to do standing preacher curl and what makes up a proper preacher curl alternative.

As mentioned above, it’s important to isolate your arms and focus on the negative contractions when completing these exercises. By going slow, you’re able to add tension onto your muscle fibers to increase size and strength.

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