The barbell preacher curl is a legendary exercise that was very popular with the old-school bodybuilders. However, it’s still commonly utilized today to build bigger biceps. And although there are more ways to do it with the advancement of technology, we’d suggest not trading in this variation.
A barbell is considered a “free weight,” and the benefits of using this type of training tool are maximum activation of stabilizer and core muscles. There’s nothing wrong with machines and super-cool contraptions but the basics are always best for maintaining functional strength.
Here’s a guide to the barbell preacher curl…
In This Exercise:
- Target Muscle Group: Biceps
- Type: Hypertrophy
- Mechanics: Isolation
- Equipment: Barbell
- Difficulty: Beginner
Before we get to the barbell preacher curl, it’s always nice to know which muscles are involved wouldn’t you agree?…
The biceps is a two-headed muscle. It has a short (inner) head and a long (outer) head. Both heads meet at the forearm while the short head attaches at the shoulder and the long head crosses the shoulder joint. Biceps function to pull the forearm upward at the bottom end while the long head facilitates minor function at the shoulder.
The preacher tends to place a lot of tension near the elbow portion of the biceps which is good but no need to make things too complicated. It’ll work the biceps like any other effective exercise but the isolation factor is what makes it stand out.
The brachialis muscle is located underneath the biceps out the outer portion and extends to the elbow. It is one of the largest elbow flexors and provides pure elbow flexion at the forearm.
The brachioradialis is a forearm muscle that flexes, supinates, and pronates the forearm at the elbow. It also has a mechanical advantage over the biceps for elbow flexion when the forearm is supinated.
How To Do The Barbell Preacher Curl
Using a barbell or dumbbell for the preacher curl requires a different strategy than if you were using cables or a machine. This is where it’s not ideal to use a full range of motion.
If you do the preacher curl as it’s typically done, curling the bar too high can relieve the tension from the biceps and you don’t want this. Therefore, you want to curl just up until the point where the tension is still on the biceps. Here’s a step-by-step for how to do the barbell preacher curl…
- Sit or stand depending on the preacher curl bench design and adjust the seat if necessary. You want to be able to comfortably place your armpits over the top of the pad with the back of your arms flat against the pad.
- Grip the bar with hands about shoulder-width and lean and into the padding. Keep your upper arms parallel to each other and don’t move them outward.
- Curl the bar about 3/4 of the way up. You want to maintain tension on the biceps.
- Slowly lower the bar and stop just short of lockout.
- Using an EZ bar can relieve stress off of your wrists and allow you to get a more comfortable grip.
- Make sure to keep your elbows neutral, not too far in or out to maximize isolation on the biceps.
- There’s no need to curl the bar as far as your arms can go when the exercise is done correctly. This takes the tension off of the biceps because you’re essentially resting at the top.
- Lean into the padding to better isolate the biceps
- Do not rock forward and backward as this defeats the purpose of the exercise, taking the work off the biceps.
- Never train with maximum loads on the preacher curl. You can tear a bicep especially if you’re extending your arms under heavy loads in an improper position.
3 Preacher Curl Variations
As mentioned previously, there are many ways to do the preacher curl. Here are three…
Standing preacher curl on an inclined bench
You don’t need a preacher curl contraption to do a preacher curl. Although, being able to sit down or use a machine is nice. But you can stand behind a bench that is set at a high incline and get the same benefits. Just bend your knees a little and place your armpit over the top of the bench, extend your arm against it, then, curl and stop a little short to again, keep the tension on the biceps.
This is best done by using a dumbbell and doing one arm at a time due to the width of a standard bench. Although, you could use a fixed barbell and just keep your elbows close together.
Dumbbell preacher curl
Dumbbells should always be a part of your training regardless of the muscles being trained. You have more overall freedom with grip and movement, not to mention, you can identify and correct a weak side using dumbbells.
Read more: Dumbbell preacher curl
Cable or machine preacher curl
The real advantage of using cables or a machine is that you never have to worry about there not being tension on the biceps at the top of the curl. That’s why many opt for this variation. Not to mention, there are many different machines and cable attachments that you can use which is also an advantage.
How To Include The Barbell Preacher Curl In Your Training Routine
Here are a few effective ways to include the barbell preacher curl.
With your other biceps exercise
A good biceps routine includes a few different biceps exercises to really hammer all of the muscle fibers. Now, a curl is generally a curl. But we recommend at least one compound movement like the standing barbell or dumbbell curl and an isolation exercise to ensure you’re maximizing muscle contractions and mind/muscle connection.
Not to mention, because the preacher curl involves placing your arms in front of your body, you also activate the biceps more at the shoulder joint as well. The barbell preacher curl fits this role well along with your other exercises.
As a superset
Supersets involve doing two exercises back to back. You can pair the barbell preacher curl with a different biceps exercise or with a triceps exercise, or another muscle group that you’re training.
To work your brachialis and brachioradialis muscles
Doing a hammer and reverse curl variation is the best way to nail the brachialis and brachioradialis. Change up your hand position to a neutral or pronated (overhand) grip to maximize the activation of these muscles that contribute to your arm size and strength.
The barbell preacher curl definitely has its place for biceps training. It’s a great isolation movement that allows you to challenge yourself and you’re going to really benefit from it along with your other biceps training exercises. Just be sure to do it safely and correctly and you’ll be good to go!
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