Barbell Preacher Curls

Technique Summary

Adjust the seat cushion to a level where the pad fits directly under your armpits.  Keep the back of your hand - elbow to armpit - flat on the pad throughout the exercise.  Lift the barbell by flexing your biceps.  Exhale as you bring the weight up, inhale as you bring it down.

Exercise Type: Isolation
Primary Muscle: Biceps Brachii

Technique Details

Barbell Preacher Curl is a great isolation exercise for developing biceps brachii.  The preacher bench makes it easy to keep proper form by stabilizing your arms.  To maintain good form you need to keep the back of your upper arm pinned to the pad throughout the motion.  Adjust the pad to fit comfortably under your armpits.  Sit with your back straight and feet flat on the floor.  Position your elbows in line or slightly wider than your shoulders (arm structure varies by person so choose the position that suits you best).  The motion should be limited to your arm elbow down.  Do not bring the weight all the way up.  Doing so takes the pressure off biceps.  Bring the weight up until your forearm makes a 30 degree angle with your bicep.  You should bring the weight all the way down without locking out your arms at the elbows.  Locking your elbows may lead to tendonitis. 


In doing barbell preacher curls people tend to cheat by swinging the weight, lifting with their shoulders, or bringing elbows up.  Besides taking away from the core of the exercise, and thus muscle development, you are introducing risk of injury.  Using any of the aforementioned cheats leads to unnatural body movements.  You'll end up flexing and stretching muscle fibers at the same time, tearing them, and subsequently causing you pain.  As mentioned in Arnold's book, even the professionals are subject to this mistake.  Frank Zane strained his upper-back performing the preacher curl.

Depending on your bone structure, you may need to adjust which bar you use and width of the grip.  Stand in front of a mirror with your hands extended at your sides, palms facing forward.  If you find that there is a big angle at your elbow (arm elbow down leaning away from your torso), then you should consider avoiding a flat bar at all as it will lead to unnecessary tension at your wrist.  Overall, using the EZ Curl Bar reduces the pressure on your wrist.

The width of your grip changes the focus of the barbell preacher curl.  Holding a narrow grip emphasizes the long head of the biceps (the outer head).  Holding a wide grip emphasizes the short head of the biceps (the inner head).  Using the flat bar involves more of the short head (inner) of the biceps versus the EZ Curl Bar which involves the long head (outer).