Discover Preacher Curl Muscles Worked Plus 3 Exercise Variations

Preacher Curl Muscles Worked

The preacher curl is a variation of the traditional bicep curl that involves using a preacher bench. 

It’s a great way to isolate your biceps whilst reducing the involvement of other muscle groups.

Recommended Reading – 6 Bicep Long Head vs Short Head Exercises For Intense Arm Growth

This popular exercise gets its name from the position of your arms as they rest against a slanted bench in a position that resembles that of a preacher giving a sermon. 

Preacher Curl Muscles Worked

During the preacher curl exercise your biceps engage to allow for extension of the arm as you lower the barbell. 

It also drives the flexion stage when raising the barbell. 

Both the brachialis and brachioradialis assist during both stages of the movement. 

The Biceps Brachii

Biceps Brachii

The primary muscle activated when performing a preacher curl is the biceps brachii. 

This is the two-headed muscle to the front of your upper arm which is responsible for flexing the elbow joint.

It’s worth noting that how you grip the bar can emphasis either of the bicep heads. 

For example, if you position your hands with a close grip this will work more of your long head (outer biceps). 

Conversely, by placing your hands with a wide grip will better engage your short head (inner biceps). 

The Brachialis

The brachialis muscle sits directly beneath the biceps and is responsible solely for elbow flexion. 

Adding size to this muscle will contribute to the overall aesthetic of your upper arms. 

Brachialis muscle

The Brachioradialis

The brachioradialis is a forearm muscle which also aids flexing the forearm at the elbow. 

It helps when performing activities that involve lifting or bending the arm as well as providing stability of the elbow joint.

How To Do Preacher Curls

To perform preacher curls, you’ll need access to a preacher curl bench. 

These can vary in terms of design so take a look at the angle of the pad. 

If the angle of the pad where you rest your arms is fairly steep, this means the exercise will be a little more challenging so you may want to stick with a lighter weight. 

Here are the steps on how to do it properly:

  1. Adjust the bench or machine so that the height of the pad is level with your armpits when you’re seated. 
  2. Take a seat and rest your chest against the front of the pad with the back of your upper arms against the angled pad. 
  3. Take hold of the barbell with an underhand grip, keeping your hands around shoulder-width apart.
  4. Keeping your elbows pressed into the pad, slowly curl the bar towards your shoulders. 
  5. Pause at the top of the movement and squeeze your biceps, then slowly lower the weight back down to the starting position.

Are There Any Variations Of Preacher Curls?

If you don’t have access to a preacher curl bench don’t worry, there are plenty of exercises you can perform which can build your biceps just as effectively. 

Below are some suggested preacher variations for your arm day training. 

Spider Curls

You’ll need to do spider curls on a regular adjustable bench and using either a pair of dumbbells, cable machine or using an EZ curl bar or similar. 

  1. Set the back pad of an adjustable bench to around 45 degrees.
  2. Lean forwards against the back rest so that your chest is fully supported.
  3. Take hold of your barbell and bending just at the elbows, curl the weight up to your chest. 
  4. Hold briefly at the top and then slowly lower back down. 

Zottman Curls

This is a great exercise to hit all your bicep heads and all you need is a pair of dumbbells. 

  1. Start by standing upright with a dumbbell in each hand. Keep them down by your sides with palms facing inwards.
  2. Slowly curl both dumbbells up towards your chest.  As you do this rotate your wrists outwards so at the top of the exercise, your palms face the ceiling. 
  3. Pause at the top then rotate your wrists inwards until your palms face the floor.
  4. Use control to lower the dumbbells back to the start and repeat.

Hammer Curls

The hammer curl is quite like a regular bicep curl but with an alternative grip it engages the muscles in a different way.  Its primary focus is increasing the width of the biceps and activating the muscles of the forearm. 

  1. Stand upright holding a dumbbell in each hand. 
  2. Keep your feet around shoulder-width apart and the dumbbells down by your sides.  
  3. Take one hand and curl the dumbbell up and across your body.
  4. Pause when the dumbbell reaches the center of your chest.
  5. Squeeze and then lower back down.
  6. Alternate the movement with each arm and make sure to perform an equal number of reps on both sides. 

Benefits of Preacher Curls

When performed regularly and with proper form, preacher curls can offer many benefits. 

Wide grip EZ Preacher bar curl

Isolation Of Your Biceps

Preacher curls specifically target the biceps muscles isolating them and removing the ability to use momentum. 

When you remove the ‘cheating’ element this can help to develop the muscle more effectively.

Better Form & Technique

When compared to something like the dumbbell curl, preacher curls encourage better form. 

This is because the movement is restricted to the elbow joint. 

The bench helps to maintain a controlled and smooth range of motion making sure that your biceps do most of the work.

Variation & Muscle Activation

By altering your grip on the barbell, you can place more emphasis on different parts of your biceps and forearm muscles. 

This can help to address any imbalances and contribute to a more well-rounded biceps development. 

Less Strain On Your Back

As the bench supports your upper arms and chest, preacher curls can be better for you if you have any back issues or find it uncomfortable to perform regular bicep curls. 

It reduces stress on your lumbar spine and encourages a more controlled movement limiting the chance of injury.

Improved Aesthetics

Preacher curls can help to improve the appearance of the biceps muscles, making them look bigger and more defined.

This can enhance overall physical appearance and improve your overall body composition.

Frequently Asked Questions

Should You Go Heavy When Doing Preacher Curls?

Going heavy on preacher curls can lead to greater muscle and strength gains, especially during the eccentric phase of the lift when you lower the dumbbell. 

However, what’s most important is that proper form is adhered to in order to maximise the benefits of the exercise and prevent injury

Heavy preacher curls

So, whilst there’s nothing wrong with going heavy when doing the preacher curl, make sure you don’t do it too often as you’ll run the risk of overtraining. 

By sticking to routines that focus on both heavy weight for low reps and lighter weight for higher reps you’ll reach your strength goals much faster. 

Which Head Of The Biceps Do Preacher Curls Target?

Preacher curls target both the long and short heads of the biceps.

However, if you want to target more of the biceps long head, then position your hands closer together on the bar. 

Close grip ez preacher bar curl

If it’s short head activation you’re after, then place your hands further apart. 

The long head is located on the outer portion of the bicep and is responsible for the “peak” of the muscle, while the short head is located on the inner portion of the bicep and contributes to overall muscle thickness. 

What Is The Difference Between Preacher Curls & Regular Bicep Curls?

The main difference between preacher curls and regular bicep curls is the position of the arms during the exercise.

Preacher curls are performed with the back of upper arms resting on an angled pad, whereas regular bicep curls are performed with the arms hanging down at the sides.


Preacher curls place more emphasis on the biceps brachii muscle, while regular bicep curls work the muscle group as a whole.

Do Preacher Curls Work The Forearms Or Just The Biceps?

Preacher curls primarily target the biceps brachii muscle, but they also work the brachialis and brachioradialis muscles in the forearm.

This makes preacher curls a great exercise for overall arm development.

Bicep preacher curl bench

Final Thoughts

By incorporating preacher curls into strength training can offer many benefits, ranging from targeted muscle development through to improved arm functionality. 

Whether you’re looking for aesthetic gains or aiming to enhance your arm strength and performance, understanding the muscles worked during preacher curls is essential for tailoring an effective workout program. 

Always remember to focus on proper form, gradually progress in weight and repetitions as you become stronger and listen to your body to maximize the advantages of this powerful exercise.

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