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3 Reasons You're Wasting Your Time With Preacher Curls!

3 Fixes!

Posted by Scott_Herman - August 15th, 2018

Today we’re going to go over the 3 reasons why you’re probably not getting the most gains or benefits from the barbell preacher curl.

The barbell preacher curl (or any preacher curl variation, dumbbells as well), is one of the best exercises for growth for your biceps. It provides the kind of stretch that you just can’t get anywhere else. Unfortunately, 9 out of 10 people I see in the gym, they don’t even get to the stretch because they’re doing the exercise wrong.

Reason #1: Ego Lifting

If you’re doing this exercise with weight that’s way too heavy, you’re not even getting any kind of curl out of your arms to begin with. Remember, to maximize a movement, you have to have a flex at the top, a stretch at the bottom, and you have to be able to OVERLOAD throughout that range of motion (ROM). But if you’re lifting weight that’s so heavy that when you set up on the preacher, you’re basically relying on your upper body moving back and forth to do the curl, then there’s no sort of bicep curl happening. You’re literally just rocking your body back and forth to move the weight. And the ROM you get is just a few centimetres, if that.

Reason #2: Half Reps For “More Tension”

A lot of people like to claim that it “keeps tension on the biceps” if you stop halfway. But not really, and you’re missing out on the stretch which is the most important part. The main reason why people like to stop halfway is because they’re able to lift more weight, so it’s almost like a psychological thing. If you were to go to the gym right now and grab some weight, you’d notice as soon as you get to about halfway through the movement, you do start to feel a lot of tension in your biceps. However, you also still have that elasticity that’s helping you to bring the weight back up. That elasticity goes away as soon as you fully extend, and you’re not going to be able to rely on it, so you’re not going to be able to lift as heavy when using full ROM until you get good at this exercise.

Most people when they first start training develop a bad habit of stopping halfway down, or three quarters of the way down, and then they start to rely on that elasticity. They never train through the full ROM, and they never even experience what the stretch feels like at the bottom. It’s during that stretch that you have to recruit/contract your muscles so much harder to get out of it, because it’s called the sticking point. This is the difference between FAST GAINS and SLOW GAINS. You will make gains with BAD FORM, but they will be SLOW!

Reason #3: Skipping The Bottom “Sticking Point” Of The Curl!

The reason why most people skip this reason, is usually first and foremost because they’re also skipping reasons 1 and 2! But the other reason people skip the bottom portion of the movement is because as soon as you get to full lockout at the bottom, if you can’t move that weight, you get stuck, and most people don’t like getting stuck. Some people feel embarrassed or think they’re doing the exercise incorrectly, but it’s OK to get stuck.

The bottom position, the sticking point, is the hardest part of a curl, and you’re supposed to get stuck when you’re training your biceps. But the reason why people skip the sticking point on the preacher curl, compared with a standing barbell curl, is because when you’re standing, you can cheat out of the sticking point. If you get stuck at the bottom when doing a standing barbell curl, you can use a little momentum, or even drive your elbows back to kind of get out of it. But when you’re on the preacher curl and you get stuck, you’re toast.


Incorporating Preacher Curls Into Your Workout

Do 5 sets of 8-10 repetitions on this exercise. The way you’re going to do the first 4 sets is like a standard preacher curl. You’re going to get a shoulder width grip on the bar, you’re going to go all the way down (fully extend), and feel that deep stretch in your biceps. You’ll then go back to the starting position, flex your biceps as hard as you can, and repeat for 8-10 reps.

On your 5th set (this is going to absolutely destroy you), you’re going to go a little lighter with the weight and do pause reps. Pausing on a rep is going to take all the elasticity out of a muscle so that you have to contract those same muscle fibers 10 times harder just to complete the movement. So you’ll go all the way down to the bottom of the movement, hold it there for about 3 seconds, and you’ll instantly start to feel the weight get heavier having lost that elasticity. You’ll then force the contraction as hard as you can to come back to the top, and repeat for reps.

Think about it like when you do a pause bench. Why do powerlifters do a pause bench press? It’s because when they bring the barbell down and they pause, they start lose all that elasticity, so they have to contract their chest muscles (and all the muscles in their upper body) 10 times harder just to be able to push that weight back up. What does that equal? It equals more strength, and it equals more muscle growth over time.


I like to use a straight bar when doing preacher curls, rather than an E-Z curl bar, and there’s a reason for that. As you all should know, supination of the forearms is how you engage your biceps throughout the entire ROM. If you’re doing the preacher curl with an E-Z curl bar, and you’re automatically starting with your hands turned in, you’re losing a tiny bit of biceps engagement. So why not get rid of that by ditching the E-Z curl bar, and using a straight bar.


One last thing to remember, is that when you’re using a straight bar, if you’re having a hard time keeping your wrists straight, take your thumb and put it on the outside of your fingers/under the barbell (not wrapped around it). This will force you to keep your wrists turned in as you get to the bottom of the movement, and as you get back to the top, so that you can maximize your biceps engagement and growth!

Related Videos:

How To: Barbell Bicep Curl | 3 GOLDEN RULES

11 Things I Wish I Knew Before I Started Training | DON'T MAKE THESE WORKOUT MISTAKES!

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