Muscles Targeted: Preacher curls over a bench are one of the best isolation exercises that targets the biceps as the primary muscle and the forearms and front shoulders as secondary muscles. In more detail, the following muscles are mainly used in this exercise. The biceps brachii and brachioradialis which are synergist muscles and play an assisting role; and the wrist flexors which have little or no movement and act as stabilizer muscles. The biceps consist of two heads which include the long and short heads. The long head makes up the outer head and the short head composes the inner biceps. When performing preacher curls over a bench, your arms move in front of your body. You should therefore hold your upper arms stationary, as compared to other biceps movements. The short head therefore takes the majority of the load during the exercise. This helps in building the inner bicep and complements other exercises that focus on the outer muscle for more balanced development of the biceps muscle group. This exercise is excellent for isolating just the biceps and nothing else making it very effective for achieving a high level of definition in the upper arm.
Exercise Instructions: Sit on a flat bench with your upper body lowered down to about the upper pectorals with your arms hanging over the front end of the bench. Position your arms against the bench so the back of your arms, just above the elbows, rest flat against the end of the bench. Securely grasp an EZ bar (curved bar) with both hands using a secure underhand grip. Slowly curl the bar up to the top while placing maximum tension on the biceps and achieving a peak contraction. Be sure to keep your elbows in a fixed position throughout the movement. Slowly return the weight back down to the starting position and repeat.
Why This Exercise is Important: Strengthening your arms with preacher curls over a bench contribute tremendously to well-defined arms. The exercise is also a good foundation for building solid biceps since it targets the brachialis muscle which is the lower muscle that helps in the flexion of the elbow. This exercise is best for building definition and a peak to your biceps. It focuses more on the lower bicep area and therefore builds this part of the arm which will be seen bulging out of your favorite short-sleeved T-shirt. Building strong biceps are also very important for functional daily activities like doing chores around the house, lifting heavy grocery bags and picking up children.
Things To Avoid: Position the back of the upper arm (just above the elbow) flat against the end of the bench. Avoid placing the tips of the elbows directly on the end of the bench. If a hyper extended position is reached, the muscles involved are no longer powerfully controlling the movement. All the stress shifts to the joint and the tendons. With time, many problems such as forearm splits and sore elbows may occur. This also limits your range of motion for the exercise and the amount of weight that you can lift. If your chest is held high and your elbows held just over the edge of the pad, you’ll be able to handle more weight with better technique and get a much more effective muscle pump in the biceps.
You should also avoid lifting very heavy weights with this exercise. By doing this you might end up damaging your elbow and bicep muscles rather than making them stronger. You should instead start small and increase the weight very gradually. This is not a mass building biceps exercise, so focus on higher reps with less weight. This is a shaping movement, so your technique should always be slow and controlled while focusing all of your attention on the peak contraction of the biceps.
You also don’t want to place your feet behind your body or way in front of it. When doing preacher curls over a bench, you need to feel very solid, in control and stable. To achieve this, place your feet a little forward of your body, like you are getting ready for a tug-of-war. Remember to avoid moving them too much and keep them in a fixed position on the floor. You should also try to avoid a straight bar as much as possible, instead choose a curved EZ bar in its place since it’s much easier on the wrists.
Reps and Sets: Preacher curls over a bench can be performed with several reps and set ranges. There is some variance however. For beginners, focus on doing 1-2 sets of 12-15 reps. Some additional weight can be added to the bar gradually for each successive set if you’re looking to build more strength in your upper arm but make sure you don’t go to heavy on this exercise due to the odd positioning of your body leaning over the front end of the bench which leaves your back in a precarious position if you go to too heavy. Precautions should be taken to minimize the risk of injuries to the muscles and rotator cuffs (shoulders). The balance between the number of sets and the number of reps should be maintained for the best results.
Other Exercises To Use: Preacher curls over a bench should be included as the finishing exercise in your workout routine for biceps. Standing barbell curls are the king of all mass building exercises for building strength and size in your biceps, so include these as the first exercise in your routine. Incline dumbbell curls are also complimentary since they work the outer head of the biceps. By incorporating these exercises into an effective arm workout, you will develop well-balanced muscles and gain a high level of definition and strength in your upper body. View our extensive database of exercise guides for a comprehensive list of exercises that target the biceps.