Muscles Targeted: Machine preacher curls target the biceps brachii (2 heads of the biceps), brachialis (located beneath the biceps muscle on the outside of the arm) and the brachioradialis (forearms). This exercise is also excellent for improving strength in your wrists and overall grip.
Exercise Instructions: Using a machine preacher curl machine that has a weight stack, adjust the weight to an appropriate level for your strength. Grab the bar securely with both hands using an underhand grip (palms facing upwards). Keep your back straight with your feet planted firmly on the floor and maintain proper posture throughout the movement. Slowly curl the bar upward as if you are trying to touch the handles of the bar to your chin (but don’t actually touch it). Return the bar back down very slowly to the starting position allowing some level of resistance to take advantage of the “negative” (eccentric) portion of the exercise when the muscle is elongating or lengthening.
Why This Exercise is Important: There’s a reason why biceps are called “guns” and that’s because well-defined arms look like menacing weapons. It’s also the reason why most bodybuilders covet Schwarzenegger’s massive and shredded arms that catapulted him to stardom. Well developed arms are not only impressive, they also have been traditionally associated with masculinity.
Aesthetics aside, developing your biceps bring many real life benefits. If you have weak arms, your larger upper body muscles cannot function fully. You may have trouble carrying your groceries, doing housework, and playing most sports. And because machine preacher curls extend all the way to your wrists, doing this exercise will help you perform daily work activities that require a lot of wrist action such as writing, typing and moving a computer mouse (if you have an office job).
At the same time, strong arms will protect your joints, particularly your elbows. This lets you carry your bag or briefcase longer without experiencing pain and minimize any inflammation in the joints. And when you workout, your strong elbows will lessen the chance of soreness from lifting weights. It will also help to prevent carpal tunnel syndrome.
Finally, the best reason why you should not forget to do the machine preacher curls is that this exercise totally isolates the muscles at the front of the upper arms. And because your arms are resting on a machine, shoulder flexion is removed from the lift. The movement is therefore totally concentrated on the muscles you want to develop.
Things To Avoid: Position yourself correctly on the machine. Avoid hunching your shoulders over or rounding your back. Be careful when choosing the weight you will lift. Because the machine can isolate the movement and concentrate it directly on the biceps, most people miscalculate their strength and choose a heavier weight than they can actually lift. If this happens, you are likely to injure yourself. Position your armpits on top of the pad, sit squarely on the seat and plant your feet firmly on the floor. Keep your back flat and use a secure underhand grip on the handles of the machine.
Raise the bar slowly towards your shoulders, drawing power from the biceps. Do not jerk the bar or move too fast through the exercise. You should avoid using momentum to power the movement. Breathe out and exhale as you curl the bar up (exerting force) and inhale (breathe in) when you release the bar back down to the bottom. Always control the up and down motion with a slow and steady tempo. This is the reason why you need to always choose the correct weight for your current strength level. Pick a weight that you can lift comfortably, but not too easy. Do not perform this exercise if you have severe elbow problems or back issues.
Reps and Sets: Many of the other upper body exercises target the biceps as a secondary muscle group (barbell rows, deadlifts, etc). It is also a smaller muscle group so there is no need to spend more time training them with tons of sets and different exercises. The number of reps and sets that you perform should depend on your fitness goals. If you only want to strengthen and tone your muscles, 12-15 reps for 1-2 sets is more than enough. But for massive arms and maximum strength, do 6-8 reps for 2-3 sets of machine preacher curls.
Other Exercises To Use: Train your triceps and biceps equally to ensure your arms will be symmetrical without having any underdeveloped muscles. Aside from machine preacher curls, you can also perform barbell curls and two arm dumbbell curls to create an effective muscle building workout routine for your biceps. View our extensive database of exercise guides for a comprehensive list of exercises that target the biceps.