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How to do an EZ bar preacher curl for your biceps: Form, benefits, muscles worked

Isolate your biceps and add mass faster with EZ bar preacher curls.
Written By  Liam Brown
Last Updated on 10th August 2021
A man demonstrating how to do an EZ bar preacher curl for the biceps

The EZ bar preacher curl is one of the all-time great mass-building movements for bulking up your biceps. Unlike standard curls, seated preacher curls maximize your bicep activation because the pad prevents you from cheating the weight up. Not only does this promotion of the proper form keep you further away from injuries and closer to the gains, but it also creates a powerful muscle pump that can enhance the appearance of your arms.

As such, preacher EZ bar curls are one of, if not the most effective biceps exercise that you can do for hypertrophy.

This guide teaches you how to preacher curl with the optimal muscle-building form. It also discusses the benefits of preacher bench curls and shines the spotlight on the 15+ variations that you can try to add variety to your workout routine.

Related: Back and bicep workouts

EZ bar preacher curl exercise details

  • Also Known As: Scott curls, cambered bar preacher curls
  • Main Muscles: Biceps brachii
  • Secondary Muscles: Brachialis, brachioradialis, forearm flexors
  • Exercise Type: Strength
  • Exercise Mechanics: Isolation
  • Difficulty Level: Beginner
  • Equipment Needed: EZ bar, preacher pad, weight discs

Preacher curls muscles worked

The muscles worked during a preacher curl exercise

The primary muscle worked during a seated preacher curl is the biceps brachii. This is because preacher curls train forearm supination (turning your palms up) and elbow flexion (decreasing the distance between your upper and lower arms), which are the two main functions of the biceps.

EZ bar preacher curls also work the brachialis and brachioradialis muscles, both of which, like the biceps, are powerful elbow flexors.

Finally, preacher bar curls provide a good stimulus for the forearm flexors due to the need to grip the bar tightly and because of the wrist flexion component of the exercise.

How to do preacher curls correctly

  1. Load an appropriate amount of weight onto an EZ bar and place it on the rack of a preacher bench.
  2. Sit on the seat of the preacher curl station.
  3. Brace the backs of your upper arms against the sloped side of the preacher pad.
  4. Grab the EZ bar with a shoulder-width grip.
  5. Curl the bar toward your shoulders and squeeze your biceps as hard as you can.
  6. Hold the contraction for a split second and then lower the bar under control until your elbows are fully locked out.
  7. Repeat for 3-5 sets of 8-12 reps.

Preacher curl benefits

While there are many awesome arm-building exercises available at your disposal, there are some undeniable preacher curl benefits that other movements simply don't provide. So if you're interested in gaining more bicep size, strength, or definition, then be sure to use these benefits as motivation to fuel your training sessions because they still require hard work and consistency in the gym to be obtained.

Better bicep isolation

Shirtless man doing preacher curls at the gym

The preacher bicep curl makes it extremely difficult to cheat the weight up with momentum provided by your other body parts. This is because, when you're using the proper preacher curl form, your arms are securely braced against the pad, and your hips are firmly positioned on the seat. As such, it's incredibly easy to keep the tension on the target muscles and therefore achieve a great muscle-building workout.

You can read our preacher curl vs bicep curl comparison for more info on this, but as good as regular curls are, the temptation to cheat the weight up all too often turns into reality and then morphs into a permanent bad habit that reduces your bicep stimulation over the long term.

Bicep preacher curls, on the other hand, are much more beginner-friendly because you can't use your other muscles to swing the weight up even if you wanted to. This means that you can get on with building your biceps sooner (i.e., adding weight to the bar) because it's easier to master the proper form in a short amount of time.

Lower injury risk

Side view of an athletic man performing EZ bar preacher curls at the gym

As mentioned, it's tempting to lift excessively heavy weights on regular curls because you know that you can always cheat the bar up with assistance from your back and/or legs. However, it's not recommended to lift more weight than your biceps can handle by themselves.

Why?

Well, not only does this form of ego-lifting put less tension on your biceps (since the extra resistance is now distributed over a wider variety of muscles), but it also thrashes your connective tissue and leaves them open to sprains, strains, and aches.

Since the preacher bench curl doesn't allow you to cheat the weight up, it's much more conducive to maintaining good connective tissue health. This means that you'll pick up fewer injuries over the course of your training career and will thus be able to build more muscle over the long term as well.

More bicep mass

Athletic man doing preacher curls with an EZ bar during his gym workout

The preacher bar curl has a reputation of being a secondary bicep exercise rather than a mass-builder. And while it's true that many lifters perform preacher curls after barbell curls, the exercise is no less of a mass-builder than any other movement. [1] Just check out our incline curls vs preacher curls comparison to see what I mean.

In fact, since the EZ-bar preacher curl isolates your biceps better than any other movement, you could argue that it's actually superior to standing curls for building size.

This is because when you can't swing the weight up with your other muscles, your biceps are forced to handle virtually all of the tension. This naturally results in them receiving a bigger muscle growth stimulus because more of their muscle fibers are being broken down.

Powerful muscle pumps

Intense man performing preacher curls with an EZ bar

Many lifters avoid locking out their elbows during the preacher curl exercise because they believe that it takes tension off their biceps. This is a massive mistake because the last phase of a preacher curl rep is actually the most challenging because it places your muscles under the greatest stretch and thus helps to build your lower bicep. [2]

While it's true that performing partial reps can result in an intense, if temporary muscle pump, you'll build more size overall by doing full repetitions because complete reps recruit a higher amount of muscle fibers.

And anyway, preacher curls naturally produce powerful muscle pumps irrespective of whether you momentarily take the tension off your biceps in order to get a full stretch because they already isolate your biceps better than any other exercise.

Types of preacher curls

A man demonstrating various preacher curl variations

There are over 12 preacher curl exercises that you can do to bulk up your biceps, all of which are linked below. The best preacher bicep curl variations for you depend on your goals and equipment availability. For example, single-arm versions offer slightly better muscle isolation but also take twice as long to perform because you need to train both arms separately.

We've also created a range of comparisons, such as our hammer curls vs preacher curls guide so that you can decide if the seated preacher curl is the right exercise for your goals. Alternatively, you can check out our concentration curls vs preacher curls debate if you want to see which exercise offers the best bicep isolation.

Preacher curl FAQ

What are preacher curls?

Preacher curls are a bicep exercise that's commonly performed with an EZ bar and a preacher curl bench. The purpose of the movement is to prevent weight lifters from cheating the barbell up with their other muscles so that they can achieve a better arm workout.

What muscles do preacher curls work?

Preacher bench curls mainly work the biceps brachii. However, due to the exercise having a significant elbow flexion component, preacher curls also work the brachialis and brachioradialis in addition to the forearms.

Are preacher curls good?

Yes, the bicep preacher curl is a good exercise for beginners and advanced weight lifters alike because the pad makes it very hard to cheat the bar up. This leads to better results because you can keep a larger proportion of the tension on the target muscles. If you're interested in other exercises, then you can also check out our preacher curl alternative guide for some inspiration.

Do preacher curls build mass?

Yes, preacher curls build bicep mass because they offer unrivaled muscle isolation. It's important to remember, however, that there's more to building mass than just hard work in the gym. Gaining muscle requires a healthy, high protein diet and oftentimes means eating in a calorie surplus. You must also make sure that you're getting enough sleep so that your muscles have a chance to repair and grow back bigger and stronger.

What's the optimal preacher curl grip width?

A shoulder-width grip is the ideal hand position for the EZ preacher curl because it enables you to lift the most amount of weight. If you want to bias the emphasis toward the long (outer) head of your biceps, then you can use a narrower grip. To target the short head more, use a wider grip.

You can also see our spider curls vs preacher curls debate to see which side of the bench you should use.

What's a good preacher curl workout for the biceps?

It's recommended to perform 3-5 sets of preacher curls 1-2 times per week. Start off with the bare minimum amount of sets if you're new to the gym. It doesn't take much stimulus to get those gains early on in your training career, and besides, it's important not to do too much volume too soon; otherwise, you won't have anywhere to progress to without overtraining.

As for the reps, sets of 8-12 repetitions are recommended. You can go higher, but then you'd need to ensure that you're training close enough to failure in order to stimulate hypertrophy. Likewise, you can lift with lower reps, but then you'd need to perform more sets to get the same total training volume as you could get from a few moderate rep (8-12) sets.

Read More: Inner bicep workouts

Conclusion: Will seated preacher curls build your biceps?

The preacher curls exercise is one of the most popular training drills in the gym—and for a good reason. This old-school movement has been building the biceps of weight lifters for decades because it isolates the arms better than any other exercise.

The EZ bar preacher curl is also a very safe exercise and is thus great for beginners. You can't use the momentum from your other muscles to cheat the weight up because your arms are securely braced against the bad. As such, all you need to think about is stretching and squeezing your biceps, which is the primary purpose of the exercise.

References

  1. McCall, G. E., Byrnes, W. C., Dickinson, A., Pattany, P. M., & Fleck, S. J. (1996). Muscle fiber hypertrophy, hyperplasia, and capillary density in college men after resistance training. Journal of Applied Physiology, 81(5), 2004–2012. https://doi.org/10.1152/jappl.1996.81.5.2004
  2. Oliveira, L. F., Matta, T. T., Alves, D. S., Garcia, M. A. C., & Vieira, T. M. M. (2009). Effect of the shoulder position on the biceps brachii emg in different dumbbell curls. Journal of Sports Science and Medicine, 8(1), 24–29. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24150552/
Liam Brown
Liam Brown has been coaching clients as a personal trainer for more than 12 years. Raised by his athlete mother and physiotherapist father, he understands the critical importance of learning the proper technique for both avoiding injury and building muscle.
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