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Exercise of the Month: Single-Arm Cable Preacher Curl

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Target the short, inner head of the biceps with this unique preacher curl variation.

By Jimmy Pena MS, CSCS

THE START

STEP 1: Place a preacher bench facing a low pulley with a D-handle attached. The steep side of the bench should be away from the cable.

STEP 2: Sit on the bench or stand with your knees bent.

STEP 3: Grasp the handle with an underhand grip (have your partner hand it to you) and make sure your armpit is snug against the top of the bench, and your arm is just slightly bent at the start.

STEP 4: Your hand, elbow and shoulder should all line up in the same plane for maximum effectiveness.

EXECUTION

STEP 1: Keeping your upper arm flush against the pad, contract your biceps to curl the handle toward your shoulder.

STEP 2: Squeeze your biceps hard at the top, and then allow the weight of the stack to slowly extend your arm back to the start and repeat.

STEP 3: Don’t fully extend your arm at the bottom; there should be a slight bend in it.

CALLOUTS

Because your elbow is out in front of your body, the tension on the biceps long head is reduced, placing the majority of emphasis on the short head (the muscle most visible in the mirror during a front double biceps pose). While the long head is key to its shape and size, the short, inner head is equally vital in building impressive arms because it helps push the peak to new heights.

The cable preacher is an isolation exercise for the biceps that can be done toward the latter half of your workout to enhance your pump. Choose a weight in which you can do 10–12 reps for 3–4 sets.

BIGGEST TRAINING ERRORS

1. Straightening your arm at the bottom. Even though the cable provides tension, it’s important not to fully straighten your arm at the bottom. Not only is this unhealthy for the joint but also it takes tension off the muscle as you allow the actual muscle to rest between reps.

2. Allowing your elbow to flare. The reason most guys allow their elbow to flare is because they’re using too much weight and it’s a way of cheating. You have to remember that you don’t need a ton of weight to fully innervate the biceps.

3. Neglecting intensity techniques. Just because the cable preacher is a simple isolation move doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get creative. First, be sure to use forced reps, self-spotting with your free hand. Another easy technique is drop sets because you can easily change the pin and quickly resume the set.

BEST ALTERNATIVE: SINGLE-ARM MACHINE PREACHER CURL

The machine preacher curl — similar to the cable version — allows you to use your non-working hand as a way to self-spot yourself when you begin to fatigue. That’s a huge bonus especially if you train alone. All of the form rules still apply at the top and bottom of each rep with the machine version.

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