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Troubleshooting: Preacher Curl

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One of these photos shows a critical but common mistake on the preacher curl.

By Jimmy Peña MS, CSCS

About the Preacher Curl

The preacher curl is a tremendous, strict exercise for the biceps, and a move that should be in your routine on arm day. Because your arms are out in front of you, the tension on the long head is drastically reduced, placing much of the stress on the inner (short) head. That’s the muscle most visible during a front double biceps pose in the mirror.

Spot the Error

The preacher curl is as simple to perform as it is effective, and yet far too many lifters make some classic blunders while performing it. To do it right, your armpits should be snug against the top of the pad; your triceps, then, should lie flat against the bench at all times. But because a lot of us are so used to allowing our delts to assist in our standing curls, a natural tendency is to let the elbows flare off the pad.

Fix It

Lighten the load. If you’re struggling to keep your triceps flush on the pad, reduce the weight so that you can manage it with better success. Then, set up the preacher bench so that the top of the pad fits securely under your armpits. Take a shoulder-width, underhand grip on the bar and position your arms parallel to each other on the bench. You want to start each rep with a slight bend in your arm at the bottom to maintain constant tension on the biceps while also protecting your elbow joint. As you curl the weight up, keep your triceps pinned to the bench. Not only that, your goal is to prevent your lower arms from reaching a perpendicular point to the floor. If you’ve gone that high, you’ve likely lost tension in the biceps.

Beginner’s Tip

Try the one-arm dumbbell version. Same form recommendations are in place, however your free hand can be used to give yourself a spot to help you through the sticking point. This version will also allow you to determine which arm is weaker, allowing you to work on muscular imbalances right from the start.

*Excerpted from the August 2012 issue of MuscleMag now on sale!

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