Bodybuilding Training Article from

Preacher Curl Bench
The Best Way to Train Biceps
by Eric Augspurger / Eric's Gym 2005

Click here to see how Arnold's biceps pumped up
during a hard set of Preacher Curls

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I first started lifting weights in 1972 (yeah, I have been around the iron game for a very long time) and I saw the above picture of Arnold Schwarzenegger in a muscle magazine during the summer of 1973.  No one knew who Arnold was yet outside of a few hardcore bodybuilding fans but I sure did. As a 17 year old kid, I was so awed and inspired by this picture that I had to cut it out of the magazine, hang it on my basement wall, and immediately start doing Preacher Curls (confident of course that I would one day become Mr. Olympia too!).  Back in those days, bodybuilding equipment made for a home gym hardly existed and I had to improvise by doing my curls over the back of an incline bench with a single dumbbell at a time. While that version of the exercise was crude and very uncomfortable, I immediately realized that this was the strictest and most productive version of a curl that I could ever do.  To this day, I train my biceps exclusively on a Preacher Curl Bench in my own gym. Because my front delts became so strong from bench pressing, I have trouble isolating my biceps with almost any other type of curl. Doing standing dumbbell or barbell curls, or even incline dumbbell curls, my front delts want to take over and swing the weight forward, robbing my biceps of any productive exercise. Only this type of bench eliminates this problem for me and allows me to lift meaningful weights at the same time.  As a result I feel the exercise directly in my biceps and not in my front delts.

Regular barbell curl
on Preacher Bench

Larry Scott, the very first Mr. Olympia,(1965 - 66), is credited with having invented the Preacher Bench, hence it is often referred to as the Scott Curl Bench.  Larry Scott had incredible biceps, even by today's standards - they were as big as softballs and ran full length from his shoulder well down into his elbow.  If one could mold a perfect biceps any way they wanted to - huge, thick, and perfectly shaped - they would mold an exact replica of Larry Scott's biceps.  Larry credited his amazing biceps development to the use of the Preacher Curl Bench and he trained his biceps exclusively on this apparatus. Larry did three different types of curls on the Preacher bench - barbell curls, dumbbell curls, and reverse barbell curls - and one can hardly argue with the results that he obtained.  Larry, at his peak, would use a PAIR of 80 lbs. dumbbells on the Preacher Bench for a strict set of several repetitions!  If you have never done this exercise before, try taking half that weight, an 80 lb. barbell, and doing a strict set of ten on the Preacher Bench and you will appreciate the power that Larry Scott had developed with this exercise.

Another bodybuilding legend, Mike Mentzer (Mr. America, Mr. Universe 1978) was a fan of Preacher Curls and his biceps were peaked and massive, and with exceptional lower biceps development as Larry and Arnold also had. Mike loved to use isolation movements in his workouts and he also believed in using only one to two exercises per body part at the most. Mike's preferred choice of the preacher curl and it's variation, the preacher curl machine, as his main biceps exercise says something about the movement as Mentzer was the most scientific trainer to ever grasp a barbell.

Why does the Preacher Curl work so well?  It isn't "rocket science" we are talking about - simply put, it is the isolation possible.  There is no other biceps movement you can do that will hold your upper arms as stationary as a Preacher Curl Bench will and that allows you to put more intensity into training just the biceps and nothing else.  Even doing dumbbell concentration curls is not as strict. - I have seen countless bodybuilders over the years brace their upper arm against their leg as if they are really going to do a strict concentration curl and then they start twisting their upper body to swing the dumbbell up. - These guys might as well have been doing standing cheat barbell curls for all the isolation they got!  When faced with stress, the human body will always try to find the easiest way out - it is natural to want to cheat on an exercise.  As a result of this natural tendency to want to bring in assistance muscles, locking a stationary padded bench under your upper arms while you are seated (so you can't use your legs to help either) can be very helpful.  

Reverse E-Z bar curl
on Preacher Bench

I have always gotten a kick out the "truisms" that you hear guys throw around in the gym.  These guys read a few muscle mags and memorize their jargon and all at once they consider themselves bodybuilding experts.  One of those myths promoted by certain hardcore muscle magazines is that there are "mass" exercises and "shaping" exercises.  All your muscles know how to do is to contract and relax and your muscles don't know the difference between a "shaping" exercise and a "mass" exercise. These local "gymologists" will try to tell you that the best mass building exercise for your biceps is the standing barbell curl - they say that because they read it in a magazine. Very often these self-proclaimed experts are the same people in the gym that will also advise you to use steroids because of the wonderful benefits derived from that drug. I have known many of these types of lifters over 3 decades and they all ended up the same way - because of their steroid abuse their joints were ruined, they ended up bald-headed, and their women left them because the drugs left these guys impotent. To the last man, all of these "big-time" bodybuilders that I grew up with in the gym no longer lift weights at all and they are all in incredibly bad shape - they look like someone that never worked out in their entire life. These are the same guys that will tell you to "only do the big exercises such as the standing barbell curl, everything else is a sissy exercise" - get the picture as to what their advice is worth? Don't be afraid to think outside of the box when it comes to bodybuilding; no one has all the answers and a little experimentation with different exercises may put you on a faster path to better muscular development.

I know some lifters in my gym that have only done standing barbell curls a few times in their life and they didn't like them and proceeded to concentrate on Preacher Curls for the next few years and they now have biceps as big as melons. Working up to a heavy weight in almost any exercise will build mass. Do you really believe that if you work up to the point that you can curl 150 pounds ten times in strict style on a Preacher Bench that you will still have little skinny biceps because you never did any traditional standing barbell curls to build mass???  The idea is ridiculous of course but some people believe exactly that. Work up to a super strict set of ten repetitions with just 100 pounds on a Preacher Bench and you will have biceps that will turn anybody's head including that local gym rat that quotes the muscle magazines all the time.

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