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Preacher Curl vs Bicep Curl: How to Get the Arms of a Greek God
There’s a battle brewing between preacher curl vs bicep curl.
And, if you’re here, you want to know which is the true champion.
Champion in terms of getting bigger, better, and more appealing arms, overall!
But first, consider getting some genuine suede wrist wraps to keep your curls strong and your wrists protected.
Now, let’s get into the good stuff and break these exercises down.
Also, some of you may have a preference for preacher over standard bicep curl (or vice-versa), but you should know all the benefits and pitfalls of both before you choose only one.
So, who will win, in the battle of preacher curl vs bicep curl?
The Reason for Curls and Their Importance
It’s a Simple Movement
All forms of curls are great to perform.
Literally, it’s so simple to do a curl that you can benefit tremendously with very little effort.
Obviously, the more effort put into the exercise, the more progress you’ll see.
However, there is no doubt that curls are easy to learn and add to your arm workouts.
A lot of the time, especially for arms, the simpler the movement the better.
Tried and True & Loved by Everyone
In all honesty, curls are important to the weightlifting world because they are tried and true.
There are very few people who will tell you not to do curls.
Even Arnold Shwarzenneger, a legend in the profession, swore by curls.
Though I rarely preach to do an exercise or workout because others love it, I fully stand behind the support for curls.
The time-tested movement has shown over and over how beneficial it can be for arm gains.
If you don’t love doing curls, it’s probably because you simply don’t like to train arms (who doesn’t like to train arms, though?).
Another reason that curls are both important and effective is due to their versatility.
Whether it be curls with a machine, a barbell, dumbbells, kettlebells or cables — there’s something for everyone.
And, in my personal opinion, movements that have that kind of versatility are already ahead of the game.
People will find different variations to do their curls, different momentums, intensities, and styles.
Furthermore, this allows you to target your arms and biceps in a variety of ways.
So, now that we know why curls are so great, let’s discuss why preacher curls and bicep curls are top tier!
What is the Preacher Curl?
How to Do Preacher Curls
Preacher curls are really nice because though they focus on one specific style of curl, they can be done in various places.
Most gyms will have two types of preacher curl machines: weight stack and free weights.
The weight stack machine for preacher curls is extremely comfortable and easy to use.
You sit there, with a full elbow/arm pad, and you grab the double handle.
This is the same setup for the free weight machine, except you need to add your weight plates manually.
As with standard bicep curls, you curl your arms up, but this time your arms are rested on a pad.
In a sense, this forces you to use less leg-drive and momentum to swing the weight with your curl.
Outside of using the preacher curl machines, you can also set your elbows on any surface ledge and do curls that way.
These are still preacher curls and will work as such — sometimes there are just seated preacher pads, where you will use actual free weights like dumbbells or a barbell to curl (or an EZ curl bar).
All of these preacher curl variations will give you the same movement.
The Benefits of Preacher Curls
The biggest benefit of preacher curls is the ability to force you to control your reps.
Standard bicep curls that you do seated or standing will allow for a lot of swinging.
Essentially, standard curls let you “cheat” easily and even sometimes unconsciously.
Whereas preacher curls will keep your arms in place and make you really target your biceps.
Sure, you may not be able to curl as heavy, but you will have the benefit of stronger isolation.
And, of course, there is the benefit of being seated, which is comfortable.
The positioning of the weight in front of you is also fairly comfortable and feels really natural.
Downsides to Preacher Curls
In my opinion, the downsides occur when you don’t have a platform to do your preacher curls on.
No machine, no pad, no ledge… What do you do?
Well, that’s the biggest problem.
Sure, if there are places to perform them, then they are great.
But, if you have no options, then by default you need to go back to standard bicep curls.
However, that isn’t necessarily a bad thing — bicep curls are also awesome to do.
What is the Standard Bicep Curl?
How to Do Bicep Curls
You know how to do bicep curls… they are king!
With your arms to your side and the weight in your hands, curl up, nice and controlled.
That’s literally it!
Bicep curls have to be one of the easiest movements to learn and do.
There’s not much more to say on how to do them, but we can talk about why.
The Benefits of Bicep Curls
As with preacher curls, you get the same targeted muscle benefits in your biceps.
However, standard bicep curls give you more freedom of movement and range of motion.
Since bicep curls aren’t exactly a super specific movement, you have a lot of variation you can add to them.
For example, single-arm curls, hammer curls, and progression curls (varying your range of motion during each rep).
For many people, this freedom to do your bicep curls as you like is probably the best part about them.
However, for others, they might see this freedom as a cause for less strict form.
If you feel like your form cannot be properly regulated, it’s easy to see why preacher curl vs bicep curl can have some people leaning towards preacher solely for the form aspect.
Downsides to Standard Bicep Curls
Since standard bicep curls are usually done with no backing or pad or strict “structure”, this has many people doing cheat curls.
Cheat curls include using excessive leg drive to force the weight up or relying on the motion of the curl to rep out the next one.
This isn’t always too big of a negative, though.
Many people can do “cheat curls” in a way that is safe and fluid so they don’t get hurt.
It’s probably better to attempt your cheat curls with reasonable weight and save the “cheating” for those last few reps.
However, I still see this as a big downside, especially for those who don’t recognize they are cheating themselves.
Also, outside of using other muscles and momentum to perform the curl, you may further fall victim to overall bad form.
There have been countless times where I’ve seen people curling and they swing their elbows all the way up, so their biceps aren’t even targeted.
Your standard bicep curl lends itself to a lot of these mistakes and sometimes the freedom of movement can be a hindrance to muscle and strength gains.
Preacher Curls vs Bicep Curls
Preacher Curl vs Bicep Curl: Which is Better?
Well, to be honest, that is a completely subjective question.
There’s a good chance you will have your own personal opinion based on your training style.
But, the great thing about that, is that your opinion can change.
With exercises that are so similar in form and function, you will definitely fluctuate between preference at different times.
In my opinion, most beginners and average lifters will gravitate toward doing standard curls and occasionally preacher curls on the machines.
Most intermediate and long-term lifters have a better understanding of the use of preacher curls and controlling the movement.
But, overall, the purist lifters will most likely see the benefit in doing both whenever they can!
Preacher Curl vs Bicep Curl: Doing Both Types of Curls
Like those in the know, you should also do both types of curls.
Preacher curl vs bicep curl = two great styles of curls that will be the basis of your arm workouts.
Plus, for more versatility and progress, I’d suggest doing both types of curls during your arm routine.
You can go from seated preacher curl to standing bicep curl in an instant, so why not?
Take advantage of these great curl options and make your biceps look insane!
Preacher Curl vs Bicep Curl: Time and Place
Another factor to think about when it comes to preacher curl vs bicep curl is the time and place.
If there are no preacher curl machines or stands, then you’d probably be better off with standard bicep curls.
You can lean over an adjustable bench or get down on your knees to do them off a flat bench, but it isn’t the most efficient.
So, I would recommend bicep curls if you aren’t in a place where preacher curls are the optimal choice.
However, if you do have access to these requirements, then preacher curls may be right for you.
Then there is the consideration of time.
Are you at the beginning of your arm workout or the end?
For burning out your biceps, it’s usually more effective to do standard bicep curls (cheat reps if you must).
Usually, it is much harder to burn out with preacher curls.
Plus, if you do plan to go until failure with preacher curls, you may end up dropping the handles on the machine and nobody likes that!
Be sure to factor in time and place to make your choice of curl as effective as possible.
Preacher Curl vs Bicep Curl: Alternative Curl Exercises
Reverse Bicep Curl
These are an alternative to the standard bicep curl movement.
Reverse bicep curls are the same as barbell bicep curls but with an overhand grip instead of an underhand grip.
What this causes is your curl to target the forearms exceptionally, while still hitting the biceps.
Trust me, these are no joke and will force you to really evaluate your strength.
For most people, I’d suggest wearing some genuine suede wrist wraps just as a way to protect your wrists while gripping the bar in this position.
Your average bicep curls will make you think you’re strong, but reverse bicep curls will have you struggling.
The targeting of your forearms will tire you out quicker and make it a struggle to rep out the curls.
But, these are a great alternative to both preacher and bicep curls.
Cable Bicep Curl
I love cable bicep curls due to their necessity of stabilizing.
The cables need to be in a proper position for the cable joint to not constantly shift and rotate.
So, you really need to control the handle during your cable curl and stand at a relative distance.
Also, the cable curl doesn’t give you any leeway with the use of momentum or the reliance on other muscles.
Literally, your bicep has to do all of the work.
Sure, you can sort of activate the use of your shoulder by leaning into the curl, but that isn’t effective due to the stability factor you need.
If you can’t stay stable in position, the cable machine will jostle around and make it impossible to get a good repetition.
With kettlebell curls, you will have to focus on stabilization, just like cable curls.
But, kettlebell curls require a very different type of stability.
Essentially, you can curl the kettlebell by its handle like normal, but once you reach a certain point, the weight at the base will swing into the back of your forearms.
All of this occurs due to the imbalance of distributed weight between the handle and the “bell.”
So, for kettlebell curls, I suggest keeping your form strict and your reps nice and slow.
This will force your biceps to cave to more time under tension, which is great.
Yet, this can be harder for some lifters, so practice with lighter kettlebells and then move up.
Do not, I repeat, do not try to do cheat curls or fast curls with kettlebells.
If this is done, you will begin to bruise the crap out of your arms, depending if you follow full range of motion or not.
Resistance Band Curl
Now, this type of curl is a little off the beaten path for most weightlifters.
But, hear me out, because it is also one of the most beneficial for several reasons.
Resistance bands nowadays can go up to really high levels of weight resistance.
So, that alone makes resistance band curls a legit exercise that can hold its own.
Although, my main reason for enjoying resistance band curls as an alternative is that they are very convenient.
You can take a resistance band and put it in your pocket, then whip it out, and do some curls.
Just step on one end, and grab the other end, then curl up!
Simple as ever, portable, and helps with stretching, too.
Preacher Curl vs Bicep Curl — Final Thoughts
Though They are Similar, You Should Still Do Both
Like I said, these are similar exercises, but you should still perform both of them in the gym.
You would really be limiting your strength and muscle growth by not using one or the other.
Plus, doing both gives you the best way to keep your muscles stimulated and working towards progressive overload.
Don’t skip out on your opportunity for variety — instead of preacher curl vs bicep curl, think preacher curl and bicep curl!
Preacher Curl vs Bicep Curl: Keep Your Weak Points in Mind
If you don’t curl with good form, you will probably do better with preacher curls.
The preacher curls will force you to focus on your form and staying strict.
If you are able to control your curls and the weight, then you will most likely progress further with standard bicep curls.
But, with either type of curl you choose, try to implement an accessory like wrist wraps to protect yourself from injury.
Curls are notorious for causing hand, wrist and even finger pain depending on your form and how heavy you go.
Play it safe with curls, they can be easy to do but also easy to lead to injury if you are reckless with them!