How to Do Barbell Preacher Curl: Muscles Worked & Proper Form

Barbell Preacher Curl exercise technique

Muscles Worked in Barbell Preacher Curls

Muscles worked in barbell preacher curl

Primary muscles worked:

Secondary muscles worked:

How to Do Barbell Preacher Curls

  1. Grab a barbell and sit down at a preacher curl bench, resting your upper arms against the pad.
  2. Lower the barbell as far as you can, with control.
  3. Reverse the motion and return to the starting position.

Text and graphics from the StrengthLog app.

Which Muscles Do the Barbell Preacher Curl Work?

The barbell preacher curl is an effective exercise for isolating and focusing on the arm flexors. It primarily targets your biceps and brachialis, but your forearm flexors will also contribute to the movement.

Muscles worked in barbell preacher curl

Benefits of the Barbell Preacher Curl

  • Targeted bicep isolation. One of the major advantages of the preacher curl is its ability to isolate the biceps, focusing the effort of the exercise squarely on this muscle group. This isolation allows you to build strength and size more effectively, with less risk of other muscles taking over the movement.
  • Prevents cheating. The unique setup of the preacher bench makes it harder to use momentum or the swing of the body to lift the weight, forcing the biceps to do the work and ensuring that the exercise is performed with good form.

Barbell Preacher Curl: Proper Form & Technique

Barbell Preacher Curl starting position
Bottom position
Barbell Preacher Curl top position
Top position


Make sure to adjust the pad to a comfortable height. The top of the pad should sit comfortably under your armpits when your arms are fully extended. Keep your feet flat on the ground for added stability.

It’s important to keep your upper body activated, and not just “hang” over the pad. Keep your core and back slightly activated during the entire movement


If fully extending your arms feels uncomfortable, you can avoid that position by reversing the movement earlier. But try to keep the range of motion as long as possible for maximum muscle activation.

Common Mistakes in the Barbell Preacher Curl

  • Using too heavy weights. By adding more weight than you can lift, you might start to swing your body and use momentum to get the weight up. Another sign of using too much weight is if you’re not using the full range of motion and start doing half reps instead. Keep your body still and your upper arms pressed against the pad.
  • Not locking your wrists. Keep your wrists straight during the movement. If they’re bent, it can put an unnecessary load on them and lead to discomfort and maybe even injuries.

Barbell Preacher Curl Variations & Alternatives

  1. Dumbbell Preacher Curl
  2. Machine Bicep Curl
  3. Barbell Curl
  4. Bodyweight Curl

1. Dumbbell Preacher Curl

The dumbbell preacher curl is a one-sided variation of the preacher curl that involves using a dumbbell instead of a barbell.

A benefit of this variation is that you can easily identify and work on any side-to-side differences in strength. You are also able to focus fully on the muscle worked.

A downside is that performing this exercise for the same volume will take twice as long compared to the barbell preacher curl, because you’re only working one side at a time.

2. Machine Bicep Curl

The machine preacher curl is a great alternative if you find the barbell preacher curl uncomfortable.

Because machines take care of the stabilization and balancing for you, it is often easier to focus on the muscles worked when using them.

3. Barbell Curl

If you don’t have access to a preacher pad or bench, the classic barbell bicep curl is an option. This is one of the best bicep exercises you can do, but be careful not to start cheating by swinging the weight up, using your upper back or hips.

4. Bodyweight curl

The bodyweight curl is a good alternative for training biceps if you don’t have access to any external weight. All you need is a TRX or something similar to hang on to, and then use your own body weight and gravity as resistance.

How Many Sets and Reps Should You Do of the Barbell Preacher Curl?

How many reps you should do of an exercise depends on your goal: do you mainly want to increase your strength or build muscle?

Generally, a lower rep range of about 1–5 reps per set is most effective for strength gains.

For muscle gains, a slightly higher rep range of about 8–15 reps per set is generally the most effective and practical. You can cycle in periods of working in this rep range, even if your goal is to get as strong as possible.

Of course, you will see an increase in both muscle and strength regardless of which rep range you choose, but you can emphasize one or the other slightly by working in the right number of reps.

Typically, most lifters prefer to stay in the medium to high rep range while performing the barbell preacher curl since it’s an isolation exercise.

Workouts and Training Programs That Include the Barbell Preacher Curl

All these, and many more programs and workouts, are available in our workout log app StrengthLog.

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