It is probably one of the most loved exercises by gym bros, yet often one of the most screwed up movements I see in the gym. Preacher curls seem to do more for people’s prayer lives than their biceps, and it comes down to simple mistakes that can be remedied through attention to detail, and humility. Yes, the initial weight you use on this movement will decrease, but in the long run your guns will thank you.
So I walk in my gym, and 9/10 times I see someone on the preacher curl station it looks like half reps, with the preacher bar overloaded to a weight their biceps and upper back cannot handle. They go halfway down and come back up, missing the hypertrophic benefits of full extension of the forearms. If they realize this, they usually drop weight in an honest effort to improve their form. This is the best first step you can take: drop weight until you can fully extend your elbows.
Next, we see the following almost every single time:
Here the shoulders have rolled forward, elbows are facing away from each other, and the biceps are not optimally engaged as a result. This comes from not engaging the upper back to support the shoulders through the movement. If you don’t know what muscles to engage, try the Trap 3 Raise to get a good mind muscle connection with your upper back. Once this occurs, your elbows should both face the floor, shoulders should feel stable and locked in, and the bottom position should look more like this:
So once you have achieved full range of motion, remember to engage the upper back to stabilize the shoulders and prevent rounding.
On the way up from this bottom position, it is important to focus the curl in your pinky side of the hand. The biceps operate to rotate the hand in a supinating motion when the biceps are active, so forcing the same motion throughout the curl via focusing on the pinky will give you more optimal EMG Excitation, leading to more muscle fiber recruitment, which is the goal of every exercise. Curl with a supinating motion on the way up by engaging on the pinky side of your hand, imagining you are trying to break the barbell in half.
Once we have moved to the top portion of the curl, we reach a VERY important part of the movement: the squeeze. Squeezing the biceps hard at the top for 1 or 2 seconds will cause even further EMG Excitation, once again causing more muscle fiber recruitment. We want more muscle fibers recruited, as we want to stress those muscles to induce protein synthesis, also known as muscle growth. Squeeze the biceps hard, as if trying to pose, to get even more out of each rep.
Following these basic cues will leave your biceps more sore will less weight initially, but not only will your muscles grow faster, so will your strength. If you are worried about increasing weight, don’t; this is one exercise pride must be left at the door. Instead focus on form, and try to hit rep PR’s initially with a perfect movement each rep. I love training medium to higher reps on this exercise to get a huge pump in my biceps, so 2-4 sets of 8-20 reps is a great finisher to a biceps involved workout.
The Aspie Coach