How to Do Preacher Curls for Bigger Biceps
Marc Lavallee is a tactical fitness coach with experience training Canadian military units in the Search and Rescue Technician (SAR-Tech) program. He currently coaches for a policing agency. In this blog, Marc explains how to do preacher curls based on your specific anatomy for noticeably bigger biceps without any pain in your elbow.
A Better Setup for Bigger Arms
The preacher curl is a super popular, time-tested exercise often used to round out a solid back/biceps or arms day. Typically, you load up the EZ curl bar that sits in the bar holder to perform this exercise. But I want to share a few tweaks for a better setup, one that is tailored to your body specifically and gets you beefier biceps without risking injury.
Your training age (the amount of time and years you spent working out, aka gym experience) dictates how tolerable the EZ bar biceps curl is for you. If you’ve been training smart and effectively during your training career, you may experience zero nagging injuries in your shoulders, elbows, and/or wrists.
But let’s be honest. Most of us started off going “full send” and pushing the limits too fast and too soon without much thought about technique. All that mattered was the weight on the bar, the dumbbell used, or the stack on the machine. There was a lot of ego-lifting early on (especially in high school and college years for many of us).
I admit I’m just as guilty of this early on and made a lot of mistakes, which is partly why I became a strength coach.
Don’t make the mistakes I did by ego-lifting, especially when it comes to the preacher curl. For the biggest biceps gains, leave the ego at home and try this technique instead.
Consider Your Carrying Angle
I already hear you saying to yourself and asking me, “Why!?” When looking at the elbow and joint angle more closely, notice how each one of us has a different anatomy makeup. This dictates different positioning for biceps curls for everyone. As it should.
This is referred to as the carrying angle and is very similar to the Q-angle of the hip and knee. To find your own carrying angle, stand straight with your arms at your side and palms facing forward in front of a mirror. Examine how your elbow angles away from the body. That’s your carrying angle.
Former PGA Tour player Larry Rinkle explains it in more detail in the first 45 seconds of this video:
How to Do Preacher Curls Based On Your Anatomy
To do this, angle your body to the side to match your carrying angle. Your forearm should still fall straight on the preacher curl pad, but your upper arm should be angled to avoid torque at your elbow.
You get the best angle of attack to hit your biceps without aggravating your elbows by doing it this way. You’re also putting your upper arm closer in scaption, which means angling your upper arm in a straight line with your scapula (shoulder blade). This is great for your joint and shoulder health down the line!
He often used a pronated grip position for the curl on the way up and a semi-pronated neutral grip on the way down. Basically, this means your palm faces up when you curl up and rotate to a hammer curl position on the way down.
Next time you’re in the gym, consider your carrying angle and maybe ditch the EZ bar. Give the single-arm dumbbell or Charles Poliquin variation a try for healthier joints, bigger biceps, and better longevity with your lifting.
Want Training Tips, Exercise Guides & Knowledge Bombs Sent to Your Inbox?
Sign up for the FitNerd newsletter from TrainHeroic
High cable curls are commonly programmed in bodybuilding workouts, but they can often feel a little sketchy on your shoulders. But with a few adjustments to your cable height and the angle of your arms, the high cable curl can actually be an awesome primer for your...
Sandbags are a misunderstood workout tool. Why use a cheap, dusty heap of dirt over a beautiful, polished barbell set? When programmed correctly, sandbag workouts actually translate much better to real life than most traditional workout tools. If you wanna be a...
The landmine can look like a weird, intimidating piece of equipment, but once you learn how it works, the possibilities are endless for so many movements — especially on leg day. Sari Terranova is a total supermom, CPT, and nutrition coach who introduces women and...