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8 Best Preacher Curl Alternatives – Exercises for Bigger Biceps – Fitness Volt

Larry Scott is a bodybuilding legend. He won the inaugural IFBB Mr. Olympia contest back in 1965 and also in…

By admint10m , in Arms , at September 10, 2021


Larry Scott is a bodybuilding legend. He won the inaugural IFBB Mr. Olympia contest back in 1965 and also in 1966 and was arguably the first poster-body of professional bodybuilding.

Scott was the whole bodybuilding package and possessed full-body muscularity that was light-years ahead of the competition. But what really stood out was his outstanding arm development. Scott had some of the best upper arms in bodybuilding history.


Larry Scott
Larry Scott

While genetics clearly played a role, at least part of Scott’s upper arm development was due to his regular use of preacher curls. In fact, his attachment to this exercise was so well known that it soon became known as Scott curls.

Larry Scott’s Biceps Workout

This was a typical biceps workout for Larry Scott:

  Exercise Sets x reps
1 Two-dumbbell preacher curl 2-4 x 6-8
2 Barbell preacher curl 2-4 x 6-8
3 Barbell preacher curl 2-4 x 8-10
Larry Scott Curl
Larry Scott Curl

Preacher curls clearly worked for Larry Scott, and they could work for you too, but what if you don’t have access to a preacher curl, or maybe you’ve been doing this exercise for ages already and need a new biceps builder. Either way, we’ve you covered with the eight best preacher curl alternatives!

Preacher Curl Basics

Before we deep dive into the best preacher curl alternatives, let’s take a quick look at this classic bodybuilding exercise.

Preacher curls are biceps isolation exercise. Performed with your upper arms fixed to an incline bench, they’re a very strict movement, and it’s almost impossible to cheat the weight up.

With your arms set at about 30-45 degrees in front of your body, the long head of your biceps is not as active during preacher curls as it is in other biceps exercises. This puts more tension on the short head, which is what gives your biceps their thickness.

Muscles That Move The Forearm Humerus Flex Sin
Credit: Salix, Licensed under Creative Commons 2.0.

However, and contrary to popular opinion, preacher curls do NOT work your lower biceps, as no such thing exists. If you have a gap at the bottom of your biceps, that just means you have short biceps muscle bellies and a long tendinous attachment. No amount of preacher curls will help fill that gap. Sorry!

There are several preacher curl variations:

With all preacher curl exercises, your upper arms should stay pressed into the angled pad; keep them stationary to ensure your biceps do all of the work.

Start each rep with your arms straight but not locked. Overextending your elbow could cause joint pain or biceps injury.

Curl the weight up slowly until your forearms are vertical. Don’t bend your arm too far, or you’ll take tension off your biceps. Lower the weight under control and, without bouncing, transition smoothly into another rep.

Larry Scott Curls

While preacher curls ARE an effective biceps exercise, not all gyms have them, and you may even find they start to lose their potency if you do them too often. That’s where the eight best preacher curl alternatives come in!

The 8 Best Preacher Curl Substitutes

Use these exercises if preacher curls are no longer working for you or anytime you don’t have access to a preacher curl bench.

1. Adjustable bench preacher curls

Not having a preacher curl bench doesn’t mean you can’t do preacher curls. In fact, all you really need is a regular adjustable weights bench and a dumbbell.

How to do it:

  1. Set your bench to about 30-45 degrees and stand behind it.
  2. Lean forward and place the back of your upper arm against the backrest. Hold a dumbbell in your hand.
  3. Bend your elbows and curl the weight up until your forearm is vertical.
  4. Extend your arms and repeat, taking care not to bounce the weight up.


2. Concentration curls

Like preacher curls, concentration curls fix your upper arm in place, making them all but cheat-proof. However, your upper arm is vertical and not angled. Concentration curls work best when you use a light to moderate weight and flex your arms hard at the top of each rep.

Read all about concentration curls in this guide.


3. Spider curls

While it’s far from obvious why this exercise is so-called, spider curls, also known as prone curls, are a great alternative to preacher curls. While your upper arms are free to move, their angle means you’ll be targeting the same short biceps head as preacher curls. Also, because you’ll be lying face down on an inclined bench, this exercise is very lower back-friendly.

You can do spider curls with a barbell or dumbbells, using a cable machine, and with an underhand, overhand, or neutral grip as preferred.

Find out more about spider curls here.  


4. Goblet squat curls

This preacher curl alternative is not just good for your biceps; it could also make you a batter squatter, too, because it’s an effective lower body mobilizer.

How to do it:

  1. Hold a kettlebell by the vertical handles in front of your chest. The top of the handle should be just under your chin.
  2. Step out and into a shoulder-width stance, toes turned slightly outward. Brace your abs and pull your shoulders down and back.
  3. Squat down until your thighs are at least parallel to the ground. Do not round your lower back. Your upper arms should be just insider your upper legs.
  4. Staying in the squat position, extend your arms and lower the weight down to the floor. Curl the weight back up.
  5. Either do a set of curls before standing or stand up and squat down between curl reps. This latter variation is a useful circuit training exercise.
  6. You can also do this exercise with a single dumbbell or a weight plate.


5. Supine cable curls

Unlike standing barbell and dumbbell curls, preacher curls are very lower back-friendly. This cable biceps exercise is also easy on your lower back, making it a good option for anyone looking for a safe, comfortable, but effective biceps exercise.

How to do it:

  1. Attach a straight, EZ, or rope handle to a low pulley machine. Sit on the floor with your legs straight and grab your chosen handle. Lie down flat on your back with your arms straight. Pull your shoulders down and back.
  2. Bend your arms and curl the handle up to your shoulders.
  3. Extend your arms and repeat.
  4. Finish off your set of curls with a quick set of underhand rows to your abdomen to really pump up your biceps.


6. Curls against a wall

If you are one of those people who can’t do curls without cheating, this is the exercise for you. Also known as a strict curl, this is how biceps curls are done when they’re included in powerlifting competitions. Be warned; not using your legs and back means this exercise is much more challenging than regular dumbbell and barbell biceps curls.

How to do it:

  1. With a dumbbell in each hand, lean your upper back against a smooth wall. Put your feet a few inches in front of you. Press your shoulders down and back, and brace your abs.
  2. Bend your elbows, curl the weights up to shoulder height, and rotate your wrists, so your palms are uppermost.
  3. Lower the weights and repeat.
  4. You can also do this exercise with a barbell.


7. Stability ball preacher curls

Believe it or not, you don’t need a preacher bench or even an adjustable weights bench to do preacher curls. In fact, all you really need is a stability ball. By rolling the ball forward or back, you can change the angle of your upper arm, ensuring you position yourself for the best possible biceps workout.

How to do it:

  1. Place your stability ball on the floor and kneel behind it. With a dumbbell in one hand, rest your upper arm on the ball. Stabilize the ball with your free arm.
  2. Bend your elbow and curl the weight up until your forearm is vertical.
  3. Lower the weight and repeat.


8. Arm-blaster curls

Arm Blaster Curls
Arm Blaster Curls

An arm blaster is an old-school training device designed to keep your upper arms stationary during biceps and triceps exercise. It makes whatever exercise you are doing stricter, more challenging, and much more effective. You can use an arm blaster for barbell, dumbbell, and cable curls, as well as triceps pushdowns.

How to do it:

  1. Put on your arm blaster and put the back of your upper arms are pressed back into it. Hold a barbell or dumbbells.
  2. Starting with your arms straight, bend your elbows and curl the weights up to your shoulders. Do not use your legs or lower back to swing the weights up.
  3. Extend your arms and repeat.


Wrapping Up

While preacher curls won’t increase the size of your lower biceps, they’re still a great arm exercise. You only need to check out Larry Scott’s phenomenal arm development to see just how effective preacher curls can be. Talk about guns locked and loaded!

While you might never develop arms like Scott, there is no reason not to take a page from his training plan and spend more time doing preacher curls. It worked for him, and it could work for you, too.

No preacher curl bench? No problem! Use any of these eight alternatives to build your best biceps ever.


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