A: The popularity of the preacher curl owes much to Larry Scott. He was the first Mr. Olympia—in 1965 and again in ’66. He retired from competition after that, although he made a brief comeback in ’79. Scott used the preacher curl heavily in his prime and promoted it in his writings for many years following his retirement.
Although I didn’t start bodybuilding until the ’70s, I acquired bodybuilding magazines from the ’60s and earlier. While Scott in his prime looks modest relative to today’s pros, in the ’60s he was phenomenal, and he was probably bodybuilding’s top superstar during that period.
Some of the most memorable and motivating photographs I’ve ever seen were black-and-whites of Scott training in his prime—real high-intensity training shots, including barbell and dumbbell preacher curls. Although his type of training never did anything positive for me, some of the photos were hugely inspirational.
Scott was best known for his arm development, especially his biceps. The bellies of his biceps were unusually long, which permitted outstanding development and shape. Although Scott attributed a lot of his extraordinary biceps development to preacher curls, it was his genetically determined biceps length and shape that were the biggest factors. He would still have had fantastic biceps if he’d never done a single preacher curl, provided he had worked hard on other curls.
Many bodybuilders who have short, “knotty” biceps used the preacher curl a great deal in an effort to try to lengthen their biceps and produce a better shape, but they never managed to do it do. Safely performed, the preacher curl is an option, but it won’t do anything to change the shape of your biceps. All it can do is what any biceps exercise can do if used correctly—develop strength and muscle size.
One caution: If you lose control of the resistance, the preacher curl can cause serious injury to your elbows and arm flexors, especially if you use the sloped side of the preacher bench.
Stick with the vertical side of the bench, choose a weight you can handle in correct form, maintain a controlled speed up and down, and pause briefly at the top and the bottom of each rep. Never bounce or jerk at the bottom, and always have a spotter standing by in case you lose control or fail on a rep and need assistance.
To involve your biceps completely on preacher curls, take a fully supinated grip on the barbell or dumbbells. Your wrists must be fully rotated outward.
Take it easy for the first few workouts. If you rush into intensive preacher-curling—even if you use correct technique—you may be in for extremely sore, if not injured, lower biceps.
Editor’s note: Stuart McRobert’s first byline in IRON MAN appeared in 1981. He’s the author of the new BRAWN series, Book 1: How to Build Up to 50 Pounds of Muscle the Natural Way, available from Home Gym Warehouse (800) 447-0008 or www.Home-Gym.com.