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Barbell Curls vs Preacher Curls: Which Exercise Is Better?

Most people looking to build big and strong arms perform barbell curls on a regular basis.

There are also lots of people who love preacher curls, and would never consider removing them from their workouts.

Finding the best exercises for you is always challenging as there’s a lot of conflicting information out there.

When it comes to barbell curls vs preacher curls, this article will help you decide if either one is better for you.

In it, we compare the two exercises in terms of difficulty, accessibility, variability, as well as which muscles they’re best at building.

What’s The Difference Between Barbell Curls And Preacher Curls?

Barbell curls are performed from a standing position whereas preacher curls are performed seated on a preacher bench.

The movements of each exercise are very similar but the position of your arms and your body is quite different for barbell curls and preacher curls.

Barbell Curls vs Preacher Curls: For Biceps

Both of these exercises put the main focus on your biceps.

That being said, preacher curls are better for building biceps when compared to barbell curls.

This is mainly because at the lowest point of barbell curls (when your elbows are almost locked out), there’s barely any stress on your biceps. 

During preacher curls, there’s pretty much constant stress on your biceps due to the flexed shoulder position caused by the bench.

As your biceps are placed under more stress for longer, preacher curls can build biceps in a big way.

Barbell Curls vs Preacher Curls: For Forearms

Neither barbell curls nor preacher curls target your forearms specifically.

Of the two though, barbell curls are likely going to have slightly more of an impact on forearm size.

As preacher curls do a great job at isolating your biceps for pretty much the entire movement, there isn’t much opportunity for other muscles to help out.

Your forearm muscles work more in barbell curls as your arms aren’t held in place by a bench.

Difficulty Level

Barbell Curls

Barbell curls are a relatively easy exercise to perform and are suitable for beginners all the way up to experienced weight lifters.

The movement involved in barbell curls comes from flexion of the elbow.

As this is a basic movement, most people are able to perform it comfortably.

The technique of barbell curls is something that can be a bit more challenging to get right.

Bringing your shoulders into the movement, arching your back, or swinging to gain momentum can be common mistakes made.

However, if the appropriate weight is being lifted, barbell curls are an easy exercise to do.

Preacher Curls

While the movement of preacher curls is fairly similar to the movement of barbell curls, preacher curls are considered a fairly challenging exercise to do.

This is mainly because of the amount of time your biceps are under stress without other muscle groups being able to activate and assist in the lift.

Any exercise that isolates your biceps is going to be challenging to perform and preacher curls are no exception to this.

The Verdict

Preacher curls are harder than standing barbell curls.

As your biceps aren’t entirely isolated during barbell curls, other muscles come into play to assist in the movement.

During preacher curls, your biceps have to do all of the work which makes them a harder exercise.

Ease of Access

Barbell Curls

You only need a barbell and some weight plates to do barbell curls.

In a gym environment, you’ll probably have access to several barbells and a range of weight plates.

This makes barbell curls a very accessible exercise and one that you can easily perform without too much issue.

Preacher Curls

You need access to a preacher bench to perform preacher curls.

This limits its accessibility somewhat, as if your gym only has one preacher bench and it’s being used, you won’t be able to do the exercise.

If you prefer working out at home, a preacher bench might not be something you have access to at all, which will mean you can’t do preacher curls as part of your arm workouts.

The Verdict

Barbell curls have greater ease of access than preacher curls, simply because you only need a barbell and weight plates to do the exercise. 

In a gym environment, you’ll have a good choice of both of these so you shouldn’t have any issues finding what you need.


Barbell Curls

Barbell curls are a pretty adaptable exercise with several variations.

Reverse grip barbell curls work your forearms more.

You can also alter your grip to be wider or narrower to hit different parts of your biceps in the movement.

Using an EZ bar instead of a standard barbell can also work your biceps a bit harder and help build strong arms.

Preacher Curls

Preacher curls can be performed with a barbell or dumbbells.

If you choose to use dumbbells, you can do preacher hammer curls instead of standard curls which can help build your forearms as well as your biceps.

You’ll need a preacher bench no matter what variation you do so preacher curls are slightly limited in variability for this reason.

The Verdict

Barbell curls have a few more variations than preacher curls.

The main limitation of preacher curls is the fact that you have to perform them on a preach bench.

As barbell curls are more of a free movement, you have a few more options when it comes to variations.

Barbell Curls vs Preacher Curls: Which Is Better?

Both barbell curls and preacher curls are great exercises to incorporate into your arm workouts.

Barbell curls are slightly easier, more accessible, and have a few more variations.

Preacher curls isolate your biceps more, offer some interesting variations, and can make your arm workouts extra challenging.

That’s all for this article, but perhaps you’re interested in preacher curls vs dumbbell curls?

Hope this helped!


Barbell Curls Muscles Worked

Preacher Curls Muscles Worked