Preacher curls are a tried and tested exercise when it comes to effective arm builders.
While they may be challenging in terms of how much stress they place on your biceps, many people still enjoy preacher curls and they’re part of gym programs worldwide.
In this article, we take a deeper look at preacher curls to determine which bicep head they work, how to target other parts of the muscle, as well as which other muscle groups play a part in the exercise.
The Anatomy Of Biceps
Your biceps are the large muscles on the front of your upper arms.
The scientific (Latin) name for your biceps is the biceps brachii which translates to “two-headed muscle”.
The two heads in question are the short head (inner) and the long head (outer).
Each head affects the overall shape and size of your biceps in a different way.
The long head is the one many people focus on as this forms the highly sought-after bicep peak.
The short head is the one that adds width or thickness to the muscle.
The primary functions of your biceps are to flex the elbow and rotate the forearms.
This means that any exercise that involves elbow flexion (like preacher curls) will be helping to build and develop your biceps.
Which Bicep Head Do Preacher Curls Work?
There seems to be lots of contradictory information out there when it comes to which bicep head preacher curls actually work.
Some people say it’s the long head while others say it’s the short head, so it seems to be quite a confusing topic.
Looking at which sources are most reliable, we found that experts from Miami Dade College in Florida say that during preacher curls “the targeted muscle is the brachialis, and because the arms are placed at an angle when engaged in a preacher curl, the exercise works the long head of the biceps brachii muscles more than the short head”
With that in mind, you can be confident that preacher curls focus on the peak-building long head of your biceps.
How To Target The Short Head More
One of the easiest ways to put a bit more focus on the short head of your biceps during preacher curls is to use an EZ bar.
This changes your grip and hand position enough to engage the short head more while also making sure your wrists and elbows are protected and comfortable.
Using a wider grip on the bar can also make a difference as to how much your short head engages during the movement.
A wider grip puts more focus on the short head, so this is another simple way of building width on your arms.
How To Target The Long Head More
To target the long head of your biceps more during preacher curls, you can use dumbbells to perform preacher hammer curls.
The neutral grip is great for long head activation so can be a good variation to try.
If you want to use a barbell, then adopting a narrow grip will put the long head under more stress.
The more stress a working muscle is placed under, the stronger (and sometimes bigger) they get.
Close-grip preacher curls can go a long way in developing your bicep peak.
What Other Muscles Do Preacher Curls Target?
Preacher curls primarily work your biceps and not much else.
This is mainly because preacher bench pad supports the back of your arms, preventing you from moving out of the correct position.
As your movement is restricted by the preacher bench, only the targeted muscles are able to work.
That being said, your forearms play a small role in preacher curls (although you probably won’t notice many benefits in other muscle groups than your biceps).
As preacher curls are considered an isolation exercise, they put pretty much the entire focus of the exercise on your biceps.