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Concentration Curls vs Preacher Curls (Which Is Best For Biceps?)

If you’ve been looking at some of the best exercises for building your arms, you’ve probably come across preacher curls and concentration curls.

Both of these exercises are known for being popular additions to arm workouts of gym-goers around the world so it’s no surprise that people often wonder if one is better than the other.

That’s why we have put this post together – to help you get a better understanding as to whether preacher curls or concentration curls are a better exercise for you.

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

Preacher curls and concentration curls both involve curling weights by flexion of the elbow.

This results in the traditional bicep curl movement.

The main difference is that preacher curls are performed using a preacher bench which has a pad that supports the back of your upper arms.

This helps prevent any momentum from being gained by swinging your arms.

It also helps isolate the biceps as other muscles can’t assist in the movement.

Concentration curls are performed one arm at a time with the back of the working arm braced against the inside of your leg (usually).

This works in a similar way to the preacher bench without the need for additional equipment.

In very simple terms, preacher curls are performed on a preacher bench whereas concentration curls can be performed anywhere you’re able to sit down and brace your working arm.

The way the exercises work your biceps is slightly different too.

Preacher curls are hardest at the lowest point of the exercise, whereas concentration curls are hardest during the contraction phase at the highest point of the movement.

Which Is Better For Building Biceps?

Big bicep

Both of these exercises are extremely good at building biceps.

In terms of hypertrophy (increasing muscle size), preacher curls are more effective as you’re able to overload your biceps with more weight than you can with concentration curls.

The main reason for this is that you’re pretty much restricted to dumbbells with concentration curls.

While there’s a standing barbell variation, it doesn’t isolate your biceps nearly as much as traditional concentration curls.

As you’re limited to single-arm reps with dumbbells, it’s much harder to lift progressively heavier weights in order to overload your muscles to stimulate growth.

As preacher curls can be done with a weighted barbell or dumbbells, you can lift more weight resulting in more overload and bigger biceps.

Which Is Better For Building Forearms?

Although your forearms activate to some extent during preacher curls and concentration curls, neither exercise will be enough to help develop forearms on their own.

Your forearms are secondary muscles in each exercise, so while they do activate, they won’t be placed under too much stress.

Difficulty Level

Preacher Curls

As long as the weight being lifted is appropriate for your current fitness level, preacher curls have a relatively low difficulty level.

The movement involved in preacher curls is flexion of the elbow which is a basic movement that most people can manage with little issue.

That being said, preacher curls place quite a bit of stress on your biceps which can make it a challenging exercise.

As your biceps are isolated during preacher curls, it’s not easy in terms of effort required but the movement itself is suitable for beginners all the way up to experienced lifters.

Concentration Curls

Concentration curls are a pretty easy exercise to perform correctly.

That’s not to say they’re easy in terms of how much stress they place on your working muscles, but they have a low difficulty level when it comes to the movement and technique.

You have to be careful that your lower back isn’t placed under too much stress as the position of concentration curls can be quite uncomfortable.

Once in position though, flexion of the elbow is all that’s required for the exercise. 

The Verdict

Preacher curls and concentration curls both have a low level of difficulty.

While they both do a good job of isolating your biceps, making them work hard under a good amount of stress, the movement of both exercises is pretty basic.

Preacher curls are probably a bit easier because the preacher bench gets you into the correct position for the exercise to be most effective.

But with concentration curls, you have to get yourself into the correct position.

Ease of Access

Preacher Curls

Preacher curls require a preacher bench and a weighted barbell (or dumbbells if you prefer). 

This is all basic gym equipment so there aren’t usually too many issues with adding preacher curls into your workout.

The only potential issue is if your gym doesn’t have a preacher bench or if it only has a small number meaning they could be quite sought-after pieces of equipment.

Concentration Curls

Concentration curls only require a dumbbell and a bench to sit on.

As your working arm is supported by your own leg, very little equipment is needed other than a suitable dumbbell.

This gives concentration curls great ease of access.

The Verdict

Concentration curls have slightly better ease of access compared to preacher curls simply because they don’t require any exercise-specific equipment.

While preacher benches are quite common in many gyms, if one isn’t available where you train when you want it, preacher curls become much harder to add into your training program.

Variability

Preacher Curls

Preacher curls can be performed with a barbell, dumbbells, an EZ bar, kettlebells, or weight plates. 

As long as you can hold the weight you’re lifting while your arms are supported by the pad on the preacher bench, you have lots of variations to try.

Concentration Curls

Concentration curls are almost completely limited to dumbbells.

You can do a standing bent-over variation where you can use a barbell, but this doesn’t isolate your biceps as effectively.

The standing bent-over variation can also be used for standard dumbbell concentration curls if a bench isn’t available.

You need to be mindful of the additional stress placed on your lower back though.

The Verdict

Preacher curls offer greater levels of variability than concentration curls.

This is mainly because concentration curls use a single dumbbell whereas you have multiple options for the equipment you use for preacher curls.

Concentration Curls vs Preacher Curls: Which Is Best?

Both preacher curls and concentration curls are highly effective bicep-building exercises.

Preacher curls have a slightly easier technique as you’re encouraged into the correct position by the preacher bench and they also offer more variations.

Concentration curls have better ease of access as they only need a dumbbell and somewhere to sit so this can be a deciding factor for concentration curls being better for you.

Ultimately, you could include both in your training program or it may simply come down to your personal preference towards one more than the other.

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Sources

Preacher Curls Muscles Worked

Concentration Curls Muscles Worked