When we think of Arnold Schwarzenegger, it’s hard not to envisage his massive chest and biceps, pumping iron at Gold’s Gym during the Golden years of Bodybuilding. Much is known about the routines Arnold would use in his competitive career, but not much is known about his initial mass programs. I recently created a video on Arnold’s first biceps routine which consisted of the cheating barbell curl and the Zottman curl, which can be found here, and with this basic program, he grew his arms to the 19-inch mark, which was a rather remarkable achievement. But how did Arnold blow his biceps up past the 20-inch mark? Simple, he learned to use the Preacher Bench!
Arnold Learns The Different Preacher Curl Variations At Vince’s Gym
Arnold actually used several different Preacher Bench exercises which he learned from Larry Scott and the Vince’s Gym gang while training at Vince’s Gym during the late 1960s when he first arrives in the US. As stated above, Arnold claimed to have only used the cheating barbell curl and Zottman to develop his 19-inch arms, and further to this claim, he claims to have never performed a single Preacher Bench Curl until he arrived in the US. Taken again from his original publication called MASSIVE ARMS, Arnold describes his first encounter with the Preacher Curl.
“I had never used a preacher curl before, yet I had already won the Mr. Universe title and, at the time, had one of the largest pairs of arms in the world. Still, something was lacking. I wasn’t reaching my fullest potential. The deep fibers of my muscle were untouched. It was as if I had built a large building on top of a foundation of sand.
I remember watching Larry Scott train when I first arrived in America. I was particularly fascinated watching him bomb his biceps on the curling machine. His arms looked deep and thick from the training. I couldn’t wait to get to the bench and try the exercise. Almost immediately I felt a pull I never had before from the lower portion. Now for the first time, the brachialis was beginning to really be used as I started the curl and the pull traveled all the way to the finish of the movement.
I like to vary the move. I’ve done it on the curling bench with a cambered curling bar to take the pressure off the wrists, and I’ve done it with Weider levers so that I can get a peak contraction. Great response can also be gained from one-armed work.”
Now I have talked about how Arnold was introduced to the Preacher Curl in Vince‘s gym before, but after doing more research it is obvious that Arnold learned and practiced different exercises on the preacher curl after watching Larry Scott and the rest of the Vince’s gym crew work biceps on the preacher bench.
The Barbell Preacher Curl
In this interesting paragraph from his Massive Arms booklet, Arnold emphasizes the importance of the preacher curl in developing the lower portion of the biceps, which was what both Vince Gironda and Larry Scott insisted the preacher curl was for. Several early photos exist of a young Arnold at Vince’s Gym performing barbell preacher curls which demonstrate his first use of the preacher bench. Further, reading Dick Tylers West Coast Bodybuilding Scene: The Golden Era, we find out that Arnold became so obsessed with the preacher curl bench that he would also bomb his arms at Don Peter’s home gym!! Having understood the effectiveness of this exercise, Arnold would use the preacher curl throughout his career to blast his biceps into further growth.
The Clark Machine Preacher Curl
However, what I find most interesting are the different preacher curl variations that Arnold would incorporate and perform to allow his biceps to reach maximum potential. Arnold mentions that he watched Larry work arms on the “curling machine”. The only curling machine that existed at Vince’s Gym was known as the Clark Machine. Both Larry Scott and Don Howorth swore by this machine, and Arnold undoubtedly was introduced to this machine whilst training at Vince’s Gym. Although I am not aware of any photos of Arnold at Vince’s Gym blasting his biceps with that specific Clark Machine, he did use a similar machine, known as the Jubinville Preacher Curl machine at Olympia Health Club in New York, which was very similar in structure to the Clark Preacher Curl machine. In fact, Arnold still enjoys performing preacher curl machine curls to this day!
Reverse Barbell and Dumbbell Preacher Curls
Arnold also talks about how using the preacher bench he would exercise his brachialis. It is probable that Larry Scott taught him this particular exercise too, as a quick search on Google images will immediately confirm this. The Preacher bench was not only used for performing regular supinated preacher bench curls, but Larry was a big advocate of performing reverse preacher bench curls which are excellent at targetting the brachialis muscle. Arnold of course would adopt this exercise too.
Further, Arnold stresses the importance and benefit of performing Dumbbell Preacher Curls, as was also performed by members of Vince’s gym.
Although Arnold would specialize for a while on the preacher curl and its variations during his time at Vince’s Gym and later at Gold’s Gym, Arnold would later adopt other exercises and apparatuses such as the Arm Blaster which I will talk about in a later blog. So I do hope you have enjoyed this blog on the different variations of the preacher curl that Arnold was taught by Larry Scott and the Vince’s Gym crew which he used during his BB career. I am always impressed at the impact that Iron Guru had during the Golden years of bodybuilding, including the King of Bodybuilding himself, Arnold Schwarzenegger. Now that you know the exercises Arnold learned, maybe you can incorporate these into your next biceps workout!