It’s Origins & How To Perform It

The Preacher Curl is one of the best isolation exercises that can be performed for the development of the biceps. Synonymous with Larry Scott and the development of his colossal biceps, it is no wonder that it is also referred to as the Scott Curl. However, who invented the Preacher Curl, and the Preacher Curl Bench? And is it performed nowadays, as it was taught by Vince and performed by Larry Scott, arguably one of his greatest students? This article will explore the origins of the Preacher Curl and how to perform it correctly. 

Origins of the Preacher Curl

To understand the origins of the Preacher Curl, we need to understand the origins of Vince Gironda himself. Vince Gironda began bodybuilding in the early 1940s at the age of around 22-23. After training for around 8 months at the Burbank YMCA, he met the Easton Brothers, Harvey and Dale who ran the Easton Gym in Hollywood. Vince joined the Easton Gym where he was put on an intensive bodybuilding program and he made excellent gains. 

He became an instructor at Easton Gym, working there for about a year, learning the bodybuilding techniques which would serve him to develop the techniques he would be later famous for after opening his first gym, Vince’s Gym, in 1948. It is thought that Vince learnt the Preacher Curl technique at Easton’s Gym in Hollywood from the Easton Brothers, or that he developed this technique together with the Easton brothers. This still remains unclear.

Furthermore, it is unclear if the Preacher Curl was developed by Vince Gironda, by the Easton Brothers or by Vince together with The Easton Brothers. Regardless, when young Vince Gironda opened his own gym in North Hollywood, he had a Preacher Bench made, which was later made famous by Larry Scott, 2 x Mr Olympia.

The Original Preacher Bench

The original Preacher Bench that was constructed and served Larry Scott and countless of other bodybuilders is pictured below. It is clear that the Preacher Bench originally had a rounded arm pad, and not a flat arm pad like today’s Preacher benches, which are completely inferior in desgin and construction. 

Larry Scott on the perfect Preacher Bench

Larry who developed one of the greatest pair of biceps on Vince’s Preacher Bench has this to say on the construction of the perfect Preacher Bench. Here is quote taken directly from Larry Scott’s own website www.larryscott.com, with Larry’s description of the perfect Preacher Bench : 

Here’s what makes this bench so good:
The most important feature is the rounded side of the bench. It should be curved, not flat. This allows the biceps to work all the way down to the bottom (where all the growth is). The curved portion should be no more than 13 inches so the dumbbells don’t bang against the bench. It should have high density foam so the elbows won’t ground out on the inner frame. The bench has to be at least 22 inches wide so the elbows don’t slide off the ends but no more than 27 inches, so the plates on the EZ curl bar don’t hit the bench. The top of the bench has to be rounded and comfortable to keep from hurting the armpits. The lower edge nearest your groin has to be padded and rounded for pain free reps. The upright post has to be offset away from the body… to avoid banging the groin.

Here is a photo of the Preacher Bench that the Larry Scott sold on his website, and a picture of the common commercial gym Preacher Bench. Unfortunately, most people don’t know what decent gym equipment is, or how to perform bodybuilding exercises correctly!

How to perform the Preacher Curl CORRECTLY

Because of the horrible design of modern commercial Preacher Benches, it is no wonder that trainees perform the exercise incorrectly. Unfortunately, most trainers that learn the Preacher Curl also are taught this exercise incorrectly! So what hope to trainees have!!

Here is how Vince described the Preacher Curl, its variations, and how to perform it correctly :

Insofar as I am concerned, I have never observed this piece of equipment being used correctly.

First, the preacher’s stand is invariably placed too high on the chest. This position allows only the low bicep to work, and Brachialis Anticus, which is a muscle under the low bicep that actually starts the arm to bend, after which the low bicep takes over. This muscle is attached to the forearm and reaches halfway up the upper arm bone. It is responsible for thickness in the low bicep region. If the preacher’s stand is placed so that the top is 3 inches lower than the low pectoral, you can finish the curl properly, which is to lean forward so the high bicep and the Coracobrachialis comes into play.

The high placement of the preacher’s stand results in a low maximum bicep and Brachialis pull, but no high bicep and Coracobrachialis development. This produces a flat bicep instead of a round look. To go further, the outer head of the bicep is developed by placing the elbows in and the hands wide. This position can only be successfully obtained by resting the elbows on a preacher’s stand so as to provide a firm placement for the elbows. The inner head of the bicep is developed by placing the hands close together (3 inches apart) and the elbows 20 inches wide. Needless to say, the regular hand placement on the bar for the regular preacher’s curl is 11 inches apart, with elbows the same width, which develops the center portion of the bicep.

Another hint is to let the barbell roll down to the end of the fingers and then start your curl. As you close your hand start curling by bending your wrist and flexing your forearms. After you finish as many reps as your strength permits, step back from the preacher’s stand and curl the barbell 4 or 5 more reps with elbows well back and the bar as close to the body as possible (drag curl), touching the neck at the top of each rep. This type of burn is superior to half reps with elbows on the preacher’s stand, since working extra low bicep and Brachialis you also further work the belly of the bicep, high bicep and Coracobrachialis. Minimum rest between sets is a must. This is what I call a high tension workout or an honest workout.

Now if you wish to specialize on the biceps, work a maximum of three days a week and pump with lighter poundages two days a week. The common concept of specialization is overwork, and overwork produces muscle tissue loss (catabolism). The proper number of sets and reps differ with the individual (anywhere from 8 to 15 sets). I personally have never observed anyone grow on more than 15 sets, and as you know, I have trained more champions than any other gym in the world.

The Problem: Modern Commercial Preacher Benches!

As you can see, Vince taught the Preacher Curl in a much different way than what it is taught today. His variations also indicate that with enough knowledge, one could emphasize different parts of bicep development, and this was all dependent on having a correct piece of equipment. “Modern” preacher benches are not designed the way the original preacher bench was intended to be, and they all have 1 major flaw…FLAT ARM PADS!! The original preacher benches did NOT have flat arm pads like the modern Preacher Bench does. Instead the preacher bench is supposed to have a rounded arm pad which allows correct execution of the exercise that is the Preacher Curl and it’s many variations. 

Wrong Way (Left) vs. Right Way (Right)

Having the rounded pad helps you to maintain proper upper body position, as taught by Vince Gironda. The biggest mistake most people make when using commercial Preacher Benches is that they round over too much on the bench, placing the armpits right up against the top part of the bench and rest the back of the arms totally flat against the pad, which eresembles more of a Spider Curl than a Preacher Curl. Now granted you can still peak the biceps by performing the Preacher Curl like a Spider Curl, but in doing so, you are also limiting the amount of weight you can lift, and you are also limiting the range of motion of the exercise.

Spider Curl

How to make the most out of Modern Commercial Preacher Benches

Correct way to perform preacher curl on modern preacher bench.

So what to do if your gym has a flat padded Preacher Bench ? Well if you keep your chest held high and hold your elbows just over the edge of the pad (as shown below by Larry Scott) you’ll get a much better muscle pump throughout the biceps and you may actually find that you can handle more weight with stricter form! Note the position of Larry’s elbows in the picture below and of those already shown in this article. HIs elbows are always at the top of the bench. Notice his torso, always upright, and not drapped all over the bench. Do it right!

Conclusion

Now that you know how to perform the Preacher Curl correctly, next time you go to the gym for an arm workout try it, and let us know how you go. Both Vince Gironda and Larry Scott will approve !

References

Larry Scott’s description of the perfect Preacher Bench : http://larryscott.com/equipment/scott-preacher-bench/

Vince Gironda’s description of how to perform the Preacher Curl correctly : http://ironguru.com/how-to-use-the-preachers-stand-for-developing-biceps/

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