close grip preacher curls 2

The Ultimate Guide To Close Grip Preacher Curls

When it comes to building your biceps, you wouldn’t be blamed for opting straight for the conventional bicep curl. However, what if we were to tell you that wide grip was limiting your gains? 

By introducing a narrow grip and a preacher bench, suddenly you’re able to really hone in on that biceps muscle – say hello to the close grip preacher curl. Here, we’ll run through what muscles are worked in this exercise, why it’s such a great one to master, and, of course, how to perform it correctly.

Muscles Worked In Close Grip Preacher Curls

close grip preacher curls

There’s no avoiding it, this style of curls is an ideal way to build sleeve-bursting biceps. Your biceps brachii are fully recruited to move the weight through the required range of motion, and the positioning of the bench means they are constantly under tension.

To an extent, you’ll also be working your shoulder and forearm muscles, though only as stabilizing muscles. 

How To Perform Close Grip Preacher Curls Properly

How To:

  • Adjust the preacher bench so that the pad sits under your armpits while you’re sat down. Extend your arms and hold a barbell – or an E-Z curl bar – with a narrow grip, ensuring that you’re also using an underhand grip. Your hands should be narrower than a shoulder-width grip.
  • Squeeze your biceps and bend at the elbows to curl the bar up toward your face. 
  • Lower the weight back down under control until your arms are extended again, then repeat.
  • Reps: 10-12.

Equipment Used:

  • Preacher curl bench
  • Barbell/E-Z curl bar
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Pro Tips:

  • Keep your back straight and spine neutral.
  • Only use your arms to lift the weight; if you’re rocking your body to build momentum, use a slightly lighter weight.
  • Keep the backs of your arms pinned to the pad at all times while performing this exercise; don’t let them lift off.
  • Keep your core engaged to promote stability.
  • A barbell curl with a narrow grip requires more concentration on stability, so don’t overload it with weight and focus on keeping it level.
  • Keep the entire movement controlled; you should take 2 seconds to curl the bar up and another 2 seconds to lower it back down. This means your muscles are under constant tension and also reduces the risk of injury.

Benefits Of Close Grip Preacher Curls

The main benefit of close grip preacher curls is that they’re a great way to promote muscle growth in your arms. The change in grip also means your biceps have to work harder than they do in normal bicep curls, as fewer other muscles are acting as stabilizers.

Narrow grip barbell curls also improve your overall grip strength through this exercise as you need to keep the bar steady and stable throughout the movement, which is much more difficult with a narrow grip. 

The support of the seat and pad reduces any strain on your lower spine and also ensures optimal form, meaning you’re less likely to injure yourself or recruit other muscles to take the load off of the biceps.

What If I Can’t Perform Close Grip Preacher Curls?

The good news is that this is quite a simple move to learn, so if you’re struggling at first then it shouldn’t take long before you’re pumping out curls on the preacher bench.

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You need to ensure your arms are strong enough to perform the move safely and correctly. You could always perform close grip preacher curls with an unloaded barbell, so your muscles become used to the movement and develop a foundation of strength.

You can also perform similar movements; hammer curls are a great way of building bicep strength with a pair of dumbbells, or you could opt for a regular curl. 

It’s also important to have sturdy wrists and forearms during the movement, so try to develop these if you can as well. 

The Bottom Line

Your biceps are one of the more prominent muscle groups, especially when it comes to your upper body, and this curl variation is a great way of ensuring you’re working them as hard as possible for serious gains and definition.

Holding the bar with a narrow grip requires more stability and recruits the biceps more fully, while the seat and preacher pad provide enough support to get you working through a safe and effective range of motion.

The beauty of preacher curls is that they’re very easy to learn and master, but they can provide huge benefits for your arms. If you struggle with them at first, try to build up your strength, particularly in your wrists and forearms.

Frequently Asked Questions

What can I use instead of preacher curls?

There are many different exercises that work your biceps. Of course, there are standard bicep curls that can be performed standing up or sitting down. You can also use hammer curls, again in a seated or standing position, to work these muscles. Even exercises like chin-ups (with an underhand grip) and underhand rows recruit your biceps, though they won’t work them as hard as preacher curls. 

What is a good weight for preacher curls?

As with any resistance exercise, you should use a weight that you can lift safely but which also challenges you. When starting out, use a light weight and see how you feel when performing the desired number of reps and sets. If it’s too easy, increase the weight. Keep doing this until you find a weight that you can lift safely and complete all the reps, but which is a challenge toward the end of each set. You should feel a stretch in your biceps when lifting and lowering the weight. Then, as you continue to perform preacher curls regularly, gradually increase the weight as your strength builds.

George Gigney

George is a Level 3 Personal Trainer and qualified Behavior Change Specialist. He has been training clients for several years and writing for over a decade, focusing on sport, wellbeing, and fitness.

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