EZ-Bar Preacher vs. Incline Dumbbell Curl

Both versions of the curl work your biceps, but which is better at targeting the highly sought-after peak of the biceps?

January 13, 2013

By Jimmy Peña, MS, CSCS

EZ-Bar Preacher Curl

We all know how critical using various angles is to gaining mass and strength for major bodyparts like legs and back, but too many people fail to extend such importance to the smaller muscle groups. Your biceps, like your triceps, grow and respond best when you train them with various exercises from a myriad of angles. The preacher curl places your arms in front of your body, allowing you to blast your biceps with incredible isolation. The EZ-bar, as many of you will attest, is slightly easier on the wrists than the straight bar counterpart. Make sure your armpits rest comfortably atop the bench and your triceps are flush against the pad. At the top of the movement don’t come up so high that your elbows rise off the bench, but keep your forearms short of perpendicular to the floor in the top position. Likewise, keep a slight bend at the bottom of the rep to ensure constant tension.

Incline Dumbbell Curl

Much like the preacher curl, the dumbbell curl done on an incline bench changes the angle of the arms to the body. You want to angle the bench at about 30-45 degrees backward for optimal pull on the biceps while not placing too much stress on the shoulder joint, especially in the start position when the dumbbells are hanging toward the floor. You don’t need a ton of weight on this exercise to stimulate and innervate the relatively small biceps muscles. As opposed to the standing dumbbell curl, the incline dumbbell curl eliminates much of the momentum and body english, helping target the muscle with unrivaled accuracy. The dumbbells also allow you to determine muscular imbalances between arms, as you’re unable to do during the barbell versions of the curl. Finally, during the incline dumbbell curl you can work both arms simultaneously or alternate arms depending on your preference.

Advantage: Incline Dumbbell Curl

Although we applaud and recommend both these exercises for complete upper-arm development, for hitting the peak, the incline dumbbell curl is your clear winner. Here’s why: The peak of the biceps, or the highest point of the muscle during a double-biceps pose, is actually the long head, which is best targeted by the incline curl because of the prestretch that’s placed upon it at the start of the move. Conversely, the long head is under much less stress during the preacher curl when your arms are in front of your torso. The preacher curl, while not superior for the peak, hits the shorter inner head. For that reason we recommend you utilize both exercises in your biceps routine.