Like so many of the training techniques and exercise devices of the 50s and 60s, the Preacher Curl, designed during bodybuilding infancy, has been worn threadbare by today's standards of totally conceptualized training. However, with several modifications, the Preacher Curl can be the best bicep training device available.
So then, what caused my discontent with the standard or traditional Preacher Bench?
During my first years of arm training, I did more listening and imitating than thinking. I had the most famous Preacher Bench of that time available to me, but I didn't get the kind of results with it that others were realizing. I noticed that most of the development I obtained was around the elbow-upper forearm and lower bicep. My brachialis and "peak" received little, if any, stimulation. The net result of my first experience with the Preacher Bench was an arm that looked impressive in a short sleeve shirt, but when flexed, did nothing.
My goal as a gym owner was to take each piece of equipment I had used and liked, and make it better. I have very discriminating standards, so naturally for me, providing the very best gym equipment to my students is a matter of pride. I wanted the very best a piece of equipment could offer.
The main problem with the traditional Preacher Bench was that the bench angle was too flat to create any bicep stimulation in the last 1/3 of the movement. To make the Preacher Bench Curl a complete contractile movement, the bench angle must be slightly less than vertical of about 5 degrees from straight up and down. Trial and error will garner you the exact best angle for the length of your arm.
Before you go out and have your Preacher Bench welded at a steeper angle, try a number of different angles by placing a block under the stand. When you have found the correct angle, have your welder preserve it. To check the angle out, determine if the angle is steep enough to force you to work against gravity throughout the entire range of motion. Your bicep should not relax during the curling motion. In fact, with a steep enough angle, the last 1/3 of the movement should be the most difficult to perform.
Another improvement I've fostered is to recess that part of the bench where the elbows should be placed. The Preacher Bench curling position should allow you to have your elbows closer together in position than the width of your hands on the bar. I generally try to keep my elbows 8 inches apart and my hands 15-20 inches apart. This position allows you to keep the little fingers higher than the thumbs and produce a slight supination even when using a barbell. By recessing the Preacher Bench in two 3 inch vertical strips 8 inches apart, you will prevent the elbows from wandering during the curling motion.
Once you have redesigned your Preacher Bench, you will have a better understanding of the effect angles can have in training. It has been my experience that even the slightest change of exercise angle can produce amazing results. You should be conscious of the equipment you use. If it isn't effective, redesign it.
Here are several Preach Bench curling routines I have used with success:
Note: This article is courtesy of Liam Tweed's Collection.
1) Barbell Preacher Curl -
Perform 4 sets of 10 reps and no burns. Do this 3 days a week. The catch is that each week you must add 5 pounds.
2) Dumbbell Preacher Curl supersetted with Barbell Preacher Curl -
Perform 8 reps DB Preacher Curl with 4 top 1/3 burns, then without resting perform 8 reps BB Preacher Curl with 4 burns. Do 4 supersets, 3 times a week.
DB Preacher Curl -> BB Preacher Curl -> EZ Bar Reverse Curl -
Perform 6 reps with 3 burns of each exercise in tri-set fashion. Go through this tri-set 4 times, 3 times a week.
I suggest that you try one of these routines that fits your level of advancement in bodybuilding for 6-8 weeks. The Angle-Preacher Bench, as I call it, should revolutionize bicep training because it represents the New Breed concept of quality training, continuous tension and personalized techniques.
I have said there are no secrets in bodybuilding, which is true, since
it is no secret that thinking must precede action.
Here's a heads up on a rare and hard to find Steve Davis manual. It's more than likely a compilation of the articles Davis and Harvey Keith wrote for the Raders' Iron Man magazine.