If you want to have solid and beefy biceps, the most recommended exercise you’ll hear from trainers or see on the internet is preacher curls. This bicep-building isolation workout guarantees exemplary results since it can eliminate other muscle engagement and body motion, concentrating all the stress on your biceps!

When doing preacher curls, you place your elbow and upper chest against a Preacher Curl Bench while grasping an EZ bar. Then, you lower the bar until your biceps are fully extended before lifting the bar back to the starting stance. Because of the positioning of your arms, you put more tension on the short head, which is responsible for giving your biceps thickness.

Although preacher curls are an excellent exercise with undisputable results, it does not mean that you’ll distance yourself from other workouts and solely do this. No matter how effective an exercise is, your progress will stall once your muscles get used to it. So, to ensure that you’ll not fall into that category, do these 10 preacher curl alternative exercises to keep your progress moving forward!

Preacher Curl Alternative Exercises

The preacher curl will mainly target your biceps, specifically the short head. You see, your biceps are made up of two heads, a long head, and a short head. The long head is found outside the arm, while the short head is located inside. Among the two, the short head gives the biceps its mass. So, if you want to bulk up your biceps, you need to target this area. 

Fortunately, whether you need exercises to refresh your workout routine or don’t have the correct equipment for a preacher curl, you can do these alternatives to shape your biceps and increase muscle mass! 

1. Spider Curl

This preacher curl alternative is almost identical to the incline dumbbell curl, except your laying down in a prone position (your chest is on the pad). The spider curl is one of the most popular exercises for bodybuilders who are explicitly training the short head of the biceps. To perform this workout, you’ll need dumbbells and an incline bench.

How to do it

  • Set the Bench to a slight incline of about 45 degrees.
  • Lay down on the bench with your chest pressed against the pad and the ball of your feet secured on the ground for extra support. Your arms must be extended perpendicular to the ground in front of you.
  • Curl the dumbbells, squeeze your biceps and make sure to load the tension on the muscles. You can move your elbows slightly forward but do your best to not move your upper arms that much.
  • Slowly reverse the movement, so your arms are nearly fully extended but avoid locking out your elbows at the bottom.
  • Perform as many spider curls as you see fit.

2. Concentration Curl

Similar to preacher curls, Concentration Curls secure your upper arm in place so you cannot cheat as you do the moment. However, instead of an angled position, your upper arms are vertical in this exercise. This preacher curl alternative will give you better results if you’re using moderate weight and flexing your arms hard at the top of the movement. 

When doing concentration curls, you’ll only need a bench and dumbbells. Also, do this in the correct form to maximize your gains.

How to do it

  • Choose your preferred weight and sit on a flat bench with your torso upright.
  • Put your feet flat on the ground and spread your knees to form a “v-shape” with your legs.
  • If you don’t know how heavy your weight should be, select a dumbbell that’s 10 lbs lighter than the weight that you use during the first set of your dumbbell bicep curl.
  • Hinge forward and place your elbows on your inner thigh.
  • Position your free hand on your other knee to stabilize your body while grasping a dumbbell with a supinated grip. 
  • Curl the dumbbell up towards your shoulders.
  • Stop momentarily and contract your pythons at the top of the motion.
  • Slowly go back to the starting position.
  • Do as many reps as you prefer on one hand and do the same number on the other.

3. Incline Dumbbell Curls

This preacher curl substitute is a more isolated version of a sitting dumbbell curl. When doing Incline Dumbbell Curls, you sit on an incline bench set at an angle of nearly halfway between straight up and flat (135 degrees) or higher. Since your back is resting against the bench, you allow zero movements in your body. 

When doing incline curls, ensure that your elbows don’t go behind the line of your body. It can load excess strain on your shoulder joint and is a sign that the weight of the dumbbell is too heavy. Do slow-controlled reps and focus on negative reps to copy a preacher curl.

How to do it

  • Set up your Incline Bench at around 135 degrees.
  • Lay down with your back pressed against the pad and your feet secured on the ground.
  • Let your arms hang freely.
  • Do your bicep curls and lessen the forward movement of your elbow.
  • Perform as many reps as you can on one arm and do the same number of reps on the other.

4. Stability Ball Preacher Curls

You may be wondering, can you do preacher curls even if you don’t have access to a preacher bench or an incline bench? The answer is yes by using a stability ball! In this workout, you’ll be rolling the ball back and forth, changing the angle of your upper arms. Just ensure that when you’re doing it, position yourself for the best possible bicep engagement. 

How to do it

  • Put the stability ball on the floor and kneel behind it. With the dumbbell in your right hand, rest your upper arm on the ball. Then, stabilize the ball using your left arm.
  • Bend your elbow and curl the dumbbell up until your forearm is positioned vertically.
  • Bring the weight down and repeat.
  • Do as many reps as you can and repeat the same number on your left arm.

5. Cable Concentration Curl

Another suitable preacher curl substitute that can increase your biceps muscle growth is the cable concentration curl. This workout is pretty similar to concentration curls, but it uses an EZ bar attached to a cable machine to engage both biceps at once. Because of this, it becomes an even more effective exercise for simulating preacher curls.

Since you’re isolating your arms with your body in this exercise, you can successfully target the small head of the biceps, helping you increase its size and thickness. Unfortunately, you will need a cable machine and an EZ bar to perform cable concentration curls, so you cannot do it at home unless you have them. 

How to do it

  • Start by setting up the Cable Machine to the lowest level. Then, attach an EZ bar.
  • Hold the bar with your palms facing upward at shoulder-width apart.
  • Move one step back and squat down until your glutes reach your heels.
  • Put the back of your arms onto your knees.
  • Slowly curl your hands towards your body until it fully contracts. Stop momentarily and go back to the starting position. 
  • Perform twelve to fifteen reps.

6. Supine Cable Curls

The supine cable curls are another excellent preacher curl substitute that will help you work your biceps. Unlike dumbbell curls and Standing Barbell Curls, preacher curls are more lower back-friendly. This bicep exercise is also undemanding on your lower back, making it an excellent alternative if you’re looking for comfortable, safe, but effective bicep training.

How to do it

  • Fasten an EZ, straight, or rope handle to a low cable pulley machine. Sit on the ground with your legs straight and hold your handle. Lie down flat on your back while keeping your arms straight. Then pull your shoulders down and back.
  • With your arms bent, curl the handle up towards your shoulders.
  • Stretch out your arms and repeat.
  • Complete the set of curls with a quick set of underhand rows towards your abdomen to really engage your biceps.
  • Perform as many reps as necessary.

7. Goblet Squat Curls

This preacher curl alternative will not only give you a bicep similar to Arnold Schwarzenegger, but it can also make you a champion squatter! Goblet squat curls have an excellent bicep activation and effective lower body mobilizer.

How to do it

  • Grab a Kettlebell on the vertical handles in front of your chest. Make sure that the top of the handle is just below your chin.
  • Position your feet into a shoulder-width stance with your toes turned slightly outward. Tighten your abs and pull your shoulders down and back.
  • Squat downwards until your thighs are nearly parallel to the floor. Avoid rounding your lower back, and your upper arms should be almost inside your upper legs.
  • While staying in the squat position, stretch your arms and lower the weight down to the ground. Then, curl the weight back up.
  • You can either do a set of curls before standing up or stand up and squat down between each curl rep. The latter variation is a good circuit training workout.
  • Aside from the kettlebell, you can also do this exercise with a weight plate or a single dumbbell.

8. Overhead Double Cable Curl

This preacher curl substitute is another excellent workout for building muscle and targeting the bicep short head. When you lift your arms high in this workout, you can isolate your biceps. Because of this, you do not rely on your front delt. Overhead double cable curls is another two-way lift, meaning you engage your arms on the positive and negative reps.

When doing this alternative, all you need is compatible single grip bars and a double cable machine. Also, ensure that your elbows remain in the same position throughout the entire range of motion. You should lock your upper arms in place, and only your forearms and hand should be moving.

How to do it

  • Start by selecting a comfortable weight for you on each side of the cable pulley machine. Ensure that the amount of weight is the same on each side.
  • Adjust the height of the pulleys and set it higher than your shoulder height.
  • Stand in the middle of the pulleys and hold each handle using an underhand grip (palms facing up towards the ceiling). Ensure that your arms are fully stretched and parallel to the ground with your feet shoulder-width apart. Your body should be aligned with the handles. This will be your starting position.
  • While breathing out, slowly squeeze your biceps on each side until your forearms and biceps touch.
  • While breathing in, move your forearms back to the starting position. Keep your entire body stationary during the movement.
  • Do ten to twelve reps.

9. Adjustable Bench Preacher Curls

No preacher bench? No problem! With this next exercise, all you need is an adjustable weight bench and dumbbell, and you’ll be able to execute a proper preacher curl. 

How to do it

  • Set your bench to about a 30-45-degree angle and stand behind it.
  • Lean forward and put your upper arm’s back against the backrest. Grab a dumbbell in your hand.
  • Bend your elbow and do a regular curl up until your forearm is vertical.
  • Stretch your arms and repeat. Ensure that you don’t bounce the weight upwards.
  • Do as many reps as you can.

10. Curls Against A Wall

If you cannot do a curl without cheating, then this is a great exercise for you! Wall curls is a strict curl variation that prohibits you from engaging your legs and back. Because of this, the movement becomes more difficult than a regular barbell and dumbbell bicep curls.

How to do it

  • While holding a dumbbell on each hand, lean your upper back against a flat wall. Move your feet a few inches in front of you. Press your shoulders back and down and tighten your abs.
  • Do a slight bend on your elbows, curl the weights upward going to your shoulder height, and rotate your wrist, so your palms are uppermost.
  • Bring the weights down and repeat.
  • Do as many reps as you can, and you can also perform this workout using a barbell.


Preacher curls are a great exercise that can develop your biceps and give them a muscular shape. However, if you don’t have a preacher curl bench or want to ensure that you’re targeting other muscles in your arms, the substitutes listed above will help you achieve your goals with only minimal equipment!

Out of these ten workouts, the two best preacher curl alternatives are spider curl and concentration curl since they both have almost the same movement pattern and muscle activation!

Frequently Asked Questions

Yes, preacher curls are safe as long as you do it in proper form and you take precautions. There is a notion that this popular exercise can put a lot of stress on your elbows. So, ensure that you’re not using excessively heavy weights when doing this isolation workout.

The preacher curl specifically targets the brachialis muscle, particularly the long head of your biceps. The exercise effectively targets the brachii that aids in the flexion of the elbows and can be performed standing or seated and with either dumbbells or a barbell.

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