4 Best Preacher Bench Variations
When you walk into most gyms, you'll usually see the Preacher Bench over near the dumbbells and E-Z curl bars and probably in front of the mirror so when it's used, you can watch your biceps expand with every rep. Then, after you rip a couple of sets of curls and feel a little bicep burn, you get up, clean off your equipment, and move on. But, little do you know, the Preacher Bench has so many other arm blasting movements that can be performed on there, and after these 4 exercises, the days of loose sleeves, will be well in the past!
The Preacher Bench is often regarded as a key piece of equipment to help grow your biceps. Being in a seated position with your elbows stabilized against the pad allows for the majority of the stress of the movement to be placed on the short head of the bicep. This area is key to building width to the biceps brachii and adding overall girth to the upper arm. From a physics standpoint as well, the load of the weight in the arm is at a further displacement from the fulcrum (elbow) during the beginning of the curl movement, so the muscle is at a deep stretch before being fully contracted when the movement is performed, forcing the body into a high amount of motor unit and muscle fiber recruitment.
Performing these 4 exercises will lead to huge increases in sarcoplasmic hypertrophy. When you’re going into rep 12,13,14, of a high rep set, there will be an increase in glycogen stored inside the muscle belly, leading to an increase in extracellular water into the cell, resulting in the PUMP!
Exercise 1.) Fat Bar Preacher Curl
a.) Instruction: When setting up for the movement, the top of the pad should be 2 to 4 inches below the pec muscle. This position will help develop big round biceps largely increasing the amount of contraction when squeezing at the top, rather than having the pad deep in the armpits, allowing the anterior delts and upper pecs to assist in the movement. Also, utilizing the fat bar will force more high threshold motor unit recruitment in the hands and forearms, requiring greater contractions from them to help in performing the curl.
b.) Tip: Have a slightly wider grip on the bar, with the elbows tight on the pad, while adding slight wrist flexion will increase growth of flexor carpi radialis, the muscle that pops when you flex your forearms. Also, once at the top, squeeze the biceps as hard as you can for a 1-2 count to recruit as many fibers as possible.
c.) Rep Scheme: 4 sets of 17 reps. These also pair great with chin-ups for 5 reps with a 4 second eccentric to add some pre-exhaustion work in the bize!
Exercise 2.) KB Preacher Curl
a.) Instruction: The KB Curl on the Preacher Bench will absolutely annihilate your forearms and biceps! Holding the kettlebell at the base with the handle pointed down, fingers spread wide and aggressively gripping the base, while having slight wrist flexion and squeezing the biceps at the top will elicit major growth. Squeezing the KB will force contraction in the forearms and improve grip strength through the flexor muscles of the hand, forearm and even up through the bicep.
b.) Tip: Drop the head slightly and complete the curl towards the crown of your head, with an aggressive bicep squeeze for a 2 count. This will allow for a greater range of motion to apply force. Also, DON’T relax at the bottom of the movement! Stressing the muscle for greater time under tension will elicit FAR more growth.
c.) Rep Scheme: 4-5 sets of 15. Pairing these with Reverse Grip Bent-Over Rows for 10-12 reps will fire up both heads of the bicep along with giving you a sweet back pump.
Exercise 3.) Seated Overhead DB Tricep Extensions
Tricep movements can be a little harder to perform on the preacher bench, but not impossible! Performing the seated DB overhead tricep extension will light your triceps up, especially the medial head which is pivotal in pressing movements. As you face out, dropping the pad down to just below your mid back will allow for slight extension in the thoracic spine as the DB is lowered. Improving thoracic mobility is great for any strength athlete, because it can assist in improving shoulder stability and mobility, along with opening up tight pecs.
a.) Instruction: Lower the pad to just below the mid back, and face outward with the feet planted flat on the ground. While making a diamond with your hands with the head of the DB overhead between your hands, flex the elbows, fully allowing the triceps to lengthen. After reaching the bottom, extend the elbows to full lockout overhead, then repeat.
b.) Tip: Think of having a big chest while at full elbow flexion will allow for a slightly greater amount of thoracic extension and greater range of motion. Also, perform the movement with one hand flat on the DB and the other hand overlapping, then on the next set, switch the grips and alternate so that each hand is on a flat surface forcing slightly more contraction in that tricep.
c.) Rep Scheme: 4-5 sets of 12-15. Pairing this movement with Close Grip Incline Press for reps of 8, keeping the elbows tight, will create major stress in all 3 heads of triceps.
Exercise 4.) Unilateral Preacher Combo
a.) Instruction: This exercise is a nasty combo for the biceps and triceps and will require you to have extreme concentration to perform. While seated on the Preacher Bench, grab a moderately weighted DB and also tie a light resistance band at the bottom of the bench or to a heavy DB or post behind you. Then, simultaneously perform a supinated curl, while also performing a neutral grip overhead tricep extension. Pause at the top squeezing the bicep and tricep for a 2 count, then perform a 2 count eccentric on the way down, and repeat.
b.) Tip: This movement requires serious concentration! Ways to help getting a bigger contraction will be to squeeze the pinky on the DB when performing the curl. This will also increase flexor carpi radialis stimulation along with assisting in hitting the long head of the bicep brachii. Utilizing the band requires you to produce force throughout the entire range of motion. Just be careful when going into elbow flexion, that you don't overextend and pull your body in a weird position.
c.) Rep Scheme: 4 sets of 10 on each arm. Given this is a combo exercise, you’ll definitely feel the load on your arms and earn 2 tickets to the gun show!
The Preacher Bench has been a staple in bodybuilding training for decades and though many exercises have used it for just simple curls, these 4 exercises will allow you to add variation to your arms routine and create a different stimulus to GET SWÖLE too! Great thing is you can find exercises like these, and so many others, along with targeted arm building regimens in Bize and Trize Vol. 1 & 2!!
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