The Most Effective Preacher Curl Alternatives for Building Big Arms

The preacher curl alternative is a weightlifting exercise that isolates your biceps to help build bigger arms, increase definition and gain strength, similarly to the standard preacher curl. Adding a preacher curl alternative to your workout will ensure you work out your biceps without getting stuck in a rut that causes muscle building to plateau.

Straightforward preacher curls can strain your biceps brachii due to poor form. Many bodybuilders swing the weights into position using their back and shoulders. Some put too much weight on their legs and hips. Any of these methods can cause harm instead of isolating the biceps to build big arms.

Instead of risking poor form, check out these preacher curl alternatives. The modifications ensure you won’t hurt yourself if you follow the guidelines in each description. Since the alternatives meet you where you are, you’ll benefit your biceps alone with these exercises.

This list gives you 10 options so you can find the right preacher curl alternative for your workout. Many weightlifters prefer these exercises to the straightforward method because each one isolates your biceps to build bigger arms. There are methods for beginners and those who need to push themselves to continue creating muscle mass.

1. Wall Curls

Wall curls are a preacher curl alternative focusing on the biceps for beginning bodybuilders. You brace yourself against a wall so your back and your lower body can’t help your biceps lift the weights. To have proper form for the wall curls, your upper back and glutes should touch the wall at all times.

Keeping so much of your core motionless forces your biceps to produce enough strength to lift the dumbbells from the resting position. There’s no way to cheat or to allow other muscles to help your biceps when you’re doing wall curls. 

As a cable preacher curl alternative, this exercise is key to ensuring you’re only working your biceps. You don’t need any equipment other than a set of dumbbells, whereas the cable preacher curl requires a preacher machine bench and cables to attach.

One common mistake you can make when doing wall curls is to not keep your back and glutes against the wall. If you feel your body lifting away from the wall, you’re going to be working other muscles instead of isolating the biceps.

One tip for doing wall curls is to keep your feet about a foot away from the wall. This guarantees that your back and glutes stay on the wall because that’s the only thing holding you in place. You’re positioning your body to use the wall to the fullest extent.

Another tip to ensure you get the most out of wall curls is to use a barbell instead of dumbbells. You know your biceps are getting the same amount of exercise with each rep. Adding small increments of weight helps you level up once you’ve mastered the dumbbell option.

The hardness level of wall curls ranges from simple to difficult depending on where you start. Doing a basic wall curl with dumbbells is easy enough for beginning bodybuilders to master. Upgrade to a barbell with additional weight when you need to continue building muscle mass.

2. Sitting Dumbbell Curls

Sitting dumbbell curls are a preacher curl alternative focusing on the biceps and brachialis muscles for beginner bodybuilders. As wall curls ensure you’re only using your biceps to do this exercise, sitting down provides stability for your lower body.

Sitting Dumbbell Curls
Sitting Dumbbell Curls

Sit on a weight bench or chair before starting this preacher curl alternative. If you have knee problems or can’t stand for long periods, the sitting dumbbell curl makes it possible to still build bicep muscle mass.

If you’re using a chair, press your back and shoulders against the back of the chair. When you use a weight bench, you need to keep your spine straight so you won’t strain your back or neck. You can tell you’re using the right form if your hands and forearms are the only things that move during each rep.

One common mistake you can make when doing sitting dumbbell curls is to move your elbows. They should stay close to your sides when you’re working out. Otherwise, they’ll take some of the strain off your biceps, and you won’t get the full benefits.

One tip for doing sitting dumbbell curls is to add tricep workouts to your overall routine. If you focus too much on your biceps, you might cause elbow injuries.

Another tip to ensure you get the most out of sitting dumbbell curls is to keep your wrist straight. Letting it bend or move during each rep changes the focus of the weight and might not build as much bicep muscle as you want.

The hardness level of the sitting dumbbell curl is pretty simple. Many beginner bodybuilders like it because they know the exercise focuses on their biceps. It’s good for people who can’t stand for long periods or don’t want to work their leg muscles because the chair keeps your lower body stable.

3. Spider Curl

The spider curl is a preacher curl alternative that focuses on the short head of the bicep muscles. Bodybuilders prefer this method because it strengthens the flexor of the elbow joint as well as the humerus at the shoulder.

You can do this preacher curl alternative at home because it doesn’t require anything other than free weights and a bench. Set the bench at an incline of 45 degrees and lie on it with your torso pressed flat. Your clavicle, neck, and head should stick off the edge of the bench. This positioning means the bench ends at your armpits to give your arms a range of motion.

Hold the dumbbells with your arms stretching down, then bend your elbows and bring the weights to your shoulders. Squeeze your biceps during these motions for the best results. Lower the weights back down and feel the stretch in your elbows and shoulders.

One common mistake you can make when doing the spider curl is to not contract your muscles while you’re lifting the weights. Tightening your biceps helps isolate them with each rep.

One tip for doing spider curls is to use the right weight for your experience level. If your weights are too heavy, you won’t have proper form while you’re lifting. That could make you rely too much on momentum to bring the weights to your shoulders.

Another tip to ensure you get the most out of spider curls is to keep your arms free. Your body’s position on the bench should give you a full range of motion, even though you’re not moving your entire arm. You only want to move your hands and forearms to work your biceps the most.

The hardness level of spider curls is more intermediate than the wall curls and sitting dumbbell curls. Though you’re still stabilizing your body against the bench, the incline adds some difficulty to this exercise. It’s better for skilled bodybuilders because of how it strengthens the elbows and shoulders along with the biceps.

4. Concentration Curl

The concentration curl is a preacher curl alternative that focuses on the biceps for intermediate bodybuilders and weightlifters. Because of the position of your arm, this exercise also helps develop your forearm and improve your grip.

Concentration Curl
Concentration Curl

Though you perform this exercise seated on a bench, it varies from the sitting dumbbell curl due to body position. You place the back of your upper arm against your inner thigh to brace yourself.

Since your arm stays in place, your biceps have to work even harder to bring the dumbbell up to your shoulder. You can further brace yourself by putting the opposite hand on your knee.

One common mistake you can make when doing the concentration curl is to let your back slump. While your position keeps you from sitting up straight, you can still keep your spine elongated for the best results.

One tip for doing concentration curls is to use the weight you’re most comfortable with. A lot of beginning bodybuilders think that, since they’re bracing their arm against their thigh, they can try to max out their weights and still make gains. Trying to lift too much is detrimental to your form for this curl and can damage your muscles.

Another tip to ensure you get the most out of the concentration curl is to move slowly. This exercise isn’t about how many reps you can do in one minute. Instead, you’re showing how smoothly you can control your lift. Going slower will help build muscle in the long run, especially if you go as slow with the eccentric and concentric parts.

The hardness level of the concentration curl is best for more advanced weightlifters. Beginners and even intermediate lifters can have trouble with this alternative for preacher curls. There are too many minor ways to mess it up and possibly hurt yourself.

5. Floor Curls

Floor curls are a preacher curl alternative that focuses on biceps for intermediate bodybuilders. Like many of the variations that allow you to brace your body against a wall, chair, or bench, this option has you on the floor. But since you’re lifting weights over your body from the floor, it’s not ideal for beginners just developing their strength.

Use a cable machine to provide resistance for this exercise. Get on the ground and brace your feet against the machine. Lay down and keep your elbows even with your hips. Bring the cable up to your shoulders and let it down slowly. Remember, the cables are going to pull at you, so you have to be smooth and in complete control the whole time.

One common mistake you can make when doing floor curls is to let your back lift off of the floor as you go back to your starting position. With the cable pulling at the weights, you might want to give in a little bit. It’s important to keep your body against the floor the entire time to get the most out of this variation.

One tip for doing floor curls is to ensure you get the full range of motion. Because the cable is providing so much resistance, many people don’t bring the bar to their shoulders. They only complete about 80% of each rep due to struggling to stay in control of the movements. This method can be detrimental to building muscle, so do the full rep each time.

Another tip to ensure you get the most out of floor curls is to push your elbows to the floor. When you do this, it develops the peak of your biceps for a bulkier look. Since you’re focusing on the peaks instead of the whole bicep, you won’t get the full range of motion typical for this exercise.

The hardness level of the floor curls is intermediate. Once beginning bodybuilders have mastered wall curls and sitting dumbbell curls, they might want to try floor curls due to the body stability. Ensure you start slowly with a weight you’re sure you can manage, so you don’t damage your muscles using this new variation.

6. Controlled Eccentrics

Controlled eccentrics are a preacher curl alternative that focuses on the biceps for advanced bodybuilders. Eccentric contractions utilize an opposing force to further challenge the muscle, so, ideally, you have plenty of weight lifting experience and strength before attempting this variation.

For curls, this opposing force is the downward motion. Most types focus on the upward motion because that’s what develops the bicep. But with controlled eccentrics, you need to slowly lower the weight to feel that resistance in your arms. As the weights pull your arms, your muscles will elongate and increase your metabolic rate.

One common mistake you can make when doing controlled eccentrics is to rush each rep. The downward extension should take at least three to five seconds to get the most out of the resistance. Rushing it defeats the purpose of the opposing force.

One tip for doing controlled eccentrics is to start slowly. It’s an advanced exercise so, by the time bodybuilders are ready for it, they think they can handle their standard weight. But since you’re moving so slowly in the downward motion, too much weight could cause a strain.

Another tip to ensure you get the most out of controlled eccentrics is to use a resistance band or cable machine. These items already add a lot of opposing force, so when you couple that resistance to the slow motion of the downward flex, you’ll get even more benefits from this routine.

The hardness level of controlled eccentrics is difficult. Because there’s so much at stake, you should have optimal strength before trying it yourself. The resistance and slow motion make it more complicated than it seems on the surface. It’s easy to overdo it and try to lift too much with controlled eccentrics, so start slowly with less weight than usual to protect your muscles.

7. Incline Dumbbell Curls

Incline dumbbell curls are preacher curl alternatives focused on the long bicep muscles on the outside of your upper arm. Like several other variations on this list, you do the incline dumbbell curl while seated.

Incline your bench to 45 or 60 degrees, then sit with your back flat against it. Keep your abdominals tight as you curl the dumbbells from hanging down up to your shoulder. Squeeze your biceps when the weights reach your shoulder, and then lower them slowly.

One common mistake you can make when doing the incline dumbbell curl is to focus on speed over strength. Trying to go too fast will strain muscles. If you think you’re going too fast, slow down and focus on one arm at a time until you’re sure you’ve mastered this variation.

One tip for doing incline dumbbell curls is to ensure you have an extended range of motion. This is one of the best alternatives to preacher curls because of this range. Using the bench gives you more space to raise and lower your arm than a traditional curl, so you want to take advantage of that to highlight your biceps.

Another tip to ensure you get the most out of incline dumbbell curls is to tighten your abs with each rep. Since this is internal, a lot of beginner bodybuilders forget that it’s still part of the form. Doing this tightens your core and keeps your upper body stable so you won’t have back pain.

The hardness level of incline dumbbell curls is intermediate. Because the bench helps support your body, you can use weights you’re comfortable with and get a great workout. As you become more advanced, you can increase the weight and feel the burn.

8. Overhead Double Cable Curl

The overhead double cable curl is a preacher curl alternative focused on the short head bicep muscle. It adds thickness to the biceps, so it’s a favorite of weightlifters who need the bulk.

This exercise is a dumbbell preacher curl alternative that uses cable station weight stacks. Set the height to hit your shoulders so you can curl over your shoulders. Stand between the stacks with your feet shoulder-width apart and pull the cables towards you using an underhand grip.

Start with your arms straight out, holding the cables, and keep your upper arm still while performing the overhand curl. Bring the cables towards your shoulders and contract your biceps. In the final position, you should feel your forearms pressed against your biceps.

One common mistake you can make when doing the overhead double cable curl is letting go too quickly. Because it takes such slow strength to pull the cables and let your forearms touch your biceps, many beginners want to release the cables at that point. But you don’t finish a rep until your arms are fully extended again, so be patient.

One tip for doing the overhead double cable curl is to practice good posture. Since you’re standing with your feet shoulder-width apart, you’re in a prime position to keep your spine and neck straight. You can feel the stretch in your stance while you work your biceps.

Another tip to ensure you get the most out of the overhead double cable curl is to work for the other muscle groups as much as possible. Small motions, like reaching for the cable, work the deltoids. Having a good posture strengthens your supraspinatus in the rotator cuff.

The hardness level of the overhead double cable curl is difficult. You need to have the strength to stand tall and in good form while focusing completely on your biceps. Many beginners don’t have any experience with the cable station, so it’s best to get acquainted with the machine first.

9. Cable Concentration Curl

The cable concentration curl is a preacher curl alternative focusing on the biceps for beginner bodybuilders. Step about a foot away from the pulley cable machine and bend at your waist. Your spine should still be straight, not hunched over.

Keep your arm relatively straight as you pull the cable, so your fist touches the opposite shoulder. Go slowly back to the beginning position, so you’re not relying on the momentum to move the weights.

One common mistake you can make when doing the cable concentration curl is to let your forearm snap back too quickly after touching your shoulder. It’s tough to slowly let the cable retract, but this control is a key part of the exercise. You’re still using your bicep to return to the starting position, so you need to go slowly to build strength.

One tip for doing cable concentration curls is to contract your abdominal muscles when you’re bent over. This keeps your core engaged which not only gives you more stability as you work out but also helps strengthen those muscles while the weights focus on your biceps.

Another tip to ensure you get the most out of the cable concentration curl is to utilize the cable’s resistance. Because the cable is always pulling the weight away from your shoulder, you have to work even harder to complete the rep and touch your shoulder. This resistance is a great way to build muscle mass.

The hardness level of the cable concentration curl is relatively easy. Beginners can do this exercise to get acclimated to curls and exercises that isolate the biceps. Since it uses a cable pulley machine, it’s better for beginners because they won’t be able to cheat or work with improper form.

10. Zottman Curl

The Zottman curl is a preacher curl alternative that focuses on the biceps brachii and the brachioradialis in the forearms. Though it seems like a standard curl on the surface, there’s a unique approach to this variation that builds your forearm muscles.

Stand in position to do a standard bicep curl with an underhand grip. Your palms should face outward as you bring the weights up to your shoulders. When you reach the pinnacle of the exercise, flip your grip, so it’s overhand. As you bring the weights back down, keep the overhand grip. To finish the rep and return to starting position, go back to an underhand grip.

The way you switch your grip to lower your arms changes the focus of this exercise from the biceps to the forearms. It’s effective because you can’t have bulging biceps with no lower arms to speak of — you need that muscle to help lift properly as well.

One common mistake you can make when doing the Zottman curl is to not return to an underhand grip before doing the following reps. Since you use an overhand grip to lower the weights, it’s easy to forget to flip your grip once more. Using the underhand grip to lift the weights is crucial because that’s what builds your biceps.

One tip for doing the Zottman curl is to get the right amount of weight for your body. You might be able to do a bicep curl with a certain weight, but since you’re twisting your grip, you need weight your forearm can handle as well. Overdoing it can severely damage your forearm and elbow, so start with less weight, even if you’re sure you can handle more.

Another tip to ensure you get the most out of the Zottman curl is to keep your motions smooth. You don’t want to jerk your wrists or elbows when you’re switching from underhand to overhand, or you might strain your muscles.

The hardness level of the Zottman curl is intermediate to advanced depending on how much the bodybuilder has worked on their forearms. Most weightlifters focus on biceps more, so shifting to a forearm-focused exercise can be more difficult than you’d think.

What to Know About Preacher Curl Alternatives?

There are several things you should know about preacher curl alternatives.

What to Know About Preacher Curl Alternatives
What to Know About Preacher Curl Alternatives?
  1. Muscle Growth: Preacher curl alternatives better benefit certain muscle groups because you’re using dumbbells and different positions to work your arms. As with the Zottman curl, you see how slightly changing your grip works to strengthen your forearms, while the preacher curl focuses on biceps only.
  2. Body Stability: Preacher curl alternatives offer different ways to keep your body stable. The wall curls let you brace your back against the wall. The sitting dumbbell curls let you sit in a chair to improve your posture. Several other alternatives use benches in a way that doesn’t restrict your range of motion while keeping your core stable.
  3. Adaptability: Preacher curl alternatives are adaptable in terms of difficulty because you can change how much weight you’re using easily. If you’re worried about your form, you can use one dumbbell at a time and completely focus on one arm to ensure you’re doing everything right.
  4. Home Workouts: Many of the preacher curl alternatives on this list only require dumbbells and perhaps a chair or bench. That means you can do them at home for a quality workout, even if you don’t have gym equipment.

The default preacher curl is a great exercise for bodybuilders who want to focus on their biceps. But if you’re looking for an EZ bar preacher curl alternative, adding the alternative movements as outlined above will help develop more than just your biceps, but other arm muscles and related joints.

Which Preacher Curl Alternative Is Beginner Friendlier?

For beginners looking for a machine preacher curl alternative, the wall curls are the most beginner-friendly. You’re able to brace yourself against a wall, so it’s harder to cheat. Your body won’t move as you’re doing each curl, ensuring the weights work out the biceps over any other muscle.

Using the wall to brace your body also helps you focus on the weights and your arm motion. Many beginners follow improper form and don’t get the benefits of a curl or risk straining their muscles. But since you know your body is stable, you can concentrate on your arms and ensure you’re moving smoothly and getting the most out of the exercise.

Which Preacher Curl Alternative Is Better for Biceps?

A great one-arm dumbbell preacher curl alternative is the cable concentration curl. Though you need to use pulley machines for this variation, the benefits make it worth the effort. If you are tired of doing preacher curls, and are looking for other biceps exercises, there are many alternatives that can be performed.

Which Preacher Curl Substitute Is Better for Strength?

For bodybuilders looking for a preacher curl with a cable alternative, the Zottman curl is a great variation you can do at home. All you need is dumbbells to strengthen your biceps and forearms. As a result, your elbows will also get stronger.

Adding a simple twist in your grip makes the Zottman curl a major strength-building curl alternative. You work your bicep on the way up, but once you touch your shoulder and shift your grip, all that work focuses on your forearm. You can’t get as strong as you want to be without focusing on the supporting muscles, so don’t slack on building forearm strength.

When Should an Athlete Use Preacher Curl Alternative for Exercise?

Athletes focus more on overall strength, speed, and agility than they do building muscles, but alternating preacher curls can still help in athletic training. Because this exercise focuses solely on the biceps, it’s a great option to do to kickstart a workout.

Before running laps, working the legs, or doing cardio, athletes can do preacher curl alternatives to build strength and get their blood pumping. Having strong arms will benefit athletes with the rest of their workout as well as within their sport.

What Are the Advantages of Modifying Preacher Curl?

The advantages of modifying preacher curls come as you utilize more muscles than you would with the standard approach. For example, with alternating preacher hammer curls, you’re not working both arms at once to blaze through the routine.

Instead, you’re using a neutral grip, as if holding a hammer, to focus on one arm at a time. Bring one weight up to your shoulder, squeeze your bicep to isolate the muscle, and hold it. Slowly lower the weight to the starting position and then alternate arms.

This type of modification helps bodybuilders get the most out of curls. Limiting yourself to standard preacher curls means you’re missing out on developing other muscles in your arms, shoulders, and elbows. It also gets repetitive to do the same routine over and over, and your muscle-building might plateau as a result.

Can Preacher Curl Alternatives Replace the Preacher Curl?

Weightlifters looking for an alternative exercise for machine preacher curl will appreciate knowing that these variations can replace the preacher curl. There’s nothing wrong with the standard approach, but each alternative offers something different for your muscles and your workout.

Many of the variations offer more tension than the basic preacher curls, especially those that use cables and pulley machines. Others, like the Zottman curl, isolate other muscles in turn, so you’re building a strong arm instead of just a bulging bicep.

Are Preacher Curl Alternatives Good for Wrist Health?

The barbell preacher curl is good for your wrists since they stay in a supine position with your palms facing up. When you’re looking for an alternative exercise to preacher curl, you want to check the wrist requirements. Following proper form with preacher curl alternatives will be good for your wrist health.

Anytime you have to change your grip during the workout, such as with the Zottman curl, ensure you make a move smoothly and slowly. Trying to go quickly could jerk your wrist and cause pain.

What Are the Preacher Curl Variations?

There are many preacher curl variations, including the 10 on this list. When you’re looking for an alternative exercise to preacher curls, look for something that suits your typical routine while still mixing it up. Doing the same exercises over and over will build muscle to an extent, but then your body gets acclimated to work, and your progress will stall.

There are always options for your workout if you’re looking for an alternative to barbell preacher curl or an alternative to cable preacher curl. You can use dumbbells at home to work your biceps with routines like the wall curl or sitting dumbbell curl. These exercises are great for beginner bodybuilders because there’s little room for error in terms of your form.

You can find an alternative to one-arm dumbbell preacher curl without a machine by trying the spider curl one arm at a time. All you need are dumbbells and a bench so you can do them at home on days away from the gym. This is a great intermediate exercise that works your elbow and shoulder as well as your bicep.

Professional weightlifters looking for an alternative to preacher curls should try the overhead double cable curl. Because this exercise strengthens the short head bicep muscle, it quickly develops bulk to give you an impressively large and strong arm.

Athletic Insight

Athletic Insight Research


The Athletic Insight Research team consists of a dedicated team of researchers, Doctors, Registered Dieticians, nationally certified nutritionists and personal trainers. Our team members hold prestigious accolades within their discipline(s) of expertise, as well as nationally recognized certifications. These include; National Academy of Sports Medicine Certified Personal Trainer (NASM-CPT), American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA-CPT), National Academy of Sports Medicine Certified Nutrition Coach (NASM-CNC), International Sports Sciences Association Nutritionist Certification.