Preacher Curl – Every Champion Used It – Here’s HOW!

I checked the Internet, and every website uses Stock-Photos of Fitness-Models to explain the exercise. It’s a shame that nobody is making reference to its origin.

I own many historical fitness magazines dated back to the 1900s, and what used to work in the past will work out today. The guys from the Golden Era, such as Schwarzenegger, Franco Columbo, etc., own more credibility for giving bodybuilding advice than the average Fitness-Joe from YouTube.

It’s really a pleasure for me to review, compile, and present the information from those guys for you! Sit back and enjoy reading a compiled list of the “Scott Curl Users” and their thoughts on it!

HISTORY, WHO INVENTED IT?

The bodybuilder named Larry Scott made the exercise famous. Larry won the most prestigious competition MR. OLYMPIA in 1965, and after that, all magazines started printing Larry’s training methods. The authors always outlined an exercise called Preacher Bench Curl, which was at that time unknown. Today, basically every bodybuilder is using it.

Larry Scott infected multiple generations of bodybuilders to do the preacher bench curl, and the fitness equipment called SCOTT Bench was born. Plus, the exercise gets its name ‘Preacher’ because the whole construct looks like a church pulpit. However, who invented it?

To make a long story short: nobody invented an exercise. Everyone did it in the same quite manner, with the same goal: isolating the biceps. Some old-timers, like George F Jowett, did that exercise without a bench. He called it “Bend Over Arm Curl.”

Later, in the German magazine Sport und Kraft ISSUE 42, there’s a bodybuilder who’s fixing his arm on the bench and starts curling. Finally, I found a guy performing the true and original form of the Preacher Curl, long before somebody invented the preacher bench in the magazine KRAFT SPORT REVUE (1963).

But this way of curling seems quite uncomfortable, and you can’t change the grip width. Probably someone had the same thoughts and constructed a perfect solution to guarantee a healthy and great training experience: The Preacher Bench!

You can just sit down, fix your arms on a cushion, and all your concentration is on training the biceps. You see, nobody invented a movement, but it took a long road to the final and perfect construction of the preacher bench.

Even the famous Fitness Pioneer “Charles A Smith,” is sharing the same thought on the inventor. I came across a letter written by him, and he wrote:

“Larry Scott DID NOT INVENT THE PREACHER CURL. And neither did Vince Gironda. But an unfortunate impression was given in the latest IRON MAN that they either did or MIGHT HAVE. This impression was created in a caption under a show of  Beverly Francis doing preacher curls. Caption saying that it, the preacher curl, had been ‘REDISCOVERED’ by Scott and Gironda. It had never been lost.”

So, to say somebody invented an exercise is basically wrong. Everyone performed it in some way. But of course, behind every single construction, there’s a constructor.

Who constructed it? I checked some Databases for patents, and it seems nobody registered the “Preacher Bench.”

The Fitness Guru, Vince Gironda, was famous for creating new fitness devices and famous for making bad business decisions. He loved bodybuilding and never tried to commercialize anything. So, if it comes to Preacher Bench’s topic, all bodybuilding magazines start making references to Vince Gironda. I truly believe he invented that Fitness-Equipment, but didn’t register it somewhere.

A HISTORICAL LIST OF THE PREACHER CURL USERS

Thanks to Larry Scott for making the preacher bench curl so popular. Every bodybuilder used that movement and developed genius techniques (E.g., Employing Super sets and Training with Cables).

John Brown, Mr Universe – NABBA(1981)

In the magazine Sport & Fitness (Jan/Feb 1992), there’s an article entitled “The many faces of John Brown” with six great pictures of John training biceps; all were taken by Jewish Photographer, Art Zeller. If you use John’s arm workout, the author promises that you will achieve bigger arms and obtain one more inch in just seven days.

“What made John Brown famous besides his posing were his back, chest, and arm muscles. His arm measures 49 cm, cold.”

In the first picture, he’s standing and using a cable pulley to curl. After finishing that exercise, he’s performing a curl movement again, but with an EZ-Barbell.

Then he’s employing a quite new and (for me) unknown handling for the curl movement [See Pic 1]. Next, he’s using an EZ-Bar, but now he’s sitting and using a narrow grip-width to curl it. In the fourth picture, he’s finally using the famous preacher bench. Note the construction of that bench; the pad is quite smaller than how it normally used to be.

Then in the two last pictures, he’s curling with a 37 1/2lb dumbbell, then he’s finishing his arm workout with a cable pulley. Unfortunately, there are no notes about how many reps/sets he liked to use.

The famous Youtuber, Nick Miller, made a video about John Brown’s career, and it went viral. The YouTube video obtained 200,000 views. According to the narrator, John started bodybuilding at the age of 14, and comic books inspired him.

At the age of 16, he competed in the Mr. Watts contest and had to compete against grown-up men. Brown placed third. The video shows great pictures of him, especially his huge arm development.

But what happened to him? According to the German magazine Sport & Fitness, John stopped training due to an injury during a workout.

“In the late 80s, John had a serious training injury and had to take a break. During a bench press workout, the bench broke down. But he never stopped training.”

However, he never cared for scientifically training methods. The most important criterion in John’s training is to move the weights with a full range of motion. For him, strength and muscle development are interrelated. The greater the strength, the greater the muscle development.

Jusup Wilkosz, Mr. Germany

He was known for being quiet and intelligent. Jusup Wilksoz used to be a friend of Arnold Schwarzenegger. I already published a great article about him. I am so proud owning his booklets with great rare pics of Arnold and him training together. Furthermore, I believe I am the only person in Europe who owns the complete set of his books! I shared some of his booklets for free on my website too, just click here!

At the age of 16, in 1965, he began weightlifting. The booklets were published in 1986, so the booklets consist of fitness-knowledge of approximately 20 years. It is well structured, with an anatomy drawing of the biceps and tips to avoid injuries. Even using such simple exercise, you can be injured.

Jusup describes the risk of that exercise as follows: “This exercise owes its name and popularity to the first winner of Mr. Olympia named Larry Scott. Larry still swears that he owes his massive biceps to this exercise. Some bodybuilders claim that this curl develops the biceps better than any other exercise.

When doing the Scott Curl, you should not go to the point of exhaustion. Otherwise, the execution of the exercise becomes unclean. However, due to the limited range of motion on this apparatus, improper execution could be very stressful on the tendons and joints.

If the pads are too hard, elbow damage must be expected. Tendinitis in the forearms is possible when using heavy weights. When lifting the dumbbell, exhale. It is important to lower the weight slowly.”

Jusup’s arm workout ends up with a quite unorthodox method; he employs an abs exercise called “hanging leg raises,” which will briefly stretch your biceps. He wrote: “Whether the exercise is useful for the upper arm or not, finally you have to decide it by yourself. For the abdominal muscles, it is an excellent exercise.”

There’s a rare and old footage of Jusup training biceps uploaded by “Retro Fitness.” Albert Busek, the owner of the Magazine ‘Sport Revue,’ opened his first commercial gym and his friends Arnold and Jusup Wilkosz were with him to celebrate its opening. As a personal trainer, Arnold took over the part and instructed Wilkosz in the exercise “Preacher Bench Curl.”

Jusup is curling two silver dumbbells, and Arnold analyzes and corrects each movement. In German [timestamp 0:20], Arnold says: “The dumbbell is not allowed to drift outwards and move towards the shoulders. Always a straight line.”

After finishing some repetitions with a full range of motion, Arnold explains to Jusup that he should add some additional ½ movements. [Timestamp: 0:43]

Dale Adrian, Mr. America

Dale was born in 1951 and grew up in Oxnard, California. He won the Mr. America title in 1975 and wrote for the magazine ‘Muscle Mag’ a quite interesting article entitled “how Mr. America trains arms.” It consists of some great and scientific explanations of how to train the biceps.

According to the author, he had to train for nearly 15 years to win the Mr. America title. He reasoned that his arm development was lacking size. Through trial and error, Ralf developed an arm workout to overcome such problems.

Ralf studied the anatomy chart of the human body and realized that you could trace the origins of the arm and shoulder muscles. He came to a conclusion that, “They all interconnect, the deltoids, for example, attaching nearly halfway down the outside of your upper arm, and some forearm muscles also attaching to the upper arm bone.”

So Ralf realized that you have to train forearms and delts equally as hard as biceps and triceps because they all interconnect.

He favored to train on instinct, and as heavy as possible. He managed to bench press 475lb, squat 500 pounds, and overhead press 300lb. He also believed in training with strict form and a wide variety of exercises and equipment.

In Ralf’s words: “I also use flat, incline and decline benches, the preacher bench, straight bars, EZ curl bars, and dumbbells, either one or two at a time.My supersets are not done at a super fast pace. A lot of guys take no rest between the two exercises of a superset, but I do take a few seconds to get over to the apparatus for my second set.I definitely believe that using maximum weights in arm exercises has its place in workouts. (…) Usually I do arms as a unit along with legs”

Here’s a sample schedule for arms (three times a week)

1)Barbell Scott Curls:  6-8 sets, 6 – 10 reps.
2) Dumbbell Scott Curl: 6 – 8 sets, 6 – 10 reps
3) Incline Dumbbell Curls: 6 – 8 sets, 6 -8 reps
4) Alternate Dumbbell Curls: 6 – 8 sets, 6 -8 reps
5) Pulley Curls: 4 – 7 sets, 10 reps
6) Reverse Curls: 4 – 7 sets, 10 reps

There’s a great article on the topic “Forearm Development,” and again, Dale Adrian suggests using the preacher bench.

According to him, a great alternative for the preacher curl is to turn your hands into the pronated grip. Now, with that technique, you are allowed to focus more on your forearms. In Dale Adrian’s words: “Doing reverse curls on a preacher bench is one way to make the movement more strict and to add variety to your workouts. You can use a straight bar or an EZ Kurl Bar. With the E-Z Kurl, you can use a narrow or very wide grip that would be impossible to assume using a straight bar”

Jim Haislop, Mr. America

He was as big as Arnold Schwarzenegger and known for his back-width. His height was 5 foot 11, and he had 18 inches arms. He began bodybuilding in 1965, and after winning the competition “Mr. America” in 1968, he started writing a column called Mr. A Series.

He briefly summarized what he has learned and wrote articles about Posing, Chest training, and Biceps training. And again, the preacher bench curl seems to be the champion’s favorite when it comes to training the biceps.

For warming up, he performs two sets of alternate dumbbell curls while in a standing position. The first set is very light, usually around 45lb. (10 sets 9 reps). Haislop outlined his arm workout as follows:

He favored doing the “Incline Dumbbells Curls,” which he used to do on an incline of forty-five degrees from the floor. He did 6 – 8 reps.

Next, he did: E-Z Bar Curls, it’s important to keep your back straight. Now it comes to the Preacher Curls, as you might see, he’s using a special handle attached to a cable.

He wrote: “Cables from all angles, dumbbells and barbells can be employed while using the preacher bench. I favor a cable from a floor pully in this type of movement. When doing this exercise in the former manner the lower bicep is worked to its best advantage. If you do not have a special machine for this type of curl you will need a training partner to stand on the back of the preacher bench. This will prevent it from tipping over as you increase the weight.”

Further, he liked to finish his arm workout with “Dumbbell Concentration Curls.”

Bertil Fox, Mr. Universe

Bertil’s training method is quite unorthodox. I recently watched a Youtube video entitled “My meeting with Bertil Fox” uploaded by Ben Huellen. He’s a German bodybuilder and used to run a hard-core gym in the 80s. Bertil Fox toured through Europe to compete. One day, Bertil entered Ben Huellen’s Gym to train there.

Huellen remembers the day well, and according to him, Bertil’s training technique is just aggressive. He bounced and jerked the weights off the floor with force and never cared for the right technique.

“He trained like sh**. He trained every day, seven days a week, but with a bad technique. That guy had just great genetics.” – Ben Huellen

Bertil became worldwide famous, and a lot was printed on Bertil’s training methods. The magazine Muscle Mag International (Nov 1981) published an article to cover Bertil’s training routine.

According to the author, when Bertil first started training, he had the following measurements; he weighed 160 pounds and had an arms size of 12 1/2 inches. Two years later, his arm measured an amazing 18 1/2 inches! He used to train biceps and triceps twice a week. Bertil did three different super sets for them.

His first super set was:
1) Preacher Curl using a straight bar and
2) Triceps pulley pressdown using a straight bar and narrow grip.

His second super set was:
3) Standing alternate dumbbell curls and
4) Very close-grip triceps pushdowns with his upper body bent forward to a 45-degree angle.

Once again, the curls were done for 6 sets of 8 reps and the triceps exercise for 6 sets of 10 reps.

Bertil’s last super set consisted of:
5) One arm curls on an incline bench (his favorite exercise) and
6) Dumbbell triceps Kick Backs lying face down on 45-degree angle incline bench.

The curls and kickbacks were each done for 6 sets of 8 reps. According to the author, Bertil has been training like this for ten years. He always starts with Preacher Curls. Here is a list of exercises, which he loved to use:

1.Preacher Curls
2. Tricep Pushdowns
3. Incline DB Curls
4. Lying Tricep
5. One arm DB Curls on Incline Bench
6) Very close grip pushdown
7) Parallel Dips

Preacher Curl without a Bench?

I came across an old article entitled “Do Mackey Curls on The Low Pulley’ penned by Bob Green during my research. He used to train in a gym called THE GYM, and they developed an alternative for the preacher curl called “Mackey Curl.”

“Everyone here at THE GYM who has tried it won’t take it out of his routine, and it is so simple to do.” – Bob Green

I attached two pictures for you so that you can adapt that training method easily. They experimented with different Techniques (Standing, Sitting), Grip-Width, and angles. They came to a conclusion to use a low incline bench of about 30 – 40 degrees.

So, you can basically do the preacher bench without buying an additional apparatus. According to Bob Green, if you want to get the “Preacher Curl Effect,” you have to push your seat back up the low incline and angle the upper body forward a little. Now you can hit more lower biceps and even peak the forearms.

A gym member named Mel Parker used that Curl alternative with great success. Bob Green wrote: “He is a meat cutter by trade and photography and building bike are among his hobbies. Mel often has to lift many sides of beef into his store and then onto the preparation tables where his real craft comes into play. He has noticed more gripping and holding strength since adding this exercise to his arm routine”

Furthermore, it seems the author knew Dave Draper, Leroy Colbert, and so on. They used the preacher bench, but each used a different angle or developed an alternative. Mr. Green wrote: “Larry Scott used the Spider Bench with a Barbell and dumbbells with “burns” on the preacher bench. Dave Draper used a steep angled Preacher Bench and a close grip on a cambered bar. Dave and Leroy Colbert also used Low Incline Curls because of the extreme isolation throughout a full “range of Concentration Curl mostly due to their isolative factors.”

Frank Pfraumer “The Bench”

Frank Pfraumer was a benchpress super-star in Germany and obtained muscular arms. Even in Germany, he heard the legacy of Larry Scott and about the miracle arm exerciser Preacher Curl. His gym was lacking that apparatus, and so he started thinking about building his own Preacher Bench.

Frank wrote: “We had to improvise, we did Scott curls in a jump box: we hung a padding in it and had to climb into the box to perform the exercise. We fixed the pad, and it served as our Scott bench.”

Walter’s arm workout
1. Scottcurls or barbell curls with EZ bar 4-5 sets
2. Dumbbell curls alternating 3 sets
3. Spidercurls 3-4 Sets

So, you can perform the famous Scott Curl without a bench. Fraumer proved it and developed an arm size of 20″.

Ralf Möller, Mr. Germany (1983)

He was born in Germany and appeared in bodybuilding Magazines like Flex, Muscle Mag International, and Sport Revue. Those mags always give a great retrospective view of how the champions used to train. Ralf later developed a close friendship with Arnold.

I already covered Möller’s story and wrote an article entitled “Ralf Möller – Gladiator and Bodybuilder.” If you want to learn more about Ralf’s relation to Arnold Schwarzenegger, then the linked article is a must-read!

The Flex Magazine published an article in January 1988, which introduces Ralf Möller’s arm workout with a great black-and-white picture of him doing the famous Preacher Bench movement. He is using a dumbbell, which weighs around 50lb.

He experimented with many training techniques. As he started bodybuilding, he had only 15-inch upper arms. He later obtained an arm size of more than 20 inches. He won the title Mr. Germany and had the pleasure to compete at Mr. Olympia.

The Flex magazine provides six black-and-white pictures of Ralf training with great intensity. The photographer did a great job. Just by the look on Ralf’s face, you can see he is working past the pain barrier.

The article outlined Ralf’s arm workout as follows:               

1. Standing Alternate Dumbbell Curls 4 Sets 8-10 reps,

2. Barbell Preacher Curls 3-4 8-10 reps

3. Dumbbell Concentration Curls 3-4 sets 10-12 reps

 Note that he used to switch his routine. He learned that principle from Arnold and said: “Seven time Mr. Olympia Arnold Schwarzenegger advised me to change my routines relatively frequently as a means of shocking my upper-arm muscles into new growth.”

Arnold Schwarzenegger “THE KING”

Gabriel Wild and Schwarzenegger

Arnold started to train in a small village called Graz, and bodybuilding was unknown there. He later moved to Munich. At that time, the famous bodybuilder Reinhard Smolana was running a quite successful Gym. He was known for winning the title “Mr. Germany” at the age of 40, and he had the pleasure of meeting the young Schwarzenegger.

He published a bodybuilding book in 1982, and he has written that Schwarzenegger had no ideas what a “Super Set” was. The preacher bench curl is quite an American exercise, and probably he even never heard of it as he was training in Germany.

However, after winning the title “Mr. Universum” in England, he went to America and probably started experimenting with training methods and finally employed the Preacher Bench Curl.

The magazine “Iron Man” published a column called “The Training Philosophy of Arnold Schwarzenegger,” which was penned by John Balik.

Who is Balik? The Magazin “Iron Man” was owned by Peary Rader. It began publishing in 1936 and continued until 1986. The magazine continued to be published after being sold to John Balik. His friendship with Arnold stretches back to his first months in America. Balik’s article describes how Arnold trained in 1974 for Mr. Olympia.

According to him, he used the Preacher Bench Curl for eight reps, with four additional ½ movements. Now you would realize that the article is really authentic and not ghostwritten. As you might remember (if not, just scroll up), Jusup Wilkosz was trained by Arnold, and he did the Preacher Bench Curl in the same manner, as the article describes it, WITH ADDITIONAL ½ MOVEMENTS! Arnold did five sets.

John Balik finished describing Arnold’s arm workout as follows: “Forearms are next and he uses reverse barbell curls on the preacher bench super setted with barbell wrist curls with palms up. Five of those super sets are performed with a rep goal of 12-15”

I own Reinhard Smolana’s bodybuilding book, which was published in 1982, and there’s a picture on page 27. Arnold seems to be approximately 30 years old, and it’s unbelievable; he has never given up the preacher bench curl! He is sitting on that apparatus, fixing his huge arms on it, and Reinhard is keeping an eye on him.

Larry Scott, Mr. Olympia (1965)

Larry Scott made the exercise quite popular, and the magazine ‘Muscular Development’ (June 1965) published an article entitled ‘Watching Larry Scott Exercise His Arms.’

It’s just mind-blowing; the technique, angle, and method Larry used is just quite similar to how Arnold used to do it. The author of that article ‘Bill Kugler’ described Scott’s technique as follows:

“He begins his arm program with dumbbell curls. He keeps the elbows in fairly close while the dumbbells are somewhat wider. (..) Larry uses 60 pound dumbbells for six sets os six reps on this movement, finishing off with three half reps or “burns” after every set. This seems to peak up the biceps thoroughly.”

Wow, I have a strong feeling that Schwarzenegger read that article too, and since then never gave up performing the preacher curl in that way. If you don’t know how to perform those “half reps,” then just scroll up to the topic Jusup Wilkosz. I attached a Youtube video in which Schwarzenegger explains how to perform Preacher Curl like Larry Scott used to.

Moreover, I already published two great articles on Larry Scott, which describe his training in detail. I linked it below.

[The Golden Way Of Every Mr. Olympia Winner Since 1965]

Dennis Tinerino, Mr. Universum (1968)

The majority of Preacher Benches are constructed for taking a seat position, but this seems to be constructed for a standing position. Pictured is Dennis Tinerino, titleholder of Mr. Universum, and a close friend of Arnold. Dennis wrote an article on building huge arms, but unfortunately, he didn’t explain why he chose that kind of preacher bench.

Dennis wrote: “I like this movement because you can put a great deal of stress on the entire biceps and develop a complete muscle rather than the lumpy development that some bodybuilder have. I prefer doing this exercise with barbells, but I change off to dumbbells every so often to insure a complete development”

He outlined his favorite exercises as follows:

1# Preacher Curls
2# Dumbbell Incline Curls
3# Close Grip Barbell Curl
#4 Lying Dumbbell Curls

“Beginners should do 2 sets of each exercise from 6-10 reps. I do 5 sets of 6-10 reps. I have done may other biceps and triceps exercises but these have given me the best results.”

Robert Kennedy, Owner Of Muscle Mag

He developed a close partner and business with Schwarzenegger, Peary Rader, and basically the whole Fitness-Industry. He truly loved bodybuilding and published his own magazine named “MuscleMag International.” He covered the stories and training routines of great legends like Ronnie Coleman and Arnold.

Additionally, he met the inventor of the Scott Bench named Vince Gironda and sought answers for reaching bigger arms. According to Robert, the best biceps exercise is the preacher bench curl!

Kenndy wrote: “Don’t put the arm flat on the bench, bend it slightly. The bench is placed just below the sternum. Squeeze it at the top. Hold it. Lower! Up! Don’t bounce. Never bounce at the bottom on a Preacher curl. You don’t play around with biceps. Biceps are too small of a muscle to do any type of negative work on, believe me. Never do 2 or 3 reps in the barbell curl. Don’t do heavy reps. Never do heavy reps in the Barbell curl. I would say never do less than 8! You’re young now you can get away with it.”

Dennis B Weiß

Dennis B Weis

He is a gentleman, and he answered all my emails regarding bodybuilding history. He used to work for Iron Man Magazine and Robert Kennedy in the ’70s and ’80s. He authored best-seller books like “Mass!”, “Muscle & Fitness”, “Anabolic Muscle Mass” and “Powerlift Manual”. Also, he’s running a great website entitled dennisbweis.com

He met Vince Gironda in person and learned from him how to practice Preacher Curl the right way. Dennis loved doing the preacher bench, and he did it for a long time. But he developed elbow problems and didn’t manage to form the biceps into a round look. He searched for help, and asked the Fitness Guru Vince Gironda.

Dennis wrote: “I checked with Vince regarding my problems and he said that the proper way to use the PREACHER BENCH is place it so that the top is 3” lower than you low pectoral line. It worked GREAT this way. I developed a nice round biceps and eliminated elbow hyperextension due to the fact that the elbows were in contact with the bench in this new position.

My poundages in the Scott Curl increased using this new position. Sets of 10-12 reps with 140 lbs. at a bodyweight of 215 lbs. were comfortable.”

Conclusion

During my research, I found a lot more bodybuilders who used the preacher curl: Chris Dickerson, Karl Kainrath, Sergio Oliva, Chuck Sipes, Dave Draper, Bill Pettis, Paul Love, Superstar Billy Graham, Mike Quinn, etc. Basically everyone in that industry used it, the list seems to be endless.

Thanks to Larry Scott for making it quite popular and changing lives of many bodybuilders. Thanks to Vince Gironda for constructing it, and thanks to all bodybuilding magazines that documented everything so well, alongside those beautiful black and white pictures.

Choose your favorite “bodybuilding character” and try to adopt their principles into your training routine.

Good luck with building huge arms!

2 thoughts on “Preacher Curl – Every Champion Used It – Here’s HOW!”

  1. Good article; however you left out one crucial detail. Gironda got the idea of the preacher bench while learning to be a trainer at the Easton brothers gym in the LA area. It still exists, apparently. But I give Vince a lot of credit because he came up with a lot of interesting exercises/machines or adopted them from elsewhere. Either way he’s the one that did that. I consider Him the equal of Arthur Jones is the most important minds in training. Vinces equipment designs are still available on Larry Scott’s website.

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  2. Great article, Scott,s arms are proof of the PB as an exercise. John Balik ruined Iron Man magazine and destroyed Peary Rader’s 50 yr legacy. Vince’s ideas have proved to be correct on nutrition and exercise. Bob Kennedy’s magazine was good as was muscular development. John Grimek was the greatest ever.

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