If you've been looking to blast your biceps, you've no doubt heard of the preacher curl. 

But what happens if you don’t have a preacher curl available to you in the gym or at home, or don't want to perform it?

In this guide, you’ll discover the number 1 preacher curl alternative and many others you can perform at home without needing a preacher curl bench. 

While the preacher curl is a fantastic bicep builder, sometimes it’s impossible to perform the exercise in your gym or at home. 

If you find yourself searching for an alternative, here’s a list of 10 of the best alternatives to preacher curls that’ll stimulate your biceps and forearms into growth. 

1. Wall Curls (Preacher Curls For At Home)

Man Doing Wall Curl Exercise

Wall curls are one of the hardest bicep exercises to perform due to the strict movement pattern it creates. To put it simply, the wall curl is when you perform a bicep curl with your back against the wall... who’d have guessed it? 

Not only does the wall curl serve as an excellent substitute for preacher curls, but it also offers additional wall sit benefits such as targeting your lower body, particularly the quads, hamstrings, and glutes.

Back when I was a teenager training in my parents spare room, I used this method to train my biceps. I've since switched to the preacher curl, but if I can't get on the preacher curl bench, I'll do these.


  • You only need dumbbells.
  • Works your biceps through a huge range of motion.

How to perform it: 

  1. Pick up either dumbbells, barbell, or EZ Bar, and stand with your back flush against a sturdy wall.
  2. Push your elbows inwards so they’re close to your back.
  3. Perform a bicep curl, as usual, squeezing your biceps at the top of the movement.
  4. Slowly lower the weight and repeat.

Tips From A Trainer!

  • Don't go too heavy at the start, you want to keep the wall curls as strict and as controlled as possible.  

2. Sitting Dumbbell Curls (Preacher Curl Alternative Without A Bench)

Man Doing Sitting Dumbbell Curls In The Gym

If you want the perfect alternative for preacher curls, the sitting dumbbell curl is the one for you. As you’re in a seated position, it’ll prevent you from swaying too much.

However, there is still a small amount of sway, so you should be able to lift a heavier load in theory.

Some of my clients have said this places less strain on their lower back (possibly due to the reduced swinging motion). So it might be a good preacher curl substitute if you have lower back issues.


  • Prevents swaying.
  • Isolates your biceps.

How to perform it: 

  1. Set a bench upright or grab a chair if you don’t have a bench available in your home gym.
  2. Pick up a set of dumbbells and hold them at your sides.
  3. Sit on the bench/chair, letting your arms hang at your sides.
  4. Tuck your arms at your sides and curl the dumbbells upward.
  5. Squeeze your biceps at the top of the movement rotating the dumbbells, so your little finger turns inwards.
  6. Slowly lower the weight until the arms are straight and the biceps are fully stretched.
  7. Repeat the movement until your set is completed.

Tips From A Trainer!

  • Twist your hands inward at the bottom of the movement to fully lengthen the biceps; I always find this increases the range of motion during the exercise. 

3. Incline Dumbbell Curls 

Woman Doing Incline Dumbbell Curls

This barbell preacher curl alternative is a seated dumbbell curl with the bench placed at an incline rather than upright.

The bench is placed roughly between straight up and completely flat (Usually 2-3 pin positions from upright). 

The incline position increases the difficulty allowing no swinging movement to occur. Another benefit of the incline dumbbell curl is that it changes the way gravity acts on the bicep, increasing the work done by the bicep.

It's one of my favorite preacher curl variations and always gives me a brilliant pump.


  • Prevents swinging.
  • Works your biceps through a wide range of motion.
  • Isolates your biceps.

How to perform it: 

  1. Set a bench up at around 135 degrees (between upright and flat).
  2. Pick up a pair of dumbbells and sit on the bench with your back pressed against the back pad.
  3. Let your arms hang entirely straight.
  4. Curl the dumbbells upwards and squeeze the dumbbells at the top of the movement.
  5. Ensure the elbow doesn’t move too much.
  6. Slowly control the weight downwards, and repeat.

Tips From A Trainer!

  • For an added challenge, slow the negative phase of each rep down. I love performing this preacher curl substitute using a 2 seconds up and 4 seconds down timing. 

4. Prone Incline Curl 

Man Doing Prone Incline Curl

The prone incline curl looks extremely similar to the spider curl (which you’ll see in a moment); however, the movement is entirely different.  

During this preacher curl alternative, you lift the dumbbell across your body, which targets the outer head of the biceps (long head).  

This is one of the strictest preacher curl variations on this list and while all ability levels can do this exercise, I think intermediate to advanced lifters will get the most from it.


  • Extremely strict movement.
  • Isolates your biceps.
  • Uses a huge range of motion.

How to perform it: 

  1. Set a bench to 45 degrees.
  2. Lie on your front with your chest placed against the top of the bench.
  3. Holding two dumbbells, let them hang so your arm is straight.
  4. Curl one dumbbell upwards and across your body.
    E.g., your left arm will curl across to your right shoulder.
  5. Slowly lower and repeat with the opposite arm.

Tips From A Trainer!

  • Super set this movement with incline dumbbell rows (for your lats). This super set is one of my favorite all time combos that'll leave your arms feeling (and looking) like Popeye's. 

5. Single Incline Bench Curl 

Man Doing Single Incline Bench Curls In The Gym

This dumbbell preacher curl alternative is excellent if you don’t have a preacher curl bench available, allowing you to use a regular bench to support your arm during the movement.  

During this preacher curl substitute, you get all the benefits of the preacher curl without needing to have access to the equipment. 

Which I think is pretty awesome, considering that most gyms only have one preacher curl and it's ALWAYS busy. 


  • Great for all ability levels.
  • Doesn't require a preacher bench.

How to perform it: 

  1. Set a bench press to 45 degrees.
  2. Grab one dumbbell and place the back of one arm against the bench.
  3. Curl the dumbbell up toward your face, squeezing the biceps hard.
  4. Straighten the arm fully and repeat until your set is completed.
  5. Swap arms and repeat.

Tips From A Trainer!

  • Mix your grip up on this preacher curl substitute. I always perform a 2-3 sets with an underhand grip, 2-3 sets with a hammer grip, and 2-3 reverse grip. Doing so works your biceps and forearms from multiple positions.  

6. Spider Curl

Man Doing Dumbbell Spider Curls

The spider curl is pretty similar to the preacher curl as your arms are placed at roughly the same angle as they would be during the preacher. 

However, your upper arms are relatively free, so the movement isn’t as strict as the preacher curl.

As your arms are starting from a dead hang, your biceps need to move the weight through a large range of motion during each rep.

By doing so, you'll stimulate your biceps that extra little bit. You'll also notice there is a constant tension on your biceps... there's no escaping during this movement.

If you are unable to perform the spider curl exercise due to wrist discomfort or limited equipment availability, there are spider curl alternative exercises that can effectively target and strengthen your biceps. 


  • Provides constant bicep tension.
  • Uses a wide range of motion.

How to perform it: 

  1. Set a bench to 45 degrees.
  2. Lie against the bench press on your front (place your chest at the top of the bench).
  3. Let your arms hang while holding two dumbbells.
  4. Curl the dumbbell upward toward your chest.
  5. Slowly lower and straighten the arms.
  6. Repeat for several reps.

Tips From A Trainer!

  • Try to keep your reps as controlled as possible to ensure your biceps are doing all of the work. The last thing you want is to be swinging your shoulders as you'll miss out on bicep gains. 

7. Dumbbell Concentration Curl 

Man Doing Dumbbell Concentration Curls

The dumbbell concentration curl is probably the closest dumbbell preacher curl alternative there is. It’s ideal for anyone who doesn’t have the equipment to perform a preacher curl in their home gym.  

During the dumbbell concentration curl, your leg minimizes the movement your arm can do, placing the entire load on the biceps. As the movement is extremely strict, making it difficult to “cheat” during your set.  

Another major reason I love this substitute for the preacher curl is because it's a unilateral movement, so you can train each arm equally without developing muscular imbalances. 


  • Irons out muscular imbalances.
  • Doesn't require much equipment.
  • Great for beginners.
  • How to perform it: 

    1. Sit on a bench or chair with your legs placed open with knees at 90 degrees to the floor.
    2. Pick up a dumbbell.
    3. Place your arm inside your leg with your elbow against your inner leg.
    4. Let your arm hang downwards, so your bicep is elongated.
    5. Curl the dumbbell upwards, squeezing your bicep at the top of the movement.
    6. Lower the dumbbell slowly until the arm is fully stretched again.
    7. Repeat.

    Tips From A Trainer!

    • Use a lighter weight than you would for regular dumbbell curls. You'll be surprised by how challenging this preacher curl substitute is.

    8. Cable Concentration Curl 

    Man Doing Cable Concentration Curl In The Gym

    This preacher curl substitute is almost identical to the regular concentration curl, but you use a cable instead of a dumbbell with one significant difference.  

    Using a cable challenges the bicep differently as it applies constant tension to the biceps throughout the entire movement.

    You'll need a cable machine for this one, so if you don't have access to one, perform the dumbbell version instead.


    • Provides constant tension.
    • Uses a large range of motion.

    How to perform it: 

    1. Set the handle on the cable machine to its lowest level.
    2. Place a bench or seat next to the machine.
    3. Sit on the bench with the handle placed between your feet.
    4. Pick up the handle and place your elbow on the inside of your leg.
    5. Curl the handle upwards, squeezing your biceps hard at the top of the movement.
    6. Slowly lower and repeat.

    Tips From A Trainer!

    • If you're on the go and don't have access to a cable machine or preacher curl, you can perform this preacher curl alternative using a resistance band. 

    9. Wide-Grip Barbell Bicep Curl 

    Man Doing Wide Grip Barbell Curls

    The wide-grip barbell bicep curl is one of the first bicep exercises you undoubtedly performed when you first started working out.

    It’s a fantastic biceps developer and has proven to activate more muscle fibers than the dumbbell.[1]  

    During this barbell preacher curl alternative, the wider grip moves the focus to the short head of the bicep (inner biceps), so if you find you're lacking size in that area, they're ideal for you. 

    I love this exercise as you can place quite a lot of weight on the barbell and overload your biceps. But keep in mind that you should focus on using good form over heavy weight.


    • You can overload your biceps.
    • Focuses on your inner bicep head (short head).

    How to perform it: 

    1. Pick up a barbell with your hands supinated (facing away from you).
    2. Stand up straight with your arms at your sides.
    3. Keeping your arms at your sides, curl the barbell up toward your chest.
    4. Squeeze your biceps and slowly lower the barbell.
    5. Repeat.

    Tips From A Trainer!

    • If you have writs issues, you can perform this exercise with EZ curl bar. The curved bar will place your wrists in a more comfortable position with reduced strain. 

    10. Floor Curls 

    Man Doing Floor Cable Curls

    When it comes to alternatives to preacher curls, the floor curl is excellent for bicep development.  

    The exercise is relatively similar to the wall curl, except you’re lying on the floor. However, you need to use a cable machine to create tension in the biceps during this movement.

    Due to this, you can adjust the angle of the cable to alter the angle of the bicep curl.  

    Although the angle of the cable doesn’t make a huge difference, it’s nice being able to work the biceps through various angles.  


    • Provides constant tension.
    • Uses a wide range of motion. 
    • Isolates your biceps.

    How to perform it: 

    1. Set a cable machine with the handle placed anywhere between your waist height and floor level.
    2. Attach a bar handle to the cable.
    3. Hold the bar and lie down (feet towards the cable machine).
    4. Place your arms flat to the floor and tuck your elbows in.
    5. Curl the bar towards your chest and slowly return to the starting position.
    6. Repeat this movement to finish your set.

    Tips From A Trainer!

    • Don't position the cable too low. You don't want it to hit areas where the sun doesn't shine... do you? 

    What Muscles Do Preacher Curl Substitutes Work?

    Biceps Brachii 

    The biceps are made up of two smaller muscles: 

    • Long Head
      The long head of the biceps is responsible for the “peak” of the biceps, giving it more height when you flex.
    • Short Head
      The short head of the biceps gives your biceps the width and thickness; you don’t want to neglect this area.

    Both the long and short heads can be worked during the preacher curl. Simply adjust your hand placement, and a wider grip works your short head, while a close grip works your long head. 

    Anterior Deltoids 

    The anterior deltoids are located at the front of your shoulders, and they are worked during the bicep curl; however, during the preacher curl, they aren’t. This is due to the preacher curl bench placing the load entirely on your biceps and forearms. 

    Forearm Muscles

    During the preacher curl, the forearms are required to grip and help stabilize the barbell or dumbbell. This makes the preacher curl a great forearm builder. 

    Man in White Looking at Biceps

    Benefits Of Preacher Curls & Similar Exercises

    The preacher curl involves resting your triceps against an angled bench to help control the bicep curl movement, preventing swinging from occurring.  

    It's suitable for most ability ranges and benefits anybody looking to develop thick-looking biceps and forearms. Legendary bodybuilder Larry Scott famously developed god-like arms that no other bodybuilders could compete with.[2 

    The main benefits to preacher curls include: 

    • Improved Control
      The movement is incredibly strict; no momentum is generated from swinging the barbell, which helps increase muscle recruitment. 
    • Isolates The Bicep
      If you want to build your biceps, you want the weight to load your biceps directly. Isolating the biceps prevents other muscles from assisting the biceps in shifting the weight. 
    • Increased Negative Movement Focus
      The preacher curl allows you to focus on the movement’s negative portion, which enhances muscle growth. 
    • It’s Comfortable
      The movement feels great; need I say more?

    Personally, I find the preacher curl far superior to the standing bicep curl.  

    How To Make Your Own Preacher Curl Bench At Home

    If you enjoy building your own gym equipment, you’ll definitely want to create a preacher curl. The steps below are a brief outline of how to make your own preacher curl bench at home.

    1. Collect all the materials you’ll need for your home preacher curl bench, such as wood (2x4), screws, nuts & bolts, plywood, sponge or foam, and material for the seat and pads.
    2. Ensure you have all the correct equipment: Saws, hammer, power tools, etc.
    3. Start by cutting the wooden (2x4) into two long pieces to form the base. Then cut two uprights per side to give the bench some height.
    4. Construct the seat part of the preacher curl using the wooden 2x4.
    5. Build another vertical section along with a 30-degree angle tilting towards the seating area. This forms the back pad for your arms.
    6. Build a platform for the barbell to rest on between sets.
    7. Add plywood to the frame to form the seating area and a solid base for the arm pad.
    8. Apply the sponge or foam material to the plywood and attach the finishing material, e.g., leather or soft material.
    9. Ensure all parts are fixed and form a solid construction before using the preacher curl bench.

    Frequently Asked Preacher Curl Questions

    Can you do preacher curls without a bench? 

    Yes, the easiest way to preacher curl without a bench is to use your legs to support the back of your arms. This is known as the concentration curl.

    Why are preacher curls bad? 

    No, preacher curls aren't bad. So long as you’re using good form, the preacher curl is a brilliant exercise for building the biceps. 

    Why is the preacher curl so hard? 

    The preacher curl is hard because it's an extremely strict movement. By placing your triceps on a pad, you can’t cheat any of the reps or use momentum to help curl the dumbbell or barbell.  This places all of the force through your biceps.


    Even though the preacher curl is an excellent movement to increase the size and strength of your biceps, there are many other alternatives available to you.  

    The list above is 10 of the best preacher curl variations you can perform in your home gym. Combine a couple of these alternatives to fill your t-shirts with impressive-looking arms.  

    Next time someone asks you "which way to the beach," you can show them with your god-like arms. 




    Lee Kirwin

    Lee Kirwin

    Lee has worked in the fitness industry for over 15 years. He's trained hundreds of clients and knows his way around the gym, including what you need for your garage gym. When he's not testing products, he loves weightlifting, Ju Jitsu, writing, and gaming.