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Why Is It Called A Preacher Curl?

Just because I teach a class at a local Crossfit gym, people get the idea that I know anything about exercise and weight lifting. I’m happy to answer questions whenever I can, but most of the questions I get are not what I expect. What I expect is “How do I get bigger arms?” Something that caught me off guard recently, however, was “Why is it called a preacher curl?”

I had to think for a moment before I even knew the movement he was talking about. But then it all came flooding back.

As I wrote in my post about strange stories from the gym, people get all sorts of silly ideas when they start doing curls. Biceps curls, hamstring curls, seated curls, standing curls, and whatever insane variant the latest magazines are pushing. And most of these exercises have fairly commonplace, explicable names. But as far as the preacher curl–you will trip over someone doing preacher curls in every inch of my gym–the name does not quite make sense to me.

Before we start speculating, the most common explanation I am seeing is that the top of the movement looks like someone praying. I don’t know how you pray, or if, but Branch Warren repping out with a zillion pounds does not look like a preacher praying to me. Maybe he slips into a bit of a zen state, but the piety is lacking–which is okay, it’s probably best to leave it at home when you go work out.

It’s not like it matters. And it brings up an interesting point: it is so much easier to ask questions than to take action. It is easier to read a bodybuilding magazine or watch a video of Branch and say “I’m doing research. This is the important part” when we should just be experimenting at the gym and trying stuff out.

I’m a librarian and I make my living answering questions, so this is not a call for less curiosity or diminished inquisitiveness. Only that if you are asking more than you are lifting, your results are not going to be optimal. Try to answer your questions after your workouts, pull data out of the training log you should be keeping, and don’t get bent out of shape if whoever you ask does not have an obvious answer.

I only mention that because the guy who asked me this question got a little agitated when I couldn’t tell him, definitely, how this curl got it’s name!


Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Andrew September 8, 2011, 4:53 am

    Haha! I had this question this morning! I oddly enough gave the same answer you did. Thats the only thing that “made sense” in the name. But, my client didnt get mad when i said ” i really dont know for sure, ill look it up.” and im still lost in the sauce.

    • Josh Hanagarne September 8, 2011, 10:02 am

      Andrew, you can tell her that you now have a librarian-approved definition.

  • newton December 27, 2011, 9:05 am

    its because it looks like your reaching over a pulpit curling the preacher up by his collar when he makes you mad. lol

    • Josh Hanagarne December 27, 2011, 10:32 am

      That is the best answer of all time. Consider it legalized from now on.

  • eric April 6, 2012, 10:07 am

    it’s because it looks as though a preacher is calling people towards the pulpit. A “come here” hand gesture. I’m a Christian and never knew the bicep curl was also called the preacher curl. Pretty cool.