Cable Bicep Curls: 9 Variations To Blast Your Biceps

Use this guide to add the cable machine to your arm days and blast those biceps.

Cable Bicep Curls

Cable Machine

Cable bicep curls are biceps-focused exercises performed between two cable stacks, strengthening your biceps almost better than any other biceps exercise. Here are 9 variations:

  1. Standing single arm cable bicep curls
  2. Hammer cable bicep curls
  3. Seated concentration cable bicep curls
  4. Reverse bicep cable curls
  5. Cable rope bicep curls
  6. High cable curls
  7. Spider Bicep Cable Curls
  8. Lying Cable Curls
  9. Preacher Cable Curls

This is Cable Bicep Curls: 9 Variations To Blast Your Biceps.

In this article I am going to go over everything you need to know about cable bicep curls.

The Cable Bicep Curl, also known as Standing Bicep Cable Curl, is an arms exercise that uses cables and tension to target the biceps brachii which includes the long head bicep, short head bicep, and brachialis.

Cable Bicep Curls are an effective bicep exercise that can be performed with several different variations including Standing Cable Bicep Curls, Single Arm Cable Bicep Curls, Reverse Cable Bicep Curls, Cable Rope Bicep Curls, and Spider Cable Bicep Curls.

What Muscles Are Used In Cable Bicep Curls

The Cable Bicep Curl is an extremely effective exercise for targeting and activating your biceps brachii, which is made up of two bicep heads: short head bicep and long head bicep.

The short head bicep is on your outer upper arm and is responsible for the tall round part of your bicep known as the bicep peak. The short head bicep’s growth is crucial to having big biceps that look great and have a great shape. The long head bicep is on your inner arm and is what gives your bicep its width and girth. These two bicep heads are the main beneficiary of Cable Bicep Curl exercises, along with a handful of other smaller muscles that also get activated when performing cable curls.

Cable Bicep Curls also engage the brachialis, forearms, deltoids, and core. The brachialis and forearms get activated as a direct result of the cable curl movement, while your deltoids and core help to stabilize your upper body as you lift the weight up and down.

Benefits Of The Cable Bicep Curl

It is important to have strong biceps for the functional benefits that come with it. The bicep and the muscles surrounding the bicep are what allow you to lift, rotate, and turn your arm. Without strong biceps you will have a more difficult time lifting heavy things and making ordinary day to day movements. Your bicep is also important in the flexion of your elbow, which allows your forearm to have a full range of motion. Without strong biceps picking up a baby or loaded suitcase will become a much more difficult task that may also result in injury.

Strong Biceps also provide a physical benefit to your appearance. Well shaped biceps give your arms a much more healthy and appealing look, while also helping your clothes to look better on your body. When your t-shirt sleeves begin to fit more snug around your biceps you can look back on all your time spent doing Dumbbell Curls, EZ Bar Curls, Straight Bar Curls, and Cable Bicep Curls, and know that it all paid off.

How To Do A Standing Bicep Cable Curl

Although Cable Bicep Curls can be done with a number of variations, when someone says cable curls they are typically referring to Standing Bicep Cable Curls done with a straight bar.

How To Do Cable Bicep Curls:

  1. Adjust the pulley to the lowest position on the pole, and attach a straight bar attachment to the pulley.
  2. Pick up the straight bar with both hands and stand tall and straight with your eyes facing forwards towards the cable machine.
  3. Keep your feet shoulder width apart and your grip roughly shoulder width apart as well. Stand 30cm to 45cm (12”-18”) away from the cable machine.
  4. Keep your elbows tucked tightly against your side and slowly begin to curl the bar towards your chest. Control the weight and feel the tension in your bicep throughout the movement.
  5. When you get to the top of the lift, pause to squeeze and completely contract your bicep.
  6. When you start to lower the weight, continue to do so slowly and under control. Your bicep should feel the tension of the weight during the entire movement.
  7. Once you have reached the bottom of the lift do not lock your elbows. Keep your elbows bent and keep the weight from touching the weight stack. During cable curls you want to maintain tension in your biceps throughout the entire duration of the lift.
  8. Repeat until failure.

How To Make Cable Bicep Curls Easier Or Harder

How To make Cable Bicep Curls Easier:

  • Step closer to the cable machine
  • Lower the weight being used
  • Move the height of the pulley up to change the angle

How To make Cable Bicep Curls Harder:

  • Step further away from the machine
  • Add weight
  • Increase the amount of reps and sets
  • Superset Cable Bicep Curls with another exercise such as dumbbell curls or preacher curls

9 Variations Of The Cable Bicep Curl

Although Standing Bicep Cable Curls are the standard cable curl exercise, there is also a range of effective cable curl variations that you can incorporate into your bicep workout routine to enhance your results and performance.

How To Do A Standing Single Arm Cable Bicep Curl

  1. Lower the pulley to the lowest setting on the pole and attach a single handle to the cable.
  2. Pick up the handle with an underhand supinated grip and lift the weight off the stack to create tension.
  3. Stand tall and straight, with your eyes looking forward and feet shoulder width apart while standing 30cm to 45cm (12”-18”) away from the cable machine.
  4. If you are doing standing one arm cable bicep curls with your left arm, then make sure your left leg is near the front of the cable pulley.
  5. Begin to curl the handle towards your chest. Turn your hand out slowly as you progress through the curl, so at the top of the lift your palm is facing the ceiling.
  6. At the top of the lift, pause to squeeze and contract your bicep before you begin to lower the weight.
  7. Lower the weight slowly and maintain tension in your bicep throughout the movement.
  8. Do not lock your elbow at the bottom of the movement, keep your elbow bent and maintain tension on the cable.
  9. Repeat until failure with one arm, and then switch to the other.

How To Do A Hammer Cable Bicep Curl

  1. This exercise does not need an attachment for the pulley. Simply lower the pulley to the lowest setting on the pole.
  2. Turn around so that you are facing away from the cable machine. Grab the pulley with one hand and grip it below the rubber ball, so that the rubber ball is on top of your curled thumb and pointer finger.
  3. Stand tall with your back straight and towards the cable machine. Lean slightly forward and keep your feet firmly planted on the ground, shoulder width apart.
  4. Begin to curl the cable up towards your shoulder, with your palm facing inwards as you could during a hammer dumbbell curl.
  5. Pause at the top of the lift to squeeze and contract your bicep.
  6. Lower the weight slowly and maintain tension on the cable throughout the lift.
  7. Do not lock your elbow at the bottom of the movement, keep your elbow bent and maintain tension on the cable.
  8. Repeat until failure with one arm, and then switch to the other.

How To Do A Seated Concentration Cable Bicep Curl

  1. Lower the pulley to the lowest setting on the pole and attach a single handle to the cable.
  2. Move a flat bench or chair to the front of the cable machine and position it about 45cm (18”) away from the cable. Find a comfortable position that works for you depending on your height and preference.
  3. Sit down on the bench or chair and with one hand proceed to pick up the handle with an underhand supinated grip.
  4. Bend at the waist while seated, and position your elbow onto the inside of your thigh. To work your right bicep, your right elbow will be pressed up against the inside of your right thigh, and vice versa for the left.
  5. Keep your elbow pressed up against your leg and pull the cable slowly towards your chest/chin.
  6. Pause at the top of the lift to squeeze and contract your bicep.
  7. Lower the weight slowly and maintain tension on the cable throughout the lift.
  8. Do not lock your elbow at the bottom of the movement, keep your elbow bent and maintain tension on the cable.
  9. Repeat until failure with one arm, and then switch to the other.

How To Do A Reverse Bicep Cable Curl

  1. Adjust the pulley to the lowest position on the pole, and attach an EZ bar or straight bar to the pulley.
  2. Pick up the bar with both hands using an overhand pronated grip, so your palms are facing the floor. Your grip should be shoulder width apart or slightly wider. Stand straight and tall with your eyes facing forwards towards the cable machine. Stand with your feet shoulder width apart and take a 30cm to 45cm (12”-18”) step away from the cable machine.
  3. Be sure to keep your elbows stuck to your side throughout the entire movement up and down. Your elbows should be near or touching your ribs or lower lats.
  4. Reverse curl the bar up towards your shoulders. Pause at the top of the lift to squeeze your biceps.
  5. Slowly lower the bar back down to the starting position. Maintain tension on the cable throughout the curl.
  6. Repeat until failure.

How To Do Cable Rope Bicep Curls

  1. Adjust the pulley to the lowest position on the pole, and attach a rope attachment to the pulley.
  2. Pick up the rope attachment with both hands with a palms-in grip. Stand straight and tall with your eyes facing forwards towards the cable machine.
  3. Keep your feet shoulder width apart and stand 30cm to 45cm (12”-18”) away from the cable machine.
  4. Be sure to keep your elbows stuck to your side throughout the entire movement up and down. Do not swing and use your back or torso to help you through the lift. If you are swinging and cheating, lower the weight.
  5. Begin to curl the rope slowly up towards your chest and face.
  6. When you reach the top of the pump, turn your hands outwards and contract your bicep completely.
  7. Slowly lower the weight down to the starting position, however do not lock your elbows. Keep your elbow bent and pressed against your side to maintain tension on the cable.
  8. Repeat until failure.

How To Do A High Cable Curl

  1. For this exercise you’ll need two cables, so find a cable crossover or functional cable machine.
  2. Adjust the pulleys on both sides to a height about 10cm-15cm (4”- 6”) above your shoulder height and put a handle attachment on each pulley.
  3. Grab one handle with one hand and then walk to the other side of the crossover cable machine to grab the other cable. You should be using an underhand supinated grip, with your palms facing the ceiling.
  4. Walk to the center of the machine, so that your arms are stretched evenly in both directions. Your body should look like a “T”.
  5. Keep your elbows, shoulders, and torso in place while you simultaneously curl both handles inwards towards your head.
  6. When you have completed the curl and your hands are near your head, pause to squeeze your biceps.
  7. Slowly lower the weight back towards the starting position. Do not lock your elbows, instead keep your elbows bent and maintain tension on the cable throughout the lift.
  8. Repeat until failure.

How To Do Spider Bicep Cable Curls

  1. In order to do a Spider Cable Curl you will need to find an incline bench that you can move over to the cable machine.
  2. Place the incline bench about 30cm to 40cm (12”-16”) from the cable machine, and position it so that the incline bench is facing away. This means the head of the bench should be closest to the cables, with the seat furthest away. Adjust the incline on the bench to approx. 60°.
  3. Adjust the pulley to the lowest position on the pole, and attach a straight bar or EZ bar attachment to the pulley.
  4. You may need to grip the bar before you sit down, or if you have a workout partner you can have them pass you the bar once you are in position.
  5. Lay down on the incline bench, with your stomach pressed against the backrest so that you are facing the cable machine and your arms are hanging down from each side of the bench. Your head should be above the end of the backrest, with the backrest finishing at the middle or top of your chest.
  6. Grip the bar with an underhand supinated grip and let your arms hang down fully extended with tension on the cable.
  7. Begin to slowly curl the bar up towards your face and shoulders. Pause at the top of the lift to squeeze your bicep. Keep your elbows tucked in.
  8. Slowly lower the weight downwards towards the ground, while constantly maintaining tension on the cable throughout the movement.
  9. Do not lock your elbows at the bottom movement. Keep your elbows bent.
  10. Repeat until failure.

Note: See our full article on How to Do Spider Curls with dumbbells, barbells, and EZ bars.

How To Do Lying Cable Curls

  1. This exercise can be done on the floor, or on a cable machine in the section that you would usually do seated rows. We will explain how to do Lying Cable Curls while sitting on the seated row bench.
  2. Connect a straight bar or EZ bar attachment to the pulley on the seated row cable machine.
  3. Place your feet on the foot rests, or if the bench is too short you can place your feet on the frame of the cable machine.
  4. Grip the bar with an underhand supinated grip and lay straight back on the bench so that your back and shoulders are flush against the bench.
  5. Keep your feet planted, torso steady, and elbows tight as you curl the bar up towards your head. Continue to keep your back firmly pressed against the bench, laying down.
  6. Pause at the top of the lift to squeeze your biceps, and then slowly begin to lower the weight to the starting position.
  7. Maintain tension on the cable as you slowly low the bar back to the starting position. Do not lock your elbows, instead make sure your elbows always have a slight bend at the bottom of the lift. Keep your back flat on the bench throughout all repetitions.
  8. Repeat until failure.

How To Do Preacher Cable Curls

  1. Bring the preacher bench over to the cable machine and set it directly in front of the pulley. The pulley should be set to the lowest setting, or somewhere near the bottom if it’s a more comfortable angle for you.
  2. Attach a preacher bar to the pulley. You may need to grip the bar before you go behind the preacher’s bench, or you may be able to have a spotter pass it to you once you are in position.
  3. Grip the preacher bar with an underhand supinated grip at a width that is comfortable for you. A wider grip on the bar will more effectively target your short head bicep, while a more narrow grip will activate your long head bicep.
  4. Plant your elbows firmly onto the preacher bench and begin to curl the preacher bar up towards your face. Maintain a slow and controlled movement throughout the lift.
  5. Once you reach the top of the lift, pause to squeeze your bicep before releasing the weight downwards.
  6. Release the weight slowly and maintain the tension on the cable as you move the weight downwards.
  7. Do not lock your elbows at the bottom of the movement. Keep your elbows bent and maintain tension in the cable while stretching your bicep.
  8. Repeat until failure.

How To Do Resistance Band Bicep Curls At Home

If you cannot get into a gym because it is closed, or you are travelling, you can still use a resistance band to have an effective bicep workout.

To use a resistance band to do bicep curls, simply trap one side of the band below the bottom of your foot, and grip the other side with one or both of your hands.

With this technique you can perform single arm bicep curls, double arm bicep curls, 21s, reverse curls, and cross body curls.

Mistakes To Avoid When Performing The Cable Bicep Curl

Dropping The Weights

The main benefit of using cables to do bicep curls is that the cables provide a constant tension in the bicep throughout the range of motion. Lifting the weights upwards is only one half of the exercise, and ignoring the downward motion would be to waste a major opportunity to grow your biceps even more.

When lowering the weight back down to starting position, do so in a slow and controlled manner that allows you to maintain tension on the cable and in your bicep throughout the entire duration of the lift. Make the most of every moment in the gym, do not do cheat curls or take shortcuts!

Flapping Your Elbows

Keep your elbows tight and tucked in to your sides! Bad form is a killer when it comes to gym exercises. Bad form not only negatively impacts your results and progress, but it can also lead to injuries that keep you out of the gym.

When doing any variation of cable bicep curls make sure to keep your elbows locked in place and tight to your body in order to achieve maximum results. Do not let your elbows start to move away from your body, so that they are flapping out like a crazy chicken.

Range Of Motion

Be sure to complete the entire range of motion when you are doing cable curls. Extend your arms all the way out when you are in the starting position, and make sure you totally squeeze and contract your bicep when you reach the top of the lift.

Remember not to lock your elbows on the way down! When you are at the bottom of the lift, preparing for the next repetition, maintain a slight bend in your elbow so you maintain good tension and bicep stretch.

Swinging Your Body

Dumbbell curls allow lifters to swing, cheat, and move their body throughout the lift, which is detrimental to bicep growth. Cable curls are a fantastic bicep exercise ONLY if you are able to maintain control of your torso, shoulders, and back. Keeping your body still while you complete your cable bicep curls will allow you to correctly perform the exercise, which will then lead to greater bicep growth and faster results.

Slow Down!

Cable bicep curls are meant to be completed in a slow, controlled manner. Do not complete cable curls with high speed and swinging motions. Control the weight, complete the movement slowly, and feel the burn in your biceps.

Tips For Cable Bicep Curls

3 Sets Of 8-12 Reps

When doing Cable Bicep Curls aim to do 3 sets with 8 to 12 reps each. Cable Bicep Curls are not an exercise that needs to be performed using heavy weights. Use a weight that is comfortable yet challenging for you. The most important thing with cable curls is that you do the movement slowly and under control, while constantly maintaining tension in the cable. You want to achieve a deep burn within your bicep by doing 8 reps at the very minimum, and 12-15 reps at the most.

Lift An Appropriate Weight

As I just mentioned, use a weight that is appropriate for you. Do not try to lift heavy to impress yourself, your friends, or your gym partner. This exercise is about the burn, not the weight! As you progress and become more competent at cable curls you can increase the weight, until one day you are able to totally max out the cable curl machine!

Perform Cable Curls 2x A Week

If you want to increase the size and strength of your biceps, consider doing Cable Bicep Curls twice a week. Biceps tend to recover quickly, and if you leave at least 48 hours of recovery time in between bicep workouts you will be able to grow your arms at a faster rate when working them 2x per week.

Tall Paul
Tall Paul
I am 6'7 (203cm) / 235lb (106 kg) model and ex-athlete. Since I was a teen I had trouble finding clothes. I was too tall for off the rack and was too lean for Big & Tall.

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