Looking to grow your guns efficiently? Bicep curls may be the very first thing to pop into your head. There’s a great reason behind it, as curls are simple enough to be performed by everyone and it’s one of the first upper body exercises ever invented. 

Incorporating modern equipment, let’s upgrade this discussion to cable bicep curl. In essence, it works similarly with standing dumbbell curls, however, with the use of a cable attachment. It’s mostly popular with beginners over its simplicity. If you got your compounds under control, then you’re free to train your biceps in isolation.

This exercise is also quite simple to do and comes with plenty of modifications if you prefer. You could apply lighter resistance, adjust the height of the cable rack, or use alternative equipment, whichever is available within your reach.

In this article, get ready to dive into the hows, whys, and whats of the cable curl. We will discuss everything you need to know to make a success out of this exercise, reap the benefits, and even try variations and alternatives to spice up your workout.

This Ultimate Guide Will Cover:

  • How To Do Cable Bicep Curl
  • Cable Bicep Curl Benefits
  • Common Cable Bicep Curl Mistakes To Avoid
  • Cable Bicep Curl Muscles Worked
  • Cable Bicep Curl vs Barbell Bicep Curl
  • Our Trainer’s Suggested Reps, Sets, & Programs
  • Cable Bicep Curl Variations
  • Cable Bicep Curl Alternative Exercises
  • FAQs About Cable Bicep Curl

How To Do Cable Bicep Curl

What You’ll Need: 

  • Straight bar attachment: This will be the primary equipment if you want to learn how to do a cable biceps curl. This will allow you to place your hands in a rigid supinated position. 

Alternative Equipment: 

  • Rope attachment: Rope attachments are also an option if you want to dabble into a neutral grip, especially with hammer curl variations.
  • Dumbbells: Some alternative exercises to the cable curl utilize the dumbbells. 
  • Resistance bands: You may use resistance bands to choose your preferred anchor point and target specific muscles during the curl.

Step 1: Prepare The Bar Attachment

To perform standing cable curls, begin by fixing a straight bar attachment to a cable pulley machine. Place the pulley to the lowest position and place the pin on a stack that you can comfortably lift. Extend your arms shoulder-width apart. This is your starting position.

Step 2: Grip The Bar

Keep your back straight and your core engaged. Grip the bar with your hands and feet shoulder-width apart and your palms facing upwards or in an underhand grip. Make sure to have your elbows tucked from start to finish.

Step 3: Do The Curl + Isometric Hold

When you’re ready, curl the bar as close to your shoulders as possible. Maintain your elbows rigid on your sides and not raised forward. As you reach the top of the movement, pause and squeeze for a second or two before lowering your forearms. Contracting on top will target the right muscle groups for an efficient workout.

Step 4: Control The Eccentric Phase

Bring down your forearms in a slow and controlled motion. Avoid doing a full extension or resting fully at the bottom of the movement to maintain tension. Keep your forearms partially suspended to maximize this biceps exercise.

4 Cable Biceps Curl Benefits

1. Improves Upper-Body Strength

Our biceps play a central role in upper arms movement, be it raising our shoulders sideways or lifting our hands forward. With stronger biceps and upper body in general, we can perform lifting actions with more ease. For instance, carrying groceries, transporting large handheld items, opening doors and lids, and much more.

2. Promotes General Fitness

In our everyday walk of life, we use our upper arms on a regular basis. With functional biceps, we are more able and physically independent, thereby making life easier for us day by day. Whether we have to lift up the side of a couch by ourselves or load boxes onto a vehicle, we can trust our bodies to be stronger and more functional for practical intentions.

3. Better Flexibility

Our biceps are responsible for bending the elbows and rotating the forearms. Regularly performing biceps exercises such as the standing cable curl can assist in better flexibility and mobility. This benefit can be carried on to other bicep exercises, as well as even with compound movements that heavily incorporate the arms.

4. Structured Biceps

Biceps muscles are functional as can be, but they can also help fill out your clothes much better and provide more dimension to your upper arm. Incorporating weight training into your biceps workout can also tighten your skin and reduce the appearance of sagging, which is often the result of drastic weight loss.

Common Cable Bicep Curl Mistakes to Avoid   

Relying on Momentum

Using momentum to propel the movement is a sure way to waste the exercise, as well as your time. Some dead giveaways for momentum lifting are swaying body, rounded back, jerking shoulders, and swaying hips.

It’s easy to rely on momentum when your weights are too heavy. In this case, switch to a lighter weight to achieve a proper form. Focus on curling with a slow and controlled motion. Have your elbow tucked strictly on your sides and move only your forearms.

Rushing The Movement

Repping out sets to ego lift is the fastest way to pull a muscle or cheat your form and render the exercise futile and ineffective. Instead, aim for peak contraction at the top and take 2 to 3 seconds to complete one repetition. Take your time and control the movement throughout to activate your biceps properly. Make sure that your biceps are the only body part moving.

Curling Half-Range

Partial ranges are cool for specific exercises, but if you want to get massive guns and strengthen your upper arms, you can’t expect a full size with half the effort. Partial ranges of motion prevent you from using your whole biceps and therefore negate the entire process of doing biceps curls to begin with. 

You always want to aim for peak contraction while your elbow joint stays in place. Also, make sure that you’re not choosing a bar range on the pulley that’s too heavy for you. Keep it light to moderate, especially for endurance training.

Resting At The Bottom

The trick for ultimate size and strength with biceps muscles lies at the bottom of the movement. Instead of fully stretching your arms at the bottom, maintain tension on your biceps by keeping your forearms partially suspended with a slight bend at the elbows.

Cable Biceps Curl vs Barbell Bicep Curl

As we know, the cable curl utilizes the use of cable machines to perform the exercise. Compared with the Barbell Bicep Curl, there is no constant tension on the arms, and the wrists get to rest, especially at the bottom of the movement. 

It can also get awkward at heavyweight due to the fixed position of the hands. You can’t exactly overload too much, especially with the limited stacks. On a positive note, there are more varieties to be found in the cable curl. You can modify the height as you please to specifically target your biceps brachii or perform other biceps exercise moves.

Moving on to barbell bicep curls. From the get-go, you perform the curls with free weights. This places constant tension on your biceps and targets a wider range of muscles. There is also greater forearm supination, and you can load heavier weights progressively.

Ultimately, the better exercise between the two would highly depend on your goal, be it strength, muscle hypertrophy, or endurance. We conclude: that if you want more variations and smaller increments with the load, then the cable curl is the clear winner.

Our Trainer’s Suggested Reps, Sets, and Programs

For Muscle Gains

Building muscles takes serious dedication, time, and consistency, albeit it’s advisable to perform it only one day in a span of a week to let your muscles recover and repair properly. To get those gains, do 6 to 12 reps for 3 to 6 sets and rest for 30 to 90 seconds in between each set.

For Strength Training

To increase strength regularly, one should have the discipline to lift heavy progressively. For stronger biceps, perform 6 reps or less for 2 to 6 sets. Rest longer in between each set for 2 to 5 minutes to gain adequate rest and have enough power for strength lifting.

For Muscle Endurance

Achieving endurance entails performing a particular exercise repeatedly. This is best performed with moderate weight or load. Do 12 to 20 reps for 1 to 3 sets, with a rest period of 30 seconds or less in between each set. If you can do more than 20 reps with ease, increase the resistance or weight.

Cable Biceps Curl Variations

These cable curls variations will help you target different angles of your biceps and whole arms in their entirety and help you achieve chiseled dimensions across your biceps.

High Cable Curl

This cable curl variation is also known as overhead cable curl. With D-handles attached on the highest opposite ends of a dual-cable machine, you can really target your biceps brachii (inner head) when doing this biceps curls variation. All this work will give your biceps dimension from thickness to width.

Reverse Grip Cable Curl

The reverse grip cable curl requires an overhand grip, which poses more challenges for the lifter. It’s a great alternative to training the biceps while strengthening the wrist joint. It also bridges the bone between the upper arm and the forearm for more arm strength. We highly recommend this variation if you’re aiming to achieve forearm hypertrophy with progressive overload. 

Rope Cable Curl

Instead of a straight bar attachment, you grip a rope in each hand with your palms facing inward like you would with Hammer Curls. This variation targets the long head of the biceps and the deltoids and achieves greater wrist stability.

Cable Bicep Curl Alternative Exercises

Having no cable machine at your disposal doesn’t have to mean throwing in the towel and giving up on the guns of your dreams in an instant. There are great alternatives you can try, five of which we enlist below.

Resistance Band Curl

Grab your Resistance Band and secure it at the highest point possible. You could curl one arm at a time or bilaterally. You could also step on the band and curl both arms simultaneously. This maintains tension on your biceps muscles and utilizes both the concentric and eccentric phases.

Chin Ups

Perhaps this alternative is far from what you have in mind, but if you can do Chin-Ups, then you’ll agree that it’s one of the best compound exercises to target your biceps and back at the same time. This increases upper body strength, as well as grip strength.

Barbell Spider Curls

If you’re tired of the traditional cable curl or barbell curl, then have a go with the barbell spider curls. This really pumps up your biceps and achieves that peak of the biceps that could be the envy of everyone. Do this exercise with an EZ bar or a pair of dumbbells and an incline bench.

Concentration Curl

Concentration Curl can be conveniently performed with a standard bench and a dumbbell on one arm at a time. If you want to target your biceps in a unilateral fashion and develop both strength and power, then this cable curl alternative is for you. This exercise effectively sculpts the front section of your biceps and improves function without the need for a Cable Machine.

Reverse Curls

If you can do reverse curls on a cable machine, then you can do it with dumbbells as well. Using free weights will allow you to choose the heavier or lighter weights, depending on your current strength. Nevertheless, you can work on your biceps brachii and brachialis, as well as improve your elbow flexion.

Frequently Asked Questions

Cable curls are great for stacking weights in small increments and loading progressively, whereas dumbbell curls require a more exact weight load. Both effectively target the biceps. Ultimately, the better exercise between the two depends on your available equipment, your exercise program, and your long-term fitness goals.

The cable curl target the following muscles:

  • Biceps brachii
  • Brachialis
  • Forearm muscles
  • Core
  • Anterior deltoids
  • Upper back

Definitely! Bicep cable curls are effective, given that you follow the proper form, avoid common mistakes, and perform the right number of sets and reps according to your program. Before you know it, you could be sporting bigger biceps and showing your newly developed upper body strength.

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