Cable Curl: Muscle Worked, How To Do and Form

If you want to build a bigger and stronger bicep, you should add cable bicep curls to your arm workout routine.

Why are cable curls so vital? Cable curls have a lot of advantages over traditional bicep curls. The ability to target different parts of your biceps and constant tension throughout the movement are some of the things that make these curls so effective.

To build bigger, stronger biceps and achieve an impressive pump, you should know about cable curls and how to add them to your arm workout routine.

In this beginner guide, we will explore the following:

What Is Bicep Cable Curls

The bicep cable curl is a highly recognizable biceps exercise that helps to build bigger and stronger biceps. It’s a good way to make your arm stronger and more defined.

Cable curls are done with a cable machine, which gives you constant resistance while you do the exercise. This helps to target the biceps more effectively than other exercises, such as dumbbell curls.

This is an isolation exercise that works primarily on your biceps and also trains the muscles in your forearms. It’s usually added to upper body workouts to make the arms look good and be strong.

There are many variations of cable curl that you can add to your workout routine, and all have their own unique benefits.

  • Standing Cable Curls: Allow greater range of motion and involvement of core/legs to stabilize.
  • Seated Cable Curls: Isolating the biceps and preventing momentum from taking over.
  • Single Arm Cable Curls: Prevent imbalance and allow each arm to work independently. Unilateral training.
  • Close Grip Cable Curls: These are good to target the short bicep head.
  • Wide Grip Cable Curls: Emphasize the long bicep head.
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Cable Curl Muscle Worked

The Cable curl, primarily works the biceps brachii. A handful of other muscles worked or play the role of stabilizer muscles, including your brachialis, brachioradialis and forearm muscles.

The bicep curl has the involvement of several synergist muscles, these muscles include, oblique and core muscles.

Cable Curl Muscle Worked

Bicep Brachii

The Biceps is a large, thick muscle of the upper arm. It has two heads: short (inner) and long (outer).

  • The short head is located along the inner side of the anterior upper arm. It contributes to the biceps’ width.
  • The long head is located along the outer side of the anterior upper arm. It comprises the majority of the biceps’ peak.


The brachialis is a muscle located underneath the biceps brachii. It is primarily responsible for elbow flexion.


The brachioradialis is a forearm muscle that runs along the outer side of the forearm. It assists in elbow flexion and plays a secondary role during the cable curl.

How To Do Standing Cable Curl

  1. Attach a straight bar to the low pulley of a cable machine.
  2. Stand facing the cable machine with your feet shoulder-width apart.
  3. Grasp the bar with an underhand grip, hands shoulder-width apart.
  4. Stand tall with your back straight, shoulders relaxed, and elbows fully extended.
  5. Slowly curl the bar up towards your shoulders.
  6. Squeeze your biceps at the top of the movement.
  7. Slowly lower the bar back to the starting position.
  8. Complete the desired number of reps and sets.
  9. Use an appropriate weight that fatigues the biceps in 8-12 reps.
  10. Maintain good posture. Do not swing or use momentum – use controlled form.
Cable Curl
Know More: 15 Best Biceps Exercises With Dumbbells For Mass & Strength

Cable Bicep Curl Proper Form And Technique

  • Don’t lift the weight with too much momentum or swing your body.
  • Don’t underestimate the pause at the top of your curl, and take a moment to squeeze your bicep when you get there.
  • slow controlled descent will increase time under tension, leading to more effective sets, and less risk of injury.
  • Ensure that your elbows are kept close to your sides with your knees slightly bent.
  • Always select a weight that allows you to have full control of your body.
  • Don’t let your shoulders shrug up towards your ears.
  • Incorporate proper warm-ups, rest, and nutrition into your exercise program.
  • Rest for 24 to 48 hours before training the same muscle groups to allow sufficient recovery.
  • Perform this exercise in a slow, controlled manner for best results.
  • Don’t go heavy. Choose a lighter weight and focus on perfecting your form.

Set, Reps And Frequency For Cable Curl

The number of reps you should perform depends on your goals. They may be to increase strength, build muscle mass and endurance.

  • For muscle growth, it is best to do for around 6–12 reps per set.
  • For strength, around 3–8 reps per set are recommended.
  • Muscle Endurance, do 15-20+ reps per set.
Beginner2-38-121-2 times per week
Intermediate3-48-122-3 times per week
Advanced4-58-152-3 times per week

Variations Of Cable Bicep Curls

There are several variations of cable curls that can target different areas of your biceps and forearms.

1. One Arm Cable Curl

The one-arm cable curl is a unilateral bicep exercise that targets and isolates one arm at a time.

When doing a bicep workout with a cable machine, there are plenty of single-arm exercises you can add to correct potential imbalances.

If there’s an imbalance between your left and right biceps, cable one-arm curls can help correct it. Since each arm works independently, you can identify and address strength disparities between the sides.

Cable One Arm Curl

How To Do Single Arm Cable Curl

  1. Stand in front of a cable machine with a single-handle attachment attached to a low-to-mid pulley.
  2. Grasp the stirrup in one hand with an underhand grip (palms facing up).
  3. Keep your elbow close to your side and curl the weight up towards your shoulder.
  4. Pause at the top of the contraction, then slowly lower the weight back to the starting position.
  5. Repeat for the desired number of repetitions, then switch to the other arm.

2. Close Grip Bicep Cable Curl

The close grip bicep cable curl is one of the best isolation exercises for the long head of the bicep. In this exercise, the hands are placed close together on the handle.

Unlike barbell or dumbbell curls, where the resistance varies during the lift, the cable pulley provides a uniform resistance throughout the movement.

Close Grip Cable Curl

How To Do Close Grip Cable Curl

  1. Set up for the cable curl by attaching a straight bar to the low pulley cable.
  2. Grasp the bar with an underhand grip (palms facing up), and your hands narrow than shoulder-width apart.
  3. Curl the bar up toward your shoulders by bending at the elbows.
  4. Pause at the top of the contraction, then slowly lower the bar back to the starting position.
  5. Repeat for the desired number of repetitions.

3. Wide Grip Cable Curl

A cable wide grip curl is a biceps isolation exercise that is performed by using a cable machine with a wide grip. The wide grip will emphasize the short head and give your biceps more width.

It also allows you to use heavier weights compared to a narrower grip curl.

Wide Grip Cable Curl

How to Do Wide Grip Bicep Cable Curl

  1. Attach a straight or EZ curl bar to the low pulley of a cable machine.
  2. Use a wide overhand grip on the bar, wider than shoulder width.
  3. Stand up straight a couple of feet back from the weight stack.
  4. Keep your elbows locked in place at your sides.
  5. Without moving your upper arms, curl the bar up towards your shoulders by flexing at the elbows.
  6. Slowly lower back to the starting position.
  7. Repeat for the desired number of reps.

Best Alternates Of Cable Bicep Curl

The best alternates for cable curls are required to add variety to your bicep workout routine, target different angles of the biceps, engage supporting muscles, and prevent plateaus.

These alternatives help maximize muscle growth and strength gains by challenging the biceps in new ways

1. One Arm High Cable Curl

The High cable curl exercise is a great option that will help you to target the biceps and build width and thickness of bicep muscle.

There are two main versions of the high cable curl: one-arm and two-arm. Both variations are effective, but the one-arm version allows you to use more relative weight for potentially greater gains in biceps size and strength.

2. Cable Hammer Curl

The cable hammer curl is one of the best exercises that you can do to build your arm muscles.

When it comes to building massive biceps and forearms, the rope hammer curl is an effective isolation workout that targets the brachialis and brachioradialis.

The cable rope hammer curl is a variation of the hammer curl, that is utilized to build the anterior muscles of the arm.

3. Cable Reverse Curl

The cable reverse curl, also known as the reverse cable curl, is an exercise that targets the brachioradialis muscle in the forearms, along with the biceps and other forearm muscles.

The cable reverse curl helps to balance arm development by targeting the muscles of the forearms and brachialis that are less often targeted. This can lead to a more proportional and aesthetic arm.

4. Cable Drag Curl

If you’re looking for a new and challenge exercise to grow your bicep, look no further than the cable drag curl. This variation of the classic bicep curl is less well-known, but it’s still a powerful exercise.

It takes your bicep development to the next level and gives your forearms a unique challenge.

The elbow positioning emphasizes the long head of the bicep the most. As you curl up, your elbows pull back behind you, which stretches the long head, activating it to a very high degree.

5. Cable Preacher Curl

It is a single-joint arm exercise that builds strength and size in the biceps using a cable stack, a preacher bench, and a rope grip.

The neutral or “hammer” grip amplifies activation of both the grip and the brachialis muscles, building arm thickness. The angle of the bench also effectively removes the shoulders from the movement, largely isolating the biceps.

The study compared the effects of two different preacher curl exercises on muscular strength and hypertrophy in the biceps brachii muscle. The study suggests that cable curls and barbell preacher curls are both effective exercises for increasing muscular strength and hypertrophy in young adults.

Cable Preacher Curl


Are cable curls good

Yes, cable curls are an effective exercise for targeting the biceps muscles. They provide constant tension, allow for a full range of motion, and offer various grip variations to engage different parts of the biceps.

What do cable curls work?

Cable curls work the biceps, it also engages the brachialis and of forearm muscles. Your core will also work as stabilizer muscles.

Why are cable curls so good?

Cable curls are beneficial because they provide several benefits, including:

  • Allow constant tension on biceps through full range of motion unlike dumbbells.
  • Unilateral option trains each arm independently.
  • The wide range of weights available allows you to progress.
  • Easy to focus on squeezing and contracting biceps through isolation.
  • Flexible hand position options (underhand, neutral, EZ bar, rope, etc.)
  •  Cable curls are a low-risk exercise, as they do not put a lot of stress on the joints.

Does cable curls target short or long head?

Cable curls target both the short and long heads of the biceps. However, certain variations, like close-grip cable curls, may emphasize the long head, while wide-grip cable curls may emphasize the short head to a greater extent.

Are cable curls push or pull?

Cable curls are a pull exercise because they involve pulling the cable handle towards the body. Pull workout engaging back, rear delt and bicep.

In contrast, push exercises involve pushing away from the body. Push workout engaging different muscle groups such as the chest, shoulders, and triceps.


Mastering the cable bicep curl and its variations is essential for sculpting strong and defined arms. You can achieve a more well-rounded and sculpted arm appearance by adding preacher curls, spider curls, and reverse curls to your arm workout routine.

Always focus on proper form and technique when doing cable curls. Also, try different weights and reps, take breaks to recover, and avoid common mistakes to get the most out of your cable curl workouts.

Get ready to build a strong and defined bicep like never before.


  • Nunes, J.P.; Jacinto, J.L.; Ribeiro, A.S.; Mayhew, J.L.; Nakamura, M.; Capel, D.M.G.; Santos, L.R.; Santos, L.; Cyrino, E.S.; Aguiar, A.F. Placing greater torque at shorter or longer muscle lengths? Effects of cable vs. barbell preacher curl training on muscular strength and hypertrophy in young adults. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2020, 17, 5859
  • Coratella, Giuseppe, Gianpaolo Tornatore, Stefano Longo, Nicholas Toninelli, Riccardo Padovan, Fabio Esposito, and Emiliano Cè. 2023. “Biceps Brachii and Brachioradialis Excitation in Biceps Curl Exercise: Different Handgrips, Different Synergy” Sports 11, no. 3: 64.
  • Ashmore A. The benefits of unilateral training. American Council on Exercise.

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