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How To Do Bicep Cable Curls (Step-by-Step Guide)

Tyler Sellers
Published by Tyler Sellers
Fact checked by Donald Christman, BHSc FACT CHECKED
Last updated: December 27, 2021

One of the most common questions I get in my practice as a personal trainer is how to do a cable curl.

Although it seems like a straightforward exercise, I always instruct my clients on how to keep a good form to avoid injury and get the most out of it.

In this article, we’ll go through steps to do it properly, different curl variations, and how to steer clear of some typical mistakes.

Summary of the Key Findings

  • Cable biceps curls improve strength and support hypertrophy.
  • The cable machine targets the bicep muscles and forearm muscles simultaneously.
  • Avoid common errors like elbow flaring, using momentum, and not utilizing the full range of motion when doing the exercise.

How to Do a Biceps Cable Curl

man using a cable machine

First, you need the cable machine and some attachments.

To perform a proper standing cable curl, follow these steps:  

  1. Use a straight bar attachment connected to the pulley system of the cable machine (the lowest rung). You can adjust the cable rack and cable weight.
  2. Face the machine and keep your arms extended with palms facing upwards for a good grip.
  3. Take a step back from the pulley while keeping your feet shoulder-width apart to use the correct starting position. Hold the bar at thigh height.
  4. Inhale as you pull the bar upward towards your shoulders, bend your elbows, and engage biceps and core muscles. Keep your elbows close.
  5. As you bring the bar to your shoulders, pause until your muscles are fully contracted, then slowly lower it to your thighs in a controlled motion as you exhale to maintain constant tension.
  6. Do your reps in three sets with short breaks in between to reach cable curl targets.
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3 Benefits of Doing the Biceps Cable Curl

man showing off his body muscles

Cable curl exercise targets the bicep muscles while working on the brachioradialis and brachialis simultaneously [1]. In the process, you will enjoy several benefits, including:

1 - Build Strong Biceps

Powerful biceps muscles not only look good but are also vital for lifting heavy objects.

The engaged upper arm muscles during this exercise include:

2 - Improve Strength

The cable biceps curl is a great exercise for chest muscles, scapula, and levator scapulae in the upper back.

Shoulder stability is critical when lifting weights. Because of this, focus on the upper back to improve muscle strength.

3 - Improve Wrist Stability

Besides the fact that it increases muscle size, the cable curl also improves wrist stability and strength.

5 Cable Curl Variations

men using a cable machine

As with many exercises, you can mix up your gym sessions with various cable curl variations.

1 - Seated Biceps Cable Curls

The versatility of working with cables is that you can choose different benches. Some popular exercises:

  • Preacher cable curl
  • Incline bench cable curl

The seated position gives you a lot of leeways to adjust the cable tension and weight setting.

2 - Cable Curl with One Arm While Standing

Grasp the bar or handle attachment with one hand with the palm facing up [3]. Steady yourself by firmly placing the other hand on your waist.

Ensure your upper part of your working arm remains stationary as you lift and lower the cable. Only move your forearms and choose a lighter weight if you find yourself struggling.

3 - Hammer Curl With Cable Rope

man working out in a gym

Use a rope cable curl to isolate the biceps brachii muscle. With a neutral grip, you focus both on the brachioradialis and brachialis.

The hammer cable curls work the short inner head of the biceps muscle [4].

Tense your abs while bending your knees slightly as you raise and lower the rope from your starting position.

4 - High Cable Curl

High cable machine curls are done with a sideways extension, bending the elbow at shoulder height. Place your feet shoulder-width apart. Lift your arm to the side and pull the rope to your shoulder.

High cable curls target the anterior deltoid, helping create further definition [5]. Use one arm for more stability to balance yourself, or use both arms simultaneously.

5 - Underhand Grip Cable Curl

The overhand grip is called the pronated or reverse grip, which is excellent for building forearm muscles.

Switch hand grips (palms facing up or down and alternating hand grips) to build secondary muscles and improve grip strength.

3 Typical Errors To Avoid When Doing Cable Curls

man holding his shoulders in pain

People tend to make certain errors when using rope attachment or other methods. Here are three mistakes to avoid if you want to achieve proper form:

1 - Elbow Flaring

By flaring your arms to the sides, you perform a compound movement instead of isolating your biceps.

2 - Avoid the Use of Momentum

Another instinctive mistake is to use momentum. This excess of body movement creates poor form.

Instead, keep your body stationary, moving only your elbows and forearms while using weights you can easily lift.

3 - Use Your Full Range of Motion

Use the full range of motion when doing this exercise. If you are having difficulties, reduce the cable tension to something more manageable until you build enough strength.

FAQs

How To Do Cable Curls at Home?

Use the barbell curl, dumbbell curls, or resistance bands to mimic these exercises at home. You can also do the concentration curl by using dumbbells in a sitting position and resting your elbow on your inner thigh.

Are Cable Curls Beneficial?

Yes, bicep cable curls are beneficial for building strength in your upper arms, lower arms, wrist joints, and hands.

Are Cable Curls Better Than Using Free Weights?

Cable curls aren’t better than free weights; they are both beneficial. The biggest difference is that you may have more control with a machine and less chance of injury.

Bottom Line on How to Do Cable Curl

I often recommend cable biceps curl because it is one of the best ways to build overall arm strength and increase biceps size.

A note of caution is to avoid common mistakes. Always use the correct standing position and the full range of motion, keep your elbows tucked in closely at your sides to avoid flaring, and you are good to go.

Try implementing these tips into your workout routine for the upper body, and you’ll see the results in no time.


References:

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK526110/
  2. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/8404567/
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4526813/
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2878700/
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK537056/

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