The cable bicep curl is a great isolation exercise for targeting your biceps brachii.
This is the two-headed muscle located on the front of your upper arms. You can read more about that here.
So, if you’ve got access to a cable machine be sure to add a few sets in to your biceps workout.
Recommended Reading – 12 Effective Cable Crunches Alternative For Stronger Abs
That being said, don’t limit your cable exercises to just the cable curl as there are many different exercises you can do to work your biceps muscle.
In this article, we’ll demonstrate some exercises that you can incorporate into your cable bicep workouts.
Can You Build Biceps With Cables?
With proper form, you can absolutely build your biceps using a cable machine.
Constant Muscle Tension
When performing an exercise such as the bicep cable curl, constant tension remains on the muscle group during the concentric and eccentric phases of the exercise.
When you compare this to performing a bicep curl using a pair of dumbbells, you’re only working against gravity when curling the weight up towards you.
This is the concentric phase.
However, when using cables, tension remains on the muscle even when lowering the weight back down (the eccentric phase).
Research has shown that you can expect better results in terms of muscle hypertrophy and strength gains during the eccentric portion of an exercise.
Improved Range Of Movement
Another advantage of using cables to build your biceps, is that you have a better freedom of movement when compared to using gym machines.
For example, if you work your biceps using something like a selectorized bicep curl machine, your plane of motion is fixed by the machine. You won’t have this limitation when using a cable machine.
Always remember to keep things varied when training your biceps.
While the cable machine has several advantages, incorporating cable exercises with dumbbells and machines is the best way to keep testing your muscles and making improvements.
How Much Should You Train The Biceps?
When it comes to training frequency for your biceps aim to work them 2 to 3 times per week as this will maximize the protein synthesis response.
This will allow your muscles enough time to recover between sessions.
After a strength-based workout, protein synthesis remains elevated for around 1 to 2 days.
Muscle growth takes place whenever the rate of protein synthesis is greater than that of muscle protein breakdown.
So, if you only train the bicep muscle group once per week, you’re not really stimulating muscle growth enough.
Equally, it’s important not to overtrain.
If you work your biceps more than twice per week, you’re likely going to prevent your muscles from repairing which will interfere with strength and muscle gains.
Another key point is that most muscle damage occurs when training volumes are higher with slow eccentric contractions.
So, stick to a lighter weight for high reps and use slow, deliberate movements when raising and lowering the weights.
The Ultimate Cable Bicep Workouts for Muscle Growth
Now that we know more about training volumes for your biceps, let’s take a look at an effective bicep workout using just cables.
Remember to keep the weights low to start with and perform all exercises to a full range of motion.
Bicep Cable Curl
Probably the most common of the cable bicep exercises is the curl, and with good reason.
Studies have shown that it’s one of the most effective biceps exercises for increased muscle mass.
You can perform this with an ez bar or straight bar attachment.
The ez curl bar is a little easier on your wrists.
How To Do The Bicep Cable Curl:
- With the pulley set to floor level, take hold of the bar attachment with both hands.
- Pin your elbows into your sides to help with correct form.
- Bending just at your elbow joints, curl the bar up towards your chest.
- Hold for a second then slowly, lower the weight back to the starting position.
- Perform 15 to 20 repetitions.
Rope Cable Curl
Cable rope curls are very similar to the standard cable curl with the main difference being the attachment used.
As the name suggests, you’ll need to use a rope attachment for this exercise.
In terms of muscles being worked, aside from the long head and short head of your biceps, it will also engage your brachioradialis (forearm muscles) and your brachialis muscles (elbow flexors).
How To Do The Rope Cable Curl:
- Take hold of the rope attachment & position your forearms so they are parallel with the floor
- Keep your arms tucked into your sides.
- Curl the ends of the rope up towards your forehead. This will bring your elbows forward a little.
- Squeeze your forearms and biceps at the top of the movement.
- Use control to lower back to the start.
- Repeat for 15 to 20 reps.
Crucifix curls, sometimes called high cable curls, need to be performed on a cable crossover machine as this allows for full range of motion.
This is a great exercise for building strong biceps whilst putting very little stress on your joints.
How To Do Crucifix Curls:
- Start off by attaching two grip attachments such as the D handle, to the tops of the machine.
- Stand in the middle of the machine with feet shoulder width apart.
- Take hold of the handles with an underhand grip, your arms and shoulders should form a straight line with your palms facing the ceiling.
- Curl both arms in until your bicep touches your forearm.
- Move your arms back to the starting position and repeat 14 more times.
Single Arm Cable Curl
Single-arm cable curls are an excellent way to isolate and strengthen each bicep individually, which can help address muscle imbalances and promote overall arm development.
How To Do The Single Arm Cable Curl:
- Start by setting the pulley to its lowest setting and attach a D handle or similar.
- Stand with your back to the machine and take hold of the handle with one hand.
- Step forwards to create some resistance and allow your working arm to stretch a little behind you.
- Adopt a split stance with one foot in front of the other.
- Keeping your shoulder and elbow fixed in place, curl the weight until at shoulder height.
- Squeeze and hold at the top before lowering back down with control.
- Perform 15 reps and then switch to work the other arm.
Cable Reverse Curl
The reverse curl is one of the best bicep curl variations and is a great way of working both your biceps and forearms.
It’s important to remember that there is more forearm activation as your arms in a pronated position when doing this exercise.
A good tip is to keep your wrists into position throughout and don’t extend them at the top of the movement.
How To Do The Cable Reverse Curl:
- Set the pulley to the bottom and attach either an ez curl bar or straight bar attachment.
- Take hold of it with both hands using an overhand grip and stand with a should width stance.
- Keep your elbows tucked into your torso and your upper arms stationary throughout.
- Flex your elbows and curl the bar towards your chest.
- Hold at the top for a second or two then lower back down.
- Complete 15 to 20 repetitions to complete the exercise.
Cable Preacher Curl
A variation of the traditional preacher curl exercise, which isolates the biceps by providing support and stabilizing the upper arms.
The cable preacher curl is performed using a cable machine and a preacher bench or incline bench.
How To Do The Cable Preacher Curl:
- Position the preacher bench just in front of the cable pulley. Adjust the height to suit.
- Ensure the pulley is positioned at its lowest setting and clip on your straight bar attachment.
- Take hold of the straight bar and position yourself behind the bench.
- Get into position so that you can comfortably rest the backs of your upper arms on the pad.
- With your elbows supported, flex your elbows, and curl the bar towards your chin.
- Use control to lower the back down to the starting position.
- Repeat for a total of 15 to 20 repetitions.
Cable Hammer Curls
The cable hammer curl is a great bicep exercise for engaging your outer arms helping to improve definition and build thickness.
Some people report being able to lift heavier weight due to the positioning of their hands when performing the movement.
How To Do Cable Hammer Curls:
- Set the pulley on the cable tower to its lowest setting and attach a rope attachment.
- Grab both hands of the rope and stand up straight with your head and chest up.
- Start with your forearms parallel to the floor.
- Make sure to keep your elbows in to your sides and then curl up to your chest.
- Hold for a second before slowly lowering the weight back down.
- Complete 15 to 20 reps.
Why Is It Important To Have Strong Biceps?
Having strong biceps is important for functional strength as they can aid with everyday actions that involve pulling and carrying.
When your arm muscles are strong this also contributes to overall upper body strength and can even assist with things such as posture.
This is because they can help to support and stabilize your shoulder joint.
As the biceps muscle connects to the shoulder blade, when the muscle is strong and well developed, this helps to prevent your shoulders from rolling forward and encourages better posture.
The biceps work closely with the rhomboids and traps to help achieve this.
For an effective biceps workout using a cable machine, it’s not necessary to do all the exercises recommended above.
You can achieve a good biceps pump performing just 3 or 4 of the movements.
Just remember, as your biceps are a relatively small muscle, keep the weights light and the reps high. If you’d like to learn some exercises to work the short head of your biceps, click here.
By going in too heavy, it’s more likely that you’ll lose form and engage other muscle groups taking tension away from the very muscles you want to train!
If you regularly perform heavy weight compound exercises such as squats, deadlifts, and the overhead press then you’ll automatically activate your biceps to a large degree.
So be sure to bear this in mind so you can avoid overtraining.