How to Do the Biceps Cable Curl

Biceps Workout with a Cable Machine

The biceps cable curl is an isolation exercise for the upper arm biceps muscle. It’s a pulling action performed with a cable machine and is suitable for beginners.

The cable curl is performed standing facing one end of a cable machine with the cable fixed at the bottom of the machine and set with an appropriate weight. Feet are flat on the floor with one arm holding a cable handle and the other at the side.

Find out more about weight training terminology and exercise description if you need background information before you try this exercise.

See more dumbbell exercises.

1
The Starting Position

Cable Curl Starting
Cable Curl Starting Position. Photo: (c) Paul Rogers / Cooloola Fitness
  1. Adjust the cable machine at one end so that the cable is attached at the bottom with the sliding adjustment.
  2. The cable metal grip should extend so that you can grasp it comfortably in one hand with arm outstretched.
  3. Choose a weight that allows you to do 8 to 12 repetitions.
  4. Stand comfortably with feet firmly placed on the floor.
  5. Brace the abdominal muscles, straighten the back, keep the head steady.
  6. Remember to breathe out on exertion (contraction) and in on recovery (when extending the arms).

2
The Exercise Movement and Points to Note

Cable Curl Movement
Cable Curl Movement. Photo: (c) Paul Rogers / Cooloola Fitness
  1. Curl the cable weight upward toward the chest and let the cable weight return the arm to the lower resting position.
  2. Complete the chosen number of repetitions (10 or 12 is a good number), then swap arms and work the other arm.
  3. If you're attempting quite a heavy weight, it's OK to position yourself with the leg on the same side forward for stability.
  4. You can even bend over in the leg forward position as long as you keep the back straight.

The exercise provides an alternative to the dumbbell or barbell curl because it offers a little more instability during the lift, which should bring a few more regional muscles into play.

The cables give a constant tension that dumbbells don't provide.

3
Muscles Worked by the Cable Curl Exercise

The primary target of the cable curl is the biceps brachii muscle. This is the muscle that flexes the elbow, which is why it is worked when you curl the arm. It connects the scapula with the radius of the forearm.

Synergistic muscles worked during the cable curl are the brachialis and the brachioradialis, which are also used when flexing the elbow.

While doing the cable curl, other stabilizing muscles come into play in the shoulder and upper back - the anterior deltoid, trapezius and the levator scapulae. Your wrist flexors are also used.

Building the biceps gives an appealing look to the upper arms for both men and women. You see them in the classic arm flex to show off muscles. Building the biceps can help flesh out the upper arm if you have sagging skin following weight loss or due to aging.

You use the biceps brachii every time you raise your arm or bend your elbow. Strong biceps help you pick up and carry objects such as boxes, grocery bags, a laundry basket, or cradle a child. Beyond looking muscular or toned, having strong biceps makes daily life a little easier.

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