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February 15, 2022 9 min read

Arm exercises are a big deal amongst newbies and veteran athletes alike. This might be because strong arms are not only great for show but also play a huge role in your overall upper body strength.

Your quest for more muscular and stronger arms will undoubtedly lead to both compound exercises and isolation exercises alike.

Amongst these variations, cable curls remain a personal favorite and staple in the gym.

Cable bicep curls give your arms, particularly your biceps, the attention they require. Below, we highlight why the cable curl is great for you and the perfect way to execute it. 

Young attractive muscular bodybuilder doing cable biceps curl exercise in modern fitness center.

What Is The Cable Curl?

The cable bicep curl, also known as cable curl, is an isolation exercise that helps to target the biceps.

While many exercises promise to activate and engage the biceps enough to generate hypertrophy, the cable curl is one of the best. 

The cable bicep curl is done at a cable machine, bulky gym equipment of steel structure, retractable cables, and attached weights for resistance. Although the cable machine can be used for different exercises, the cable curl is one of the best exercises performed at the machine station.

The cable bicep curl is an awesome upper body strengthening exercise suitable for beginners and professionals alike.

The exercise technique is a pulling action that can easily be learned and perfected in no time. What makes the cable curl stand out amongst the list of never-ending arm exercises is its ability to engage the biceps throughout the concentric and eccentric phase.

Judging this exercise by its simple technique misleads many to perform the exercise incorrectly.

To get the most of the cable bicep curl, you must understand the essence of the exercise:

  • What muscles do you activate?
  • How does it happen?
  • Most importantly, what is the proper way to perform the cable curl? 

Below, we have provided in-depth analysis to get you started. With the right tips and tricks at your side, you will no doubt perfect the cable bicep curl in no time.

Muscles Worked During The Cable Bicep Curl

The primary objective of the cable bicep curl is to isolate and engage the bicep. However, the cable curl engages secondary supporting muscles such as the anterior deltoid, trapezius, levator scapulae, brachialis, brachioradialis, and core as supporting muscles during the movements.


The bicep is located on the front part of the upper arm and is split into two parts that work as one mechanism. The two parts of the biceps are known as the long head and short head of the biceps. Although these two parts function synonymously to move the arms, they also perform independent functions.

One of the most important functions of the long head of the bicep is to stabilize your shoulder joint.

This prevents your arm from popping out of the socket with every flexion at the elbow and supination at the forearm.

The short head of the bicep, on the other hand, is the short part of the bicep that helps the arm to flex and supinate at the elbow joint. The short head also plays a huge role in the adduction or moving the arm away from the body. 

Although they play different roles, both bicep heads are important for the arm's movements at the elbow and shoulder joint. The biceps are also key stabilizers of the brachialis. 


The brachialis is another arm muscle that is activated during the cable curl. The brachialis flexes the forearm by bending at the elbow and bringing the forearm towards your biceps. The brachialis muscle is said to generate the purest form of forearm-elbow flexion. 

It is the most important flexor forearm at the elbow that lies deep below the biceps.


The cable bicep curl also activates the brachioradialis. The brachioradialis is a superficial forearm muscle that also helps to flex the forearm. Unlike the brachialis, however, the brachioradialis allows supination and pronation depending on the forearm angle. It also helps to stabilize the elbow during these flexing movements. 

Anterior Deltoid

The deltoid is the shoulder muscle and is divided into three heads, namely the anterior deltoid, lateral deltoid, and posterior deltoid. All three parts function together as one big slab of muscle. However, the anterior head of the deltoid is the only part that receives significant stimulation in the bicep cable curl.

The anterior delt, also known as the front deltoid, is the front part of the deltoid responsible for moving the arms forward. This muscle helps in functional movements like picking items off a chair to gym activities like the bench press. 

Levator Scapulae

Another supporting muscle that benefits from the cable curl is the levator scapulae. The levator scapulae is a diminutive muscle located in the neck region that connects the arms to the spine.

This muscle might seem inessential, but it plays a huge role in elevating the shoulder blades.

The levator scapulae help bear the brunt of heavy loads carried by the arms and are often involved in weightlifting exercises. 


As unlikely as it might sound, the cable curl also works your trapezius muscles. The trapezius muscles of the back originate from the base of your neck and span across the middle of your back.

The trap is a significant upper body muscle that helps to stabilize and move the shoulder blades. The trap helps to move your neck, arms, shoulders, spine and also accommodates some movements of the torso.

Core Muscles

Finally and equally important are the core muscles. The core muscles are comprised of the transverse abdominis, obliques, multifidus, pelvic floor muscles, glutes, and erector spinae.

These muscles play a huge role in upper body strength and stability during activities.

When performing the cable curl, especially from a standing position, your core muscles are targeted and activated.

All these muscles might serve different purposes, but in one way or the other, they contribute to having a healthy and strong upper body. While the cable curl is a great way to hone and build your bicep for massive arms that would be a source of envy in the gym, you are simultaneously building other significant major muscle groups too.

Cable Bicep Curls Vs. Free Weight Curls: Which Is Best For You?

While this remains an argument amongst gym members and athletes alike, it is not much of a competition. When building the biceps, both the cable bicep curl and free weight curls, like the dumbbell curl, are perfect for getting those bulging arms that you crave. Although this is good news, both bicep curl variations carry their pros and cons. 

Cable bicep curls undoubtedly provide the one thing that dumbbell curls can not provide: constant tension on the bicep muscle.

Dumbbell curls provide great muscle tension, but this stimulation dwindles as you begin the concentric phase. Your biceps receive little to no stimulation at the bottom of the movement when your arms are at your sides. This might prove to be a problem as constant tension is exactly what is needed to help your biceps grow.

This tension breaks down the muscle fibers, inducing the healing and hypertrophy that would, in turn, lead to stronger and bigger muscles.

Reduced tension means reduced stimulation, which translates to a reduced rate in the breakdown of your arm muscle fibers. Other than this minute problem, the dumbbell curls an equally splendid exercise for the arms.

One thing about the cable bicep curl is that it can be performed by an individual who doesn’t have the slightest idea of how to carry out a free-weight curl.

The dumbbell curl, on the other hand, requires knowledge of the proper lifting techniques. 

For the best results, combine the cable curl and free-weight curls like the dumbbell and barbell curl. 

The variety gives you an edge in the gym. It trains you on all fronts and across all planes, helping your muscles maximize each movement differently. Training with a single exercise gets boring and sets you up for a fitness plateau that will have you feeling drained without noticeable muscle results. Perform the cable curls amongst other free-weight curls to give your arm muscles and other connecting muscles the best.

How To Master The Cable Bicep Curl

The cable bicep curl is easy to learn and even easier to perfect as long as you follow the instructions strictly.

To do the cable bicep curl:

  • Attach a straight handle to the cable if you need to.
  • Adjust the machine to connect the cable to the last pulley on the lowest rung.
  • Grab the handles with an underhand grip with your palms facing up and your arms straight.
  • Step back from the pulley without overextending your arms.
  • Stand erect with your arms at your side.
  • Keep your feet shoulder-width apart and hold the bar at your thighs.
  • Stand with your back straight, chest proud, and neck neutral.
  • Engage your core and pre-tension your shoulders.
  • Slowly curl the handle bar up towards your muscles, focusing on the movements in your biceps.
  • Keep your elbows tucked throughout the movement.
  • Pause at the peak of your movement.
  • Gently lower the bar to the starting position.
  • This is one repetition. Complete as many reps as possible.

While the cable bicep curl is normally done as a bilateral exercise, it is a great idea to consider using it as a unilateral exercise by working one arm at a time. This would help you to correct any muscle imbalances in your arms, leading to a better physique and mobility. 

If you're in need of a little kick before you train, take a 1/2 scoop of  AMPED-AF  for increased energy, better muscle pump, laser-point focus, and better muscle endurance to help you train better, faster, and longer. 

Benefits Of The Cable Bicep Curl

Stronger arms equal increased strength in many other exercises, so the cable bicep curl is a great addition to any arm day workout.

Some other benefits if the cable bicep curl includes:

  • Bigger Arms: Cable bicep curls are among the best exercises you can perform if you want bigger arms. When done properly and consistently over time, you will begin to notice an evident size increase in your arms.
  • Works the stabilizing muscles: While the cable bicep curl is an isolation exercise at heart, it also notably targets and strengthens the stabilizer muscles of the upper body. Training these muscles helps increase upper body strength and stability, helping you progress in more challenging compound exercises.
  • Core strength: Core strength is important for stabilizing and strengthening the upper body. One study shows that  core strength improves performance in functional and sporting activities. The core is a key player in body movement in every direction and also a big part of your ability to lift heavy items. A strong core makes it easier to perform activities and reduces your risks of injuries in and outside the gym.
  • Arm strength: Whether it is picking up grocery bags, carrying the laundry basket, or lifting a 25kg barbell, arm strength is an important part of our lives. The cable curl not only grows the bicep but also strengthens it along with other connecting muscles. 
  • Scalable exercise: The cable bicep curl is a beginner-friendly exercise, but it is not necessarily ‘too easy’ for intermediate athletes. As a newbie, you can choose to begin with light weights before scaling up.

Tips To Perfect The Cable Bicep Curl

There are several mistakes to watch out for when performing the cable bicep curl. Catching these nuances in your form will ensure that you activate the right muscle groups without compromising your safety.

To help you perfect the cable curl, here are some tips to help you hold the correct form:

  • Don’t flare your elbows: A common mistake when performing the cable curl is flaring your elbows to the side. This takes the tension away from your arms and places it on your shoulder joint. When performing the cable curl, your elbows should remain tucked at your sides while only flexing like a hinge to accommodate the curl movements. This disperses the bulk of the contractions to your elbow. If your elbows continue to leave your sides despite how hard you try, you might want to consider decreasing the weight.
  • Start light: While heavier weights command an increased muscle contraction, they make performing the cable curl more challenging, especially for a beginner. The heavier your weights, the more difficult it might be to hold the correct form throughout your routine. The cable curl, like any bicep curl, places more importance on the technique of your lift and your form than the weight that you curl. To help you get the hang of the fight lifting technique, start with lighter weights and work your way to heavier ones.
  • Complete the full range of motion: To get the most of the cable curl exercise, it is important to go the full length of the range of motion. This means you should start from the lowest part of the exercise to the peak. Curl the bar to your shoulders from your thighs and extend your elbows fully as you return the bar to your thighs.
  • Don’t use momentum: Many gym-goers mistake swinging their arms upwards when performing the cable curl. Using momentum defeats the purpose of the bicep curl and places little tension on your biceps. Make slow and controlled movements throughout your routine to make the most of your cable curl exercise.
  • Proteins and macronutrients are a big deal: Your muscles require adequate nutrients to function properly and grow. While exercises might induce growth in your muscles, nutrients are the fuel that makes it possible. Ensure that you eat foods high in proteins and essential nutrients for improved protein synthesis.

Is The Cable Bicep Curl Worth It?

The cable bicep curl is a bomb exercise for building the biceps. It is an effective exercise that can help you get bigger arms in no time. The cable bicep curl not only sculpts your biceps for bigger, more intimidating arms but also other major muscle groups of the upper body.

The cable bicep curl makes a wonderful addition to any arm or upper body workout routine. For the best results, complement the cable bicep curl with other  bicep curl variations for monster-size biceps.