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10 Cable Exercises For Bigger Biceps

Cable machine workouts can offer you impressive benefits and muscle gains but what are some bicep exercises you can do with cables?

The cable machine is a piece of fitness equipment where a steel frame holds weights and pulleys. Thanks to the cable going through these pulleys and attached to these weights you can do many types of strength training exercises for a wide variety of muscles.

Most people think about dumbbells and barbells when talking about bicep exercises. While these other pieces of equipment can be helpful, the cable machine can also be used as a gym machine for bicep muscles.

Most of these exercises will be described using a D-grip handle but you can also use an EZ bar attachment to use both of your arms at the same time.

Biceps are a popular muscle group because they have a big impact on how your arms look. By doing bicep curls with small variations you can change what part of the bicep muscles you focus on.

Keep in mind that even though there are many benefits, your injury risk is generally also higher when you do exercises with more weight/resistance.

1. Behind the back cable curls

To do behind the back cable curls take the following steps:

  1. Set the cable machine low to the ground, attach a D-grip handle, and select your desired weight.
  2. Take the D-grip handle with one hand and take a step or two forward. Stand with your back toward the cable machine, with one leg forward and one leg back to brace yourself against the weight. Keep your arm with the grip in one line with the cable.
  3. Slowly fold your arm with the handle at the elbow as far as you can. Keep your upper arm in the same position throughout the exercise.
  4. Lower your hand with the weight back into the position of step two in a controlled motion.
  5. Repeat the same number of repetitions with your other arm.

Because your upper arm is behind your body you engage your the long head bicep muscle, the outer of the two bicep brachii muscles, more.

2. High cable curls

To do high cable curls take the following steps:

  1. Set the cable machine at a high setting, attach a D-grip handle, and select your desired weight. Depending on what machine you have available you can do this exercise with one or two arms at a time.
  2. Take the D-grip and stand sideways with the hand holding the grip toward the cable machine. Keep your arm stretched and about horizontal.
  3. Slowly fold your arm with the handle at the elbow toward your head as far as you can. Keep your upper arm and body in the same position throughout the exercise.
  4. Extend your arm again to slightly less than stretched if you will do more repetitions.
  5. Repeat the same number of repetitions with your other arm.

High cable curls will be more focused on the short head of the brachii bicep muscle, the inner of the two brachii muscle heads.

3. Standing cable bicep curls

Standing bicep curls are likely the first exercise that comes to mind if you think about bicep exercises. Instead of dumbbells, you can also use a cable machine to do this exercise. To do a standing cable bicep curl take the following steps:

  1. Set the cable machine low to the ground, attach a D-grip handle, and select your desired weight.
  2. Take the D-grip handle with one hand with a supinated grip which means with your hand palm facing forward/upward. Step back as far as you need for enough space to move your arm and face toward the cable machine. Put one leg forward and one leg back to brace yourself against the weight. Keep your arm with the grip in one line with the cable.
  3. Slowly fold your arm with the handle at the elbow as far as you can. Keep your upper arm in the same position throughout the exercise.
  4. Lower your hand with the weight back into the position of step two in a controlled motion.
  5. Repeat the same number of repetitions with your other arm.

4. Cable hammer curls

For the next exercise you need the rope attachment for the cable machine. Once you have that to do cable hammer curls take the following steps:

  1. Set the cable machine low to the ground, attach a rope handle, and select your desired weight.
  2. Grab the rope handle in a way where your hands face each other. Step back as far as you need for enough space to move your arms and face toward the cable machine. Put one leg forward and one leg back to brace yourself against the weight. Point your arms down.
  3. Slowly fold your arms at the elbow as far as you can. Keep your upper arms in the same position throughout the exercise.
  4. Lower your hands back into the position of step two in a controlled motion.

By changing your grip compared to the regular curl you target your brachialis muscle more. This muscle helps your arms achieve more power and look bigger.

5. Reverse cable curls

To do a reverse cable curl take the following steps:

  1. Set the cable machine low to the ground, attach a D-grip handle, and select your desired weight.
  2. Take the D-grip handle with one hand with a pronated grip which means with your hand palms facing backward in starting position. Step back as far as you need for enough space to move your arm and face toward the cable machine. Put one leg forward and one leg back to brace yourself against the weight. Keep your arm with the grip in one line with the cable.
  3. Slowly fold your arm with the handle at the elbow as far as you can. Keep your upper arm in the same position throughout the exercise.
  4. Lower your hand with the weight back into the position of step two in a controlled motion.
  5. Repeat the same number of repetitions with your other arm.

By changing your grip even more compared to the hammer curl you target your brachialis muscle even more.

6. Crossbody cable curls

To do a crossbody cable curl take the following steps:

  1. Set the cable machine low to the ground, attach a D-grip handle, and select your desired weight.
  2. Take the D-grip handle with one hand with a supinated grip which means with your hand palm facing forward/upward. Step back as far as you need for enough space to move your arm and face toward the cable machine. Put one leg forward and one leg back to brace yourself against the weight. Keep your arm with the grip in one line with the cable.
  3. Slowly bring the hand with the grip to the shoulder of the opposite side as far as possible by folding your arms at the elbow. Keep your upper arm as much in the same position as possible but it will inevitably have to move to be able to do the movement.
  4. Lower your hand with the weight back into the position of step two in a controlled motion.
  5. Repeat the same number of repetitions with your other arm.

Crossbody curls change the upward angle compared to regular bicep curls. This leads to more focus on the long head of the brachii bicep muscle, the outer of the two brachii muscle heads.

7. Outward bicep cable curls

To do an outward bicep cable curl take the following steps:

  1. Set the cable machine low to the ground, attach a D-grip handle, and select your desired weight.
  2. Take the D-grip handle with one hand with a supinated grip which means with your hand palm facing forward/upward. Step back as far as you need for enough space to move your arm and face toward the cable machine. Put one leg forward and one leg back to brace yourself against the weight. Keep your arm with the grip in one line with the cable.
  3. Slowly fold your arm with the grip at the elbow as far as you can. Keep your upper arm in the same position throughout the exercise.
  4. Lower your hand with the weight back into the position of step two in a controlled motion.
  5. Repeat the same number of repetitions with your other arm.

The different upward angle changes what muscles get engaged more. Outward bicep curls are more focused on the short head of the brachii bicep muscle, the inner of the two brachii muscle heads, compared to regular bicep curls.

8. Cable preacher curls

For cable preacher, you will also need a bench specifically made for this exercise or a regular incline bench. You basically want a slanted surface. To do a cable preacher curl take the following steps:

  1. Set the cable machine low to the ground, attach a D-grip handle, and select your desired weight. Put an incline bench next to the cable machine with the high side furthest away from it.
  2. Take the D-grip handle with one hand with a supinated grip which means with your hand palm facing forward/upward. Step back behind the incline bench with the back of your upper arm with the handle resting on the slanted surface. Stretch your arm.
  3. Slowly fold your arm with the grip at the elbow as far as you can. Move your hand outward instead of straight up. Keep your upper arm in the same position throughout the exercise.
  4. Lower your hand with the weight back into the position of step two in a controlled motion.
  5. Repeat the same number of repetitions with your other arm.

By doing bicep curls on an incline or preacher bench you avoid using the rest of your body and momentum for the motion. This makes your bicep muscles work harder which in turn can lead to more and faster muscle gain.

9. Concentration cable curls

For concentration curls, you need something to sit on at about knee height. A regular weight lifting bench is great. Once you have that, to do a concentration cable curl take the following steps:

  1. Set the cable machine low to the ground, attach a D-grip handle, and select your desired weight. Set the weight bench right in front of the cable machine so that you still have enough room to move your arm.
  2. Take the D-grip handle with one hand with a supinated grip which means with your hand palm facing forward/upward. Sit on the object facing the cable machine with your upper legs making about a 90-degree angle. Tilt your upper body forward slightly while keeping a good posture, and place the lower back of your upper arm with the handle on the inside of your leg on the same side.
  3. Slowly fold your arm with the handle at the elbow as far as you can. Keep your upper arm in the same position throughout the exercise.
  4. Lower your hand with the weight back into the position of step two in a controlled motion.
  5. Repeat the same number of repetitions with your other arm.

Similar to preacher curls you make your biceps work harder with concentration curls by avoiding momentum and using the rest of your body.

10. Cable drag curls

To do a cable drag curl take the following steps:

  1. Set the cable machine low to the ground, attach a D-grip handle, and select your desired weight.
  2. Take the D-grip handle with one hand with a supinated grip which means with your hand palm facing forward/upward. Step back as far as you need for enough space to move your arm and face toward the cable machine. Put one leg forward and one leg back to brace yourself against the weight. Keep your arm with the grip in one line with the cable.
  3. Slowly fold your arm with the handle at the elbow as far as you can. Throughout the movement, you move your elbows back. Your hand basically follows the same line as your body.
  4. Lower your hand with the handle back into the position of step two in a controlled motion.
  5. Repeat the same number of repetitions with your other arm.

By moving your elbows back this exercise focuses more on the biceps brachii which are the muscles most people think of when hearing the word bicep.