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Standing Cable Biceps Curl – Benefits & How to Perform

Cable Biceps Curls Thumb

At Fitness Savvy, we are huge advocates of compound moves. However, isolation exercises such as the standing cable biceps curl are essential if you want shirt-filling arms – and let’s be honest, who doesn’t?

That said, if you’re running low on time or you need to keep your workouts short, you should prioritise other exercises such as pull-ups and rows to build your biceps.

For those who’ve already built strength using compound moves, the cable biceps curl is a great addition to your arm exercise arsenal.

Continue reading to find out more about the benefits, how to do this exercise with proper form, and to see some video tutorials.

Cable biceps exercise benefits

Most people train biceps using dumbbells or other free weights. Perhaps this is because they are more accessible (especially if working out at home), or maybe because they seem more manageable and less complicated.

While training using free weights might seem like the best option for the biceps, it is not always the case – especially if you want guns so big you should be carrying a license.

The main difference when using a cable is that there is constant tension on the muscle. Think about it: when you get towards the top of a biceps curl, you’re no longer moving against gravity – instead, you’re taking the weight nearer to your body.

With a cable curl, the tension is continuously on the muscle – something we want when looking to build strength and size.

Other benefits of cable biceps curls come from the range of angles you can adopt: you can set the cable high, or low; you can use a biceps bar attachment or a rope; you can keep your grip narrow or wide.

Well-trained biceps will help you with everyday tasks such as carrying the shopping, lifting things out of the way (such as cats and other trip hazards), and carrying the kids everywhere (if you’ve got a toddler or baby at home, you know what I mean!)

How to perform the standing biceps cable curl

The following guide is based on a standard curl, using a straight bar attachment.

The Set-Up

  1. Connect a straight bar (or your preferred attachment, as explained in the variations section) to the cable machine. Different attachments will help you target different areas of your biceps.
  2. Using the pin, select the desired weight (or add weight plates if using a plate-loaded machine).
  3. Take the attachment in both hands and position yourself with your feet about shoulder-width apart. Adopting a slightly narrower or wider stance is perfectly fine, so whichever feels more comfortable is what we recommend.
  4. Your palms should be facing away from you, shoulder-width apart.
  5. Stand with a straight back, brace your abdominals, and keep your head facing forwards.
  6. Squeeze the bar, or rope (or whatever attachment you’re using) tightly. This helps with the mind-muscle connection and allows the often neglected forearms to get a little more action, too.

Performing the biceps cable curl

  1. Keeping your elbows tucked in at your side, curl the bar up towards your shoulders. Exhale as you do. During this concentric part of the move, you should “explode” in a controlled manner – aiming for a quick contraction to move your arms up.
  2. Once you reach the top, squeeze the biceps hard, hold for a second or so, and then lower the bar back down. This is the eccentric part of the move, during which you should breathe in, and perform slowly – two to three seconds is good.
  3. At the bottom of the move, try to straighten your arms as much as you can to stretch the muscle before doing the next rep. Ensure you’re standing in a position (or that the cable is short enough) so that the cable is still under tension when you’re at the bottom of the move – the plates should not rest at the bottom. If they do, try standing a little further away from the weight stack.

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Common Mistakes

Letting the weights drop

When you get to the top of the motion and squeeze, you should not drop the weight back down.

The eccentric part of the move is a big player in DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness), which is the pain associated with muscle damage, which, when repaired, will grow the muscle.

You should lower the weight gently, keeping tension on the muscle throughout.

Using momentum

Isolation moves target one muscle. The whole idea is to work it hard, in a concentrated manner.

Arguably, when lifting to gain strength, using momentum can be a good thing. However, generally speaking, you should only be moving your elbow to maximise the load on the biceps.

If you find yourself starting to sway or using your shoulders to help you out, you should reduce the weight or rep range.

Rushing your reps

As we have already mentioned, reps should be slow and controlled; one second or so to get the weight up, a pause (with a squeeze) and then gently back down for two to three seconds.

Rushing your reps means the muscle will not get a proper workout and can also lead to injury.

Standing Cable Biceps Curl Video

Check out our video on how to perform standing biceps curls. Be sure to subscribe to our channel as well.

Programming

Which days to incorporate the standing cable biceps curl?

  • Arm day, of course! Do them heavy in a low rep range for strength or light-weight for high reps for growth, or even super-set them with other biceps exercises or triceps for an insane pump.
  • Pull day – when adopting the bro split (push/pull/legs) biceps work falls on pull day. You’ll be hitting your back and biceps with exercises such as pull-ups and rows. Programme the cable curl towards the end of the workout as a “finisher”.
  • Upper body day – the upper/lower split is a great way to train. Naturally, arm workouts will fall on upper body day.
  • Lower body day – when programming an upper/lower split, you will need to accommodate certain moves on lower body day. Abs, cardio, and deadlifts are obvious choices to include here. However, isolation work such as biceps can be done on lower body day, too.

How many cable curls to build biceps?

Once you start adding cable biceps curls to your routine, the optimum rep range to hit would be 10 – 15.

While going heavier is an option, it is usually wise to reserve heavy biceps work for the barbell or EZ bar.

What else do I need to know?

Although typically performed while standing, there is an option to sit down. Those with pre-existing leg issues (maybe it was leg day yesterday, for example) might find sitting is more comfortable.

Don’t worry if you discover you can’t lift as much while seated. Many of us use momentum while standing (even if we don’t realise it, or like to admit it) which is trickier to do while seated.

Muscles Worked

  • The biceps brachii (or just biceps for short) is the primary muscle worked here.
  • Abdominals – although they won’t get enough of a workout to induce hypertrophy, they certainly play a part in stabilising your body during the exercise.
  • Brachialis – this is the muscle which flexes the elbow. Most commonly utilised during hammer curls, this muscle surprisingly generates more power than the biceps. Use a rope attachment and hold in the hammer position, with a close grip, to get maximum brachialis engagement.

Equipment required

  • Cable machine – without a machine, you won’t have anywhere to connect your attachments.
  • Power rack/cage – most power racks and cages can be purchased with cable attachments.
  • Cable biceps bar/ EZ Bar – the cable biceps bar and EZ bar are ergonomically designed so you can better position your hands and wrists.
  • Straight bar – this is the most popular attachment to use for the cable biceps curl.
  • Rope attachment – add variation to your cable curls with the rope attachment.
  • Weight plates & discs – if using a plate-loaded machine or a power rack at home, plates and discs will be required.
  • Resistance bands – for those working out at home without a machine or power rack, you can still perform cable curls using a resistance band.

Compare Multi Gym Prices

With so many multi gyms & home gyms to choose from, we want to make sure you make the right choice. Compare prices and read reviews of suitable alternatives listed below.

Standing biceps cable curl variations and modifications

Most exercises can be performed in a multitude of ways, with many adaptations and variations. The standing biceps cable curl is no exception. These moves can be performed using a high cable, low cable, or even with different attachments.

Check out these variations and let us know what you think in the comments section.

Low cable biceps curls

Set the cable pully low and pull up towards your body. This is the most common method and the one which we have described in this article

High cable biceps curls

Set the cable pully high. With your arms outstretched, hold the bar just above your head. Pull down towards your face.

Cable rope biceps curls

Performing cable bicep curls with the rope attachment is an excellent way of targetting the brachialis muscle. Hold the rope in each hand in the hammer position. Keeping your grip close, pull the ropes up towards your chest. You will feel a pump in the side of your arms like nothing else before!

You can adjust the difficulty by standing closer or further away from the cable machine. Step closer to make it easier, and further away for a more challenging workout.

Standing Biceps Cable Curls Form Videos on YouTube

Further perfect your form by following these YouTube video tutorials.

Matthew Varney

Matthew Varney is a qualified personal trainer with over 9 years' fitness industry experience. With a wide range of clients who he trains either one to one or in groups, Matthew is a passionate professional who gets results. If he's not in the gym or out running, he's keeping himself busy writing about health and fitness.

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