Muscles Targeted: Two arm overhead cable curls are an excellent isolation exercise for adding definition to your biceps. Cables have the advantage of providing constant tension during the movement and they provide resistance to help build strength in the upper arms. This exercise targets the biceps brachii (2 heads of the biceps), brachialis (middle of the arm in between the biceps and triceps) and the brachioradialis muscles (forearms). This is a great exercise to get a full stretch in the biceps on the “negative” which is the eccentric portion of the movement when the muscle elongates or lengthens.
Exercise Instructions: Stand between two pulley machines and securely grasp the handles with each hand using an underhand grip (palms facing upwards). Allow your arms to extend straight out to your sides at about shoulder level and parallel to the ground. While keeping your elbows set in place (fixed position), slowly curl your hands toward your shoulders making sure that both of your biceps are doing all the work. Squeeze both biceps at the peak of the movement for a one-count and then return the cable handles back to the starting position and repeat.
Why This Exercise is Important: The key to this exercise is to isolate and build the muscles in your upper arm. Using the cable machine to target your biceps ensures that you maintain resistance on both the concentric (curling motion) and the eccentric (lengthening the muscle) portion of this movement. This is a true isolation style exercise for your biceps so you will need to make sure that your elbows are in a fixed position so focus on just moving your forearms back and forth without any up and down movements in your elbows. If you combine two arm overhead cable curls (strength training) with cardiovascular exercise and a clean diet as part of your complete fitness routine, you will be able to achieve stronger and more defined arms.
Adding this exercise to your arm workouts can also help with aesthetics since it’s always nice to confidently wear sleeveless shirts and tank tops while showcasing a pair of lean and defined biceps. By training your upper body you will help to increase your lean muscle mass which will assist you in speeding up your metabolic rate and lose body fat. Having an increased BMR helps your body burn additional calories even at rest. This is because lean muscle is a very metabolically active tissue and it burns many more calories than adipose tissue (body fat).
Things To Avoid:
- Avoid a fast and abrupt tempo. Always control the weight when curling it up and lowering it down. Do not let it drop back down quickly or you may injure your biceps and other tendons or ligaments. Always use a slow and controlled tempo.
- Do not allow the elbows to move around. Avoid letting your elbows move side to side or up and down as you curl the weight through the full range of motion. They must stay in a fixed position acting like a hinge for your forearms.
- Do not let your body get out of balance. Maintain a wide and secure stance with your feet planted on the ground with a little wider than shoulder width stance in order to keep your body completely stabilized.
Reps and Sets: A repetition is the number of times you perform an exercise during a set. Ten reps would consist of repeating the exercise ten times before taking a rest period. If you want to gain muscle and strength, you want to decrease your reps and use heavier weights. If you want to tone up and build endurance, you will focus on doing higher reps with lighter weights. Generally, you do as many reps as it takes to reach failure for the rep range. Then you will rest and do it again.
Since two arm overhead cable curls are more of a finishing isolation exercise, you will not use a lot of weight like you would with a true mass building exercise like standing barbell curls. If you notice your technique suffering (elbows moving up and down or your upper body moving around), you’re probably using too much weight and you should drop it down a little bit in order to adhere to strict form. Keep your reps in a higher range of around 12-15 per set and always warm-up with a set of 15-20 reps before moving into heavier weight. Total sets should range from 1-2 for beginners and 3-4 for advanced trainees on this exercise. Biceps are a small muscle group, so don’t use more than 6-8 total sets for your entire biceps workout or you might run into overtraining issues. Only train your biceps once per week for optimal results.
A great exercise technique you might want to use in your arm workout is called “twenty ones”. For 21’s, you will choose any biceps exercise and do 21 reps in a row with absolutely no rest and perform it in this format:
- 7 partial range of motion repetitions (half way up and then back down)
- 7 partial range of motion repetitions (half way down and then back up)
- 7 full range of motion repetitions (all the way up and down)
Other Exercises To Use: There are a number of great exercises to use to target your biceps. Two arm dumbbell curls are an excellent mass building exercise. Preacher curls are great for hitting the lower area of the biceps. Concentration curls are an excellent isolation exercise for targeting the peak of your biceps. Instead of using two arm overhead cable curls, you can also opt for one arm cable curls to really focus on a single arm at a time. View our extensive database of exercise guides for a comprehensive list of exercises that target the biceps.