Muscles Targeted: Standing cable curls target the biceps which are the primary muscle group engaged along with the forearms which are the secondary muscle group involved with this movement. For this exercise, the equipment required is a cable station which is a resistance machine that has an adjustable cable that you can attach different bars and other attachments to including a V-bar, rope, straight bar and other apparatus. For this exercise you will be using a straight bar attached to the cable machine. The biceps muscle is made up of several parts: biceps brachii, brachialis and brachioradialis. This exercise lets you achieve a peak contraction of the biceps at the top of the movement and provides a much more safe and stable motion for people who want to avoid using free weights like barbells and dumbbells. Stabilizer muscles include the anterior deltoids (front of shoulders) and the trapezius. The wrists are also engaged very well with this exercise along with the benefit of increasing overall grip strength.
Exercise Instructions: Stand facing a cable machine and adjust the cable to the lowest setting a few inches from the floor. Choose a straight bar attachment and hook it to the cable. Grab the straight bar with an underhand grip using both hands (palms facing upward) and while standing erect with a straight back, slowly curl the bar up to the top position which will be a few inches from your chest. Keep your elbows locked firmly in place and close to your sides throughout the movement. Slowly return the bar back down to the starting position and repeat.
Why This Exercise is Important: A lot of gym-goers place all of their faith in free weights as their main source of resistance training equipment (barbells and dumbbells). While it’s important to use them as part of your workout program, cable exercises are not to be ignored as they offer many advantages. They allow you to attain a full range of motion from top to bottom with constant tension directly placed on the muscles. Cable exercises also allow for a more stable, fluid and controlled movement which is great for some people who are scared to use free weights due to possible injuries from handling or dropping the weights. This exercise forces you to engage additional muscles for balance and stability since you are performing the exercise while standing and pulling on the cable which makes your legs work a little harder to support the tension. This exercise also helps to reduce the strain on joints, tendons and ligaments which some people incur from using free weights. What this means is that the efficiency, consistency and smoothness with which you perform the cable exercise will be more effective and using cables also adds some nice variety to a workout routine by hitting the muscles from different angles and unique types of resistance. Overall, it is a very effective movement that helps to build strength and size in your biceps.
Things To Avoid: In order to follow the correct exercise technique for this movement, always make sure to maintain proper body positioning and overall posture with your back straight, chest out and shoulders back with a slight bend in your knees and an athletic stance. Don’t bend over at your waist at any time during your repetitions. Make sure that only your forearms move during the exercise. You should also keep your elbows in a fixed and stable position and tuck them in close to your sides. These precautions will help you perform the exercise properly and avoid injury.
Reps and Sets: For beginners, this exercise should be performed with 1-2 sets and 12-15 reps only after a warm-up set is completed with very light weight for 15-20 reps in order to get blood into the muscles and your arms warmed up before moving onto heavier sets. Once you get used to the exercise and your form is spot-on, you can increase the number of sets to 3-4 and use lower reps in the range of 6-8 per set. Take a rest period of 90-120 seconds in between sets and train your biceps only once per week for the best results.
Other Exercises To Use: Although this exercise maximizes the focus on the biceps, you should also focus your attention on training your triceps in order to build symmetry in your arms. A great arm workout with the cable machine would include standing cable curls and two arm overhead cable curls for your biceps along with straight bar pushdowns and bodyweight bench dips for your triceps. View our extensive database of exercise guides for a comprehensive list of exercises that target the biceps.