Lying High Cable Curls – Biceps Exercise Guide


Muscles Targeted: Lying high cable curls is a great isolation exercise that provides resistance to the arm and helps to build strength and definition in the biceps. This exercise targets the biceps brachii (2 heads of the biceps), brachialis (outside area of arm) and brachioradialis (forearms) muscles located on the upper arm between the elbow and shoulder. The biceps brachii is two-headed (short and long heads). Both heads arise from the shoulder and join to the elbow via tendons. Bicep muscles allow one to flex the elbows thus lifting, pulling and raising the arms over the head. They also enable one to rotate the arm. Well developed biceps form a noticeable mass or “bulge” and generally takes up most space between the shoulder and elbow. The brachialis muscle is located underneath the bicep brachii and is involved in all elbow flexion motion. It is mostly used for elbow flexion unless the arm is in a supinated or neutral position whereby the biceps come into play due to the greater resistance. The brachioradialis is located on the thumb side of the forearm.


Exercise Instructions: Place a flat bench under a high pulley or lat pulldown machine. Grab a straight bar with an underhand grip securely with both hands. Lie on your back on the bench with your head near the base of the machine. While keeping your elbows firmly in place throughout the movement, curl the bar down until it comes a few inches from your nose. Slowly return the bar back up to the starting position and repeat. Make sure to keep your back flat on the bench with your feet securely planted on the floor for balance and stabilization.

Why This Exercise is Important: Performing lying high cable curls allows trainees to be able to acquire greater strength in the elbow flexor muscles, including the biceps. This exercise also helps add a little more definition to the upper arm and a nice peak to the biceps because of the isolation style technique of the movement. Of even greater importance is in pulling activities which require the elbow flexor muscles like in gymnastics, climbing and pull-ups. Other sports that also benefit from this exercise are tennis, hockey, lacrosse and swimming which all utilize these elbow flexor muscles.

Things To Avoid: For safety while doing the lying high cable curl exercise there are number of things to avoid, including:

  • Avoid the urge to arch or sway your back while bringing the bar down and up. You will lose proper exercise technique and your form will be negatively affected thus reducing its efficiency.
  • Avoid moving the elbows during the set. They should remain fixed and pointing away from the body throughout the exercise. Do not move them up, down or back and forth. They should act like a fixed hinge point for your forearms.
  • Avoid losing control of the weights. The weights should be under control throughout the entire range of motion. You should use slow repetition timing to maintain control of the weights at all times.

Reps and Sets: The recommended repetition scheme for this exercise depends on your level of fitness. The weights used should be challenging enough to stimulate the muscle but not too heavy to lose form and while letting your technique suffer. Shoot for 8-12 reps for 1-2 sets for a beginner. For more advanced trainees, increase the weight and lower the reps to around 6-8 per set for a total of 2-3 sets for this exercise. Since the biceps are a smaller muscle group, you only need to do around 6-8 total sets per workout. Only train your biceps once per week to avoid overtraining issues.

Other Exercises To Use: Lying high cable curls can be added to several other exercises to create an effective workout routine for your biceps. These can include standing dumbbell curls, preacher curls and standing single arm cable curls. Another great workout could start with barbell curls, which is one of the best mass building exercises along with machine preacher curls, followed up with lying straight bar cable curls as the perfect finishing isolation movement. All of these exercises are highly recommended if you are looking to target the biceps and increase mass and definition in your arms. View our extensive database of exercise guides for a comprehensive list of exercises that target the biceps.

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