One Arm Cable Curls – Biceps Exercise Guide with Photos


Muscles Targeted: One arm cable curls are perfect if you’re looking for an isolation exercise that really targets the biceps and builds definition in the upper arms. This exercise is one that is performed while standing, using a cable pulley machine with a handle attached to the lowest setting. The main muscle groups targeted include the biceps brachii (2 heads of the biceps), the brachialis (muscle on the side of the arm between the biceps and triceps) and the brachioradialis (forearms). Stabilizer muscles include the anterior deltoids (front area of the shoulders). This exercise integrates a pulling force and isolated mechanics as it involves a single joint motion via the elbow. To execute proper technique with one arm cable curls it is very important to follow the step by step exercise instructions below.



Exercise Instructions: Using a cable machine, attach a handle grip to the lowest setting on the pulley machine. Grab the handle with one hand using an underhand grip (palm facing upward). While standing erect with a straight back, shoulders back and chest out, slowly curl the handle up to the top which will be at about shoulder level. Really focus all of the tension directly on your biceps in order to get a peak contraction at the top. Slowly return the handle back down to the starting position and repeat for the desired number of reps and then switch to your other arm.

Why This Exercise is Important: One arm cable curls are beneficial in many ways:

  • Creates greater definition and strength in the muscles of the upper arm. This is a nice finishing exercise to include at the end of your biceps workout because it’s an isolation movement that really helps to target and build the peak of the biceps.
  • Builds strength in the forearms, wrists, and grip. The wrist flexors and finger flexors also work when performing this exercise which are important muscles for everyday work activities like typing on the computer and using a mouse. Strong wrists and overall grip strength is also beneficial for sports like golf, tennis and fun games like bowling.
  • The curling motion of this exercise is also extremely important to athletes who are involved in pulling type sports and need more pulling power from the biceps. These athletes include basketball players, football players and swimmers.

Things To Avoid:

  • Always avoid bending the back, hunching over and rounding your shoulders during this exercise. The back should be kept straight throughout the movement to maintain proper posture and for maximum effectiveness of the exercise.
  • The elbow and upper arm should remain in the same position. The only part of the body in motion during the exercise is the forearm. Avoid moving your elbow up and down since this will take all of the tension off the biceps and engage the deltoids which you do not want. Keep your elbow stabilized and focus your attention on keeping it in the same position while you curl the weight up and back down.
  • Maintain an athletic stance with your feet about shoulder width apart, feet firmly planted on the ground and your knees slightly bent. Do not rock or sway your body forward or backward as you curl the weight up and down. This will only cause issues with your overall exercise technique and take the emphasis off of the biceps.
  • When in doubt, try to do this exercise in front of a mirror so you can watch your overall form to make sure you are executing the movement correctly. Most cable pulley machines are positioned along the perimeter of a gym, so it should be easy to find a mirror so you can monitor your technique.

Reps and Sets: It’s very important to always make sure and warm-up properly before training your biceps. Do a very light set of 15-20 reps in order to get blood into the muscle and get the arms fully warmed up before moving into heavier sets. Since this is an isolation type of exercise, you don’t need to use super heavy weights and low reps. Focus on higher repetitions in the range of 12-15 with lighter weights. This is a finishing movement so perform it at the end of your workout and make sure to include some great mass building exercises early on in your routine like barbell curls or preacher curls. You really only need to perform 6-8 total sets for your biceps workout since the muscle group is rather small and does not need a lot of overall sets and exercises to stimulate growth. Even though it might be fun to train your biceps 2-3 times per week, you should avoid this since you will most likely end up overtraining the muscles which will halt your progress. Train your biceps hard but make sure to only hit them once per week for optimal recovery and the best results.

Other Exercises To Use: You can combine several other exercises along with one arm cable curls to build an effective workout routine for your biceps. Try some alternating hammer curls, preacher curls and barbell curls to pack on size and build strength in your arms. View our extensive database of exercise guides for a comprehensive list of exercises that target the biceps and other muscle groups.

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