Curls (Cable)

Curls (Cable) Muscle Image
Performance Description: 
  1. Stand or sit with your arms at your sides.
  2. Grasp the desired attachment.
  3. Curl the weight upward briefly pausing and squeezing at the top (full flexion), exhaling throughout the movement.
  4. Slowly lower the weight to the starting position, inhaling throughout the entire negative (downward) motion.
  5. Repeat steps 3-4 for as many sets as are desired. (Sets should generally fall between 3 to 6 with 6-12 repetitions).

Various Methods of Exercise: Cable (set low)

Note: There are several different grip attachments which can be used, each will direct focus to slightly different parts of the muscle groups.

The standard cable attachments that are used with this exercise are:

  1. Single Grip
  2. Straight Bar
  3. Easy Curl Bar
  4. Rope
Primary Muscle(s): 
Biceps (Biceps Brachii: Long 'Outer' Head)
Biceps (Biceps Brachii: Short 'Inner' Head)
Secondary Muscle(s): 
Biceps (Brachialis)
Tertiary Muscle(s): 
Shoulders (Deltoid: Anterior)
Further Clarification: 

Cable curls are often used for isolation/toning, and so are a nice way to finish off the muscle group. However, it should be noted that heavy weight can be effectively utilized as well. Furthermore, by keeping your forearm pronated (i.e. palm facing fully downward) you can blast the brachioradialis especially well. Normally this is done with the straight or easy curl attachment. Also, by bringing the elbow slightly forward at the end of the curl and squeezing the biceps peak can be targeted (see "Things To Look Out For" point number 3 below for clarification).

Note that doing this exercise seated can only be reasonably performed with the single grip attachment or the rope attachment (for more specialized/advanced purposes).

Things To Look Out For: 

Some people may develop elbow (tendon) pain if they do curls incorrectly. Three things to remember to greatly reduce the chance of elbow injury are:

  1. With cable curls controlling the weight doesn't present quite as much of a concern as with free weights or machines due to the geometry of cables (they are pulling your arm(s) down and forward), but nonetheless it is always wise to keep good form. It is therefore still recommended to refrain from letting the weight drop as the elbow reaches the bottom "locked" position because it may still cause injury.
  2. Keep your wrists straight (neutral). It is in this manner that maximum biceps stress will be achieved. Bending your wrist in either direction (upwards or downwards) removes focus from the intended muscle, the biceps, and creates vulnerability to injury (elbow or wrist). Note that when doing the pronated version (i.e. palm facing downward or inward) if the weight is too heavy or if your wrists or forearms are weak (particularly the Brachioradialis), then your wrists may bend in the direction of flexion (i.e. palm downward). If this happens adjust the weight so that you can do the exercise with straight wrists.
  3. Keep your elbows at your side throughout the movement, especially if you are a novice. Many people can raise their elbows (forward) at the top of the curl movement without becoming injured, though by raising the elbows the anterior deltoids become far more involved. If you are looking for a shoulder workout, then shoulder exercises better serve this purpose. However, there are experts who claim that raising the elbow forward allows for a fuller contraction of the biceps. Use good judgment when determining whether or not to perform curls this way.
Exercise Position(s): 
Standing (Standard), Sitting (Bench)
Exercise Variations: 
Considered An Exercise In The Following Categories: