Everyone loves training arms. Biceps workouts can be a standalone session during which you attack a weakness in your physique, or the carrot-on-a-stick to finish your upper-body day. In any case, cables are easily one of the best tools to ever happen for arm gains. Combine the two and you’re in for a treat.
Cables open your training up to a whole world of possibilities and exercises that can serve your long-term goals. With so many options on the table, you need to know how to design a biceps workout that gets you what you’re after — gains.
With that in mind, here are the four best biceps cable workouts.
Best Biceps Cable Workouts
- Best Biceps Cable Workout for Muscle Growth
- Best Biceps Cable Workout If You’re In a Hurry
- Best Biceps Cable Workout for Back Day
- Best Biceps Cable Workout for Beginners
Growing muscle is among the most common goals for anyone who sets foot in the gym. Biceps are no different than any other muscle group — to grow them, you’ll be looking for a good complement of exercises that will challenge them in different ways. This is to ensure each individual section of the biceps gets a significant amount of stimulation per session.
The aesthetic look of your arms is dependent on hypertrophy in the biceps brachii, brachialis, and brachioradialis. Performing cable exercises for your biceps at different angles can help you target each one a little more significantly.
- High-Cable Biceps Curl: 2 x 15
- Single-Arm Cable Curl: 2 x 10
- Rope Hammer Curl: 2 x 10
- Bayesian Cable Curl: 2 x 12
Sometimes you’re in a rush but still want to get a sick pump and lock in your arm gains for the day. Thankfully, training the biceps with cables allows for some pretty crazy intensifiers and a quick training session to boot. You might need to hog the station for a bit, but the right workout will have your arms so pumped you won’t be able to straighten them.
Using rest-pause techniques, drop sets, and short rest periods will produce an immense pump. Along the way, you’ll also train to failure, so a quick workout will get the job done. Indulge in the burn and the return on investment will be legendary. Rest only 45 seconds between sets here.
- Bilateral Cable Squat Curl: 2 x 10 with rest-pause
- Face-Away Cable Curl: 2 x 15 with a drop set
Rest-Pause: Finish the set of 10 repetitions and rest 10 seconds before repping it out to failure two additional times.
Drop Set: Finish the set of 15 repetitions before reducing the load by 30 to 50 percent and going to failure.
Back and biceps is a pairing as old as time. The best part about back day is that it slowly chips away at your biceps on every exercise. The amount of weight and repetitions your biceps will soak up across the entire session leaves you with only 1-2 strategic exercises to play around with before your bis are burnt to a crisp.
Your back day choices can be a bit of a wild card here. The heavier you go and the longer you train your back, the less gas you’ll have in the tank for arm training. That said, a good high-repetition pairing, like a seated cable incline curl and a high-cable biceps curl, can be the perfect bookend. One challenges you to stabilize and one allows you to absolutely obliterate the biceps while sitting in a chair.
- High-Cable Biceps Curl: 2 x 12
- Seated Incline Cable Curls: 2 x 12-15
If you’re a beginner, fear not! There is a biceps workout with your name on it. Not only will it help build some early muscle mass, but a good beginner biceps routine will introduce you to the fundamentals of proper arm training.
The best way to ensure early growth in your biceps is to stimulate them from all angles. From a technique perspective, you’ll also want to work with a wide array of equipment while you’re starting out. This gets your feet wet with all the cable station has to offer and builds your biceps in the process.
Anatomy of the Biceps
The biceps brachii obviously steal the show anatomically, but there are a few more muscles that contribute to the overall aesthetic of what you would normally consider the “biceps”. The brachialis and brachioradialis are huge contributors to arm aesthetics as well. Here’s how it all works.
While other muscle groups contribute to the overall look or size of the “biceps”, the biceps brachii are the showstoppers; this muscle provides the bulk of the visual muscle. The long head of the biceps actually originates from the supraglenoid tubercle of the scapula and inserts right at the forearm.
The short head of the biceps runs from the coracoid process to the same spot on the forearm. Together, they primarily help to flex your elbow, rotate your wrist, and also do a smidge of shoulder flexion.
Your brachialis is a companion muscle to the biceps brachii. It sits underneath the biceps and performs elbow flexion exclusively. While it is distinct from the biceps brachii (the actual “biceps” muscle), it undeniably contributes to the overall aesthetic of the arm, especially from the front.
Your brachialis attaches about midway up your upper arm and inserts at the forearm just below the crook of your elbow. It works together with the biceps brachii in order to flex your arm.
Like the brachialis, the brachioradialis is a distinct muscle group from the biceps brachii but also helps contribute to a well-rounded arm aesthetic. It is also often trained in some capacity during biceps workouts so it helps to know a bit about it.
Your brachioradialis lays across your upper and forearm, attaching just above the elbow joint towards the outer side. It inserts partway down the lateral part of your forearm and helps with a ton of neutral grip curls and various wrist extension exercises.
Benefits of Biceps Cable Workouts
There are huge benefits to using cable machines to train your biceps. The most obvious is going to be a larger set of arms, but cables can also benefit your shoulder mobility and stability. Perhaps the most quintessential benefit of cable work is how easy it is to individualize for each person.
The most obvious benefit of cable biceps workouts is their usefulness for building bigger arms. While many training programs will indirectly hit the biceps, a good cable-based biceps workout can do wonders for bringing your overall arm size up to par.
Utilizing cables is a huge asset as well because of how incrementally you can increase the challenge, rather than having to move up five pounds at a time with dumbbells.
Shoulder Mobility and Stability
Hitting your biceps on a cable machine can help with your shoulder mobility, depending on where you set the height of the handle. Since the cable is not fixed to one single range of motion like a machine, you will need to use your shoulder stabilizers to anchor your arm as you train.
Higher positions can help train some degree of overhead mobility while you work out your arms. Likewise, a lower position might help with encouraging your scapula to sit tucked back and down, a posture you utilize during exercises like the bench press. Certain single-arm biceps exercises can challenge your general shoulder stability, especially if you have to hold your arm aloft in space.
They’re Easy to Individualize
One of the best benefits of training your biceps with cables is how customizable they can be to your body. You have a unique arm length, torso height, and various other physical characteristics that may make machines hard or awkward to use.
Cables move freely in space and aren’t limited by specific setup parameters or rigid design. You can step forward, step backward, tuck your arms or flare them, adjust the handle you’re using, and much more to ensure that your biceps training is comfortable and sustainable.
They Gain Points for Convenience
The sheer convenience of training your biceps with a cable machine is hard to beat. Entire training sessions can be accomplished by simply parking yourself at the same machine and adjusting the height of the handle. There’s no need to navigate a gym or stockpile equipment to the detriment of other patrons; you can do it all without even moving your feet.
Who Should Do Biceps Cable Workouts
Cable biceps workouts are relevant to more situations than you might think at first. Although beginners can see huge arm gains from cables (or any other type of equipment), bodybuilders, powerlifters, and Olympic lifters can all benefit specifically from some cable work.
Beginners can make huge progress with cable biceps workouts. The mild instability of the cable fixture is a great way to improve technique and bracing habits. They also allow you to mobilize and stabilize your shoulders against resistance, something that many beginners can benefit from.
Finally, training the biceps is a highly encouraging and enjoyable workout. Weaving in some rewarding cable biceps workouts can ensure that hitting the gym is fun and fulfilling and not a chore you subject yourself to.
Bodybuilders are another obvious beneficiary of cable biceps workouts. Aside from impressive arms being essential for a stage-worthy physique, cables as an implement are the gift that keeps on giving.
Bodybuilders live and die by accumulating mechanical tension; consistent resistance on the tissue they want to grow. Unlike free-weight curls, which can feel inconsistent, cables thrash your biceps from start to finish and don’t let up until you’re done with your set.
The unfortunate reality is that most strength athletes — whether you’re into powerlifting, practice Olympic lifting, or something in between — accumulate plenty of wear and tear on their joints through sport-specific training.
Injecting your accessory work with some much-needed variety in the form of cable biceps training can help stave off anxiety about training and give your joints a break in the meantime. Certain cable biceps exercises also place your shoulder in positions you don’t often find in strength sports, such as behind your body via the Bayesian cable curl. Training these ranges is a great way to keep your joints happy and healthy long-term.
Blow Up Your Biceps
Free weights and machines have their place in every gym, sure, but there’s something special about using cables. You can tweak the cable machine to meet just about any fitness goal — including and especially growing and strengthening your biceps.
They also gain points for customizability; anyone can set up and work with cables. It’s hard to argue against a piece of equipment that ranks high in both form and function. If you want huge biceps, cable workouts might just be the secret sauce.
- Grgic, J., Schoenfeld, B. J., Orazem, J., & Sabol, F. (2022). Effects of resistance training performed to repetition failure or non-failure on muscular strength and hypertrophy: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Journal of sport and health science, 11(2), 202–211.
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