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January 14, 2023
In search of an excellent arm workout that will build massive guns? Look no further! This intense bicep workout will give you an insane pump and some serious upper arm muscle growth.
Plus, we're only using one machine to get it all done. Get ready, because we're about to highlight why the cable machine is so great for your upper arms, along with an overview of biceps muscle anatomy and cable exercises that will hit them at every angle.
This post will discuss:
What are you waiting for? Let's go build some serious biceps!
The cable machine really is one of the most versatile pieces of equipment in the gym. If we needed to build a home gym, our first piece of equipment would be free weights, specifically a barbell. Now, if we could pick one more, we would add one of these best cable machines to our home gym, without a doubt.
That's because the cable machine isn't just one machine. It's a setup that allows you to train just about every muscle and movement pattern. Seriously, it's that good.
There are two types of cable machines: a cable tower and a cable crossover, which we're about to briefly cover, along with the most common attachments.
A cable tower consists of a single-weight stack and pulley system. These are much more compact as there is no crossover section, and they typically consist of a beefier platform to act as a base, providing stability.
Cable towers are very effective and significantly cheaper as they require much less building material. A rough estimate would place these at a third to a half of the price of a cable crossover.
However, because there is only one tower, you cannot perform exercises such as chest flies.
This is what most people think of when they hear "cable machine." They consist of two towers connected by a crossbar. This allows extra exercises to be performed, including chest flies and even some bodyweight exercises.
While you'll be able to use a tower to perform a lot of the exercises featured in this workout, a few moves do require a cable crossover. However, as these are more common in commercial gyms, it shouldn't be an issue.
There are a ton of attachments. Here are the most common:
The biceps muscle is a two-headed muscle that sits on the front of the upper arm. Biceps exercises, including everything from bodyweight biceps exercises to dumbbell bicep exercises, are some of the most popular, due to the aesthetics a well-developed biceps provides the upper body.
In addition to the biceps, there are two other arm muscles, the brachialis and brachioradialis, that contribute heavily to the performance of the biceps and the size of the upper arm.
In order to truly provide a great biceps workout, it's imperative that you understand the role each of these muscles plays.
The biceps brachii muscle sits on the front of the upper arm and runs from the shoulder joint all the way down to the elbow. In fact, this muscle crosses both of these joints, making it a biarticular muscle.
While one muscle, the biceps brachii is composed of two heads: the short head and the long head.
The origin of the short head is located on the coracoid of the shoulder, but it does not cross the shoulder joint. It runs down the arm, crosses the elbow joint, and inserts on the medial section of the forearm bones. The short head runs on the inner portion of the arm and is sometimes referred to as the "inner biceps."
The origin of the long head is located on the supraglenoid tubercle of the scapula (shoulder blade), meaning it crosses the shoulder joint. It runs down the outer side of the biceps and attaches close to the short head on the forearm bones.
Together, the biceps brachii perform several functions:
Even though the biceps get all the praise for flexing the upper arms, the brachialis is the actual mover. The brachialis lies deep into the biceps brachii, so you don't actually see it. This muscle serves one purpose, and that is to flex the biceps.
It's a thick muscle that inserts approximately halfway down the arm, attaching to the coronoid process of the ulna just across the elbow. This only allows it to flex the elbow (it has no role in supination of the arm or shoulder flexion), and it does an incredible job at it.
It's estimated to provide 50% of the force required for elbow flexion. When you realize that there are two other primary flexors (biceps, brachioradialis) as well as some others involved, it's clear how important this muscle is in arm flexion.
That's why it's imperative to perform brachialis exercises. Not only will you be able to lift more weight, but it will also push the biceps brachii outward when it grows.
The brachioradialis is a smaller muscle that sits on the forearm. Its origin is located on a feature known as the lateral supracondylar ridge on the lower section of the humerus (upper arms bone). It then crosses the elbow and inserts into the upper area of the radius, the shorter forearm bone.
The brachioradialis has two functions:
The brachioradialis is especially powerful when in a midposition (neutral grip).
Now that you have an understanding of the equipment this bicep workout with cables requires, along with the muscles you'll be working, let's get right into the bicep cable workout. After the bicep workouts with cables, we'll explain how to perform each of the exercises included in the routine, along with the benefits that come with performing this plan.
The wait is over! Here is a killer biceps workout, guaranteed to build muscle in your upper arms. It is important to note that you should rarely just train your biceps. Therefore, this is designed to be added to your pulling day session or even your back and biceps workout.
There are two sessions to this bicep workouts on cables, both with 5 exercises each. Each session will start with chin-ups and negatives, followed by three other exercises, which only have 2 sets each. Again, this should be placed at the end of a workout session, so this is to reduce time while providing variety.
Now, onward to how to perform each of these exercises!
We've covered the best biceps cable workout. Now, it's time to run through the best cable bicep exercises, so you can perform them with the correct form.
There are a ton of biceps exercises that you could use to add muscle to your upper arms, including ones that didn't even make this list.
We choose these cable biceps exercises for a few reasons:
Let's go over each.
Okay, so this isn't actually a cable machine exercise; however, it's essential, so we're keeping it on our best biceps exercise with cable machine list. When people think about "bicep exercises," they usually go straight to isolation exercises. However, your biceps muscles are used in every compound pulling exercise, including chin-ups.
In fact, chin-ups are on the list of best biceps exercises by the majority of proper strength coaches. Part of this comes from the large amount of stress you can place on the muscle, especially during the eccentric contraction.
We choose the chin-up and not the pull-up because you use an underhand grip that supinates the arm, priming it for optimum muscle activation¹. Curious about more differences between the two moves? We have a great article detailing the differences and comparing pull ups vs. chin ups.
How to do Chin Ups:
Heavy negative biceps curls take advantage of your muscle's ability to generate more force during the eccentric portion of an exercise.
This is good news as the eccentric portion of an exercise has been found to play a more prominent role in muscle damage and its accompanying muscle recovery. As a result, the eccentric portion contributes more to overall muscle growth.
One of our favorite cable machine bicep exercises, this move is best performed with an EZ-curl bar attachment so less stress is placed on the wrist. You can use a straight bar attachment to perform these, but make sure you keep your wrist straight.
Another great variation is to use a handle attachment on each side of the cable machine. You've got options!
How to do Negative Biceps Curls:
A single arm cable curl variation, the Bayesian curl does not get nearly enough recognition. It's one of the best cable bicep exercises you can do, and you can only perform these with a cable machine!
This is because you must be able to position your body and resist force in a way that draws your arm slightly behind you (shoulder extension). You can only do this by turning away from the resistance force, which is impossible to do with free weights or another machine.
Now, when you perform the curl, the resistance pulls your arm back, forcing your long head to contract with shoulder extension to stabilize the arm. This allows you to hit the biceps at both ends while the resistant force places constant tension on the biceps muscle. Hello, muscle hypertrophy!
How to do Bayesian Curls:
We spoke about this above, but way too many people follow programs that don't train the forearms efficiently. Most routines are lucky to even have one forearm exercise, let alone a compound exercise that targets this muscle group. The reverse curl is an easy way to get both.
During the movement, your arm is pronated, decreasing the biceps' involvement and requiring only the forearms to do the work.
You can use either a straight bar or an EZ-curl bar.
How to do Reverse Curls:
Hammer curls are usually associated with dumbbell hammer curls, but you can also perform them using a cable machine. To do this, attach the rope attachment so you can use a neutral grip.
Using a neutral grip provides several benefits, including taking stress off the wrist, allowing for heavier loads, and training both the brachioradialis and brachialis.
How to do Hammer Curls:
Spider curls, which are performed laying down on an incline bench, do a great job isolating the biceps.
You can utilize any of the attachments for this exercise.
How to do Cable Spider Curls:
Think of this as the cable version of dumbbell curls. There are a few different cable biceps curls that you can perform. For the cable curl, you can either use a straight bar or an EZ-curl bar to perform these.
For heavier loads (75%-80% 1RM), use an EZ-curl bar. For lighter loads (<75%), use a straight bar. You can use a straight bar attachment to perform one burnout set at the end of a session, repping out until failure.
In reality, you could include both of these cable bicep exercises in your program.
How to do Cable Bicep Curls:
The supine cable biceps curl can only be done using a cable machine due to the angle of force required. You can perform it lying on a bench or on the floor. Either position will make it nearly impossible to rely on your body's motion to help curl the bar.
We like performing supine cable curls with the EZ-curl bar attachment and lighter weight.
How to do Supine Cable Biceps Curl:
We're going to be honest. We LOVE using cable machine exercises to train the biceps. And after seeing the workout and exercises you can perform using this piece of equipment, we're sure you've joined Team Cable Machine as well.
We love the cable machine for everything from training isolation movements to smaller accessory work. Apart from free weights, it is easily our favorite piece of equipment in the gym.
The term "cable machine" really does this piece of equipment injustice, as it's quite literally an entire gym. Almost. There are a few exercises that are difficult to simulate, such as a squat or lunge. But you can essentially train the entire upper body.
This ability is, in part, due to the multiple attachments that you can easily switch out. Doing so lets you train single-arm exercises, bilateral exercises (both arms), pulling, pushing, and anything else you can think of.
Being able to do multiple exercises is only beneficial if you're able to transition from one to another easily. With cable machines, you can easily switch through your exercises quickly.
Changing exercises is fast when swapping the attachment or changing from the low pulley cable position to a high position. This makes running a circuit extremely easy, assuming no one is waiting for your machine.
In addition to changing the exercises, you can easily increase or decrease the cable weight by changing the pin. This allows you to run supersets if you want or just accurately and quickly find the appropriate weight.
This may seem trivial, but this can be a godsend after you've spent some time loading and unloading weights.
The track on which the cable pulley runs can be positioned so it's on the lowest setting near your feet or on the upper position that's generally 7+ feet tall. As a result, you can hit different angles with just one exercise.
While we believe in running a structured training program, we also believe that introducing variability can be beneficial to optimizing muscle growth.
If you've never used the cable machine, you need to start. Realize this is just a tiny fraction of all the different cable machine exercises you can do. It's not even all the biceps exercises you can utilize to build muscular arms.
Not that you need any more moves, as this is a pretty awesome bicep workout that will add serious muscle strength and mass to your arms.
Looking for more great cable exercises? Check out these cable arm exercises, which will build muscle and strength in your biceps and triceps!
Love this cable bicep workout and cable workouts in general? Consider adding a cable machine to your home gym! It enables you to perform a wide range of exercises and makes working out ultra-convenient.
Raizada S, Bagchi A. A Comparative Electromyographical Investigation of Latissimus Dorsi and Biceps Brachii Using Various Hand Positions in Pull Ups. Indian Journal of Public Health Research & Development. 2019;10(7):1624. doi:10.5958/0976-5506.2019.01830.8
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