High-Pulley Curl Exercise Guide


Biceps Exercise: Biceps High-Pulley Curl

High-pulley curl (or high cable curl) emphasizes the long head of the biceps and works the biceps peak. Perform this exercise with light weights so that you can concentrate and feel the contraction at the inside of the biceps brachii. You can perform high-pulley curls one arm at a time or with both arms simultaneously. The advantage of performing this exercise on a cable pulley machine instead of using a barbell or dumbbell is that the pulley keeps working your biceps muscles throughout the entire range of motion.

How To Perform Biceps High-Pulley Curls?

STARTING POSITION (SETUP): Set up by attaching a single grip handle (D-shaped) to each of the high pulley cables. Select the weight you want to use on the stack. Stand between two cable stations (directly in the middle of a cable crossover station), gripping stirrup handles attached to the upper pulleys. Your body looks like a perfect T in the starting position.

High-Pulley Curl

High-Pulley Curl

EXERCISE EXECUTION (ACTION): While keeping your body and upper arm completely still, bend both elbows simultaneously to curl the handles in toward your head as far as possible. Squeeze the contraction for a count at the top. Return to the start position (lower the weight until your arms are outstretched and fully extended or near it-depending on your comfort level).

High Cable Curls

High Cable Curls

Standing High-Pulley Curl Additional Tips & Key Points

  • Stand completely tall and straight between the weight stacks of a cable crossover station and set your feet shoulder-width apart.
  • Hold your arms out to the sides so they’re parallel to the floor but slightly bent.
  • Keep your upper arms in the same position from start to finish. Also, keep your body and elbows fixed in place throughout the set (do not move your elbows). Focus on only allowing your forearms to move.
  • Bend your arms simultaneously to bring your hands to the base of your neck.
  • Straightening the arms completely is even more dangerous with the elbows elevated than with regular curls. Even if you see many people at the gym doing the exercise using a full stretch, shortening your range of motion will minimize the risk of tearing your biceps tendons.
  • When your elevate your elbows, the brachialis muscle works a bit more and the biceps a bit less than with classic (supinated) curls.

Muscles Involved in High-Pulley Curl

  • Main muscles: biceps, brachialis, brachioradialis
  • Secondary muscles: pronator teres, extensor carpi radialis longus, flexor digitorum superficialis, flexor carpi radialis
  • Antagonists: triceps, anconeus

High Cable Curl Variations

  • One-Arm High Cable Curl. Hold only one handle, and do all reps with that arm.
  • Alternate arms every rep to focus on each arm individually. Without moving your right arm, curl your left hand toward your head. Slowly allow your left arm to straighten, then repeat the move with your right arm.

Replacement Exercises – Substitutes

These nine awesome biceps exercises will undoubtedly send your biceps to another level.

Summing Up & Closing Thoughts

High-pulley curl or high cable curl is an isolation exercise for the biceps muscles, so your focus should be on muscle contraction and stretch – not on the weight.

Never perform this exercise with any other type of weight lifting equipment. It may cross one’s mind that using dumbbells to perform this exercise is plausible but is more likely to result in a severe tendon injury in the elbow.

Because the elbows are at mid-level, the work is shared between the biceps (biceps brachii) and the brachialis. Even though the biceps is still working (a bit less than with classic or supinated curls), you can feel the brachialis sliding perfectly along the humerus, a sign that it is contracting powerfully.

Finally, brachialis curls are not necessarily required in a strength training program. You should have already worked this muscle with a classic curls and back exercises.

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