Standing Cable Curls (Pulley Curls)
Standing cable curls are a basic, heavy biceps exercise suitable for any level. Both the long and the short head are worked intensely. The advantage of carrying out this exercise on a cable pulley machine instead of using a barbell or dumbbell is that the pulley keeps working your biceps muscle throughout the entire range of motion (cable pulley provides a uniform resistance throughout the movement).
Standing Pulley Curls Exercise Instructions
In order to perform this great biceps exercise you will need a low pulley on a multi-station weight machine.
STARTING POSITION (SETUP): Attach the short straight bar to a low pulley cable, using an shoulder-width, underhand grip. Begin with your arms extended toward the floor and your knees slightly bent. Your shoulders should lean back slightly.
EXERCISE TECHNIQUE (ACTION): Curl the bar up toward your shoulders (in an arc) by bending at the elbows. Keep your elbows in at your sides. Squeeze the contraction for a count at the top, then lower the weight down to the start position.
Additional Tips & Tricks for Standing Cable Curls (Pulley Curls)
- Grab the straight bar attached to the low pulley of a cable station with a shoulder-width, underhand grip (palms facing up) and hold it at arm’s length. If you use a wide grip, the short head will work harder and if you use a narrow grip, the long head will
- Stand upright with the spine straight. Slightly flex your knees and position the bar in front of your thighs with your elbows fully extended.
- Without allowing your upper arms to move, curl the bar as close to your chest as you can. In other words, fixing the elbows against your sides prevents movement at the shoulder and is an excellent way to isolate the biceps. So remember to keep your upper arms pressed against your torso during the entire range of movement.
- Common mistakes: rocking the body to help lift, pulling your elbows back to shorten the movement and get help from the back muscles, and letting the cable fall to gain momentum.
Muscles Involved in Cable Biceps Curls
Standing cable curls work all the biceps muscle groups: the biceps brachii (front of upper arm), the brachialis (outside of upper arm), and the brachioradialis (upper forearm).
- Main muscles: biceps, brachialis, brachioradialis
- Secondary muscles: pronator teres, extensor carpi radialis longus, flexor digitorum superficialis, flexor carpi radialis
- Antagonists: triceps, anconeus
Cable Biceps Curl Variations
If you are using a pulley, you can do cable curls either unilaterally or bilaterally. Furthermore, you can perform cable curls while seated or standing.
- Cable curls with EZ-bar attachment
- Standing one-arm cable curl – perform the exercise one arm at a time using a D-handle attached to the low pulley.
- Lying cable curls. The variant is the same as the basic standing exercise, but relieves strain on the back (muscles of the pelvis and along the spinal column). It is ideal for people who suffer from lower back pain or who want to do the exercise as strictly as possible.
- One-arm cable preacher curls
Excellent Replacement Exercises
To add variety to your biceps workout routine, replace the standing cable curls (pulley curls) with a different exercise from our database that works the same muscles – biceps brachii. Each exercise works the bicep and supporting muscles slightly differently.
- Straight Bar Standing Bicep Curl
- Supinating Dumbbell Biceps Curl
- Incline Dumbbell Biceps Curls
- Standing Hammer Dumbbell Curl
- Dumbbell Concentration Curl
- High-Pulley Curl
- Standing EZ-Bar Curl
- Dumbbell Curl Over Incline Bench
Because the cable provides continuous tension, there’s as much resistance when you lower the weights as when you raise them. This is different from similar exercises with a barbell or dumbbells, where it’s easier to lower the weights than to raise them. That’s why it’s a good idea to include standing cable curls into your biceps workout.
Whether you work one arm or both at the same time is up to you. If doing them one arm at a time, grab the machine with your free hand for support. It’s extremely difficult to stay stationary when exercising one side of the
As with most cable exercises, go for the feel rather than the amount of weight. Cable curls are an excellent way to finish off the biceps after a basic movement such as standing barbell curls. Of course you can take the opposite approach and use them as a warmup exercise.
Many bodybuilders suggest starting your biceps workout with cables or dumbells. This warms up the area and doesn’t put the same stress on the elbows and forearms that barbell curls do.