cable exercises for arms
Fitness

18 Cable Exercises for Arms That are Versatile and Effective

When it comes to training the arms, barbells, and dumbbells have traditionally been the most popular tools for doing so. Hitting your biceps, triceps, and forearms with cables, however, offers some unique advantages.

Cables allow you to more perfectly mimic the muscle fiber direction, work from every conceivable angle, and provide an ideal strength curve compared to free weights.

In this article, we reveal the 18 best cable exercises to give you an awesome arm workout with nothing but a cable machine.

1. Low Cable Curls (Facing Away)

Muscles Worked

Biceps

Equipment

Dual pulley cable machine

Training Tips

Do not use momentum to drive the weight up by swinging. Contract the biceps strongly at the top.

How To Do It

  1. Set the machine to its lowest pulley setting. 
  2. Stand facing away from the machine and hold the cable handle at your sides.
  3. From a start position with your arms fully extended, curl the bar up to shoulder level.
  4. Lower and repeat

2. Cable Curls

Muscles Worked

Biceps

Equipment

Single pulley cable machine, short bar handle

Training Tips

Forcefully contract your biceps in a fully contracted position. Keep your feet flat on the floor throughout the exercise. 

How To Do It

  1. Set the machine to its lowest pulley setting. 
  2. Stand facing the machine and hold the bar with arms shoulder width grip.
  3. From a start position with your arms fully extended, curl the bar up to shoulder height.
  4. Lower and repeat

3. Single Arm Cable Curl

Muscles Worked

Biceps

Equipment

Single Pulley Cable Machine

Training Tips

Stop just short of full extension to keep continuous tension on the biceps.

How To Do It

  1. Set the machine to its lowest pulley setting. 
  2. Stand facing the machine and grab the cable handle with your right hand.
  3. From a start position with your arms fully extended, curl the cable handle up to shoulder level.
  4. Lower and repeat

4. High Pulley Cable Curls

Muscles Worked

Biceps

Equipment

Cable Crossover machine

Training Tips

Keep your elbows up at shoulder level throughout the entire movement.

How To Do It

  1. Set the pulleys on a cable crossover machine to their highest level and stand between the pulleys with the cables in your hands.
  2. In the starting position your elbows should be up at shoulder level. Extend your arms out to the sides of your body.
  3. Curl your arms to bring your hands to your ears. 
  4. Lower and repeat.

5. Bayesian Curl

Muscles Worked

Biceps

Equipment

Single cable pulley machine

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Training Tips

Tightly contract the biceps in the fully contracted position.

How To Do It

  1. Set the machine to its lowest pulley setting. 
  2. Stand facing away from the machine and hold the bar with a slightly closer than shoulder width grip. Stand in  a split stance. 
  3. From a start position with your arms fully extended, curl the bar up higher than you would on a conventional curl until it comes up tp your ear. Your elbow will come forward as you do this.
  4. Lower and repeat

6. Rope Hammer Curl

Muscles Worked

Bices, forearms

Equipment

Single pulley cable machine, rope attachment

Training Tips

Do not swing your back as you curl the rope up.

How To Do It

  1. Set the machine to its lowest pulley setting. 
  2. Stand facing the machine and hold the rope handle so that your palms are facing each other.
  3. From a start position with your arms fully extended, curl the rope up to chest level.
  4. Lower and repeat

7. Reverse Cable Curl

Muscles Worked

Forearms

Equipment

Single cable pulley machine, shirt straight bar attachment

Training Tips

Focus on getting a strict movement through the forearms. Do not swing.

How To Do It

  1. Set the machine to its lowest pulley setting. 
  2. Stand facing the machine and hold the bar with a slightly closer than shoulder width grip in a palms down grip
  3. From a starting position with your arms fully extended, curl the bar up to your shoulder level.
  4. Lower and repeat.

8. Triceps Pushdown

Muscles Worked

Triceps

Equipment

Single cable pulley machine

How To Do It

Do not allow your elbows to drift out. 

  1. Set the machine to its highest pulley setting. 
  2. Stand facing from the machine with feet shoulder width apart and hold the bar with a slightly closer than shoulder width palms down  grip.
  3. From a starting position with your elbows at your sides and your hands at upper chest level. press down to fully straighten your arms. 
  4. Lower and repeat.

9. Overhead Cable Extension

Muscles Worked

Triceps

Equipment

Single Cable Pulley Machine, Rope attachment

Training Tips

Avoid using momentum to propel the weight forward. Do not go too heavy on this exercise. 

How To Do It

  1. Set the machine to its highest pulley setting. 
  2. Stand facing away from the machine with feet shoulder width apart and hold the rope handle with a slightly closer than shoulder width palms down  grip above your head.
  3. Assume a staggered stance with your right leg forward. Now extend your arms out at a 30 degree angle to full extension.
  4. Lower and repeat

10. One Arm Cable Pushdown

Muscles Worked

Triceps

Equipment

Single cable pulley machine

Training Tips

Keep your elbow at your side throughout the entire movement.

How To Do It

  1. Set the machine to its highest pulley setting. 
  2. Stand facing from the machine and hold the handle in your right hand with a palms down  grip.
  3. From a starting position with your elbow at your side and your right hand at upper chest level, press down to fully straighten your arm. 
  4. Lower and repeat.
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11. Lying Straight Bar Curls

Muscles Worked

Biceps

Equipment

Single cable pulley machine, straight bar handle attachment

Training Tips

Perform your reps slowly and deliberately, achieving strong contraction at the top of every rep.

How To Do It

  1. Set the machine to its lowest pulley setting. 
  2. Grab the bar and lie on the floor in front of the machine, facing it.
  3. From a starting position with your arms at full extension resting on your upper legs, curl the bar up to shoulder level.
  4. Lower and repeat.

12. Arm Cable Preacher Curl

Muscles Worked

Biceps

Equipment

Single cable pulley machine, straight bar attachment, preacher bench

Training Tips

Be sure to adjust the bench height so that your arms are draped right over the bench to your armpits.

How To Do It

  1. Set the machine to its lowest pulley setting. Position a preacher bench about a foot in front of the machine facing it.
  2. Sit on the preacher bench and take hold of the cable bar attachment. Drape your arms over the bench pad and extend your arms to full extension.
  3. Curl the handle up to full arms contraction. Lower and repeat.

13. Incline Cable Curls

Muscles Worked

Biceps

Equipment

Single pulley cable machine, straight bar attachment, incline adjustable bench

Training Tips

Set the bench angle to 45 degrees for the best bicep stimulation.

How To Do It

  1. Set the machine to its lowest pulley setting. Position an incline bench about a foot in front of the machine, facing it. 
  2. Sit on the bench and grab the bar handle with a close grip. Lie back and extend your arms to full extension.
  3. Curl your arms up to full contraction.
  4. Lower and repeat.

14. Cable Triceps Kickback

Muscles Worked

Triceps

Equipment

Single cable pulley machine

Training Tips

Use a relatively light weight. The only movement should be through your forearm.

How To Do It

  1. Set the machine to its lowest pulley setting. 
  2. Stand in front of the machine, facing it and lean down to grab the cable with your right hand. Grab the machine upright with your left hand for support.
  3. Start with your elbow at your side and bent at a 90 degree angle, extend your arms back to full extension.
  4. Lower and repeat

15. Single Arm Cross Body Curl

Muscles Worked

Biceps

Equipment

Single-arm pulley machine

Training Tips

Forcefully contract your bicep in the top position.

How To Do It

  1. Set the machine to its highest pulley setting. 
  2. Stand facing from the machine and grab the handle with your right hand in an underhand grip.
  3. From a starting position with your right arms fully extended and at your side, curl up and across your body to your opposite shoulder.
  4. Lower and repeat

16. Cross Body Triceps Extension

Muscles Worked

Triceps

Equipment

Cable crossover machine, rope attachment on each cable

Training Tips

Keep your elbows in at your sides throughout the movement.

How To Do It

  1. Set the machine to its highest pulley setting and put on the rope attachment, pulling them to full length.
  2. Stand in the middle of the machine and grab the rope handles in a cross over position overhand grip at chest level.
  3. Extend your arms down and out to the sides to fully contract the triceps.
  4. Reverse and repeat
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17. Low Pulley Triceps Extension

Muscles Worked

Triceps

Equipment

Single pulley cable machine, rope handle attachment

How To Do It

  1. Set the machine to its lowest pulley setting. 
  2. Stand facing away from the machine and hold the rope handle with a slightly closer than shoulder width palms down  grip above your head.
  3. Assume a staggered stance with your right leg forward. Now extend your arms out at a 30 degree angle to full extension.
  4. Lower and repeat

18. Cable Wrist Curls

Muscles Worked

Forearms

Equipment

Single pulley cable machine, short bar handle

Training Tips

The movement is quite small on this movement; concentrate on getting a full extension and contraction on every rep. 

How To Do It

  1. Set the machine to its lowest pulley setting. 
  2. Stand facing from the machine and hold the handle with a slightly closer than shoulder width palms up grip in your finger tips.
  3. Extend your wrists down to lower the cable. Now Curl your wrists back up to full contraction.
  4. Lower and repeat

Conclusion

Making cables the mainstay of your arm training program will allow you to apply tension through the full range of motion while working the biceps, triceps, and forearms from the ideal biomechanical angles. You now have an arsenal of 18 great cable exercises for arms.

Choose two of them each workout for a total of eight sets. Vary your rep range from a high of 30 with light weight and a low of 6 reps with your max weight. Do this every 5 days, switching to different exercises each session and you’ll soon be rewarded with bigger stronger arms.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you build muscle with cable machines?

Yes, you most definitely can build muscle with cable machines. In fact, cables are a better option than barbells and dumbbells for many body parts. That is because they allow you to work from a range of angles that mimic the direction of the muscle fiber being worked while also keeping constant tension on the muscle through the full range of motion. 

How can I build my arms fast?

To add size to your arms, you need to train consistently and hard while also increasing your caloric intake, with a focus on lean protein. Train your biceps, triceps, and forearms every five days for a total of 8 sets on each body part, working down to a final max set with your heaviest weight for 6 reps. 

Are cable weights accurate?

The accuracy of a cable weight will depend on the manufacturer. All machines go through a quality control process before being released for sale, with the accuracy of the weight stack being a top priority. So, you can be pretty confident that the weight will be accurate. 

Steve Theunissen

Steve Theunissen is a former gym owner and personal trainer based in Tauranga, New Zealand. He is the author of six hardcopy books and more than a hundred ebooks on the topics of bodybuilding, fitness, and fat loss.

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