Cable arm exercises are more effective at building strong arms than almost any other type of workout. The cable action lets you engage different muscle fibers and work your arms from every angle. [1]

People are putting down their dumbbells and barbells and reaching for cable machines instead.

To help you join in with this trend, we've compiled a list of the 15 best cable arm exercises to help you grow massive arms.

If you're looking to develop t-shirt splitting arms, you're in the right place. Below are 15 of the best cable machine exercises for training your arms.

Each exercise that I mention has been tried and tested by myself (and my clients) over the years. So I can vouch for their effectiveness.

Add a handful of these movements to your workout routine for killer arm growth.

1. Cable Rope Curls

Man Doing Cable Rope Curls

Cable rope curls are one of the best exercises you can do using a cable machine. The smooth movement makes them perfect for beginners, and it's very difficult to get the form wrong.

The constant tension helps you increase the strength and size of your biceps more than almost any other arm workout.

Cable rope curls can be performed on a single pulley cable machine, and they're best with a straight bar attachment.

I find the cable machine curls are an effective cable arm exercise because they completely isolate your biceps. You can perform single arm exercises to target one side or use both hands to target both biceps.


  • Isolates your biceps. 
  • Works both bicep heads. 
  • Suitable for all ability levels. 

How to Do It:

  1. Set the cable machine to the lowest pulley setting and grip the straight bar attachment.
  2. Face the machine with your arms fully extended, and curl the bar up to shoulder height.
  3. Your biceps should be fully flexed near the top of the movement.
  4.  Pause, and then return to starting position.

Tips From A Trainer!

The key to bicep growth is achieving strong contraction in the muscles. Keep your feet flat on the floor and your wrists straight so you can focus the effort on your biceps and get a much bigger pump. 

2. Cable Tricep Extensions

Man Doing Cable Tricep Extensions

Exercising your triceps is important for building strong, functional arms and cable triceps extensions are one of the best cable exercises for growing them.

Tricep extensions are typically performed with a rope attachment or rope handle and a single pulley cable machine. The movement is a little more difficult to get used to, so it's better suited for advanced lifters.

This workout isolates your triceps to help you grow big arms. It also engages your core to help keep your upper body stable throughout the movement. 

If you're like me and love an 80s movie, by performing this movement, you'll feel like Rocky Balboa as he's training to fight Drago in Rocky IV (awesome movie). 


  • Isolates your triceps. 
  • Engages your core. 
  • Great for more advanced lifters.

How to Do It:

  1. Set the single cable pulley machine to the highest setting and face away from the machine.
  2. Reach up and grip the rope attachment, keeping your elbows bent.
  3. Slowly straighten your elbows and squeeze your triceps to pull the rope away from the cable machine.
  4. When your elbows are fully extended and your triceps are fully flexed, then stop, and pause.
  5. Return to the starting position and repeat.

Tips From A Trainer!

Keep your elbow bent as your grip the rope attachment, so you have further to pull it. This will give you a longer movement and provide more tension to your triceps.

Try to keep your wrist straight as you move the rope attachment forward. This will prevent you from engaging other muscles and keep the exercise focused on your triceps. 

Related Article - Best Pull Up Bar Ab Workouts

3. Single-Arm Cable Curls

Man Doing Single-Arm Cable Curls

This cable exercise is a great way to target one side of your body at a time and works well for those carrying an injury. As it works one arm at a time, you'll be able to iron out any muscular imbalances that may have occurred over time (this is pretty common with beginners). 

You’ll need a single pulley cable machine and a bar or rope attachment for this exercise, which most gyms will have... Whether you can get a hold of them is a different story. 


  • Isolates each bicep separately.
  • Suitable for all abilities. 
  • Uses a large range of motion. 

How to Do It:

  1. Set the single cable pulley machine to the lowest setting and stand facing the machine.
  2. Grip the rope or bar attachment in one hand, with your arms fully extended.
  3. Slowly bend your arm, so it curls towards your shoulder.
  4. Pause at the top to create tension in the muscle.
  5. Lower back down to starting position.

Tips From A Trainer!

Perform your reps slowly so you can maximize the tension on your biceps. Focus on keeping your wrist straight and your feet flat on the floor, so you force your biceps to do all the work. 

4. Single-Arm Cable Tricep Kickbacks

Woman Performing Single-Arm Cable Tricep Kickbacks

A tricep kickback helps you to shape the muscles of your upper arm and improve your strength. They are often used by athletes to improve physical performance, but they’re simple enough for people of all abilities.

I like this tricep exercise as it isolates each arm separately, allowing you to iron out any muscular imbalances. 

You can perform this exercise with a with stirrup handle attachment, but I find it's best to use a rope handle.


  • Isolates the triceps.
  • Simple to perform. 
  • Suitable for all ability levels.

How to Do It:

  1. Set the cable machine to the lowest pulley setting.
  2. Stand in front of the machine and grab the cable with one hand.
  3. Lean your torso forward, so you're almost facing the floor, and hold the handle next to your upper legs, with your elbows bent.
  4. Extend your arm back until it's at full extension, pause, and return to starting position.

Tips From A Trainer!

The starting position is key for this exercise. Using a split stance can give you greater stability for the tricep kickback, and by leaning your hips slightly forward, you'll help to isolate your triceps.

The entire exercise relies on getting your arm fully extended, so keep the movement slow and controlled. You’ll benefit from slowly lowering your hand back to starting position so your triceps are under strain for longer. 

5. Arm Cable Preacher Curl

Man Doing Arm Cable Preacher Curl Exercise

Single arm cable preacher curls are regarded as one of the most effective ways to get a bicep pump. This is a challenging cable exercise and not one for beginners, but advanced lifters know they are one of the best cable exercises.

Single arm cable preacher curls are best with a preacher bench, but you can always use a regular adjustable bench to get the right angle.

It's one of my favorite exercises to target the biceps brachii (short head of your bicep).


  • Targets the short head of the biceps. 
  • Uses a large range of movement. 
  • Creates constant tension on your biceps. 

How to Do It:

  1. Set the machine to the lowest setting and move your preacher bench in front of the cable machine (you can also use an incline bench if you have one).
  2. Sit on the bench and hold the straight bar attachment in your hands.
  3. Extend your arms to full extension resting on the bench, and slowly curl up towards your shoulder.
  4. Pause, and then slowly lower the bar back to starting position.

Tips From A Trainer!

It's essential to set your bench at the right angle so you can engage your biceps but not put them under too much strain. Your arms should be draped over the bench to allow your arms to get to full extension. 

6. Low Cable Curls (Facing Away)

Man Performing Low Cable Curls (Facing Away)

This is one of the different exercises that isn't as commonly used, but it can help you build muscle quickly.

By pulling from a low angle, you shorten the range of movement, making it more intense on your biceps, and by performing them regularly, you'll be able to grow stronger arms.

Low cable curls primarily engage your biceps, but they also engage your core muscles to keep you stable throughout the lift.

This is one of my all time favorite bicep exercises. It uses a HUGE range of motion and provides you with a killer pump. You'll leave the gym with arms like pop-eye. 


  • Uses a large range of motion. 
  • Suitable for all abilities. 
  • Gives you an amazing pump.

How to Do It:

  1. Set your pulley to the lowest setting and stand facing away from it.
  2. Grip a rope attachment in an underhand grip, and hold them at waist height.
  3. With your arms fully extended, curl the rope attachment handles up towards your shoulders.
  4. Pause at the highest point, and return to the start.

Tips From A Trainer!

It's easy to use your momentum to swing through each cable curl. Try to slowly lower the handle to avoid it and to keep the energy in your biceps. 

Related Article - Best Hip Thrust Alternatives

7. High Pulley Cable Curls

Man Doing Pulley Cable Curls

High pulley curls provide a peak contraction much more intense than most cable crossover bicep workouts. The upper body workout crushes your biceps, leaving you feeling stronger and more pumped up.

High pulley curls target your biceps primarily but will also engage some smaller muscles around your shoulders.

I rarely use this movement nowadays as I find it places strain on my shoulder joints, so if you're like me and have some shoulder trouble, this might not be the movement for you. 

But, if you don't have shoulder issues, it'll be an excellent exercise to perform for your bicep development. 


  • Develops your bicep peak. 
  • Gives you a great pump. 

How to Do It:

  1. Set your handles to the highest setting on each cable tower and stand between them.
  2. Grip the handles in both hands and extend your arms out to the sides of your body.
  3. Curl the cables back in until it reaches your ears, pause, and then return to starting position.

Tips From A Trainer!

Unlike many other cable exercises, this movement only focuses on horizontal movement rather than vertical. Keep your elbows above your shoulders throughout the movement to isolate your biceps and maximize your gains. 

8. Rope Hammer Curl

Man Doing Rope Hammer Curl In The Gym

Dumbbell hammer curls are considered really effective at adding mass to your biceps and forearms, and rope hammer curls are just as good.

They're suitable for experienced lifters because they give a great pump, but you will need a rope attachment to perform them.

These curls work your forearms and the short head of your biceps to make your arms look noticeably bigger.


  • Makes your arms look thicker. 
  • Develops your forearms.
  • Suitable for all ability levels.

How to Do It:

  1. Set the machine to the lowest setting and stand facing it.
  2. Grip the rope attachment in both hands with your palms facing each other.
  3. Extend so you have your arms straight, and then curl the rope up to chest level.
  4. Pause and lower until you have your arms straight again, and then repeat.

Tips From A Trainer!

This exercise can be quite challenging because you have to keep the rope stable while managing the weight. Make sure you don't swing your back as your curl, or this could impact your gains.

Focus on form first and keep a tight rep range and a low setting on the weight stack. Only increase the weight and rep range once you’ve got the movement down. 

9. Straight Bar Tricep Pushdowns

Man Doing Straight Bar Tricep Pushdowns In The Gym

Straight bar tricep pushdowns are a great way to enhance your overall upper body strength and increase the size of your arms.

They'll also help you improve your performance for other lifts, and they're useful for fitness enthusiasts to incorporate into their routine.

As the tricep pushdowns completely isolate your triceps, you shouldn't be using any other muscles. I love that the movement isolates your triceps, it helps give you the stimulus needed to grow your arms (and fill out your t-shirts). 


  • Isolates your triceps. 
  • Suitable for most gym goers. 
  • Uses a large range of motion.

How to Do It:

  1. Set the straight bar attached to the cable machine to the highest setting.
  2. Grip the bar with an overhand grip and stand securely on the ground.
  3. Start with your elbows bent and hands at your upper chest level.
  4. Press downwards and straighten your arms until the straight bar attachment goes below your waist.
  5. Pause, and return to starting position.

Tips From A Trainer!

Control is the key to this movement. You want to keep the bicep and tricep cable bar attachment moving straight down and keep the cable straight. This will maximize the effort put in by your triceps and give you a better workout. 

10. One Arm Cable Pushdown

Man Doing One Arm Cable Pushdown

One arm cable chest exercises are often used to grow lean muscle, and this one arm cable pushdown is great for building stronger arms.

These will isolate your triceps on one side, and a personal trainer will often recommend them if you're recovering from injury.

The single arm cable pushdown is currently in my arm workout. This tricep movement uses a wide range of movement and gives me the best tricep pump. I often use it at the very end of my workout, to "finish" my arms off. 

I also like that they isolate the triceps on each side of your body and won’t engage any other muscles, which is why they’re one of the most effective exercises for your arms.


  • Works each arm separately.
  • Isolates your triceps. 
  • Suitable for most ability levels. 

How to Do It:

  1. Set the machine, so the handle is at the highest point.
  2. Stand facing the machine and hold the handle in your right or left hand with an overhand grip.
  3. Lean forward slightly, and hold the handle with your arm bent and elbow around chest height.
  4. Push downwards to engage your triceps and let your right or left hand drop below your waist.
  5. Hold for a second, and then return to the starting point.

Tips From A Trainer!

This pushdown relies on keeping your arms straight and elbows close to your body. Try to keep your wrist straight throughout the movement to properly engage your triceps and maximize the benefits. 

11. Reverse Grip Cable Curls

Woman Doing Overhead Cable Curls

Reverse grip cable curls are a brilliant way to work your forearms. 

While your forearms aren't your biceps or triceps, they're a crucial area that you need to work for HUGE arms... Nobody wants huge upper arms and skinny forearms, right?

I love this movement as it helps improve your grip strength while adding muscle mass to your arms, giving you the thicker look. 


  • Improves grip strength. 
  • Develops your forearm muscles.

How to Do It:

  1. Sit or kneel and grab a pulley handle with an overhand grip. 
  2. Rest your forearm on your leg with your wrist leaning off the edge. 
  3. Allow the cable to pull your wrist back toward the floor (your palm should be facing downward).
  4. Curl your wrist up to the sky, squeezing your forearm. 
  5. Reverse the movement and repeat. 

Tips From A Trainer!

This is one of the best exercises for arms because it puts all the tension on your biceps. Make sure your hands are as high as possible and you're keeping your wrists straight, so your bicep does all the work. 

12. Supine Cable Curls

Man Doing Supine Cable Curls

Supine cable curls are simple but effective. By introducing a bench, you limit the movement across your body and stop any momentum aiding your lifts. This ensures that your arms are doing all the work and can give you significant gains.

My clients love this movement as it limits cheating and provides you with a brilliant arm pump. Who doesn't love a good arm pump, right?

If you're looking for a bicep exercise that'll completely isolate your biceps, the supine cable curl is perfect. 


  • Completely isolates your biceps.
  • Doesn't allow you to cheat. 

How to Do It:

  1. Position the cable on a medium low setting and grip the bar.
  2. Lie back on the bench with your feet on the floor and bend your elbows to curl it up towards your shoulders.
  3. Keep your wrists straight and squeeze your biceps as you lift.
  4. Pause at the top, and return back to the start.

Tips From A Trainer!

It’s important to have the bench about 2 feet in front of the machine so you have the full range of motion to curl. Make sure there’s tension, but also that you can comfortably reach the bar when you lean back. 

13. Bayesian Curl

Man Doing Bayesian Curl

The positioning of your body during a bayesian curl means that there is a wider range of motion during the lift. This, in turn, means greater gains, so it's a useful exercise for people of all levels to introduce into their routine.

I love the feeling of the bayesian curl, as you can feel the massive stretch in your biceps throughout the entire negative portion of the exercise.

Also, bayesian curls primarily work your biceps but will also engage your core.


  • Engages your core.
  • Increased range of motion. 

How to Do It:

  1. Set the machine to the lowest pulley setting and stand facing away with a split stance.
  2. Hold the bar with your hands slightly closer than shoulder-width apart, keep your wrists straight, and curl the bar up until it reaches your ear (this will cause your elbow to move).
  3. Pause at the top, and then return to starting position.

Tips From A Trainer!

The point of difference with this exercise is extending the curl higher. Try to focus on getting the bar up to your ear and flexing your biceps so you get a better pump. 

14. Supine Tricep Extensions

Man Doing Supine Tricep Extensions At The Gym

Supine tricep extensions help to build your underarm muscles and give you a thicker looking arm with horseshoe shaped triceps. 

The motion is similar to a dumbbell skull crusher, but by using the bar, you eliminate the risk of dropping the bar, so it's a useful alternative tricep exercise for beginners.

I usually give this movement to my new clients before they attempt skull crushers, I think it's a brilliant stepping stone exercise. 

This exercise works your triceps, shoulder muscles, and wrists.


  • Isolates your triceps. 
  • Great for beginners. 
  • Doesn't require a spotter.

How to Do It:

  1. Set the cables low and move your bench to the middle of the towers.
  2. Lie back facing away from the machine and reach over your head to grip the bar or rope attachment.
  3. Hold it behind your head with your elbows bent, and extend your elbows to engage your triceps.
  4. Pause at full extension, and then return to starting position.

Tips From A Trainer!

There’s no risk of injury with this exercise, but the form can be challenging. Ask a friend (or a personal trainer) to watch your form and help make sure you’re staying controlled throughout the movement. 

15. Cable Wrist Curls

Man Doing Cable Wrist Curls

Strong forearms are key to having strong arms. I couldn't complete this list without mentioning the cable wrist curls. 

Cable wrist curls help to engage your forearms more than any other cable curl (even more than the reverse curls mentioned before). Best of all it’s a useful exercise for people of all abilities.

Cable wrist curls isolate your forearm, while keeping your biceps out of the equation.


  • Isolates your forearms.
  • Suitable for all abilities.

How to Do It:

  1. Set your machine to the lowest pulley setting and stand facing it.
  2. Grip the handle in your fingertips and hold it around waist height.
  3. Extend your wrists to lower the cable, and then curl them back up to a full contraction.
  4. Repeat slowly until you start to feel the burn in your forearm.

Tips From A Trainer!

There isn't a lot of movement in this exercise, so it's important that you focus on getting to full extension with every contraction. This will maximize the benefit and help you get stronger forearms. 

5 Benefits Of Cable Arm Exercises

Cable machines are often considered too big and expensive for most home gyms. However, they are really effective, and there are a lot of very good reasons to use them:

1. Constant Tension

Cable pulley machines operate very differently to free weights. They provide constant tension from the cable throughout the movement, giving you a much more consistent level of resistance when you work out.

This increased tension generally makes exercises more difficult, but it also forces your muscles to work harder. It’s especially useful when you’re training your arms because the constant tension activates the smaller muscle groups for a more impressive pump.

2. Impressive Muscle Development

Cable machines give a very wide range of movement. This helps you build your functional strength and can improve your overall flexibility.

Cable pulley machines allow you to target muscles from a range of angles to speed up the muscle development process.

3. Wide Variety Of Exercises

Cable machines can be used for a wide variety of exercises, with various attachments and grips so you can perform different movements. This lets you mix up your routine and switch between exercises quickly, shortening your workout and making it more efficient. [2]

4. Full Body Benefits

Cable machines are generally performed standing up (with a few exceptions), so you'll get a wide variety of benefits across your body. Most exercises will engage your core, giving you benefits across your entire body.

5. They Are Safe

Cable machines are perfect for beginners because they're really safe. There's no risk of dropping a weight on your head, and you can comfortably lift your max without a spotter nearby. This is why cable machines are often preferred by those who work out alone.

Common Cable Arm Exercises Questions

Which is better for training arms: cables or free weights?

Neither cables or free weights are better for training arms. However, bicep workouts with cable machines are generally more efficient at helping you build lean muscle because they provide consistent tension throughout the movement. 

Why do cable machines feel lighter?

Cable machines feel lighter because of the number of pulleys used and the angle of the cable machines. If you have several pulleys, it could mean that the load is being spread across several points, so it feels lighter.

Are weights on cable machines accurate?

Cable machines are generally regarded as fairly accurate, though it will depend on the quality of the manufacturer. Most weight stacks tend to be correct within a 0.25% tolerance, so any variances aren’t significant enough to worry about.

What is a sample cable arm workout to try?

One of my favorite cable arm workouts usually involves 2-3 exercises for biceps and 2-3 exercises for triceps. Start with cable rope curls (3 sets x 10-12 reps). Then, move right into cable rope tricep extensions (3 sets x 10-12 reps). Next, move back to rope hammer curls (3 sets x 10-12 reps). I prefer to finish off with tricep kickbacks (3 sets x 10-12 reps).


A cable only arm workout can be more effective than using dumbbells or barbells. The constant tension involved in a cable pull and the variety of exercises for arms mean that you can get a great pump and become noticeably stronger in a short period of time.

Hopefully, this guide has helped to introduce some interesting new cable workouts to try in your next gym session.


Lee Kirwin

Lee Kirwin

Lee has worked in the fitness industry for over 15 years. He's trained hundreds of clients and knows his way around the gym, including what you need for your garage gym. When he's not testing products, he loves weightlifting, Ju Jitsu, writing, and gaming.