Cables provide a great tool for strength training, helping you efficiently build muscle and improve your physical performance. Cable arm exercises are effective at targeting both small and large muscle groups in the arms and can be easily integrated into most workout routines.
The shoulders are a relatively small muscle group. But they can take forever to train because you must hit them from multiple angles. Not to mention the time wasted changing weight plates or swapping dumbbells.
Fortunately, using the cable apparatus can significantly reduce time spent in the gym while increasing workout intensity. This article shows you 17 unique cable shoulder exercises to grow your delts faster than free weights.
In this article, we’ll discuss the benefits of cable arm exercises, how to utilize them in your workout routine, as well as provide some examples of cable arm exercises you can do to get started.
The Benefits of Cable Arm Exercises
Unlike using traditional weights, cables offer the advantage of providing consistent tension throughout the entire range of the exercise. This helps ensure that the target muscles are engaged throughout the entire movement, something which is not possible with free weights.
Most bodybuilders use barbells, dumbbells, and machines for their arm workouts. And maybe head to the cables to do a few sets of curls and pressdowns before calling it a day.
However, cable exercises offer several distinct advantages over free weights. And you might want to consider using cables for more exercises during your arm workouts.
Here are the benefits of cable arm exercises:
- Perform dozens of back exercises with one piece of equipment
- Constant tension throughout the range of motion
- Can work both arms or one arm at a time
- Train back in less time
- No need to lug around weight plates or dumbbells
- Easy to do drop sets or supersets
- Safer than free weights
Additionally, many cable arm exercises can be performed with variations of the same exercise. This versatility allows you to target specific areas of your arm muscles that may need extra development. It also allows you to make adjustments to the exercise to accommodate your individual body type and limitations.
Incorporating Cable Exercises into Your Workout Routine
When incorporating cable exercises into your workout routine, it’s important to plan ahead. You’ll want to make sure you have the correct cables and adjustable equipment available, as well as know the types of exercises you want to perform.
It’s also important to understand how to properly execute each cable arm exercise correctly. This will significantly reduce the risk of injury and help ensure you are getting the maximum benefit from the exercise.
Muscles Worked by Cable Arm Exercises
Before getting into the cable exercises, it’s vital to understand arm muscle anatomy. This way, you’ll know which exercises to use to target specific areas.
The largest muscle on your arms is the triceps. And it consists of three parts called the lateral, medial, and long heads that work together to extend your arm at the elbow.
Next, the biceps muscle consists of two parts called the short and long heads. Their job is flexing your arm at the elbow and rotating your forearm.
Finally, the forearm contains several small flexor and extensor muscles that work to move your wrist.
Best Cable Arm Exercises
There are dozens of arm exercises you can do on cable machines. So I will separate them into tricep and bicep exercises to make the list easier to navigate.
Tricep Cable Arm Exercises
First, let’s look at some cable arm exercises that work the triceps. As we go through the list, I’ll explain which heads of the tricep each exercise is best for targeting.
1. Cable Tricep Pressdown
The cable triceps pressdown is a staple tricep exercise you can include in any arm workout. However, it’s easy to screw up, and many people don’t get as much muscle activation as possible.
For starters, you don’t want to stand too close to the cable. This stance reduces the arm angle to nearly 0o, which takes tension off the tricep for most of the range of motion.
Instead, step back and lean forward until your arm is closer to 90o to your body. This keeps tension on the tricep throughout the range of motion and works the medial and lateral heads more.
2. Rope Tricep Pressdown
Another option for the cable tricep pressdown involves the rope attachment. This handle places your hands in a neutral position and incorporates all three heads.
Again, focus on using proper form to keep more tension on the triceps instead of using momentum or other muscle groups.
3. Reverse Grip Pushdown
The reverse grip tricep pushdown is an excellent exercise for isolating the target muscle. With an underhand grip, cheating by using your shoulder or chest muscles is more difficult.
I recommend using a lighter weight for 12-15 repetitions while focusing on squeezing the triceps. This hand position and loading help you dial in on the tricep.
4. Single Hand Reverse Grip Pushdown
Another way to do the reverse-grip pressdown is by using a single handle. The individual handle forces each arm to work independently.
Also, it allows you to position your elbow by your side or slightly behind your body, which hits the long head of the tricep better.
5. Single Cable Kickback
The dumbbell kickback is a popular exercise for targeting the long head of the tricep. And you can replicate this exercise with a single cable.
First, set the pulley to a low position. Then lean forward with your back nearly parallel to the floor.
Start with your elbow near your side and your arm bent. Now extend your arm while keeping your elbow pinned at your side.
Types of Cable Arm Exercises
When it comes to cable arm exercises, there are several types of exercises you can do. We will focus on three common ones: bicep curls, triceps press downs, and overhead extensions.
6. Cable Rope French Press
Continuing up the spectrum of skull crusher movements, we get to the French press, which is basically an upright tricep extension. Again, this variation is best for the lateral and medial heads.
To start, grab the cable attachment with both hands. Then, in one motion, turn your body and lift your hands overhead, so your back is to the cable.
From this starting position, bend at the elbows and lower your hands behind your head. Now extend your arms back to the starting point.
Bicep Cable Arm Exercises
Now let’s change gears and look at some cable arm exercises for the biceps. These exercises target the short head, long head, or both.
7. Cable Barbell Curls
Barbell curls are arguably the most basic of all bicep exercises. And you can replicate this fundamental movement on the cable apparatus.
Start by setting the pulley to the lowest setting. Then attach the straight bar or EZ bar handle.
Next, stand about one foot away from the pulley, facing the cable. Hold the handle with an underhand (supinated) grip with both hands in front of your thighs and your elbows by your sides.
Now curl the bar up while keeping your elbows at your sides. Then lower it back down in a controlled manner.
8. Cable Bayesian Curl
The cable Bayesian curl is another way to target the long head of the outer bicep using one or two cables.
This time, stand facing away from the cable so your arm extends behind your body at the start of the curl. Then, keep your elbow behind your body as you curl the weight towards your armpit.
You can perform this exercise with a single cable, one arm at a time. Or, on a dual cable machine, you can curl both arms simultaneously. The video below shows a back-supported variation of the dual cable bayesian curl.
For bicep curls, start by setting the cable pulley at shoulder height facing away from you. Stand tall with your feet shoulder-width apart and hold the handles tight with an underhand grip.
Begin the exercise by curling your elbows up towards your shoulder while keeping your elbows tucked close to your side. When your hands reach shoulder level, pause for a moment and then slowly return to the starting position. Repeat for 10-15 repetitions.
Triceps Press Downs
For triceps press downs, set the cable pulley at shoulder height and grab the handle attachment with a palms down grip. Stand tall with feet hip-width apart, arms extended in front of you.
Start the exercise by pushing the handles downward towards the floor. As you move the handle, squeeze your triceps tightly and then pause at the bottom of the motion before returning to the starting position. Keep your shoulders down and away from your ears during the exercise. Repeat for 10-15 repetitions.
For overhead extensions, set the cable pulley at chest level and place one hand over the other on the handle. Begin the exercise by extending your arms over your head in a straight line. From here, you will slowly lower the handle behind your head while keeping your elbows close to the sides of your body.
Pause when your arms are at a 90-degree angle and then return to the starting position. For best results, keep your shoulders pulled back and away from your ears during the motion. Repeat for 10-15 repetitions.
Cable arm exercises offer a great way to strengthen and target a variety of muscles in your arms. Doing these exercises regularly will help build muscle, improve your physical performance, and reduce the risk of injury. So be sure to add cable arm exercises to your fitness routine to get the most out of your workout!
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