Cable Machine ExercisesCable Workouts

Quick and Dirty Cable Arm Workout

Gaining Upper Body Strength with a Quick and Dirty Cable Arm Workout

If you’re looking for an easy and effective way to gain upper body strength, then a quick and dirty cable arm workout is your best bet. Cables are versatile pieces of exercise equipment that allow for a wide range of exercises that target different muscles in the arms, shoulders, and back. Plus, having the cables allows for quicker transitions between exercises, meaning you can get a full arm workout done in just a few minutes.

William Bonac’s simple recipe for building bigger, more chiseled biceps and triceps:

PREFERRED REP RANGE: 12 to 16 reps.

TRAINING FREQUENCY: Biceps and triceps each trained once a week in the off-season (triceps trained with back, biceps paired with chest) and typically twice weekly pre-contest.

TRAINING VOLUME: Eight to 12 working sets per workout each for biceps and triceps.

FAVORITE INTENSITY TECHNIQUES: Supersets and dropsets for both biceps and triceps; peak contractions for triceps. “I tend to feel the muscle connection more [with peak contractions],” Bonac says, “and it’s better for my elbows as well.”

TRAINING VARIETY: “I change up my routine about once every three months,” he says. “But each week I do different exercises. For example, one week I’ll do more barbells and some machine, and the next week I’ll do more dumbbells.”

CARDIO REGIMEN: “I don’t do cardio in the off-season. During my prep, it depends on my body weight—that will tell me how much cardio I need to do. My average cardio session takes about 30 minutes, and I do this five to six days a week leading up to a show.”

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What is a Cable Arm Workout?

A quick and dirty cable arm workout essentially involves using cable machines to perform various upper body exercises. Cable machines provide resistance that can help you build up your strength. They also allow you to perform exercises at both slow and fast speeds, as well as decrease or increase resistance as needed. This gives you more control over your workouts, so you can tailor them to your specific needs.


If curls with a straight bar attachment put too much strain on your wrists, use an EZ-curl bar attachment instead, where the wrists are angled slightly inward.


For variety, alternate between straight bar, V-bar, and rope attachments from workout to workout. Keep your elbows pinned to your sides (not flared out) the entire set.


For the best line of pull, position yourself so that your working arm (not the midline of your body) is directly in front of the cable pulley. Turn your pinkie out at the top of each rep for full contraction.


Make sure to reach full elbow lockout on every rep and squeeze hard at the bottom. If you’re not able to reach full extension for all reps, lighten the weight.


Perhaps you don’t have as much time to devote to the gym as a professional bodybuilder. And with crowded gyms early in the new year, leaving your training station could mean losing it for the rest of the workout. No problem. If you can secure a quick and dirty cable arm workout, here’s a quick-hitting biceps and triceps routine utilizing Bonac’s aforementioned training principles. Hit this routine two times a week if possible, with at least 48 hours between workouts, switching out exercises for the ones listed as desired.

  • Cable Curl | SETS: 3 | REPS: 12*
    • superset with Straight-Bar Pressdown** | SETS: 3 | REPS: 12*
  • One-Arm Cable Curl | SETS: 3 | REPS: 16*
    • superset with One-Arm Rope Pressdown** | SETS: 3 | REPS: 16*
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*On your last set, do 2 dropsets after reaching failure with the starting weight.

**Squeeze the contraction in the triceps for 1 to 2 counts at the bottom of each rep. 

Benefits of Cable Arm Workouts

Quick and dirty cable arm workout offer many benefits, which is why they’re one of the most popular choices for those looking to increase their upper body strength. First and foremost, the use of cables means that you’re able to work your muscles from a variety of angles. This allows you to target your muscle groups more effectively, resulting in faster results and improved overall strength.

Additionally, cable arm workouts are great for those who don’t have a lot of time to spend in the gym. Because the cable machines provide resistance quickly, you’re able to do a full workout in less than 15 minutes. And since you’re able to switch up resistance quickly, you can make sure that your muscles are worked hard without spending extra time. This makes cable arm workouts ideal for busy individuals.

How to Do a Quick and Dirty Cable Arm Workout

Now that you know what a cable arm workout is, and why it’s beneficial, it’s time to learn how to do one. Here’s a quick and dirty cable arm workout that you can do at home or in the gym:

1. Biceps Curl

Attach a cable handle to the top pulley of a cable machine, and select the appropriate weight. Stand in front of the pulley and grasp the handle with an underhand grip. Keeping your elbows close to your sides, curl the handle up toward your chest, then lower it back down. Do 10-15 repetitions.

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2. Triceps Pushdown

Attach a rope attachment to the bottom pulley on a cable machine, and select the appropriate weight. Facing the pulley, grasp the handle with an overhand grip. Keeping your elbows close to your sides, push the handle down toward your thighs, then bring it back up. Do 10-15 repetitions.

3. Shoulder External Rotation

Attach a cable handle to the middle pulley of a cable machine, and select the appropriate weight. Facing away from the pulley, grasp the handle with your right hand and place your left hand on your hip. Keeping your arm perpendicular to your body, rotate your arm outward until it’s parallel to the floor. Then return it to the starting position. Do 10-15 repetitions.

4. Lateral Raise

Attach a cable handle to the bottom pulley of a cable machine and select the appropriate weight. Standing with your feet shoulder-width apart, grasp the handle with both hands. Keeping your arms straight, raise the handle out to your sides until your arms are parallel to the floor. Then slowly bring your arms back down to the starting position. Do 10-15 repetitions.


A cable arm workout is a great way to quickly and effectively build strength in the upper body. It’s versatile enough to be used at home or in the gym, and the use of cables allows for quick transition times between exercises. Plus, it only takes about 15 minutes to perform a full workout. In short, if you’re looking for an easy and efficient way to improve your upper body strength, then a cable arm workout is the way to go.

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