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Wide grip cable curl tutorial and benefits

Learn the pros and cons of using a wide grip for cable curls.
Written By  Liam Brown
Last Updated on 11th June 2021
Man performing a wide grip cable curl

The primary biceps brachii function is elbow flexion; the other is forearm supination. When you train both of these functions simultaneously, then you know that it's only a matter of time before you're rewarded with new bicep growth.

The good old low pulley cable curl has long been the exercise of choice for bodybuilders seeking to switch up their arm training and kickstart new gains. However, by performing the wide grip cable curl, you can potentially add mass even faster because this exercise really enables you to overload your biceps and force them to grow.

Wide grip cable curl exercise details

  • Main Muscles: Biceps brachii
  • Secondary Muscles: Forearm flexors, brachialis, brachioradialis
  • Exercise Type: Strength
  • Exercise Mechanics: Isolation
  • Difficulty Level: Beginner
  • Equipment Needed: Cable column, straight bar attachment

How to perform wide grip cable curls

  1. Connect a straight bar attachment to the low pulley on the cable machine.
  2. Grab with bar with an underhand grip so that your hands are at either end of the handle.
  3. Tuck your elbows into your sides and let the bar rest on your thighs.
  4. Curl the bar toward your front delts by flexing your biceps forcefully.
  5. Allow your elbows to come up slightly as you maximally contract your biceps.
  6. Lower the bar slowly until your elbows are fully extended.
  7. Repeat for 3-4 sets of 6-10 reps.

Wide grip cable curl benefits

Cable wide curls are rarely performed in the gym because most lifters just pick up a bar and start curling without any thought for their hand positioning. Such a low-effort approach to training inevitably leads to lackluster results. However, by taking extra care with your technique, you can get ahead of the pack and make your biceps grow at a faster rate.

More bicep mass

Man performing wide grip cable curls

Wide cable bicep curls allow you to handle more weight than the narrow version (and dumbbell wide curls) because having your hands at shoulder width is more natural for the biceps than having your hands close together. As such, with the wide grip, the biceps can create more force and thus lift heavier weights, which in turn leads to more muscle growth.

Just be sure to lift with good form. It's no good lifting heavy weight if you're using your lower back and legs to swing the bar up because this takes tension off the target muscle.

You can, however, allow your elbows to come up slightly as you contract your biceps. This is because by doing so, you're performing shoulder flexion, which, despite the name, is actually a function that the biceps assist the deltoids with. [1] So by letting your elbows come forward, you're actually intensifying the bicep contraction even more.

Fewer wrist problems

Man doing cable wide curls for his biceps

Using a narrow grip can certainly help to bring up the outer part of your biceps. But due to the close hand positioning, it can be hard to keep your wrists straight. As a result, your wrists can often feel strained from the unnatural position, which in turn can make it harder to perform heavy compound movements that require their service.

The solution is to perform the wide grip cable curl first in your workout when you're at your freshest and can lift the most weight. After that, you can do the cable close grip curl with lighter weight to get a good pump and finish off your biceps at the end of your session.

You can also see our close grip vs wide grip curls comparison to learn about the different grip widths that you can use to work your biceps.

Wide grip cable curl alternatives

A man demonstrating alternatives to the wide grip cable bicep curl

You can do many bicep exercises on the cable machine because there's essentially a different exercise for every attachment. However, many of them are tricky to set up because they require you to use an adjustable bench. And if you train in a busy gym, then getting a bench and a whole cable machine can be a more arduous task than the workout itself.

Therefore, if you don't want to wait around for equipment to become available, then you're best off sticking to exercises that only require one side of the cable machine. This will help you to keep on the good side of your fellow gym members, but it'll also help you to lift more weight since standing exercises naturally put your core in a powerful position.

Other than that, the main takeaway is that you need to pick a few exercises and stick with them. So many people change up their routine every week, and as a result, they never gain any significant strength because they're not focusing on progressive overload.

The verdict on the wide grip cable bicep curl

Overall, the wide grip cable curl is a great mass builder because it enables you to overload your bicep with heavy weights. Moreover, because you're performing it with cables, you also get constant tension and a stronger muscle pump because the pulley system doesn't give your biceps any chance to rest—as soon as you lift those weights off the stack, it's down to your biceps to support the resistance.

You can actually go pretty heavy on this drill because it doesn't place your joints in any compromising positions. Sets of 6-10 reps are ideal because then you get to lift heavy while also achieving a good pump. Just make sure to keep your core tight so that you don't bring your other muscles into the equation and take the tension off your biceps.

References

  1. Landin, D., Thompson, M., & Jackson, M. R. (2017). Actions of the Biceps Brachii at the Shoulder: A Review. Journal of Clinical Medicine Research, 9(8), 667–670. https://doi.org/10.14740/jocmr2901w
Liam Brown
Liam Brown has been coaching clients as a personal trainer for more than 12 years. Raised by his athlete mother and physiotherapist father, he understands the critical importance of learning the proper technique for both avoiding injury and building muscle.
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