The Differences Between a Cable Curl Vs. High Cable Curls

Man flexing biceps

Cable curls and high cable curls sound like they could be one in the same. Both exercises do, in fact, work the same muscles: the biceps. However, the method of working the biceps is very different from one exercise to the other. Both cable curls and high cable curls can be a beneficial part of a comprehensive exercise program. Check with your doctor before beginning any new exercise program.

Cable Curl

Cable curls require the use of a resistance machine with a low pulley cable bar. This type of machine has a cable located on or near the floor. To perform a cable curl, grasp the handlebars with an underhand grip, palms facing up. Stand close to the machine and keep your arms tucked into your sides from shoulders to elbow while you raise the bar to your shoulders. Lower the bar without allowing gravity to aid your movement. Repeat eight to 12 repetitions, for two or three sets.

High Cable Curls

High cable curls utilize a lat pull-down machine. To perform this exercise, place a bench next to the machine with the head of the bench under the cable. Grab the handlebars using an underhand grip, and extend the cable out until you are able to sit on the end of the bench with your back facing the machine. Keep hold of the handlebars as you carefully lie down with your head close to the machine. Extend your arms straight up, keeping a slight bend in your elbows for the starting position. Without moving your arms between elbow and shoulder, pull the cable down until the handlebars are directly in front of your face. Slowly return to starting position with control. Perform two to three sets of eight to 12 repetitions.


Both cable exercises target your biceps, voluntary skeletal muscles located on your arm that allow you to flex your elbow. Strong biceps help you lift, pull and raise your arms over your head. Additionally, biceps allow you to rotate your hand, such as when you turn a key in a lock, for instance. Well-developed biceps create a noticeable bulge when flexed and take up most of the space in your arm between shoulder and elbow. Biceps are made up of two sections, and each attaches to your shoulders at one end and the forearm bones at the other, via tendons.


Aside from different stances, these two exercises have very similar results. However, the position of your body does make a difference. First, standing during cable curls will force you to work additional muscles for balance, making your exercise time slightly more efficient. Laying down, on the other hand, allows you greater focus on the biceps muscles, possibly creating an opportunity to lift heavier weights. High cable curls may also provide greater accessibility for you if you face certain physical limitations, such as the use of a wheelchair.


A healthy exercise plan includes cardiovascular endurance training at a moderate- to vigorous-intensity for at least 30 minutes, five days per week or more. Neither cable exercise is cardiovascular, so choose workouts such as running, dancing or walking to fulfill the aerobic recommendations made by the American College of Sports Medicine. The ACSM further suggests including resistance training in your exercise program at least twice each week. Work each major muscle group, including your biceps, triceps, shoulders, legs, back, chest and abdominal muscles. Choose a weight that is challenging after six or seven repetitions, but is light enough that you maintain good form through two or three sets of eight to 12 repetitions.