Curling exercises are great for building huge biceps.
Whether you’re looking to increase your bicep peak, or add thickness to biceps, there’ll be a curling exercise for you.
Two popular curling exercises are dumbbell curls and cable curls.
If you’re unsure which one to add to your workout, then don’t worry!
Because in this article, we compare these exercises based on:
- Which is better for building biceps
- Which is better for building forearms
Let’s get started.
What’s The Difference Between Dumbbell Curls And Cable Curls?
As their names suggest, dumbbell curls are performed with dumbbells, whereas cable curls are performed with a cable pulley attached to handles.
Dumbbell curls are done with free weights, while cable curls are a machine based exercise.
The technique in both exercises is very similar, however, the equipment used is very different.
Which Is Better For Building Biceps?
While both dumbbell curls and cable curls are great bicep builders, dumbbell curls just win this one.
This is because with cable curls, there’s resistance throughout the whole movement. This means you’ll have to reduce the weight to keep your form correct.
Less weight means you won’t be able to overload your biceps as much.
Compare this to dumbbell curls where there’s minimum resistance at the top of the exercise. As a result, you can lift heavier weights to work your biceps harder.
And heavier weights typically means more gains!
Which Is Better For Building Forearms?
In both dumbbell curls and cable curls, your forearms are used as stabilizing muscles.
This means that they’re not being worked very hard and are used to help assist the movement.
So if you’re wanting to build bulky forearms, neither exercise will be sufficient on its own.
That said, dumbbell curls activate your forearms more than cable curls do.
Dumbbell curls are relatively straightforward to execute.
The exercise involves flexing your elbows, which is a simple movement for most people.
If the movement feels a bit awkward, then you may be using too much weight, so it’s always best to nail the technique before going heavier.
With cable curls, the weight you’re lifting is fixed to a cable station which means that less stabilisation is needed.
This makes them an awesome exercise for beginners as it’s hard to mess up the form.
That said, the fact that your biceps are under tension throughout the whole exercise can make them a bit harder.
Both dumbbell curls and cable curls are simple to execute.
I’ve got to give this one a draw, as cable curls place your biceps under constant tension, while dumbbell curls require other muscles to assist the movement.
Ease of Access
Dumbbells are one of the most common pieces of gym equipment.
In most gyms, there’s typically multiple sets of dumbbells in different weights, so chances are you’ll find a pair which meet your needs.
No other gym equipment is needed for dumbbell curls making them a super accessible exercise.
Most well-equipped gyms will have cable stations required to perform cable curls.
However, they’re expensive pieces of kit. So if you’re someone who prefers working out at home, you may not have easy access to a cable station.
Dumbbells are much more common in gyms than cable stations.
(Now I don’t have the data to prove this… But common sense says so.)
Cable stations are much more expensive than dumbbells too, so if you’re working out from home, then dumbbells are a lot more accessible.
Dumbbell curls have an easy victory here!
Dumbbell curls are one of the most versatile exercises out there.
In fact, they’re used in many other bicep curl variations, such as:
- Reverse Dumbbell Curls
- Hammer Curls
- Zottman Curls
- Incline Dumbbell Curls
You could also swap dumbbells for a barbell or an EZ bar to mix it up even more.
The possibilities are endless!
Cable curls are naturally limited given they can only be performed on a cable station.
That said, you can vary the attachments quite heavily.
For example, ropes, straight bars and single-arm attachments are just a few different bits of equipment you can use.
Both dumbbell curls and cable curls are quite variable but in different ways.
You can use many different curl techniques with dumbbells, whereas you can use different attachments for cable curls.
All things considered though, dumbbell curls are more variable.
Dumbbell Curls vs Cable Curls: Which Is Better?
Based on all the above factors, I’d personally argue that dumbbell curls are a better exercise than cable curls.
Let me be clear though…
I’m not discounting the effectiveness of cable curls by any means.
Both these exercises are great additions to any bicep workout.
But if you’re wanting a more accessible and versatile exercise that overloads your biceps better, then dumbbell curls are the one for you.