Are you looking to enhance your fitness routine with versatile and effective workouts? You should look no further than the cable machine. The Cable machine is more than just a piece of equipment taking up space—it’s your one-stop-shop for targeting multiple muscle groups.
Cable machine workout is a versatile and effective way to improve muscle mass and stability. These machines offer a wide range of movement options, making it easy to find the perfect setup for your specific needs.
In this blog, we will explore the most effective cable machine exercises for enhancing muscle growth and enhancing physical appearance. We’ll also provide tips for creating a personalized cable machine workout routine.
- What is a Cable Machine
- Key Features
- How To Do Full Body Workout With Cables Machine
- 12 Best Cable Machine Exercises To Build Mass & Strength
- 1. Lat Pulldown
- 2. Seated Cable Row
- 3. Cable Chest Press
- 4. Cable Crossover
- 5. Cable Overhead Press
- 6. Cable Lateral Raises
- 7. Cable Upright
- 8. Cable Squat
- 9. Cable Stiff-Leg Deadlift
- 10. Tricep Pushdown
- 11. Cable Bicep Curl
- 12. Pallof Press
- Benefits of Cable Machine Workouts
- Set and Reps for Cable Workout
- Cable Workout Plans To Train Full Body
- I). Upper Body Cable Only Workout Plan
- II). Lower Body Cable Workout Plan
- III). 4-Day Full Body Cable Workout Routine
What is a Cable Machine
A cable machine is a piece of exercise equipment that is commonly found in gyms and fitness centers. This exercise is used for weight training or functional training to target all major muscle groups.
It consists of a steel frame that houses a series of pulleys, cables, and weight stacks. The cables are attached to different types of handles or attachments, which you can pull or push to do a lot of different exercises.
The machine usually has adjustable settings, so you can set the height of the pulley and the amount of weight resistance. This makes it a great tool for strength training, functional fitness, and rehabilitation exercises.
- Weight Stacks: The source of resistance, usually adjustable in small increments. It is often starting as low as 5 or 10 pounds and goes up to several hundred pounds.
- Pulleys: These guide the cables smoothly, allows for a wide range of motion and exercise variations. It is possible to move the pulley to different heights or angles
- Cables: These transfer the resistance from the weight stacks to the handles or other attachments.
- Handles and Attachments: Cable machines come with a variety of handles and attachments like bars, ropes, or single-hand grips. It lets you do many different exercises that work different muscles.
How To Do Full Body Workout With Cables Machine
With the cable machine, you can work multiple muscle groups across your entire body, from your legs and core to your upper body.
You can change your body position, weight load, and attachments to make your workout unique. Adjusting your grip and movement patterns can make it easier to work out different muscles.
To build a full-body workout with a cable machine, the number of reps and sets you do will depend on how fit you are, how often you workout each week, and what your training goals are.
- For strength gains, do 4 to 6 sets of 1 to 6 reps each exercise with a weight that is at least 85% of your one-repetition maximum (1RM). The fewer reps you perform, the closer to 100% of your 1RM you should strive for.
- If your goal is hypertrophy (muscle growth), perform three sets of each exercise, using loads that are 70 to 85% of your 1RM for 8 to 12 reps.
- When training for endurance, it is usually recommended to use higher reps (15 to 20 repetitions) and moderate loads, with a weight that is at least 50 to 70% of your 1RM.
Using a cable machine, you can create a balanced and effective full-body workout that aligns with your unique fitness goals, whether it be strength, hypertrophy, or endurance.
12 Best Cable Machine Exercises To Build Mass & Strength
If you’re looking to build muscle and strength, cable machines are a great tool to have in your arsenal. Cable machines provide constant resistance throughout the range of motion, which can help build strong, lean muscles.
Here, we will discuss the 10 best cable exercises for building mass and strength. We’ll show you how to do each exercise correctly.
1. Lat Pulldown
If you want to add a simple yet effective cable machine exercise to your workout routine, lat pulldowns are a good place to start. The exercise is easy to learn and very effective at building back strength.
The lat pulldown can be performed with different variations. Here are a few popular Lat pulldown variations that will keep your workout fresh and challenging.
- Wide-grip lat pulldown
- Close-grip lat pulldown
- Reverse-grip (supination) lat pulldown
- Neutral-grip lat pulldown
How To Do
- Take an overhand grip, hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, and sit on the machine seat.
- Lock your knees under the support pads.
- Keep your upper back straight, pull the bar down and bring it up to the chest.
- As you pull down, squeeze your shoulder blades together and feel back muscles contracting.
- Perform this movement using your upper back and use the arms merely as a lever between bar and lats.
- Now release the bar with controlled motion and stretch your lats as much as possible.
- To make the most of this move, your reps should be slow and controlled.
- Go full range of motion and concentrate on your back muscles doing the major work.
- Avoid rising yourself from the seat.
2. Seated Cable Row
This back exercise is done on a cable rowing machine with separate handles and grip position change, the muscle worked involvement.
- Pronated (overhand) grip tends to target the upper and middle trapezius.
- Neutral (thumbs up) grip hits the middle and lower trapezius.
- Supinated (underhand) grip switches the focus to the latissimus dorsi.
How To Do
- Sit on a seated cable pulley rowing machine with legs slightly bent and feet supported against the crossbar.
- Take hold of the handles with your arms extended and back stretched.
- Pull the handles so that they come as close to the abdomen as possible.
- Thrust your chest out while pulling with your body in an upright position.
- Slowly return the handle to the starting position.
- Pause briefly when the handles are close to the chest and squeeze your upper back muscles.
- Keep your knees slightly bent to avoid knee and lower back pressure.
- Remember, a rounded back is a wrong back. Keep it straight at all times.
- Keep your upper back stationary, don’t move your upper back, back and forth.
3. Cable Chest Press
Do you want to make your chest workout more challenging and better with a cable machine? Then, you should not look further than cable chest press.
The standing cable chest press is a variation of the traditional chest press that is performed using a cable machine. It is a compound exercise that targets the chest, triceps brachii, and anterior deltoids.
Cable chest presses are an effective way to strengthen your chest muscles, with constant tension throughout the movement and a full range of motion.
How To Do
- Attach two D-handles to cable pulleys set at about chest height. Stand in the middle.
- Stand in the center of the two pulleys and grip the stirrups.
- Step forward to create tension in the cables, and adopt a staggered stance for stability.
- Engage your core and brace your abs.
- Press the handles forward until they meet in the middle of your chest.
- Pause for a second at the top of the movement, then slowly lower the handles back to the starting position.
- Adjust the height of the handles to target different areas of your chest.
- Breathe in when you’re relaxing and breathe out when you’re contracting.
- Maintain an upright posture. Avoid leaning forward.
- Keep elbows slightly bent; don’t lock them.
4. Cable Crossover
If you’re looking for straightforward cable machine chest exercises to add to your routine, cable crossover are a great staple exercise to get you started. It provides constant tension, which helps build a massive chest. It helps to develop and define the lower and the Inner pectoral muscles.
Additionally, the cable crossover provides a versatile range of motion, allowing you to adjust the height and angle of the cables to target different areas of the chest. Such as:
- Middle Crossover: Specially target the inner chest
- Low Cable Crossover: Specially target the Upper Chest
- High Cable Crossover: Specially target the Lower Chest
How To Do
- Stand in the center of a cable machine, grasping a handle in each hand.
- Keep your feet shoulder-width apart, and maintain a slight bend in your knees.
- Position the pulleys at shoulder height or slightly above.
- Cross the cables over each other in front of your body, creating an X shape.
- Slowly bring your hands together in front of your chest, squeezing your chest muscles for one to two seconds.
- Reverse the movement, keeping it under control
- Bring arms together smoothly. Avoid jerky motions.
- Focus on squeezing the chest muscles at the crossing point.
- Adjust cable heights to target upper or lower chest.
- Use controlled motion and lighter weight for higher reps.
5. Cable Overhead Press
It is a variation of the shoulder or overhead press, and it’s one of the best exercises for building size and strength.
Even though you might not see many people using the cable machine for shoulder presses, it is a fantastic exercise to mix in your shoulder workout for extra variety.
The angle of the cable overhead press can help recruit new muscle fiber that’s not engaged much with other types of shoulder presses because the force is pulling down behind you.
How To Do
- Start by standing in between a low pulley cable machine with two cables attached to it.
- Bend down, grab the cables and then bring them to your shoulders as this will be your starting position.
- Keep your back straight, head up and chest up, and push the handles up over your head. Feel the stretch in your shoulders.
- Hold for a count at the top, then return to the starting position.
- Repeat for the desired number of repetitions.
- Try to stand as close to the cable machine as possible. Standing too far away can cause the weight to pull you back, placing stress on your lower back and making the exercise more difficult to perform.
- Exhale during effort, inhale during rest.
- Keep a controlled motion and avoid jerky movements
6. Cable Lateral Raises
Cable lateral raises are the most popular shoulder exercise, designed to target the medial deltoid and contribute to a sought-after V-shaped upper body. It provides constant tension on the target muscle group as you move the weight through the range of motion.
There are multiple variations of the cable lateral raise, but they all have the same common goal, to build the lateral delts.
It is recommended that you begin with a lighter weight in order to achieve optimal performance.
How To Do
- Attach a single-grip handles to the lowest point of the cable pulley system.
- The handle from the right pulley should be in your left hand, and the handle from the left pulley should be in your right hand. The cables should be crossed and pulled tightly.
- With elbows slightly bent, raise your arms to shoulder level, leading with the elbow.
- Slowly lower your arms back down until you feel a stretch in your delts and repeat.
- The form is a very important part of this exercise.
- Don’t just swing your arms. Keep motion-controlled throughout the exercise.
- Always use weights that you can handle comfortably.
7. Cable Upright
If you want to build bigger and stronger traps and deltoid, the cable upright row is a great exercise to do. The cable upright row is a variation of the upright row and an exercise used to build the muscles of the shoulders and traps.
The cable variation provides a constant tension throughout the movement and allows for a smoother range of motion. It’s ultimately increasing muscle activation and hypertrophy.
How To Do
- Attach a straight bar to a low cable pulley.
- Position yourself in front of the cable machine with your feet shoulder-width apart.
- Grab the bar using a shoulder-width or wider overhand grip.
- Exhale as you pull the bar up the front of your body until it reaches the level of your lower or middle chest.
- Do not pull the bar up any higher. Hold for a count of two.
- Inhale as you lower the bar to the starting position.
8. Cable Squat
Cable Squats are an excellent alternative to barbell squats to build quality muscle mass in the legs. These leg exercises are done standing with a cable machine.
One benefit the cable squat has over the barbell squat is that, it is more evenly distributed, and you have more of a constant load on your legs muscles throughout the whole range of motion.
How To Do
- Grip a cable rope in each hand. Stand away from the cable machine so that the slack tightens.
- Make sure your back is straight, and your core is tight.
- Bend your knees and drive your hips back while you keep your chest up.
- Stand back up, then pull the handles back, leading with your elbows.
- Tighten the back muscles, then return the handles to the starting position.
- Repeat the desired number of sets and Reps
- Keep your torso upright, shoulders back, head up, and feet flat.
- Warm up well before cable leg workout.
9. Cable Stiff-Leg Deadlift
If you’re looking for a straightforward cable leg workout and exercises to build mass and strength in your legs, then cable stiff leg deadlift, is a great staple exercise to get you started.
The cable stiff-leg deadlift for hamstrings requires a lighter weight than that used during traditional powerlifting for strengthening the lower back.
How To Do
- Attach the rope handle to the pulley and position at the lowest position.
- Face the pulley with the rope in both hands and about 3 feet of distance between you and the machine.
- Keeping your back straight, head up, and hips low, lift the cable into a standing position.
- Flex your knees a little and push your hips backward and slowly lower the cable down the front of your legs.
- Descend until you feel a mild stretch in your hamstrings.
- Exhale as you pull the cable back up to the starting position by pushing your hips forward.
10. Tricep Pushdown
The cable provides a uniform resistance throughout the movement, unlike barbell or dumbbell exercises, where the resistance varies during the lift.
- Using the straight bar, a pronated grip (palms down) emphasizes the outer lateral head of the triceps,
- Whereas a supinated grip (palms up) focuses effort on the inner long head.
- An angled V-shaped bar switches the hands into a neutral grip (thumbs up), equally targeting all three triceps heads.
How To Do
- Stand facing a high-pulley cable with a short straight bar attached to it.
- Slight bend your knees and feet should be about shoulder-width apart.
- Grasp the Short bar with a pronated grip (palm down). Hold the bar at chest level with your elbows tight against your sides.
- Keeping your elbows stationary, straighten your arms until they are fully extended.
- Pause at full arm extension, flex your triceps, and slowly return the bar to the starting position.
11. Cable Bicep Curl
If you’re looking for straightforward cable machine bicep exercises to add to your routine, cable curls are a great staple exercise to get you started.
Unlike barbell or dumbbell curls, where the resistance varies during the lift, the cable pulley provides a uniform resistance throughout the movement.
The bicep cable curl is one of the best isolation exercises for the of bicep. It’s a pulling action performed with a cable machine and is suitable for beginners.
How To Do
- Set up for the cable curl by attaching a straight bar to the low pulley cable.
- Grasp the bar with an underhand grip (palms facing up), and your hands about shoulder-width apart.
- Curl the bar up toward your shoulders by bending at the elbows.
- Lower the weight down to the arms extended position.
- Stand upright with the spine straight.
- Keep the rep timing slow and control the weight as you lower it.
12. Pallof Press
The Pallof Press is a full-body exercise that can increase overall stability and activate many large muscle groups in the body.
It is an anti-rotation hold exercise that will work wonders in helping you develop a stable core.
The Pallof press is a valuable movement prep and core strengthening exercise, and It helps to establish proper spinal alignment under load and increase core stability.
How To Do
- Attach a handle to a chest-high cable pulley.
- Stand on the side cable machine with your feet hip-width apart.
- Grasp the handle with the hand nearest the pulley, pull the handle to your chest, and place your free hand over the hand holding the handle.
- Engage your core and press the handle out with both hands so your arms are extended in front of your chest.
- Hold this position, resisting the pull of the cable and not letting your torso rotate towards the machine, for five to ten seconds then bring the handle back in to your chest.
- Repeat the exercise on your opposite side.
- Maintain a forward chest and straight back throughout the entire exercise.
- Use a challenging weight, but only to where you can maintain a straight body position.
Benefits of Cable Machine Workouts
- Constant Tension: Maintains continuous tension on muscles through the entire range of motion, optimizing muscle growth and endurance.
- Versatility: Allows for a wide variety of exercises that target multiple muscle groups, from upper body and core to lower body.
- Safety: Generally safer for solo workouts, with less risk of dropping weights or losing control of the equipment.
- Adaptability: Suitable for all fitness levels, from beginners to advanced. Thanks to adjustable weight stacks and pulley heights.
- Functional Fitness: Supports multi-planar movements, aiding in functional training and improving day-to-day activities or sports performance.
- Smooth Motion: The pulley and cable system provides a smoother, more controlled range of motion compared to some free weights.
- Space-Efficient: One cable machine can replace multiple pieces of equipment, saving space in home gyms or workout areas.
- Customizable: A variety of handle attachments allow for tailored workouts that can target specific muscles or movement patterns.
- Progressive Overload: Easy to adjust weight resistance for progressive overload, which is essential for continuous improvement.
- Isolation and Compound: Allows for both isolation exercises for targeted muscle training and compound movements for overall strength and conditioning.
Set and Reps for Cable Workout
Training volume refers to the total amount of work you perform during a workout, including the number of sets, reps, and weight used.
Of course, the number of sets and reps will be determined based on your fitness journey, but here is a great starting point.
According to the latest scientific evidence, 12–20 weekly sets per muscle group may optimize muscle growth.
- Beginners (with a year or less of training) should aim for about 12 weekly sets.
- An Intermediate trainee (with two to four years of training) can increase the volume to 16 sets per week.
- An advanced trainee (four or more years of training) may be able to get in up to 20 weekly sets.
When a certain amount of volume stops being effective and your progress stalls, you can add sets to increase volume and use that as a driver of renewed progress.
The best rep ranges and loads to work with.
- For muscle endurance: Aim for 15-20+ reps, with a moderate amount of resistance.
- For muscle strength: 6-10 reps, with a heavier amount of resistance.
- For muscle hypertrophy (increased muscle size): Aim for 3-4 sets of 8-12 reps, with a moderate to heavy amount of resistance.
It’s best to start with fewer reps and sets at first, and then increase them as you get stronger.
Cable Workout Plans To Train Full Body
Full-body cable routines engage all the primary muscle groups in each session, delivering a comprehensive fitness solution. When executed with the right selection of exercises, sets, reps, and weight, full-body cable workouts can lead to substantial gains in both strength and muscle mass.
Here are some effective sample upper body, lower body, and full-body cable routines.
I). Upper Body Cable Only Workout Plan
An upper body workout plan using only cable exercises is an excellent way to enhance muscle mass and strength in your upper body. This regimen generally incorporates compound exercises that work multiple muscle groups simultaneously.
Some of the most common exercises included in upper body cable-only workout plans are:
|Cable Chest Press||4||8-10||2-3 minutes|
|Cable Row||4||8-10||2-3 minutes|
|Cable Shoulder Press||3||8-10||2-3 minutes|
|Cable Bicep Curl||3||10-12||1-2 minutes|
|Cable Tricep Pushdown||3||10-12||1-2 minutes|
|Cable Face Pulls||3||10-12||1-2 minutes|
II). Lower Body Cable Workout Plan
For strong, sculpted legs, a focused lower body cable workout is crucial. Exercises like cable squats, cable leg curls, and cable lunges effectively target the key muscles of the hips, glutes, quads, and hamstrings.
Here is a sample lower body cable workout:
|Exercise||Sets x Reps||Rest|
|Cable Squat||3×8-10||2-3 minutes|
|Cable Deadlift||3×8-10||2-3 minutes|
|Cable Lunges||3×10-12 each leg||1-2 minutes|
|Cable Hip Thrust||3×10-12||1-2 minutes|
|Cable Calf Raise||3×15-20||1-2 minutes|
III). 4-Day Full Body Cable Workout Routine
A 4-day cable workout split enables you to engage your entire body frequently using versatile cable exercises.
Over the course of 4 sessions, this full-body cable workout routine activates all the major muscle groups, providing adequate time for rest and recovery, vital for consistent progression and growth.
|Exercise||Sets x Reps||Rest (seconds)|
|Cable Squat||3 x 8||90|
|Cable Deadlift||3 x 10||90|
|Cable Row||3 x 10||90|
|Cable Bicep Curl||3 x 12||60|
|Exercise||Sets x Reps||Rest (seconds)|
|Cable Chest Press||3 x 8||90|
|Cable Shoulder Press||3 x 10||90|
|Cable Lateral Raise||3 x 10||90|
|Cable Tricep Pushdown||3 x 12||60|
Wednesday – Rest Day
|Exercise||Sets x Reps||Rest (seconds)|
|Cable Deadlift||3 x 6||120|
|Cable Front Squat||3 x 8||90|
|Cable Seated Row||3 x 10||90|
|Cable Hammer Curl||3 x 12||60|
|Exercise||Sets x Reps||Rest (seconds)|
|Cable Incline Chest Press||3 x 8||90|
|Cable Overhead Tricep Extension||3 x 10||90|
|Cable High Row||3 x 10||90|
|Cable Face Pull||3 x 12||60|
Saturday and Sunday – Rest Days
Note: This plan is just a sample and can be modified based on individual goals, fitness level, and personal preferences.
Cable exercises are crucial as they consist of both compound and isolation movements. Cables are capable of effectively targeting multiple muscle groups and enhancing muscle tone.
The effectiveness of some top cable exercises, such as cable rows, pulldowns, and cable presses, for building muscle and strength.
There are different fitness goals that can be achieved with cable exercises, from bodybuilding and muscular endurance to general fitness and rehabilitation.
Cables allow for constant tension through a wide range of motion, leading to greater muscle activation and growth. The ability to unilaterally work one side of the body provides more focused training.
Compound cable exercises like cable rows and pulldowns hit multiple large muscle groups at once. Isolation exercises like cable curls and tricep extensions hone in on smaller muscle groups.
Manish brings over 10 years of hands-on experience in weight lifting and fat loss to fitness coaching. He specializes in gym-based training and has a lot of knowledge about exercise, lifting technique, biomechanics, and more.
Through “Fit Life Regime,” he generously shares the insights he’s gained over a decade in the field. His goal is to equip others with the knowledge to start their own fitness journey.