Cable Machine Workouts

Fact Checked

Man exercising shoulders in the gym image by Elzbieta Sekowska from

Cable machine workouts involve exercises for all the major muscle groups. The machine itself has two weight stacks spaced wide enough apart to easily fit a body in between. The weight gets adjusted by sliding a pin into the stack, and there are multiple handles available for use. When doing exercises, use one side of the machine or both at the same time.

Incline Chest Press

The incline chest press works the upper part of the chest, and it requires both sides of the cable machine. After fastening single handles to chest-high settings on the machine, grab a handle in each hand and stand in the center of the stacks with your feet in a staggered position. At this point, your palms should be facing down, and your elbows should be bent. While leaning forward slightly, push the handles straight in the air at an upward angle. Once your hands are close to each other but not touching, lower your arms back to the starting point and repeat.

Upright Row

Upright rows require one side of the machine and a straight revolving bar. This exercise works the trapezius muscle, which is found in the upper back. After attaching the bar to a low setting, face the weight stack, place your feet shoulder-width apart and grasp the bar with your hands about 6 inches to 8 inches apart. Your arms should be in front of your body at this point, and your hands should be in front of your pelvis. In a steady motion, lift the bar straight up to neck height as you raise your upper arms in the air. Slowly lower the bar back down and repeat.

Straight Arm Pull-downs

Straight arm pull-downs work the top of the latissimus dorsi, or lats, and the serratus muscles. The lats are in the upper back, and the serratus is on the upper ribcage. To do this exercise, attach a revolving straight bar to a high setting on one side of the machine, face the weight stack and grab the bar with an overhand, shoulder-width grip. Keeping your core tight and arms straight, push the bar down in an arcing motion until it is right in front of your thighs. Raise the bar back up and repeat.

Double Cable Curls

Double cable curls work the biceps, which are the muscles on the front of the upper arms. After attaching single handles to shoulder-high settings on the machine, stand in between the weight stacks with your feet shoulder-width apart and a handle in each hand. At this point, your arms should be extended to your sides and parallel to the floor and your palms should be facing up. Keeping your upper arms still, bend your elbows and move the handles toward your head. Squeeze your biceps forcefully, slowly lower your hands and repeat.

Lying Leg Raise

Lying leg raises work the hip flexor muscles and the rectus abdominis. To do these, fasten ankle straps to your lower legs and to a low setting on one side of the machine. Lie on your back with your feet facing the weight stack and steadily lift your legs up until your body forms a 90-degree angle. Slowly lower your legs and repeat. To help support your body, grab a hold of the other weight stack behind your head.

Cable Squat

The cable squat targets the quads which are the big muscles in the fronts of your thighs. Position yourself on a platform between very low cable pulleys; facing away from the machine. Spread your feet shoulder-width apart. Squat down and grasp the stirrups in each hand. Keep your back straight, your knees slightly forward, your hips back and your thighs parallel to the floor. Rise back up to standing and then continue squatting and standing until your muscles are fatigued.