Pulley Machine Exercise Guide


Pulley machines are versatile exercise tools found in many gyms. Quick to set up, easy to adjust and offering a myriad of exercises, pulley machines can be used to exercise virtually every muscle in your body. Used in conjunction with an exercise bench or stability ball, pulley machines can be more effective than many fixed-path resistance machines.


Pulley machines allow you to exercise in relative safety as you cannot drop the weight on yourself while you are working out. Exercises such the bench press and shoulder press are inherently dangerous because if you fail to complete a lift the weight might come crashing down on you which could result in serious injury. This is not the case with pulley exercises.

Unlike may traditional free-weight and resistance-machine exercises, pulley machine exercises allow you to perform your workouts in a number of body positions. You can choose to stand, sit or lie on an exercise bench or stability ball. This is possible because you can easily alter the height of the pulley to suit your individual preferences and requirements.

Because each limb can be exercised separately, using a pulley machine promotes balance between your left and right sides. Many fixed-path resistance machines and some free weight exercises can disguise left to right strength disparity which may lead to muscle imbalances and possible chronic injury.

Multi-Planar Movements

Pulley machines can be used to work your body from a wide variety of directions -- called planes. Traditional strength training exercises place an emphasis on the saggital plane. The saggital plane involves forwards and backwards movements, such as leg extensions or biceps curls. Your body benefits from movements involving the frontal plane -- side to side movements -- and the transverse or rotational plane. Many sports and daily activities take place in multiple planes, so it makes good exercise sense to work your muscles in a multi-planar fashion. Pulley exercises such as horizontal twists, lunge into chest press and lateral squats challenge your body in a way that is not possible with many traditional linear exercises.

Common Pulley Machine Exercise

In addition to advanced multi planar exercises, a pulley machine can be used for a number of common strength training movements. By adjusting the pulley to its highest position, you can perform a variety of triceps extension exercises. When the pulley is set to its lowest position, you can perform biceps curls, upright rows and a number of shoulder raises and presses. If you set the pulley to around shoulder height you can perform numerous flies, crossovers, presses and pulls to focus on your chest, shoulders and upper back as well as a large number of core exercises.

Uses in Sports

Because you can change the angle at which you perform your exercises, you can use pulley machine training to replicate sporting movements. For example, a javelin thrower could set the pulley up in such a way that they can mimic the action of throwing or a tennis player could use the pulley machine to simulate playing a back hand. This type of targeted training is not normally possible with free weights or traditional, fixed-path resistance machines.


If you are sedentary, significantly overweight, suffer from any serious medical conditions or are otherwise unsure as to your suitability to exercise, you should get and all-clear from your doctor before commencing any new or strenuous exercise programme. Make sure you are familiar with the pulley system you are using and check the cables for signs of wear and tear. Always warm up prior to working out by performing some light cardio and stretching to ensure your muscles and joints are ready for the more strenuous exercises to follow.