The cable machine is one of the most versatile pieces of equipment in the gym. You can work every muscle in multiple ways and change exercises around to add some spice to your workouts. You can work your legs from new angles with the cable machine, and even mimic free weight exercises like the single-leg squat and deadlift.
To get a proper cable machine leg workout, you'll need a few attachments for the cable machine. The first is a simple handle that you can grip comfortably. For glute and hip flexor exercises, you'll need a Velcro strap that can fit around your ankle. A straight bar attachment also helps for heavier exercises in which you need two hands, like the deadlift.
Cable Single-Leg Squat
This cable single-leg squat variation gives you a little assistance on the way down.
How-to: Set the cable height to waist-level. Use one handle attachment. Grip it in your left hand and walk back a few feet. Face the cable machine and stand on your right leg. Hold your left leg in the air in front of you.
Squat down on your right leg, leaning back against the resistance from the cable. Go as low as you can, then stand back up on that leg. After your set is finished, hold the handle with your right hand and squat on your left leg.
Hip Flexor Pull
Work your hip flexor, the muscle on the front of your upper thigh, in this move that will help runners and sprinters.
How-to: Put the cable machine at the lowest height. Use the Velcro attachment and secure it around your ankle. Face away from the machine. Step forward with the free leg and lean forward with your upper body.
Keep your weight on your front leg with your knee bent and pull your back leg forward, bending with your knee. Try to get your back knee up to waist-level before putting your foot back behind you. After your set is finished, switch legs.
Train your hamstrings, as well as your core and balancing abilities with this single-leg deadlift variation.
How-to: Set the cable machine height slightly higher than your waist. Use one handle attachment and grab it with your left hand. Step back a few feet while facing the machine. Stand on your right leg with your knee slightly bent.
Let the cable pull your left arm forward and bend forward at the torso, leaning toward the cable machine. Kick your left leg back, like you're trying to kick the wall behind you. Your left arm and leg should be straight and as close to parallel with the floor as possible.
Pull your left arm back in as you stand back up, pulling back with your right leg. Don't let your left foot touch the ground. Stand tall to end the rep with your left leg in the air. Regain your balance before doing the next rep. When you've completed your set, repeat the exercise with the opposite arm and leg.
Cable Glute Kickback
While this is a short movement, it's very powerful and precisely targets your butt muscles.
How to: Put the cable machine at the lowest height and hook up the Velcro strap attachment. Put it around one ankle and face the machine. Stand tall and brace yourself with both hands against the machine. Kick the leg with the Velcro attachment back but keep the leg straight. Squeeze your butt as you push back.
Make sure that you're pushing with your butt muscle instead of bending with your lower back, which would change the focus of the exercise. Repeat on the opposite leg.
Target your gluteus medius, the muscle on the side of your hips, with this exercise.
How to: With the cable machine set to the lowest height, attach the Velcro strap attachment. Put it around one ankle, and face to the side. The leg strapped into the attachment should be on the outside and the leg without the attachment the closest to the machine.
Kick your outside leg out away from the machine. Move it in a straight line out to the side, careful not to let it drift forwards or backward. Go out as far as you can, keeping your knee straight and spine tall. Then, slowly lower your leg back to the original standing position with both feet on the ground. Finish the set and then face the opposite direction to work the other leg.
Use this cable deadlift variation to work your glutes and hamstrings.
How-to: Set a cable machine to the lowest height setting. Put a straight bar attachment on the machine. Stand facing the machine and bend down to grab the handle with both hands. Stand up tall, about half a foot from the machine, and lean back slightly against the weight.
Lean your butt back and keep your chest up to lower the weight. Let the cable pull you in and stop once you hit the lowest point. Then, lean back and drive your hips forward until you're standing up tall again.