Exciting Cable Machine Exercises

Hi friends! How’s the day going? So happy you liked the chicken salad recipe! I love simple lunches, especially when I can make a large batch and enjoy leftovers all week. This morning I have a conference call and a couple of work things on the to-do list, and then Kyle and Meg will be here. We can’t wait to see them! <3

So for today, let’s talk about this thing.


A long time ago, I wrote this post about the fairly intimidating cable machine. It kind of looks like a torture device. I also shared some of my favorite cable machine exercises. 

I’ve found that it’s so easy to get into a gym routine, and use the same tools for the same things. In order for me to really switch things up, I have to make a conscious effort. Today, per reader India’s request (thank you, India!) I thought I’d share some of the more unique uses for the cable machine.

EXCITINGCableMachineExercises 2

And don’t worry. None of this.

Here are some favorite exercises:


Squat and row

15 minute workout 1


Make sure to keep your weight in your heels and your chest lifted. Squeeze your shoulder blades as you exhale to rise, and row, bringing your arms in towards your torso. 

Single arm cable chest press:

15 minute workout 2


Set a cable-station handle at shoulder height. Stand facing away from the weight stack and grab the handle with your right hand, palm facing down, elbow bent; extend your left arm in front of you. Step your right foot back into a split stance, knees bent (a). Brace your abs and forcefully drive the handle forward, while bringing your left elbow back (b). Do all reps, then switch sides and repeat.

Tips: Watch your front knee to make sure it doesn’t extend past your front toes and keep your chest lifted. You’ll really have to engage your core to keep the resistance from pulling you. Really work to keep your shoulders and hips in one straight line, parallel to the machine.

Upper body:

Bent over lat pull

1303 15minwo 2


Set the pulley at shoulder height, or slightly above. Hold both handles, and back away until your arms are straight. With your feet hip-width apart and knees slightly bent, lower your torso toward the floor and extend your arms past your head (a). Pull the handles toward you, bending your elbows out to the sides until your hands are next to your shoulders (b). Reverse to return to start. That’s one rep. 

Make sure to keep your core pulled in, and exhale as you bend your arms. 

Bent-over triceps kickback

Main cable triceps kickback


Use a dual cable station and hold the end of a cable in each hand. Stand back to put tension on the cables and bend your hips back until your torso is parallel to the floor. Keep your lower back flat and your chest up. Extend your elbows to drive the cables straight back behind you. Take three seconds to lower the weight and hold the bottom position for two seconds. Explosively extend your elbows on each rep.

Make sure to do this with control, especially as you lower the weights down. As you press the weights up and back, really think about squeezing your triceps to extend your arms as much as possible. 

Cable front raises



Set the cable at its lowest point and face away from the pulley. Grab the hand (straight bar or V-tope work well) and bring your torso upright so you are standing with good posture. Exhale to bring the handle up to shoulder height (lower than the photo above) and a slight bend at the elbows. Lower down with control before repeating. 


Woodchop 0


From Bodybuilding.com:

Connect a standard handle to a tower, and move the cable to the highest pulley position.With your side to the cable, grab the handle with one hand and step away from the tower. You should be approximately arm’s length away from the pulley, with the tension of the weight on the cable. Your outstretched arm should be aligned with the cable.

With your feet positioned shoulder width apart, reach upward with your other hand and grab the handle with both hands. Your arms should still be fully extended. In one motion, pull the handle down and across your body to your front knee while rotating your torso. Keep your back and arms straight and core tight while you pivot your back foot and bend your knees to get a full range of motion.

Maintain your stance and straight arms. Return to the neutral position in a slow and controlled manner. Repeat to failure. Then, reposition and repeat the same series of movements on the opposite side.

Tip: You will twist your entire body with this exercise, but really focus on getting maximal torso rotation and a strong clinch at the end of the movement. To ensure a good mind-muscle connection, keep your abs tense at all times.

Anti rotation

Cable anti rotation


For this exercise, you’re engaging your core to prevent movement through the torso. Come onto hands and knees with the pulley at chest height. Kneel to the side of the machine and grab the handle with both hands. Bring your torso upright and hold the handle at your chest. Exhale to press it straight in front of your chest, and inhale to bring back to center. Complete your reps before switching to the opposite side. 

Reverse crunch



For this exercise, you’ll have the pulley at its lowest position. Wrap the strap around your ankles. Exhale to bring you knees in towards your chest, gently lifting your hips off the floor. Lower down to repeat. Remember that we do not need to lift heavy with our abdominal muscles. Go for LIGHT resistance. 

Single arm cable toe touch:

Cable toe touch


Lie back with your left arm extended behind you holding a cable handle. Keep your right leg extended and elevated a few inches off of the floor and your left knee bent 90 degrees.
Lift your right leg and simultaneously crunch the cable up until your left hand touches your right shin .
Return your left arm and right leg back to approximately six inches off of the floor. Repeat for two sets of 20 reps on each side.

Lower body:

Standing abduction

Standing cable abduction


The photo for this one is pretty straightforward. Make sure to lower the weight with control and keep your hips facing forward at all times. Avoid holding onto the machine for dear life; it’s just there for balance.

Cable deadlift

Cable pull


Attach a rope handle to the low pulley of a cable machine. Grab an end of the rope in each hand and stand with your back to the weight stack. Bend at your hips and knees and lower your torso until it’s at about a 45-degree angle to the floor (A). Thrust your hips forward and raise your torso back to the starting position (B).  That’s one rep.

Kneeling cable kickback



 For this one, the pulley will be at its lowest point. Keep both hips parallel to the floor, and really squeeze your glutes as you exhale to lift your leg. Lower down slowly with control.

How often do you use the cable machine in your training? Any favorite exercises? Or exercises you love to hate? 😉

Have a wonderful morning and I’ll see ya soon!



More Focus On faves:

Tabata training

Step aerobics

Stability balls

Resistance bands

Don’t forget to check in with your Summer Shape Up workouts! <3

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  1. Sara @ saralouyoga on July 20, 2016 at 6:27 am

    Those look super neat!

    I mainly work out with my own body weight…ever since I started learning and teaching a more strength based yoga I’ve been hooked!

    But I think it would be nice to switch it up every now and then…change is always good!

  2. Jessica @ Semi-Sweet Tooth on July 20, 2016 at 6:35 am

    This is great!

    My father recently purchased a cable machine for his home and I’ve honestly been too intimidated to try it out, preferring a simple run around the neighborhood instead. But I love these exercises! Especially the anti rotation – definitely a tough move when done correctly.

    Thanks for sharing!
    XO, Jessica

  3. Megan @ Skinny Fitalicious on July 20, 2016 at 7:14 am

    I love these variations! It’s so easy to get stuck on a rut. I need to try a few of these, that is if I can remember!

  4. India on July 20, 2016 at 8:09 am

    Gina! Oh my goodness. I’m the India that emailed you and I feel so honored you made a post to help me. Thank you so much! I did the cable front raises yesterday and it was such a nice change from dumbbells. I’m definitely pinning and remembering this post. You are awesome.

  5. Lauren @ The Bikini Experiment on July 20, 2016 at 1:35 pm

    Great exercises. Always good to mix things up.

  6. Sam @ Barrister's Beet on July 20, 2016 at 6:01 pm

    Great exercises and ideas of how to use a (sometimes) intimidating or confusing machine. Thanks, Gina!

  7. Fiona @ Get Fit Fiona on July 24, 2016 at 4:25 pm

    The single arm chest press is one of my favorites for the cable machine.

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