clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Work out your back and chest on the cable machine

You can use the cables to work your entire body, but today we are going to focus on the chest and back. These muscles work on opposition of each other, and it’s important to strengthen both.

You may have seen the cable machine in the gym and wondered what does it do?

You can use the cables to work your entire body, but today we are going to focus on the chest and back. These muscles work on opposition of each other, and it’s important to strengthen both.

The chest can typically be worked in a push-up, but we’ll show you a version that doesn’t require you to get down on the ground. The back can also be worked with machines and free weights, but the cable adds unique tension and can be done standing up.

One of my favorite exercises for the chest and back is alternating between a cable chest fly and a reverse cable crossover.

The cable chest fly works the biceps and the pectoralis major. This exercise puts constant tension on the muscles in your chest throughout the entire range of motion. Lower the weight on the cable to 12 lbs to start. Take off any of the accessories that are clipped to the ends of the cables. Set the cables at a height just as high as the center of your chest (directly even with your nipples.)

Stephanie Mansour demonstrates the starting pose of a cable chest fly at HiFi Fitness at 820 N Orleans.
Stephanie Mansour demonstrates the starting pose of a cable chest fly at HiFi Fitness at 820 N Orleans.
Brian Ernst/Sun-Times

Stand with your back facing the cable machine. Hold onto the cables, one in each hand, and then step one foot forward and one foot back. Keep the feet open as wide as the hips. Pull your navel in. Exhale as you bring the arms around in front of your chest to meet, hold for 2 seconds and squeeze, and then slowly release them back to the starting position. Repeat this 10 times.

Stephanie Mansour demonstrates the ending position of a cable chest fly.
Stephanie Mansour demonstrates the ending position of a cable chest fly.
Brian Ernst/Sun-Times

Make sure to keep your shoulders down and relaxed, your back straight, and your lower body steady. If it’s too much weight, lower the weight. You should feel this in your pecs (the chest) and the upper inner arms as if you were doing a chest press or a push up.

Health and fitness expert Stephanie Mansour demonstrates the starting pose of a cable back exercise.
Health and fitness expert Stephanie Mansour demonstrates the starting pose of a cable back exercise.
Brian Ernst/Sun-Times

Next, keep the cables in the same position but turn your body so that you’re facing the machine. Now we are moving into the reverse cable crossover exercise. Hold the cables in front of your chest with your hands crossed over each other. Then pull the cables away from each other and to the outsides keeping them as high as your shoulders.

Squeeze your upper back and shoulder blades together as if you’re trying to hold onto a diamond between your shoulder blades. Keep the shoulders down and relaxed and the abs pulled in with the feet as wide as the hips. Repeat this 10 times.

Stephanie Mansour demonstrates the ending position of a reverse cable crossover.
Stephanie Mansour demonstrates the ending position of a reverse cable crossover.
Brian Ernst/Sun-Times

Repeat the above exercises 3 times total for a total chest and back workout!

One more exercise that you can do on the cable machine that only requires one cable is a great exercise for improving posture.

For this one, strap two handles onto one cable. Face the cable and hold onto the straps in each hand. Step your feet open as wide as your hips and slightly bend your knees.

Pull your navel in toward your spine and keep your shoulders relaxed. Then, pull the cable handles towards your chest to the outside near your armpits and feel your upper back muscles contract. Then come back to the starting position. Repeat this 10 times.

NOTE: Stephanie Mansour was photographed at HiFi Fitness at 820 N. Orleans.