• You need Flash player 8+ and JavaScript enabled to view this video.

Single Cable Swim Strokes

By RealJock Staff

This exercise provided courtesy of Billy Polson, founder and co-owner of DIAKADI Body training gym, voted best personal training gym in San Francisco by CitySearch in 2006.

Don’t be fooled by its simplicity—the single cable swim stroke isolates the major muscles in your upper back for a challenging workout that mimics the downward movement of a standard freestyle swim stroke.

Muscles Worked
Back (lats and traps)

Starting Position
Attach a single cable at the highest setting on a cable machine. Take the handle in one hand and stand facing the machine from about four feet away with your knees slightly bent. Keeping your back flat, bend over at the hips and sit your butt back slightly until your upper body is at a 45-degree angle to the floor. Extend the arm holding the cable diagonally in front of you so that it is in a straight line from your shoulder to the cable’s point of attachment. Hold the handle with your palm facing down toward the floor (see Photo 1).


  1. From the starting position, pull the cable down and behind you in a “swim stroke” motion. Keep your arm in a straight line—do not swing it wide and do not bend your elbow. Keep your wrist straight and hand in the same orientation throughout the movement (see Photo 2).
  2. At the maximum point of extension, your arm will be slightly behind you, with your palm now facing upward (see Photo 3). From this position, reverse direction and return through the same arc to return to the starting position. Keep the movement controlled throughout (see Photos 4 and 5).
  3. After you have done 12 strokes on one arm, switch to the other arm for another 12 strokes.
About Billy Polson: Billy Polson is the founder and co-owner of DIAKADI Body training gym, which was voted the best personal training gym in San Francisco by CitySearch in 2006. A competitive swimmer and triathlete in his own right, Polson has over 15 years of experience working as a coach and trainer, and was recently named by Men's Journal Magazine (December 2005) as one of the Top 100 Trainers in America.