Cable Exercises a la Carte

Photo Credit: Nicolas Smith
You love weights. Dumbbells, barbells, plates—you've got a routine with all of them. We're all for finding a good routine—but to build maximum muscle, you really need to change it up. Serious strength training means constantly changing muscle stimulus. Enter the cable machine.

Cable machine exercises will train the major muscle groups you work in your typical weight sets. But they have an added benefit—stability training. Because of the continuous resistance provided by the machine, you have to make constant small adjustments to control your movement and maintain your position. You have to adapt, because the cable won't accommodate your shifting around the way weights will. Those adjustments help you work the muscles stabilizing the major muscles you're targeting and, in the case of almost every cable exercise, demand serious core strength.

To help you get the most out of your cable workouts, we asked Devin Wicks, ACE, AFAA, a fitness operations director at the University of California, Berkeley, and specialty strength coach for some of the University's premier sports teams, for a set of creative, challenging cable exercises that you can integrate into your routine. We've envisioned this as an à la carte set of exercises, arranged in a standard 3-day chest/tricep, back/bicep, legs/shoulders layout. You don't want to do all cable, all the time—but pick something from the menu and put it into your standard routine.

A Few Words on Technique
For each cable exercise, try to use as much weight as you can completely control for 10 repetitions of that exercise. After 10 reps, you should still be able to lift the weight, but you would be too fatigued to maintain your form. Second, cable exercises are all about maintaining control. You should move in smooth, deliberate motions, and be especially careful to control the return phase of each exercise—the part in which you are lengthening the muscles you're targeting. Remember, they're still contracting in that phase, even as they lengthen. A good rule of thumb is to make sure that between repetitions, you don't let the weight plates touch the stack. If you let them drop, you've definitely lost control.

Cable a la Carte Quick Links
  1. Program overview
  2. Chest Exercises
  3. Tricep Exercises
  4. Back Exercises
  5. Bicep Exercises
  6. Shoulder Exercises
  7. Leg Exercises