Sunday, February 20, 2011

Three Amazing Cable Machine Exercises for the Arms

With the invention of multiple-function machines, we have cable machines at home and cable machines at the gym. The relationship a lot of us have with the cable machine goes something like this: We have no idea what to do with it. Or maybe we see some bulky dude doing some stuff and so we just copy him. Or we copy whatever we see on the pictures on the machine, and it feels uncomfortable like we’re straining our muscles rather than working them. And then we don’t ask for help because, well, it is exercise and no one wants to draw attention to themselves. So I figured I’d help out and let you know some of the cable machine exercises I think are great for toning/building muscle, and how you can do them effectively.

Bicep curl 
If you’re not good at maintaining your posture when doing bicep curls with individual dumbbells, this is a good tool to help you get those curls in. Because it is one bar rather than two separate dumbbells, it helps to maintain that fixed path of motion. On the negative, because it is one bar, the stronger arm helps the weaker one when lifting, whereas with dumbbells, you can easily tell which arm needs more work. See the video below for a proper bicep curl on the cable machine.

Note: It is easy to move our whole arms and even our whole bodies back and forth when we use the cable machine to do bicep curls. The key is to keep the body as straight as possible, keep the pulley as close to the floor as possible, and do the full range of motion with the lift using your elbows only. This may mean that you don’t get your arms completely straight, but our bodies are all different and so that’s okay.

Overhead triceps extension 
I must admit, the body position for this particular exercise is a little awkward. So if you feel more discomfort than muscle tension, you can revert back to the dumbbell version. The dumbbell version starts in a standing position, lifting the arms straight above the head while holding dumbbells, and then releasing just the elbows down behind the back to a 90 degree position. The cable machine version involves gripping the bar behind your head with your elbows bent 90 degrees right by your ears, standing and leaning forward, placing one foot in front of the other slightly bent, and then pulling the bar forward and over head till your arms are straight. It’s a little difficult to picture so watch the video below for a clearer image. The video shows the exercise with a rope rather than a bar, but you could do it with either one.

Note: For the bicep curl, the pulley should be all the way to the bottom, but for the triceps extension, the pulley should be all the way at the top. Again, make sure you are not moving your whole body with this exercise. You only want to move your elbows. Always keep your elbows close to your ears to feel this in your triceps.

Lateral raise 
Imagine lifting your arm up parallel to the floor on your side. That’s what this exercise is about. So bring the pulley all the way down again, and let your side (right or left depending on which arm you start with) face the weights on the machine. Keep your body straight, and with the arm further away from the machine, pull the cable passing the front of your body all the way to the opposite side. With this particular exercise, we don’t bend and straighten the arms so keep the arms relatively straight (not 90 degrees, but not fully straight to lock in your elbow joints). Do this on both sides. Watch the video below for a detailed description.

Note: Machine sure you stand in the middle of the weights so not leaning forward and not leaning back. But don’t stand too close where your body is almost leaning on the machine.

We’ll talk about more cable exercises you can try soon. But till then, try these and let me know how it works out for you. Did you feel more muscle tension? Make sure you adjust the weights to get the desired effect. I mean, if you’re doing this on five-pound weights you’re probably not feeling anything. And if you’re using weights that are too heavy for you, you probably won’t be able to keep your posture right. So find your balance. If you have any questions, feel free to reach out here or via email at

Cheers Eights & Weights!

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