Workout Tips

6 Great Cable Moves for More Mass

Use these constant-tension gems to built appreciable size without dumbbells or barbells.

flat bench cable flye

Free weights are the absolute best way to build total-body, behemoth mass. But they’re not the only way. Machine work is typically advocated for beginners because it teaches movement patterns and allows for safe, predetermined ranges of motion. As lifters gain experience, they move toward an almost exclusive diet of barbells and dumbbells. But if you take some of that newfound strength and size back to machine row, you could really augment your training efforts and trigger new gains.

And in the realm of iron-laden machinery, cables may be king. Cables offer a smooth, constant tension on exercises that might otherwise be very awkward or tough to do. They also have that air of safety that really allows you to go heavy and challenge yourself without a spotter. The following six moves – some common, some not so much – allow you to target key muscle groups with fantastic efficiency, sans free weight. Build these moves into your normally scheduled bodypart work and you’re sure to notice a difference in your muscular size and density in no time flat.

1. Flat-Bench Cable Flye

This cable move allows you to hammer your pecs – particularly the inner pecs – with laser-like precision. The best part is that you don’t have to worry about dumbbells ripping your pecs from their insertions when you begin to fail because the pulleys are set right at chest height. The focus is on the squeeze more than the stretch. One of the biggest gripes about standard dumbbell flyes is that you lose some of the tension at the top. Not so with this cable variation.

Do it Right >> Move a flat bench in between two low pulleys so that your chest will be lined up with the pulleys when you lie down on it. Lie back on the bench with your feet on the ground and grasp the handles with your palms up, as in a dumbbell flye. Extend your arms to your side with your elbows slightly bent, your upper arms parallel to the floor. Pull the handles through in an arc to a point right above the centerline of your chest. Squeeze your pecs hard and return to the start.

2. Two-Arm High-Pulley Cable Curls

When someone asks for you to “make a muscle,” you are most likely to show them your biceps. This pose isn’t just for show, however. It’s a great way to train your biceps’ peak because of the arm position and it allows for excellent isolation of the biceps as a whole

Do it Right >> Start by standing directly in the middle of two cable pulleys and attach two D-handles. Adjust the height level of the pulleys so that they are about 8-10 inches above the tops of your shoulders. Grasp one handle, then walk over to the opposite stack to grab the other and position yourself in the center of the apparatus with your palms facing up, your upper arms parallel to the floor. From there, curl the weight toward your head, making sure that your upper arms remain parallel to the floor throughout each rep.

3. Cable Shrug

While big-weight barbell shrugs are your best bet for building higher, thicker traps, the cable shrug is a great alternative because it allows you to slightly vary the angle of pull. You can take a step or two back to shift the emphasis to your middle and lower traps or you can stand directly over the pulley for a near-vertical pull. Since most stacks are limited in weight, this is generally best used as a higher-rep finisher or as your go-to on a high-volume traps day.

Do it Right >> Grab a cable bar attachment that is fastened to a low pulley and grab it with a shoulder-width grip, palms down. Keeping your arms at full extension, elevate your shoulders to lift the bar as high as possible. Squeeze at the top for a count and lower (under control) back to the start.

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