10 Cable Exercises for a Quick Full Body Workout


Cable machines can give you one of the best all-over workouts in the world. You can go at your own pace and push yourself to your own max because it’s all about bodyweight with the pulleys.

One of the greatest things about cable exercises is the work on your core. You’ll soon develop the strength and each week the cable exercises seem to get easier and easier.

But you need to do the right exercises to get that quick full body workout. It’s very common to find yourself at a loss at first. So, when you find pulleys that you can use, make sure you opt for these top 10 cable exercises for your overall body workout experience.

Start with the Cable Squat

The first exercise to do has to be the cable squat. The best thing about this is that the cable can help you improve the depth of the squats that you perform because the pulley helps with your balance and your core strength.

Grab the pulley in both hands and stand a good distance away, so you have more room to pull the cable. Do a regular squat with your feet shoulder-width apart. Focus on keeping your back straight and avoiding your knees from going over your toes.

As you squat down, pull the cable towards you with both hands, keeping your elbows tucked into your side. You’re doing a bicep curl while you bend down. As you stand up, straighten your arms gently.

Repeat this exercise 10 times with a 30-second break in between. Do three repetitions of the exercise to feel the burn in your muscles really.

Turn Around to Pull Overhead

Now turn your body around and hold the pulley over your head. Continue with the squats but pull the cable forward each time that you bend down. You’ll feel the workout on your triceps.

You’ll need to build your way up to this or make sure the resistance on the cable isn’t too high for you. This could swing back and injury you otherwise!

If you find this work out a little too difficult, you could use two pulleys. Tuck them in under your armpits and pull them forward as you squat. You will still feel the burn on your triceps, and you have a little more control. Make sure you pull the cables at the same rate with each arm to avoid twisting your back!

Move onto the Backwards Lunge

The next workout to try is a backward lunge, so turn back to face the cable machine again. You’re doing a very similar workout to the one above, but using a lunge instead of the squat to work on your quads.

You will need some balance for this. The first time I tried it, I couldn’t get the foot positioning right. It’s all about pulling in your core to keep you upright and focus on building your leg and arm muscles.

As you stand back up from the lunge, push your arms forward again. Repeat on the other side and then do this until you do 10 lunges on each leg. Take a 30-second break and do three repetitions of the exercise.

Pull Forward with a Forward Lunge

Turn back around, so your back is to the cable machine and grabs two cables – one in each hand. Make sure you pull the cables at the same rate,so you don’t twist. This could mean not having even resistance on both sides, depending on if you have one muscle bigger than the other.

As you step forward into a lunge, pull the cables forward. Your arms need to start tucked into your shoulders or your sides – depending on the muscle group that you want to work on. It’s worth doing both levels as two different workouts.  Pull your arms all the way forward, so they are out in front of you.

When you step backward, pull your arms back to your side/your shoulders. Repeat the exercise on the other leg and then keep repeating until you’ve done 10 lunges on each leg. Like with the other exercises, take a 30-second break and then repeat three times to get a full workout.

Work on One Arm at a Time with a Side Lunge

Turn sideways to the machine and start using a side lunge so you can pull the cables one arm at a time. This is a great way to build your strength in the shoulders and the outer muscles of your arms.

Keep your upper body straight when you pull. Leaning over could run the risk of twisting and pulling on muscles in your spine. You want to work your arms and shoulders, not any part of your back! The side lunges are there to get your leg workout at the same time.

Do 10 repetitions on one side and then switch over to the other side. The best thing about this exercise is that you don’t need to have the rest period. One side will get the rest while you’re working on the other side. Do three repetitions on each side.

Move onto the Cable Step

Pull out your stepper and incorporate this into your pulley workout. You’ll need to face away from the machine and have your stepper as high as you can physically step up. Just a short step is enough until you build on your leg strength.

You’re not actually going to pull on the cables while you step. It’s important to keep your elbows tucked in and hold the cables just over your shoulders. As you step forward, your body will pull the cables forward for you to add some resistance.

Step up onto your stepper and pull your weight forward to get your second leg up onto the stepper. Step back down and then repeat for 10 repetitions. Repeat the exercise is putting the other leg forward. Take a 30-second break and repeat the exercise again. You want to do three rounds of this exercise.

As you find the exercise easier, you can add another step to your stepper. Build your way up until you must step up with a 90-degree angle in your leg. That will really work your quads!

Move onto the Single Arm Chest Press

Now it’s time to work more on your arms than on your legs. You will still have a slight bend in your legs, but that is more to make it easier to pull your core in and stabilize your body.

Turn with your back to the cable machine and pull one cable up to your chest. Hold it with one hand and step with the opposite leg in front. Keep your chest forward and your shoulders straight, as you pull the cable in front of you.

Do 10 repetitions on one side and then repeat on the other side. There’s no need for the rest since one arm will get the rest, although if you’re just starting out, you may find that your core needs a 30-second break between repetitions. Do three repetitions of the exercise.

Don’t use your body to pull the cable. This is about using your chest and arms to do all the work. If you twist, you run the risk of an injury in your back.

Work on Single Arm Rows

Now face the pulley machine again and work on your upper back, shoulders, and arms with the single arm rows. You can also do double arm rows if you want, but the single arm rows will work on your core more.

Stand in half squat position for stability and grab the pulley in one arm straight out in front of you. Pull the cable in, placing your arm, so the back of your arm is in line with your back. The elbow shouldn’t stick out behind you.

There will be a very slight twist in your shoulder as you reach back out. Avoid leaning too far forward to use your whole back for the row pull. This just puts your back at risk of injury.

Do 10 repetitions on one side and then move to the other side. Do three repetitions of the exercise, pulling in your core throughout.

Use the Cable for Triceps Pulls

While still facing the machine, grab your cable with both hands. Keep your back straight and your shoulders facing forward. Put one leg in front of the other if you want some stability, but you should find that shoulder width apart is perfect. Have a slight bend in the knee to avoid injury.

Hold the cable with your palms to the floor. Pull the cable down to your legs, so your arms are straight to the floor. Then release back to the upwards position.

I know that it’s tempting to get your legs to help you do some of this workout. You want to make sure your triceps are doing the work, so you build these muscles just right.

You can also adapt the exercise, so you have two pulleys in your hands. Pull the cables to your side instead of just in front of you. This can help to get a little extra stretch on your arms for a harder workout.

Try Out a Side Plank Cable Row

This is the hardest workout on the list and is one that you will need to build your way up to. Before you even attempt it, you’ll need to make sure that you can do a side plank comfortably. If you can’t, you run the risk of causing injury to your back. Focus on building your core strength up.

Lay on your side with your top hand on the cable. Lift yourself up into the side plank position and pull the cable towards you and back out. Pull as many times as you can while holding the plank position – try for at least 5 pulls before you release the plank.

You can put your top foot flat on the floor to help with stability. Use your bottom hand to steady you in front of your body if you need the extra help. Only pull your top arm until the back of your arm is in line with your back.

Don’t lay too far away from the machine. You should be able to put the cable back gently when you’ve finished the exercise.

Once you’ve done three repetitions on one side, move to the other side to do another three repetitions. As the five pulls per repetition get easier, you can move up to 10 and then 15 and so on. If you struggle to move up in sets of five, move up in sets of two or three.

Work with lighter weights as you get used to the exercise. Doing too much at first could mean your hips sag and you don’t get the core workout with the plank that you should.

Get Your Full Body Workout Without Too Much Hassle

The exercise plan above should take you around 30 minutes to complete. This will depend on the amount of time you spend in the side plank at the end.

Cable pulls allow you to add resistance and change the weights to suit your body. You may find that you’re regularly changing the weights for each exercise, as some muscles will be stronger than others. This is completelynormal, and even the professionals will change the weights depending on the individual exercise.

You’re getting a full body workout within your 30 minutes. And the whole workout involves strength training. This means your muscles will burn more calories after the workout, as well as during. It’s a great way to get the metabolism working efficiently really.

Avoid twisting while doing any of the workouts. The aim is to build the individual muscles for each exercise. Any twisting will prevent your core from strengthening and could put your back at risk of injury, especially a weaker lower back.

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