Best Cable Machine Arm Exercises for Tone, Strength & Definition
A cable machine arm exercises is an invaluable tool for building both strength and definition in the arms. Whether you’re training for mass or just looking to firm up your arms, you can do it all with a single piece of equipment. Cable machine arm exercises can help you target specific muscle fibers, prepare you for advanced lifting maneuvers and give you an amazing workout without having to leave the gym. Here are the top exercises for bigger, stronger and more defined arms using a cable machine arm exercises.
When it comes to building arm muscle in the gym, there is a LOT of different forms of resistance to pick from.
Barbells. Kettlebells. Dumbbells. Medicine balls. Machines. Pulley systems. Battle ropes.
And on and on.
One of my favorite pieces of strength training equipment, both for novice and experienced lifters alike, is the cable crossover machine.
Endlessly versatile, the cable machine arm exercises is a killer tool for building muscle in your arms (as well as legs, chest, and back).
In this article, we will look at the reasons you should consider the cable machine for arms day, the best exercises you can do to build stronger arms, and even a sample cable arm workout to try next time you hit the gym.
Let’s jump right in.
Benefits of Cable Machines for Building Arm Muscle
Okay, before we cannon-ball into the waters of my favorite exercises (which are not only awesome based on my own experience but are evidence-based to be effective), let’s take a step back and go over why the cable machine is particularly useful.
Here’s why cable machine arm exercises—in my opinion—should be close to the top of the list when it comes to arm day:
Excellent muscle activation.
Go into the gym any day of the week and you will almost definitely see a few gymgoers doing standing bicep curls in front of the dumbbell rack. And yes, the occasional lifter doing barbell curls in a squat rack.
But if you want Big Guns, the cable machine is a better bet.
One study1, done by ACE, a personal training certification company, found that bicep curls done on a cable machine arm exercises out-performed barbell curls, preacher curls, and even EZ curls when it came to bicep activation (the only exercise it didn’t beat was the dumbbell concentration curl).
Better range of motion.
Cable machines can help you lift with an increased range of motion.
A study compared lifters exercising on either a selectorized machine (pin-loaded) or on a cable machine, and found that the cable machine promoted a greater range of motion through each exercise.
Cable machine arm exercises are an all-in-one strength training solution.
Sliding the carriage up and down changes the direction of resistance, allowing you to quickly shift between contrasting exercises.
This makes them ideal for complexes.
Best Cable Arm Exercises
1. Cable bicep curl
Let’s start off with the stars of the show—biceps!
The bicep brachii is arguably the most trained body part at my local gym. It doesn’t matter what day of the week it is, there are heaps of people training sculpting their guns.
And one underestimated way to train this muscle is by using a cable machine.
How to do the cable bicep curl like a pro:
Attach your bar (or rope) of choice to the pulley system
Select your weight
Pick up the bar (underhanded is the default hand grip) and take a step back to create tension in the cable
Curl the bar without swinging your arms or rocking your shoulders back
Remember to keep your elbows straight and to avoid flaring them out
Hit the top of range of motion, pause, and then lower
Repeat as necessary
As mentioned earlier, one of the best things about doing arms on a cable machine is that you can really play around with the grips and types of bars you use to do the exercise.
Standing away from the cable machine and doing a horizontal bicep curl to get an alternate stimulus
Use a D-handle attachment and perform unilateral cable curls to maximize core engagement
The variety possible with this exercise is one of the reasons it’s an essential cable machine exercise for arm day.
2. Cable triceps pushdowns
A staple of cable machine workouts for arms is the triceps pushdown.
Targeting the triceps brachii, the three-headed monster on the back of your arm, pushdowns strengthen elbow flexion5, and are highly effective at generating triceps muscle activation.
One study found that they outperformed closed grip bench press and lying barbell triceps extensions for triceps activation.
How to do triceps cable pushdowns like a champion:
Choose your attachment of choice (use a triceps cable rope if you can)
Get into a shoulder-width stance, with core braced
Keeping elbows tucked, push the resistance downwards
Pause once your arms are straight, contracting the triceps fully
Return to the starting position in a controlled manner
Repeat as necessary
The classic biceps curl is one of the classic arm workouts that not only builds strength, but also defines and tones the biceps. To do this exercise on a cable machine arm exercises, set the pin at a weight that you can keep controlled throughout the range of motion. To perform a biceps curl on a cable machine, stand with one foot slightly in front of the other; grasp the bar handle with a palms-up grip, and curl the bar towards your torso while keeping your elbows at your side. Once the bar reaches your chest, hold for a brief moment and lower in a controlled manner. Complete two or three sets of 8 to 10 reps.
Cable Rope Hammer Curl
The cable rope hammer curl is a great way to work your biceps and brachialis (the smaller muscle running beneath the biceps). It adds variety to your routine, yet still gives the arms that impressive look you’re hoping for. To do the hammer curl on the cable machine arm exercises, move the pulley to the low setting and grab one end of the rope attachment with each hand. Keep your elbows close to your body as you curl the rope towards your shoulders. Pause, then slowly return to the starting position. Perform two or three sets of 10–12 reps.
The triceps push-down is one of the best exercises for building strength, size and definition in the triceps. To do this exercise on the cable machine, adjust the pulley so it is at shoulder height. Grab the bar attachment with your thumbs facing up, about shoulder width apart. Keep your elbows tucked in to your sides as you press the bar down until your arms are straight. Pause, then slowly bring the bar back up. Complete two or three sets of 8 to 10 reps.
Overhead Triceps Extension
The overhead triceps extension is an excellent way to shape and tone the triceps. This exercise engages the long head of the triceps, which if developed correctly will help create an impressive horseshoe effect. Attach the single handle to the low cable pulley and stand facing away from the cable machine arm exercises. Hold the handle with both hands, bring it behind your head and then extend your arms above your head. Fully extend your triceps, pause and then lower the handle back to the start position. You can do either two or three sets of 8 to 10 reps.
Crossover Rear Delt Fly
The crossover rear delt fly is a great way to train the rear delts, which helps to create a balanced physique and broaden the shoulders. To do this exercise on a cable machine arm exercises, adjust the pulley so it is at chest height and then grab the handle with an overhand grip. Move to the middle of the cables and cross one arm over the other and stand sideways to the machine with your feet firmly planted. Push your arms outward until your arms become parallel to the floor, then slowly return to the starting position. You can do two or three sets of 8 to 10 reps on each side.
Cable machines can be used to achieve a wide variety of arm exercises, ranging from classic bicep curls to crossover rear delt flies. With the right workout, you can build strength, tone up your arms and achieve the perfect physique you’ve been dreaming of. With all the options available on cable machine arm exercises, you can create creative arm workouts that target each muscle group as well as isolating specific muscle fibers. Use these exercises to get the best out of your arm workouts and finally get the arms you’ve always wanted.
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