The Best Cable Exercises for a Solid Chest

The Best Cable Exercises for a Solid Chest

The cable pulley machine is the most versatile, effective muscle-building machine in the gym, bar none. When it comes to packing muscle mass on your chest, the cable machine is streets ahead of the barbell. In this article, I’ll identify the four best exercises you can do for your chest – and they are all on the cable machine!

What’s So Good About Cables for Chest?

When you do any exercise on a cable machine, you get resistance in every part of the exercise. This includes the start and finish position. You don’t get this when you do an exercise with a barbell or a dumbbell. Cables also allow you to hit your chest from every conceivable angle, simply by changing the angle of the cable.

What’s more, the direction of resistance is also variable. No longer is it coming from gravity, which is straight up and down. Now you can manipulate the direction of resistance so that it aligns with the movement angle of the muscle fibers themselves.

Cables also more perfectly simulate the strength curve of chest cable exercises than noncable machines. Every exercise has a strength curve where the movement becomes more or less difficult throughout its range. For maximum muscle and strength development, the exercise should be hardest at the start and easiest at the finish of the movement. That is exactly what cable machines do.

When you work your chest with cables you are also able to achieve a full range of motion. This is very different to an exercise like the bench press, where your hand position is fixed on the bar. This prevents you from bringing your hands together, which is absolutely necessary for total chest muscle activation. The cables allow you to get this vital chest contraction.

The 4 Best Cable Chest Exercises for a Solid Chest:

1. Incline Cable Chest Press

How to Do an Incline Cable Chest Press:

  1. Adjust the pulleys on a dual cable pulley machine to a level just below your shoulders. PIf the machine allows you to adjust the width of the pulleys, bring them in to be at elbow distance when your hands are held at shoulder level with arms bent at right angles. 
  2. Put an adjustable bench 3 feet in front of the dual pulley machine, and set the back support at 70 degrees. 
  3. Hold the handles with an overhand grip and sit on the bench so that your hands are at shoulder level with your arms bent at right angles.
  4. Press your hands forward and slightly downward to meet.
  5. Return to the start position.

Incline Cable Chest Press Training Tips

Be sure to bring your hands in together to touch on every rep. This will allow for a full range of motion and pec fiber contraction. In the start position, keep your forearms at right angles to your upper arms.

2. Standing Decline Cable Press

How to Do a Standing Decline Cable Press:

  1. Set the pulleys of a double cable pulley machine to their highest settings.
  2. Stand in front of the machine, facing away from it,  and grab the handles in an overhand grip.
  3. Place your feet shoulder-width apart and place your arms at shoulder level with elbows bent.
  4. Press the cables directly down and together.
  5. Reverse and repeat.

Decline Cable Press Training Tips

Round your back and hunch your shoulder in the start position as you press the cables down. Bring the cables together, aiming to touch the handles together at the bottom of every rep. Return the cables back to the start position under control. Be sure to perform a full range of motion, from full contraction to full extension on every repetition.

3. Cable Crossover

How to Do a Cable Crossover:

  1. Set the cables on a cable crossover machine to their highest setting and stand between them, holding the cables at arm’s length with your elbows slightly bent.
  2. Keeping your arms locked in a gaslight arm bend, pivot from the shoulder joint to bring the cables down and across your body. The cables should actually cross over each other.
  3. Return to the start position.
  4. On your next set, change the pulley position so that they are in line with your torso.
  5. On the third set, change the pulley position so that it is in the bottom position. 

Cable Crossover Training Tips

Make sure that your arms are locked in a slightly bent position throughout the entire movement. Your only movement should be through the shoulder joint. Concentrate on squeezing your pecs together in the end fully contracted position, bringing the handles across each other. Vary the position of the cables from high to mid to low through your set.

4. Single Arm Cable Chest Press

How to Do a Single Arm Cable Chest Press:

  1. Set the pulley on a single pulley machine to shoulder level.
  2. Stand in front of the machine facing away from it with your right shoulder lined up with the pulley handle. Grab the handle with an overhand grip and hold it at shoulder level with your arm bent at 90 degrees.
  3. Press the cable to full arm extension, bring it across to mid-chest level. 

Single Arm Cable Chest Press Training Tips

Perform this exercise slowly and deliberately. Don’t use a weight that is too heavy and that forces you to use momentum to bring the weight forward. Keep your shoulders square on the machine at all times. Be sure to get a full extension and contraction in every rep to move through a full range of motion. Remember to bring your arms in and across the body to contract the inner part of the pecs.

Wrap Up

The four cable chest exercises that I’ve just outlined are the four best moves that exist for your chest. Put them together into a 12 set workout, doing 3 to 4 sets of each, with reps ranging from a  high of 30 to a low of 6 with your maximum weight. This will engage both your fast and slow-twitch muscle fibers for maximum strength and muscle development. 

This article was last updated on September 10, 2021 .

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Categorized as Exercise

By Steve Theunissen

Steve is a former gym owner, personal trainer, and 20-year veteran of the fitness writing industry. Steve has written for websites such as Hardcore Muscle, Fitness, Carblite, and Men's Health and has been a fitness expert columnist for 2 international magazines.