7 Good Reasons to Use the Cable Cross Machine

8SHARES

By: , SparkPeople Blogger
9/11/2009 6:56 AM   :  47 comments   :  24,826 Views

A few years ago, you would have been more likely to find me in the weight room than on a treadmill. I loved strength training; I would have done it daily (in lieu of cardio) if possible. But something changed more recently that has me enjoying cardio more and strength training less. Maybe I'm getting bored with the weights, machines and same-old exercises after doing some variation of the same moves since I was a teenager. After all, there are only so many ways you can work your biceps.

But there is one mode of strength training that I almost always enjoy, even when I don't feel like spending time at the gym. It's the cable cross (or cable "crossover") machine. (It's pictured above.) Most gyms have this universal piece of equipment, but I'd venture to guess that most people aren't sure what it's for or how to use it. In fact, the cable cross may be the most intimidating machines at the gym. Don't let this big machine fool you, however; it's deceptively easy to use. Here are seven reasons you should try it yourself, plus tips and workouts you can start with.

It Does Everything. No joke. Name a muscle group or an exercise and you can do with free weights or another machine, and you can do the same thing on the cable cross. It's probably the most versatile piece of equipment in the gym, allowing you to work from multiple angles and directions for endless variety. It's like a one-stop shop to work your muscles!

Spend Less Time in the Gym. Because the cable cross can work every muscle in your body in multiple ways, you can save time by strength training with it. Instead of hopping around from machine to machine, setting them up, adjusting the weights and seats, you can stay on one machine and easily change the pulleys or weight stack in seconds, moving from one exercise to the next. This is a great way to circuit train, too. I'll often move from biceps curls to triceps extensions to a lat pull down (all on the cable cross machine) without resting in between. After one set of each, you can go back to the beginning for your second set, eliminating the resting time between each exercise, therefore getting your workout done in less time.

Get the Best of Both Worlds. Weight machines are good for beginners, and free weights are more advanced. But the cable cross is sort of a hybrid of the two. It's generally safe, but it's a step up from machines in terms of challenge. If you find the idea of using the free weights in the gym too intimidating for you, the cable cross machine might be the next logical step for you.

Work Your Body Unilaterally. A bilateral exercise is one that uses both your right and left side of the body at the same time, such as a standard squat or bench press. A unilateral exercise is one that works one side of your body at a time, such as a single leg squat. Because most people tend to have muscular imbalances between both sides of the body (such as a right leg that's slightly stronger than a left leg), bilateral exercises could allow your weak side to "cheat" (allowing the strong side to do more of the work on a squat, for example). However, if you isolate one side of the body at a time, you can ensure balanced muscular development between both sides of the body. Now, not every cable cross exercise is unilateral, but most of them CAN be. Whether you want to work one arm at a time (such as in this single arm biceps curl exercise) or work both at the same time, using opposite sides of the machine at once (such as this chest fly exercise), you can. That even muscular development can help decrease your risk of injuries related to imbalance, and help you rehab one side of the body that might be weaker due to previous injury.

Challenge Your Core. Using a cable cross machine instead of standard gym machines will activate your core muscles (abs, lower back, hips and obliques) more. That's because most gym machines support you and isolate your muscles for you; your body is locked into place passively, without having to work to stay there. Like free weights, you have to do more work to ensure safety and good form when using a cable cross machine. You have to do the work to engage your abs, keep your posture good, stand upright with a long back and avoid leaning while you exercise. All that work to maintain good form means core activation! In addition, you're using more muscle fibers—not just your core—to perform each exercise in good form. That translates to greater challenge and possibly better results, too!

Make Old Exercises New Again. Personally, I think the cable cross is fun. It's my go-to machine when I don't feel excited about hitting the gym. Why? It's yet another different way to work out. I like how smooth it feels when I lift and lower the weight. I like that I can flow easily from one exercise to the next. Sometimes just trying something different can make a stale workout fun again.

Look Super Cool. The cable cross is a machine that intimidates many people. But when YOU look like you know what you're doing, well, that's pretty impressive! Quickly switching from exercise to exercise and doing moves that trump all the boring machines and exercises you see everyone else doing—that can be motivating to some people. This isn't my main motivation for using the cable cross. But I have to say that I rather feel like a little kid riding my bike with no hands when I use it—like I'm big stuff. "Look what I can do!"

These may be good reasons to use it, but I know what you're thinking: How? Here are some tips to get you started.

  • Ask a staff member to help you find it and figure out how to use it or check out some of SparkPeople's Cable Cross demos.

  • There are three things to adjust for each exercise:

    1. The weight stack: Select the level of weight you want to lift, as you would any machine but adjusting the pin in the weight stack. Start low to master the exercise then add weight later. Many cable cross exercises are more challenging, so you might lift less weight than you might think you can handle.



    2. The handle or attachment: You can choose from bars, ropes, cuffs, handles and attachments of all kinds. There are no rules here about what's right or wrong for an exercise or whether you should use a wide bar or a short bar, so don't be intimidated. Pick any of them and attach it with the carabineer hook. Experiment with different handles for added variety.



    3. The handle height: After you've attached the handle or bar of your choice, adjust the height of the machine. You'd keep it low for exercises where you lift weight up, such as a biceps curl. You'll raise it up high for exercises that you pull down, such as lat pulldown or triceps extensions. You'll keep it mid-level for something like a chest fly or shoulder rotation. Don't be afraid of messing this up. Try a level and if it doesn't work for your intended exercise, simply adjust it up or down until it does.


  • Watch what other people do. Keep in mind that not everyone who uses this machine will necessarily be working out safely or effectively. But you can get some ideas if you scope out what other people use the machine for. If you feel just clueless about what to do or how to adjust the machine, attachments or handles, just watch someone do it and pick up whatever tips you can. And don't be afraid to ask! Most people at the gym are happy to help others and share their knowledge.


For a few cable cross workout ideas, check out SparkPeople's Workout Generator. Here are a couple basic upper body and lower body routines you can start with.

What do you think about the cable cross machine? Does it seem less intimidating now that you've read this? Are you going to try it?


Click here to to redeem your SparkPoints
  You will earn 5 SparkPoints
 

NEXT ENTRY >   Froot Loops Qualify for the new “Smart Choices” Label (?!)

Great Stories from around the Web

Comments

  • PDWICKMAN
    47
    Perfect timing -- interested in using cable crossover, but not sure how! Now I have some guidance...thanks. - 12/29/2009   6:58:16 PM
  • 46
    Looks like a great workout! - 12/25/2009   6:40:22 PM
  • FOX2566
    45
    Wow! Looks fun! - 10/18/2009   9:54:28 PM
  • 44
    I've stayed away because I don't know how to use it. I'll definitely give it a go! - 9/17/2009   2:35:12 PM
  • 43
    Coach Nicole, that looks like a great gym you belong to. I like the treadmills all facing outside; it's the second best thing to actually being outside. - 9/16/2009   11:53:37 AM
  • 42
    I will try it... My husband has been trying to get me to use this for awhile now.. - 9/15/2009   10:47:22 PM
  • 41
    It is usually being used at my gym by the gym rats or muscle heads...I like it on the weekends, not as crowded - 9/15/2009   9:05:06 AM
  • NEWBODY4D
    40
    It does look intimidating, but I would try it. - 9/15/2009   12:53:07 AM
  • CALAMITIJANE
    39
    i think i would need someone to show this to me in person
    - 9/14/2009   11:56:20 PM
  • 38
    I'd love to see a review of the TRX suspension system, which I've been using on and off for a few months now. It has many of the advantages of this machine, and is highly portable (fits in a suitcase). I use it rather than my bands, nowadays. Multiplanar exercises are a nice variation on the 'usual' :) - 9/13/2009   3:43:24 PM
  • 37
    I love to read such articles.
    It helps me and encourages me to continue.
    Thanks - 9/13/2009   1:43:07 PM
  • 36
    Yay - thanks for posting this! I am returning to the gym, having moved to MI from CA, where I could work out outside and at home all year round. I abhor the gym, but maybe learning to use this will help? I've signed up for a training session on the cable cross machine in October - looking fwd to it, and will check out your demos in the meantime. - 9/13/2009   12:58:47 PM
  • NO-41_RAZZYS_PL
    35
    WHERE has this machine been all my life?! LOL! Unilaterally... who'd a' thought? Makes extremely rational scientific logic!! I don't think I've EVER checked out SparkPeople's Workout Generator or I'd NEVER forget it!! This is the BEST BEST BEST feature!! Color *me* PLEASED with this entire article this morning, Nicole!! LOVE IT!! - 9/13/2009   11:04:43 AM
  • 34
    I don't have a gym membership but it sounds like a good workout. I just wanted to say Nicole that I've been doing your exercise band workouts for upper and lower body. The nurse that gave me my flu shot yesterday called me buff. Boy did that make my day! Thanks for the awesome videos!!!!!! - 9/13/2009   7:46:25 AM
  • 33
    Do a video on this and put it on YouTube. - 9/13/2009   12:17:34 AM
  • BEHMOM
    32
    After reading your article, Nicole, I'm tempted to use it. I got bored with the regular machines, and now only do classes (8 per week) including 2 classes with barbell weights (Zumba for most of the other classes).
    If I feel brave, or maybe when I recruit a friend, I'll give the cross cable machine a try. It's also in the area of the heavy weights and serious weightlifting guys, so intimidating. - 9/12/2009   8:58:25 PM
  • 31
    Thank you! I've recently tried the cable cross machine but I knew there was more I needed to learn about it. This article really helped! - 9/12/2009   3:50:49 PM
  • GRANDMO1
    30
    My gym doesn't have this machine. It looks like it would be worth trying. - 9/12/2009   3:45:10 PM
  • 29
    I used to use the cable machines fairly regularly, but got away from them when I started using more free weight exercises. I may give them a second try. The problem I always had with the machines was the line ! It seemed like everyone was queuing up to use them.

    - 9/12/2009   2:59:24 PM
  • 28
    The cables at my gym are always filled with big guys. I have used them when I am with friends working out, but I can't get over being intimidated when I am by myself! - 9/12/2009   2:45:34 PM
  • 27
    It is a great machine for doing several things. We have one here at the job and people use it for everything from strength training for legs to chests and abs. I use it for chest. - 9/12/2009   2:08:18 PM
  • WISTFULVISTA
    26
    Cable? We have cable, but not Showtime. - 9/12/2009   12:58:45 PM
  • KNELSO2
    25
    I've used the cable cross machine at my gym and I love using it. The trainers also love it - the biggest problem is that it's pretty heavily used so it's not always available without a bit of waiting. It's a really versatile machine. But it is one where if you are unsure about how you should use it, ask! The trainers and gym personnel are always more than happy to show you the proper techniques, this helps to avoid injury and makes happier clients! - 9/12/2009   12:32:43 PM
  • 24
    That is like my Bowflex workout.. Thanks - 9/12/2009   9:54:13 AM
  • 23
    Excellent article! Well organized, written, and presented. Loved all the embedded links. One of the best I have seen on here!
    I am going to try some of these cable exercises! - 9/12/2009   9:33:53 AM
  • WHOLY_FIT_48
    22
    What a timely article for me. Just yesterday, my workout with my PT was using the Cable Cross Machine. It really does add a great amount of variety and helps mix things up. I've used it sitting on the ball, using a bench, sitting on the floor, standing, etc. Many many ways to mix it up. And I LOVE anything that helps me work my core a bit more. - 9/12/2009   6:20:50 AM
  • 21
    Thank you so much for posting this!!!!! I've been passing by it lately and it INTRIGUES me so much that I have to try it, now I have this article as the push I needed to get over its scariness. ;-) - 9/12/2009   2:27:52 AM
  • SMOOCHEMCAT
    20
    Thanks for this! I've been going to the gym very regularly for the past few months, and have just started to get bored with the weights and machines I have been using. I was intimidated by the Cable Cross before, but now it doesn't seem so bad. I think I will try it next time I am at the gym! - 9/11/2009   5:31:05 PM
  • 19
    I think I might try it. I think I've seen it at the Y before. I'm pretty sure thats there. I have a trainer who can help me because she's been on it before. - 9/11/2009   3:27:05 PM
  • 18
    I exercise at home and have not been in a gym in a long time. If I ever hve the opportunity to try this machine, I wil. - 9/11/2009   3:09:44 PM
  • 17
    I really like this machine, but I don't do anything on it that my trainer hasn't already done with me. (Some people at my gym use it in real scary ways.). I use it most on days when I'm feeling burned out and lazy, because I have to keep an eye on my form and can't cheat. - 9/11/2009   1:23:17 PM
  • 16
    I would love to use our cable crossover machine. I do sometimes, but it seems like everytime I go to the gym it's being hogged by the same three beefy men for set after set of lat pull downs. - 9/11/2009   1:19:36 PM
  • 15
    What an awesome gym that is. It sure looks state of the art. - 9/11/2009   12:21:15 PM
  • SUSAN3065
    14
    i dont like the idea of machines without instruction there i want things to do with a group or on my own im almost 67 and dont want to heard myself or have to go somewhere else to exercise - 9/11/2009   12:16:01 PM
  • 13
    Yeah, id have to def agree. Quite intimidating...thank god i just got a PT bc im SURE he will sooner or later put me on this thing lol - 9/11/2009   11:29:33 AM
  • 12
    Have used a couple of times. Will use more after reading this. - 9/11/2009   11:23:09 AM
  • AJCOELHO
    11
    I will try it. - 9/11/2009   10:52:56 AM
  • 10
    Have tried it. Yes, it's good to try new things. - 9/11/2009   10:04:26 AM
  • 9
    This was timely - I'm ALWAYS thinking about using the cable cross but always getting too freaked out by it. Well, that and the fact that the big guys at the gym tend to hog it. Sounds like I need to strong-arm my way in to try it (pun only a little bit intended). - 9/11/2009   9:46:12 AM
  • 8
    I used to love the cable crossover machine. I need to get back to using it. I could feel the difference in using it. It seemed like I could isolate the muscles more, and my muscles were more sore. I've been taking lots of circuit training classes, and little else. I will make sure to get back to that machine though atleast once a week. Thanks for the good advice. - 9/11/2009   9:27:22 AM
  • 7
    About 3 weeks ago I started personal training sessions with a trainer at my gym. We've used the cross over machine twice now (once for just triceps and last night for all upper body). I was always a bit confused (and maybe a little intimidated) by this machine, but after having her introduce me to it in the course of our sessions, I'm confident I can use it now on my own. I definitely recommend asking the gym staff to help you get set up if you feel intimidated by this monster.

    Thanks for including the workouts here -- I'll be uses those for my next strength training session that I do on my own! - 9/11/2009   9:25:23 AM
  • 6
    I love to help others, especially newbies, at the gym. The only problem is, many people will take offense when you tell them their form needs to be changed. They don't realize, I'm not making a judgment but an observation based on over 15 years of weight training experience. Trust me, I went from 155 lbs to 220 - I did something right. I just let myself go to 230 - and that extra 10 wasn't muscle. (*o*)

    At any rate, never be afraid to ask, just make sure you're asking the right person. Bad form is so prevalent. I once saw a guy literally coming out of the seat on an incline machine, straightening his back with each rep, then reseating himself as he returned the weights to a resting position. Aside from the scrotal hernia he was bucking for, he was on the fast track for a pulled back and Lord knows what other varying degrees of muscular injury. It's okay to sacrifice form, WITHIN REASON, to get that last one or two reps, but not each and every rep and not an exaggerated degree. And even then, only if you're planning on moving up with your weights (strength training). If you're going for endurance and toning, you should never - read my lips NEVER - sacrifice your form.

    Regardless of your goals, albeit strength or endurance training, your movements should always be fluid and controlled with weights that are within your body's comfort zone. - 9/11/2009   9:16:42 AM
  • 5
    I am a real gym rat and LOVE the cable crossover machine...what a great way to define your shoulders, arms and legs...it does it all! Don't be intimidated, just ask a trainer/gym employee to show you how it works. Once you've tried it, you'll love it. - 9/11/2009   9:14:55 AM
  • CHIPPERGAL
    4
    I was very excited to read about the cross cable machine. I go to a gym and wanted to use this but it always seems like only the men are using it. I will add it to my strength training this week in place of free weights. Thanks! - 9/11/2009   8:18:55 AM
  • 3
    We have similar equipment at our gym. Some of the workouts I've mastered, others are more complicated and I need to have them explained to me again. I definitely think you should have someone that knows that they are doing help you the first time or two. Your article gives me the motivation to keep learning more about the cable cross machine. - 9/11/2009   8:15:16 AM
  • 2
    Yay! I love to see blogs like this one, encouraging people to try new things. It doesn't matter if you don't know exactly how to use it; you'll get the hang of it soon enough (and everyone starts out at the beginning). There really isn't anything better than using the cable cross for chest training, in my opinion.

    Thanks! - 9/11/2009   8:10:15 AM
  • 1
    Never have but I'll try it. - 9/11/2009   7:00:27 AM

Please Log In To Leave A Comment:    Log in now ›


Join SparkPeople.com

x Lose 10 Pounds by December 3! Get a FREE Personalized Plan