Cable Exercises (Chest & Shoulders)

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The following cable exercises are designed to improve the strength of many of the major muscles of the upper body using cable machines. These cable exercises focus on the chest, shoulders, triceps and abdominal muscles. You should discuss the suitability of these cable exercises with your physiotherapist prior to beginning them. Generally, they should only be performed provided they do not cause or increase pain.

For those who are untrained, you should begin by performing one or two sets of only a few cable exercises, working a variety of muscle groups and gradually increase the number of exercises and sets over a number of sessions provided there are no signs of injury.

For beginners, it is generally advisable to begin with light weights that allow you to perform 20 – 30 repetitions of each exercise with good control, posture and technique. Allow approximately 1 minute of rest and recovery between exercise sets.

As your endurance and strength improves, aim to gradually increase the number of sets of each exercise over a number of sessions until you are eventually performing 3 – 4 sets of each cable exercise provided the exercises are pain free. These cable exercises can then be progressed by gradually increasing the weights used so that fatigue is achieved by 8 – 12 repetitions and by progressing to other unaccustomed exercises provided they are pain free. Specific requirements may vary between individuals depending on the functional goals they wish to achieve. Your physiotherapist can advise on the most appropriate resistance, sets and repetitions to meet your needs.

Ensure you always perform an appropriate warm up before beginning any strengthening exercises, an appropriate cool down after and ensure you balance recovery periods from training to prevent injury. Generally, it is advisable to perform a combination of some of the following cable exercises 1 – 2 times per week provided they do not cause or increase pain. Allow approximately 4 – 7 recovery days before repeating the same cable exercises, to allow muscle recovery.

Major Muscles of the Upper Body (Anterior)

Figure 1 – Major Muscles of the Upper Body (Anterior)

Major Muscles of the Upper Body (Posterior)

Figure 2 – Major Muscles of the Upper Body (Posterior)


Cable Exercises – Chest and Shoulders Workout

Cable Fly

Major Muscles Used – Pectorals, Anterior Deltoid, Biceps.

Begin this chest strengthening exercise standing in optimal posture with your back and neck straight, your elbows in a slight bend, your palms facing forwards and holding the cable handles with light weights as demonstrated (figure 3). Maintaining optimal posture, slowly bring your hands together in front of you, keeping your elbows in a slight bend and tightening the chest (pectoral) muscles, then slowly return to the starting position. Perform 1 – 4 sets of 8 – 30 repetitions provided the exercise is pain free.

Cable Exercises - Cable Fly

Figure 3 – Cable Fly

Decline Cable Fly

Major Muscles Used – Pectorals (Sternal Head), Latissimus Dorsi, Biceps.

Begin this cable exercise standing in optimal posture with your back and neck straight, your elbows in a slight bend, palms facing downwards and holding the cable handles with light weights as demonstrated (figure 4). Maintaining optimal posture, slowly bring your hands downwards until they are together in front of your lower abdomen, keeping your elbows in a slight bend and tightening the chest (pectoral) muscles, then slowly return to the starting position. Perform 1 – 4 sets of 8 – 30 repetitions provided the exercise is pain free.

Cable Exercises - Decline Cable Fly

Figure 4 – Decline Cable Fly

Lateral Cable Raise

Major Muscles Used – Deltoid, Upper Trapezius.

Begin this cable exercise standing in optimal posture with your back and neck straight, your feet apart, your elbow in a slight bend and hand holding the cable handle with a light weight as demonstrated (figure 5). Maintaining optimal posture, slowly take your hand to the side until it is at shoulder level, then slowly return to the starting position. Perform 1 – 4 sets of 8 – 30 repetitions on each arm provided the exercise is pain free.

Cable Exercises - Lateral Cable Raise

Figure 5 – Lateral Cable Raise


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