Cable Machine Back Workouts

Cable Machine Back Workouts

Cable machine back workouts are not as popular as other training approaches, but they offer numerous unique benefits.

In today’s post, we’ll go over what makes cable movements so great and how you can start training right away.

What Muscles Do You Work With The Various Movements

While many people see the back as a single unit, the area consists of numerous large and small muscles that work together to produce a variety of movements. As such, each activity trains your back in unique ways. For example:

1. Cable Pulldowns

A movement where you pull the weight down and in, mimicking the motion of a pull-up. Doing so emphasizes the latissimus dorsi, the largest muscle in the upper body, promoting growth. (1)

2. Horizontal Cable Rows

A movement where you stand tall and pull the cable to your mid-torso. Doing so works your lats and emphasizes your mid back, promoting thickness.

Lat Pulldown

3. Cable Face Pulls

A movement where you use a rope attachment and pull the cable to your face while keeping your elbows flared. Doing so emphasizes the upper back and rear portion of your shoulders.

4. Cable Shrugs

A movement where you attach a straight bar to a low cable pulley and elevate your shoulders against the line of resistance. The exercise is excellent for developing your trapezius–-the large muscle that makes up the upper back. (2)

5. Cable Straight-Arm Pullovers

A movement that gets close to isolating your lats. The objective is to attach a straight bar to a high cable pulley and grab it with both hands. Move back a bit to unrack the weight, lean forward, and pull over the weight from above your head to your hips without bending your elbows.

Cable Pulldowns38-12Pulldowns emphasizing the lats.
Horizontal Cable Rows38-12Works your lats and emphasizes your mid back.
Cable Face Pulls28-12Uses a rope attachment and pull the cable to your face.
Cable Shrugs38-12Excellent for developing your trapezius.
Cable Straight-Arm Pullovers28-12Gets close to isolating your lats.

What Makes Cable Machine Back Workouts So Beneficial?

Back WorkoutOne huge reason why cable workouts are great is the loading flexibility. You can always adjust the resistance based on how tired you feel to train your muscles adequately. 

For example, you can start with heavier loads for fewer reps and gradually decrease the resistance as you get tired. 

Pull-ups Become Very Challenging As You Fatigue

In contrast, a movement like a pull-up offers the same resistance regardless of how you feel, making it more challenging to train with proper technique. As your muscles lose their zip further in the workout, it can become very tough to do even one. 

Whereas with a cable back workout, you can progressively drop the weight as your muscles tire. This is a handy benefit as you work those large back muscles.

Cables Provide Angles 

Another notable benefit is that you can attack your muscles from many angles and promote more balanced back development. For example, you can do pulldowns to target your lats, horizontal rows for the mid-back, and shrugs for your traps. You can even do cable pull-throughs to train your posterior chain: glutes, hamstrings, and lower back.

Safety Considerations For Effective Cable Machine Back Workouts

The first safety consideration is to use a good cable machine. It should come with solid cables and anchor points, ensuring safe training, especially as you lift more weight.

Another important consideration is to take your time and warm up well before the workout. Doing so is necessary for protecting yourself from injuries and improving your performance. You can start with a few minutes of light cardio and transition to dynamic stretching before starting your workout.

Doing a few sets with lighter weights is also beneficial for warming up further and establishing a good mind-muscle connection, ensuring better muscle activation.

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Philip Stefanov

Philip is a fitness writer, blogger, certified personal trainer, and the founder of He has spent the last nine years writing fitness content and training men and women in the gym, as well as online. His passion is fitness and exercise, and helping others improve their fitness and wellness.

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  1. Molly Smith DipCNM, mB. A. N. T. (2022, June 9). Latissimus Dorsi Muscle. Kenhub.
  2. Richard Weil, M. E. (2019, October 10). Resistance training exercises: Benefits, Definition & Examples. eMedicineHealth.

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