The cable machine you see at gyms, with its pins, pulleys, and attachments, can seem a bit intimidating. But, in reality, swapping handles and adjusting settings is actually easier than changing plates on a barbell or hauling multiple sets of dumbbells across a weight room.
Plus, you can do a lot with a cable machine that you can’t with other forms of resistance. That’s why Noam Tamir, C.S.C.S., CEO and owner of TS Fitness in New York City, recommends that cyclists add this full-body cable machine workout to their routine.
The Benefits of a Cable Machine Workout
The cable machine is an excellent piece of equipment for cyclists because there are so many unilateral exercises that can be done to avoid compensation, Tamir tells Runner’s World. Exercises like the reverse lunge to lat pull-down, for example, can help address glute and core weaknesses. If you don’t address these weaknesses, over time they can create imbalances that hamper cycling efficiency and lead to injuries.
The cable machine can also inject a little variety into your current strength-training program. “You can set up many different angles to help build strength,” Tamir says. “It also offers a more controlled resistance movement and can be used to isolate a certain area [of the body] to help with performance.” These advantages mean you work your muscles in new, challenging ways with a cable machine and get a workout that you can’t get with other equipment.
How to use this list: Perform each exercise below for the number of reps listed. Complete the full circuit 3 times, resting for 45 seconds between sets. Each move is demonstrated by Tamir in the video above so you can learn the proper form. You will need a cable machine, single-handle attachment, and rope attachment.
1. Reverse Lunge to Lat Pull-Down
Why it works: “The reverse lunge to lat pull-down is a full-body exercise that focuses on strengthening the glutes,” Tamir says. It works your core muscles, as well as the lats, which help support your upper body while riding.
How to do it: With the cable anchored above head, stand facing cable machine holding single-handle attachment in right hand, palm facing in. Take a big step back with right foot, landing on the ball of right foot. Bend both knees until the left thigh is parallel to the ground and the right knee is hovering just above the ground, legs forming 90-degree angles. Use back and shoulder muscles to pull handle toward chest. Pause, then extend arm. Push through the left heel to stand back up. Repeat. Do 10 reps. Then switch sides.
2. Wood Chop
Why it works: This exercise works key muscles, like the internal and external obliques, the adductors, glutes, and lats, as well as fascial tissue and ligaments. These structures help stabilize the trunk and keep the hips neutral during a ride.
How to do it: With the cable anchored above head, stand with left side facing the cable machine, feet wider than hip-width apart. Holding the single-handle attachment with both hands, rotate torso to face the machine, pivoting on right foot, and bringing arms straight overhead as you reach up on a diagonal. This is your starting position. Keeping arms straight, rotate torso away from the machine, as you pivot on the ball of left foot and bring both hands down toward right hip. Rotate back toward the machine to return to the starting position. Repeat. Do 12 reps. Then switch sides.
3. Reverse Wood Chop
Why it works: Like the standard wood chop, the reverse wood chop exercise strengthens the back, glutes, and deep core muscles. The deep core muscles are some of the most important muscles for a cyclists. They’re crucial to better performance and reduced risk of injury, Tamir says.
How to do it: With the cable anchored at its lowest point, stand with left side facing the cable machine, feet wider than hip-width apart. Holding the single-handle attachment with both hands, rotate torso to face the machine, bringing arms straight down to left hip, pivoting on right foot. This is your starting position. Keeping arms straight, rotate torso away from the machine as you pivot on the ball of left foot and bring both hands up above right shoulder. Rotate back toward the machine to return to starting position. Repeat. Do 12 reps. Then switch side.
4. Hip Hinge to Face Pull
Why it works: The hip hinge to face pull is a great exercise for cyclists because it works the core through trunk forward flexion. It helps to strengthen the hamstrings, which are power providers. “The face pull movement is good for strengthening the upper back and rear deltoids, which help maintain a good upright posture.”
How to do it: With the cable anchored above head, stand facing cable machine, feet hip-width apart, holding rope attachment with both hands, palms facing down and arms extended. With a soft bend in knees, hinge at hips by pushing butt straight back, and lower torso toward floor until you feel a slight pull in hamstrings. Keep back flat and core tight. Drive through feet to stand back up, and at the top, squeeze upper back and shoulder muscles to pull hands toward face. Then straighten arms. Repeat. Do 10 reps.
5. Isometric Split Squat with Single-Arm Chest Press
Why it works: “This exercise works the core, which has to stabilize and resist rotation when pressing. The shoulder, chest, and triceps are also being worked during the pressing motion,”Tamir says.
How to do it: With cable anchored at hip level, stand facing away from cable machine. Hold single-handle attachment in left hand, palm facing in, elbow bent 90 degrees. Take a big step back onto the ball of left foot, keeping the heel off the ground. Bend both knees until the right thigh is parallel to the ground and the left knee is hovering just above the ground, legs forming 90-degree angles. This is the starting position. Push handle away from the chest to extend arm. Pause, then bend elbow to return to starting position. Repeat. Do 10 reps. Then switch sides.