8 Best Cable Chest Exercises for Pecs Like Hercules

If you are not blessed with a hunky chest, you came to the right place, my dude! 

This article will teach you the best cable chest exercises to build pecs like Arnold Schwarzenegger in his prime.

Name any exercise, and you bet I’ve tried it. 

But, not all chest cable exercises are effective, hitting the right muscles, and anatomically sound. From experience, some of those have even forced me to take time off from the gym due to injury.

So, I’ve chosen 8 of the best cable machine chest exercises that I have used in my workout plans before — and they definitely made me jacked! Do you think you’ve done some of them before?

I assure you that these cable chest exercises below will add girth to your chesticles:

  • Cable Crossover
  • Single-Arm Cable Press (Unilateral)
  • Cable Pullover
  • Standing Plyo Push Press
  • Cable Hex Press
  • Underhand Flyes
  • Cable Incline Press
  • Cable Dips
Source: rover.ebay.com  

Enough ogling at the Governator’s pecs, let’s get into the details of each exercise so you can get on your way pumping up your chest.

1 – Cable Crossover

The cable crossover is the default finisher of all gym bros after a chest day. Although some do it just because, there’s a good reason for this.

Your chest muscles are already fatigued at the end of your workout. Hence, you cannot lift heavy anymore.

So, your best option to fully exhaust your chest is a light-weight exercise that will still be able to put as much mechanical tension as you can on your muscles.

Execution

Start by picking a weight you can rep for about 12-15 times. Grab the handles and find the middle area between the two weight stacks, and take a step back.

Now, you should be leaning forward. Start the movement with your arms in a T-position, but keep your elbows bent.

From there, bring your arms down in an arch towards the belly button while squeezing your chest. Your fists should meet at the bottom of the movement.

Never go heavy on this exercise. And, do not let the weight drag your arms so high that you lose tension in the chest and transfer it to your shoulder joints — this may cause injury.

2 – Single-Arm Cable Press

I found out about this cable chest workout while watching Classic Physique Champion Chris Bumstead and Olympian Iain Valiere’s training videos.

I like their version because it lets you use a heavy weight without torturing your joints.

Execution

Stand close to the weight stack with the cable handle overhead. Since the weight should be heavy, use both arms to pull the handles down to your side (the one close to the weight stack).

Bend your knees, and then, bend your torso where it is almost parallel to the floor. Now, press the handle to the floor in the same way you would with a conventional dumbbell press.

Pay attention to the eccentric or negative part of this exercise. Slow down the weight to create as much tension in the pecs, putting it through a loaded stretch.

From the whole range of motion of an exercise, slowing down on the eccentric creates the greatest stimulus for muscle growth. [1]

3 – Lying Cable Pullovers

The lying pullover, when done with a straight bar handle, targets the pec minor and the coastal portion of the pec major.

Contrary to what a lot of people use it for, it is not a lat exercise. The lats simply stabilize the humerus. The pec muscles are the primary drivers of this exercise.

Execution

Use a straight bar handle attachment that does not rotate the cable chest workout. 

Also, it should be attached to the floor pulley or the lowest pulley of the cable machine.

Place a flat bench at least two feet away from the pulley. Lie on the bench, the pulley machine should be “over” your head in this position. 

Then, have a gym bro hand over the straight bar to you.

For the starting position, your elbows should be in line with your temple and flexed around 70-degrees. You should already feel slight tension in the pecs (and slightly in the lats) at this point.

From there, pull the bar down in an arch and stop at about chin level. This keeps constant tension in your pecs.

Go back slowly to the starting position. This “going back” part is the eccentric portion so you’d want to control the weight to elicit maximum muscle stimulus.

Do not just flail your arms up and down like you were attending a 50 Cent concert. Choose a moderately heavy weight that you can rep for 10-12. 

And, flex your chest by trying to bring your elbows closer together throughout the movement.

4 – Standing Plyo Press

This cable chest workout won’t only make you look like Hercules, but also give you the pushing power of a demigod!

The standing plyo press is a plyometric movement, which means it is to be done explosively.

As a pec builder, plyometric movements have been shown to improve muscle fiber recruitment

More muscle fibers used means you can create more intramuscular tension. The more tension you create, the bigger the hypertrophy response.

Execution

First, create a stable base. Find the middle spot between the two weight stacks. Ground your feet with one foot forward. This helps you harness as much power as possible.

While holding both handles, do the negative portion of the lift slowly. Hold the bottom position for two seconds.

Then, push out as fast as you can. The key here to fully activate the chest muscles is to try to bring the creases of your elbow together.

Start the kinetic chain from the ground up. Create tension in the whole body so that the only movement happens in your arms — the pectoral muscles’ function is to horizontally adduct the humerus aka the upper arm.

At the top of the movement, the elbows should be stretched out. But, there should still be a slight bend to keep tension on the chest and not transfer it to the triceps.

You can switch foot positions after every set.

Do not overstretch at the bottom of the movement. As a cue, do not let your upper arms go past your torso. Doing so can lead to shoulder pain, or worse, a shoulder injury that can sideline you for months — yikes!

5 – Cable Squeeze Press

This is one of my go-to chest pulley exercises to pre-exhaust or activate the chest.

The aim of this exercise is not to lift as heavy as you can. 

What you want is to create continuous tension in the pec muscles to prime them for heavier, higher intensity resistance cable chest exercises.

Execution

You can do this standing or while lying on a bench.

Grab both handles of the machine. Instead of having your knuckles touch each other, a better cue is to let the meaty portion of your palms just above the wrists touch.

The execution of this exercise is pretty straightforward. The hand position stays the same throughout. 

Your palms should touch each other for the whole range of motion. Hence, only the angle of your elbows changes.

At the bottom of the movement, you can allow your upper arms to move towards the sides of the torso. While this breaks the “squeeze together” cue, it lets you get a great stretch at the bottom.

You can’t really go wrong with this exercise. It’s a feeler exercise done with light weight, so there’s little risk for injury unless your form is really off.

6 – Underhand Flyes

This exercise helps you develop a shelf for a chest. It builds the clavicular and sternocostal portion of the chest, also known as the upper chest.

While most lifters are able to develop thick lower pecs, a meaty upper chest is rare.

Execution

For the underhand cable fly, set the pulley system to the lowest notch.

Grab the handles, and position yourself in the middle of the cable machine. Take a big step forward, lift your chest, and bring your shoulders back.

At the beginning of the movement, your hands should be supinated. Flex your elbow a little so your hands are at the side of your hips.

Proceed to push the handles inward. Instead of bringing your knuckles together, bring your pinky fingers together. Your arms should be at chin level in the end range.

Make sure to use a slow tempo in the eccentric or lowering portion of this exercise. Don’t go too heavy on the weights that you’ll be bending your knees to initiate movement.

7 – Cable Chest Press

The cable bench press loads your pecs more effectively.

Free-weight pressing only has a downward resistance, meaning the triceps take over as the arms extend outward.

Using a cable machine keeps your chest working hard throughout the movement, since the resistance is at an angle forcing you to squeeze the handles together

While you may not be able to lift as heavy, the cable chest press does a better job of loading your pecs at the top of the press in the fully shortened position of the pecs.

Execution

Place a flat, incline, or decline bench between two cable pulleys. Grab the handles and lie on the bench and puff your chest out. Your hands should be at the sides of your torso.

Keeping your elbows bent and tucked in, press upwards as you would in a barbell or dumbbell press. Do not fully extend the arms at the top.

Again, control the descent of the weight to emphasize the eccentric portion of this movement. Press up and bring down your arms in an arch to fully stretch and fully shorten the chest muscles.

Always keep your elbows tucked in at a 45-degree angle to reduce pressure on your shoulder joints. Doing so preserves the health of your shoulders.

8 – Single-Arm Cable Dips

Dips are not as common as they used to be. Golden-era bodybuilders like Serge Nubret and Frank Zane swore by this movement to outline and add mass to their chests.

The chest dip is a great exercise for targeting the pec minor and costal pecs because of the vertical plane of movement. Because of the orientation of the fibers, it hits the pec minor and costal pecs the most. 

Hence, it effectively hits the lower region of the pec and pushes your chest out more by developing the pec minor (under the pec major).

Execution

The reason why I prefer the single-arm dip compared to using both arms is that I want to keep the vertical motion of the exercise.

So, position yourself about a foot beside a high-pulley machine. The arm you’ll be using should be closest to the weight stack.

Allow your knees to bend just slightly for torque reduction, this also helps you stabilize better. Then, bend at the hips until your torso is at a 45 to 60-degree angle from the floor.

In the starting position, your humerus should almost be parallel to the floor. Never break parallel as it would cause unnecessary strain on the joints.

Do not push the handle straight down. Rather, push it downward, forward, and inward simultaneously. This will help you activate your chest better.

Keep the angle of your torso and brace yourself by putting your free arm on your thighs.

Chest Workout Plan

You are not supposed to do all these resistance cable chest exercises in one training session — you’re gonna get pooped instead of pumped! So, I divided them into two workouts.

The first exercise in each plan is meant to be done 2 reps short of failure. You want to reserve that intensity for the second and third exercises.

For the last exercises, take them to failure.

Workout A

ExerciseSetsReps
Standing Plyo Press410-12
Cable Bench Press(flat, incline, decline)58-10
Cable Pullover48-10
Underhand Flyes312-15

Workout B

ExerciseSetsReps
Cable Squeeze Press410-12
Single-Arm Cable Dips3 sets each arm8-10
Single-Arm Press46-8
Cable Crossover412-15

The Advantage of Cable Chest Exercises

The advantage of cable chest exercises is that they provide constant tension in the chest in every part of the movement

Especially in the end ranges, the primary lifters tend to shift from chest to tricep, or chest to delts.

Remember that you must stay within the active range of motion of the muscle you are training. 

Although you can still push or pull back farther, stop the movement when you start losing tension in the pec muscles.

Another advantage to cables is that they provide better resistance when compared to free-weights.

Since the chest muscles adduct the humerus, they are stimulated to a greater degree by cable movements due to the angle you need to lift at instead of a simple up and down motion required by dumbbells and barbells.

Lastly, using cable machines lets you train the chest at various angles. You can even change positions intra-set.

Cables give you the freedom to tailor every exercise according to your body’s dimensions (ex. long limbs vs. short limbs) so you lift with better leverage and, hence, lift safer.


Final Thoughts

These cable chest exercises will surely provide your pecs a new stimulus to spur growth. Try them out for a couple of months, and see if they’re what you need to take your chest gains to the next level.

Remember to pay attention to your technique and form. And, always strive for progressive overload.

So get those pecs pumpin’ and try these resistance cable chest exercises on your next gym sesh!

FAQ

1 – Are cable chest exercises good?

Cable chest exercises are good for inducing hypertrophy.

They keep the tension in the chest muscles throughout a movement which produces the biggest stimulus. The bigger the stimulus, the more growth can occur.

2 – How do you work out your chest with cables?

The pectoral muscles’ main function is to adduct the humerus. So, when using a cable machine for the chest, the movement of your arms should be from the outside going towards the midline of the body.

3 – What to do when you have shoulder pain when doing cable chest exercises?

Stop the exercise when you feel pain in the shoulders.

This might mean that you are exceeding your natural range of motion. Pushing beyond the pain will most likely lead to a torn ligament in your complex shoulder joint.

4 – What muscles do cables work?

This depends on two motions: push and pull.

If you’re doing a pull motion to lift the weight, you’re probably working one of these: lats, traps, rhomboids, rear delts, biceps, lower back, or hamstrings.

If you are, however, pushing to move the weight, you can be working the chest, shoulders, triceps, quads, glutes, or calves.

Imad Deryan

My name is Imad, and I struggled to gain mass in the past due to my metabolism and being very skinny. In this blog, I share the best reviews and advice when it comes to gaining weight and mass, for all the people that are struggling like I was.

Recent Content

link to Sole E35 Elliptical Review

Sole E35 Elliptical Review

Sole E35 Review 2022 – Pros, Cons, Pricing And Alternatives Best Mid-Range Elliptical Overall rating The improved Sole E35 is a compact, front-drive elliptical machine created for beginners up to intermediate fitness enthusiasts. It has an ergonomic design to make sure you work out comfortably. The cushioned, oversized pedals have a physical therapist-recommended 2-degree inward […]