Cable Only Upper Body Workout

When I first started going to the gym, one thing that I found helped with my anxiety was planning a workout that was based in one part of the gym. I new I wouldn't have to wander around, and this gave me some calm. Hopefully today's workout can do the same for you!


This workout is made up of 6 exercises, all of which can be performed on a cable machine. The only other pieces of equipment needed are a bench and a set of d handles. Sets are on the lower side for two reasons.


The first one being because a lot of you using this will most likely be gym newbies. Because of this, I'd rather you went in with slightly lower volume, and put the majority of your focus on improving your form.


The second reason it's set out like this is because THIS. IS. HOW. I. TRAIN. No junk volume allowed. Train with intensity and this will be enough. As your form becomes acceptable, you can begin working on increasing the weight. The sets use a "-" for a reason. Pick a weight you can only just squeeze out the first number of reps for (e.g where it says 8-10, do 8). Next week, use exactly the same weight, but push it for 9 reps. The following week, the same weight again, but for 10 reps. You can then up the weight and start the cycle again. Logbook every session and make it count! When it comes to rest times, I want you to rest as long as you feel you need. There's no point going into the set when you're not ready. Let's get into the workout...


• Seated Cable Chest Press

Unlimited warm-up sets / 1x 8-10 / 1x 12-15

To perform this exercise, place an upright bench down the middle of a cable machine. Set the pulleys up so they are just below shoulder height. Hold on to both handles with a neutral wrist position (i.e wrists in line with the forearms). Plant your feet firmly on to the floor, make sure your shoulders are back (shoulder blades together), and your chest is up. Hold this position through out the exercise as you extend your arms forwards, stopping just before your elbows lock out. Make sure that, as you push your hands out in front of you, you’re also bringing them together to meet at the top of the movement. Hold for a second at the top, before slowly returning to your starting position. Only bring your elbows back as far as feels comfortable. This should allow you to feel a slight stretch in your chest.


By moving the pulley to just below shoulder height, we can push into an upwards arc, an optimal arc of motion when performing a press. We can then also bring our hands together at the top of the movement, giving us what’s known as a converging path of motion. Again, this is the most optimal path of motion when performing a pushing movement. It’s how our hands will naturally want to move.


• Single Arm Chest Supported Row

1x Warm-up set / 1x 8-10 / 1x 12-15

For this exercise, place an upright bench to one side of a cable pulley. Make sure the pulley is positioned way above shoulder height, so you can pull downwards (creating a downwards arc, most optimal for a rowing movement). Pull the bench as far back from the cable as allows for a suitable shoulder protraction (allowing you to lengthen the lat). Grasp on to the cable, keep your chest up, and drive your elbow towards your lower back. As you pull through, retract your shoulder blade. Stop once your elbow gets to about 90 degrees of flexion, hold for a second and slowly return back to the starting point.


• D Handle Lateral Raises

1x Warm-up set / 2x 12-15

Performing a side raise on a cable machine allows us to match the strength and resistance profiles up. The further we bring our arm out to our side, the weaker our Delt (shoulder) becomes. If we then perform this exercise with a dumbbell, the line of force goes straight through our arm (stay with me!), meaning as we bring the dumbbell out to the side, the weight becomes heavier. This means as we get weaker, the weight gets heavier. Not a great match!


If we move on to a cable machine, we change the line of force, as it's now coming up through the cable. This means the 'moment arm' changes and creates a "drop off", meaning as we bring our arm out to the side, the weight starts to get lighter.


Same rules apply to this as with any side raise, keep a slight bend in your elbow and bring your arm out to shoulder height, no higher!


• Reverse Cable Fly

2x 12-15

This is a great exercise for targeting the rear delts (an often missed out part of the body!). The rear delts are just the back of the shoulder. This one requires a lot of focus, so keep it light to begin with!


Grab on to one cable with the opposite hand to the side it's coming from, now do the same on the other side. Position your arms out in front of you, keep a soft bend in the knees and elbows. Pull your hands back and squeeze your shoulder blades together. Your arms shouldn't be changing shape throughout this. You're only moving your elbows backwards.


• D Handle Alternating Curl

2x 10

Place both pulleys on the bottom of the machine to the bottom. Hold onto both handles and step a few paces away from the machine. Stay tight on this, keep your glutes and core braced. Curl one arm up towards your face, whilst keeping the other arm stationary. Allow for some shoulder flexion here, you don't have to keep your elbow locked to your side. This will allow you to really shorten the bicep, Really focus on the mind to muscle connection here. Squeeze your biceps throughout the movement.


• Single Arm Tricep Pushdown

2x 15

Last one! For this, place your pulley at the top of the machine. After holding on to the cable, allow yourself to set up. Push your hips back, and keep a slight lean forwards (this will help to stop your traps from taking over the movement). Keeping your elbow locked into your side, push the cable down and stop just before your elbow locks out. Hold for a second at the bottom, focusing on squeezing the tricep, before slowly going back to the starting point (this should be about 90 degrees of elbow flexion).


Drop a like on this post, give this workout a go, and let me know how you get on!


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© 2020 by Sam Barnes