How to Get Full-Body Workout Using the Cable Extension Machine at Your Gym

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Photo: Getty Images / David Pereiras / EyeEm
You're in the gym. It's 6:30 p.m. on a Tuesday. Nearly every machine is taken. But wait—there's something off in the distance. Is that... an open cable machine? You dash over, set down your water bottle, and claim your space. So now what? You can do a full-body workout using a cable machine. It's true!

"The cable machine is one of the most versatile and quality pieces of exercise equipment around," says Justin Roethlingshoefer, CSCS, personal trainer, author, and NHL performance coach. "Many people are not aware of how simple adjustments can create an amazing full-body workout without leaving the 5-foot square space." He says because the leverage point of the pulleys can be changed, you can work the body through all three planes of motion (frontal, lateral, and transverse) and hit your muscles at different angles.

To start, how does a cable machine work? Watch the video below, and then keep reading for Roethlingshoefer's full-body workout using the cable machine.

5 moves for a full-body workout using the cable machine

Complete three sets of the following moves.

bicep curl

Attachment: rope

Place the pulley at the lowest level. Grab the rope in each hand, with your thumbs pointed to the roof. With straight arms, take two steps back to create tension between the weight stack and the cable. Bend your knees and sit your butt back a bit (like your doing a quarter of a squat) with  your feet shoulder width apart. Keeping your elbows by your side, bring your fists to your shoulders squeezing through the biceps. Roethlingshoefer says you'll want to stabilize through your lats, and core to prevent upper body movement. Repeat for 10 to 15 reps.

split stance cable overhead triceps extension

Attachment: rope 

Position the pulley at the top of the cable machine. Grab the rope in each hand, and face away from the cable machine. Bring your arms overhead, and bend you arms, only at your elbows, down to 90 degrees. Extend your arms straight overhead, and then bend back to 90 degrees. Repeat 12 to 15 reps for three sets.

cable “T” series

Attachment: individual handles

Place the pulleys at the bottom level, and grab one handle with each hand. Begin in a quarter squat position facing the cable machine. With your arms straight (with slight bend in the elbow), bring your arms straight overhead and return to the bottom. Then, bring your arms to the side in a T position and return. Repeat 5 to 6 times in each position.

cable step up

Attachment: individual handles

Using the individual handles with the pulleys at the lowest level, face away from the machine with one handle in each hand. With a bench in front of you, hold the cables firmly at your side and place your left foot on the bench. Step up, and bring your right foot on to the bench and you are in an upright position. Step back down, leading with the left foot. Repeat eight times on each leg.

cable pull through

Attachment: rope 

Put the pulley at the lowest level, and grab the rope in each hand with thumbs pointed to the roof, facing away from the machine. Straddle the attachment, so the ropes are between your legs. Take two steps forward, to create tension, and bend over with a flat back. Inhale and tighten your core. As you feel a stretch in the hamstring, squeeze through the glutes to an upright position. Keeping your elbows by your side, and arms straight push your hips back to the starting position. Repeat for 10 to 15 reps.

Bookmark this HIIT routine for your next full-body workout:

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