Get a Crushing Full-Body Workout With Just a Cable Machine

This article was originally written for STACK.

Training in a small apartment gym or hotel gym while traveling is never ideal. These gyms often lack the equipment and space necessary to complete your "normal" workout.

Too often, people walk into these gyms, realize their favorite piece of equipment is absent and abandon their workout all together. But fear not! You can almost always count on these facilities to have one thing—a cable machine.

Most people only use cables for a few select exercises, but with a little creativity, you can quickly put together an extremely effective eight-exercise full-body workout. Here's how it's done.


This workout can be done three different ways.

1. Perform each exercise individually for 3-4 sets of 8-15 reps each.

  • Rest for 30 seconds to 1 minute between sets.

2. Perform opposing (antagonist) exercises in supersets for 3-4 sets of 8-15 reps each.

  • Alternate between the two opposing exercises, completing all sets, with no rest between.

  • Rest 1-2 minutes between supersets.

  • Supersets: Quads + Hamstrings/Glutes, Chest + Back, Medial Delts + Rear Delts, Triceps + Biceps.

3. Perform all exercises in a circuit for 3-4 sets (rounds) of 8-15 reps each.

  • Complete all exercises, in order, with no rest between.

  • Rest 2-3 minutes between rounds.

The Workout

1. Goblet Squat

  • Target Muscle: Quads

  • Attachment: Double-D (Row) Handle

Goblet Squats are typically done with a dumbbell or kettlebell, but the cable machine offers a great alternative. The tension from the cable pulling you forward allows you to sit farther back for a deeper, more stable Squat. This exercise is also a nice core builder, as you must brace hard to stay upright throughout the movement.

2. Pull-Through

  • Target Muscle: Hamstrings/Glutes

  • Attachment: Rope

Pull-Throughs are an ideal posterior chain-building exercise because, unlike many other hamstring/glute movements, there is little to no load placed on the spine. It also safely teaches a proper hinge by allowing you to push your hips back slowly along the natural plane of tension created by the cable. Keep a flat back and tucked chin throughout, and finish by squeezing the glutes hard and locking out the knees.

3. Chest Fly

  • Target Muscle: Chest

  • Attachment: Single Grip Handle

The Chest Fly is a staple among bodybuilders because it specifically isolates the chest and provides constant tension throughout the exercise. The key here is to really SQUEEZE when you bring the handles together to fully contract the muscles. You can also slide the cable attachment up or down and work high-to-low or low-to-high to target different areas of the chest.

4. Seated Row

  • Target Muscle: Back

  • Attachment: Double-D (Row) Handle

The Seated Row is one of the most popular and effective back exercises. Using the Double-D Handle for a neutral grip, pull to your belly button while keeping your shoulder blades retracted (down and back). To get the most out of this exercise, keep your chest up and forward and avoid "swinging" the weight with your legs and lower back.

5. Single-Arm Lateral Raise

  • Target Muscle: Medial Delts

  • Attachment: Single Grip Handle

Lateral Raises are the go-to exercise for building broad, capped shoulders. Lead with the elbow, not the hand. Keep your elbow slightly bent and pause at both the top and bottom of the lift.

6. Face Pull

  • Target Muscle: Rear Delts

  • Attachment: Rope

Face Pulls are my No. 1 exercise for building strong, healthy shoulders. Keep your shoulder blades packed throughout the movement, and finish by externally rotating your hands up toward your ears. Think about pulling the rope apart, not just pulling it back.

7. Pushdown

  • Target Muscle: Triceps

  • Attachment: Rope

The Triceps Pushdown effectively targets all three heads of the muscle. Slightly hinge at the hips rather than standing straight up for a more complete Pushdown. This exercise can be done with a number of different attachments, but the rope allows you to pull the ends apart at the bottom of the movement to create a greater range of motion.

8. Curl

  • Target Muscle: Biceps

  • Attachment: Straight Bar

The Cable Curl is great because, unlike traditional barbell or dumbbell curls, there is constant tension on the muscle. Keep your elbows close to your sides throughout the movement. For an even more challenging variation, try this with a reverse grip (palms down).