Full Body Cable Workout

Ever looked at the cable machine and thought, “I have NO idea what to even do with that“? Or, do you use it for rowing and pulling and call it a day? Well, the cables are awesome to work your whole body, in a functional way. And YES, you can do leg exercises using the cable machines.

I love cables because:
  • They offer a broad range of motion and you aren’t stuck in one movement arc like you are with machines.
  • They’re versatile enough that you can do your whole workout on this one piece of equipment.
  • They can’t be beat for standing abdominal exercises.
  • You can adjust the resistance quickly and easily, meaning you can do everything without having an enormous pile of different weights in front of you.

Full Body Cable Workout - Get your whole workout done using just the cable machine! #workout #sweatpink #fitfluential

Ready for a full body cable workout? Pick and choose exercises from each section below – which means you can create more than one workout from this list! BONUS. 🙂

Full Body Cable Workout

Upper Body Pull

Narrow Row: With cables either at the lowest height, or at about waist height, use a narrow attachment to row your arms, palms facing in, keeping your elbows tight to your sides. {Video example}

Wide Row: With cables either at the lowest height, or at about waist height, either use two arms of the cable machine, or a rope attachment that splits easily, so you can row , palms face down, with your elbows coming out wide at about shoulder height. {Video example}

Wide Pulldown: Best done seated, or kneeling, have the cables at the highest height setting. With palms facing forward, pull the handles down as you lower your elbows in to your sides. (Essentially, this is a wide grip lat pulldown). {Video example}

Note: You can do any of these exercises with both arms, one at a time, or if you’re using two cable arm attachments, you can also do them alternating. Make it a compound exercise by combining these with a squat, reverse lunge, or get down into a static seated position (with no chair!).

Upper Body Push

Narrow press: Facing away from the cable machine, with a handle attachment, palm facing in, press the handle forward, keeping your elbow close to your side. Use a staggered stance for balance, or try a forward lunge as you press. {Video Example}

Wide press: Facing away from the cable machine, with a handle attachment, palm facing down, press the handle forward, elbow winged out at about shoulder height. {Video example}

Overhead Press: With cable at lowest height, holding the handle attachment with palm facing forward, press overhead, elbow out to side. You can do this single arm, or both at once if you’re using two arm attachments. This one is great with a squat! {Video example}

Note: You can do any of these exercises with both arms, one at a time, or if you’re using two cable arm attachments, you can also do them alternating.

Many people never use the cable machine for lower body exercises and they’re missing out! All you need is the ankle belt attachments, which you attach around your ankles, then snap on and off the cable carabiner. Be careful on the return to your starting position – if you haven’t done lower body on cables before, start with a light weight, so you get used to the way the tension ‘pulls’ you back towards the starting point.

Full Body Cable Workout

Lower Body Transverse

Lateral Leg Lifts: Stand sideways to the cable, with the outside leg attached. Raise attached leg out to the side, then return to cross in front of standing leg, holding the cable machine handle, or leaning on a body bar for support. {Video example}

Medial Leg Lifts:  Stand sideways to the cable, with the inside leg attached, in a wide stance. Pull attached leg towards your standing leg and swing in front, then return to start.  {Video example}

Lower Body Sagittal

Reverse Lunges: Facing the cable, step the attached foot into a reverse lunge, then return to start. {Video example}

Forward Lunges: With your back to the cable, step the attached foot into a forward lunge, then return to start. {Video example using a waist harness}

Hip Extension: Try this single joint exercise to focus on your glutes. Facing the cables, with fingertips resting on the handle*, extend your straight leg back behind you as high as you can. Slowly return to start.  {Video example}

Abdominals & Stability

Chop High to Low: With the cable in the highest position, use both hands gripping a single cable attachment and chop down to your lateral side, swing your feet and hips to pivot to follow the weight. {Video example}

Chop Low to High: With the cable in the lowest position, use both hands gripping a single cable attachment. Start in a squat position and raise both arms up and across your body as you stand up from the squat. Swing your feet and hips to pivot to follow the weight. {Video example}

Rotational Twist: With the cable in a waist-height position, use both hands gripping a single cable attachment, standing side-on to the machine, about 3 feet away from the cable. (You will have tension in the cable in this start position). Use your straight arms to pull the cable across your torso, using your abdominals to contract and stabilize. Swing your feet and hips to pivot to follow the weight. {Video example}

There you have it – some simple exercises, using only the cable machine in your gym. If you’re used to dumbbells or barbells for your resistance training, you may be surprised at the difficulty during the eccentric phase of the exercise – you have to work your muscles to control the weight as it tries to return to its start position as well. Once you get used to the feel of the cables, though, I guarantee some of these exercises will become part of your regular workout.

Do you use cables at the gym?

Any variations of these, or new exercises you want to suggest?


  1. I love cable exercises but i don’t have a cable machine at home and i don’t own a gym membership. As a substitute i use bodylastics kit resistance bands which are one of the best fitness purchase i’ve done. “face pull” is one of my all time favorite exercises for shoulders, “close grip reverse lat pulldown” is also amazing or “triceps extensions”, “cable crunch”, i also love to do mountain climbers with the ankle attachments on, those really are killer for the abs and the glutes 🙂

    • Carly Pizzani says:

      Resistance bands are a great alternative to cables, especially the kind you can close into a doorframe so they’re anchored.

  2. Great info! I don’t normally use cables bc I am not familiar with them. I am not a member at a gym but some hotels I stay at have those. Ill have to try some of these moves next time.
    Lacey@fairytalesandfitness recently posted…Ten 10Ks that might be worth RunningMy Profile

  3. I can’t even think of the last time I used cables – I think that for awhile they intimidated me because I didn’t know what I was doing.
    Kim recently posted…Family – First Forever!!My Profile

  4. I definitely have looked at the cables before and not known what to do with them! I just used something kind of similar in a pilates class I took recently. Great post Carly! 🙂
    Britt@MyOwnBalance recently posted…Checking out Athens, GreeceMy Profile

  5. I love cable workouts! I’ve been working out from home for months now, but I will keep this workout bookmarked for when I feel ready to get back into the gym.
    Jessica @ Absurd, She Wrote recently posted…Relationship Restore PointMy Profile

  6. I’ve never used cables because I wasn’t exactly sure what to do. Thanks for breaking it down for me!
    Julie @ Running in a Skirt recently posted…Benefits of Early Morning RunningMy Profile

  7. I love my home gym but the cable workouts are one of the few things I miss about not having a gym membership.
    jill conyers recently posted…Daily Practice of GratitudeMy Profile

    • Carly Pizzani says:

      Definitely! They’re hard to replicate, although you can get pretty close with resistance bands.

  8. John Doesitmatter says:

    Why don’t you add photos? It’s better to visualize this stuff for beginners instead of having to google every silly thing you wrote/


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