The good ol ‘cable machine offers a tricep workout that also makes your heart vibrate
In baseball, “utility player” is a term reserved for athletes who can play any position. They have the ability to hit, throw and field without significant gaps in performance.
From a coaching standpoint, the utility player is an incredible asset. This week, I’m going to share some details about the weight training equivalent of a utility player – the cable machine.
The cable machine has been around for decades, which is a compliment and a criticism. The fact that almost all commercial fitness centers offer a cable machine suggests one thing: members are using it. Like any product, demand is driven by the end user, and this demand creates a supply chain of retailers, wholesalers, manufacturers and engineers.
The cable machine is also special because of its size. While there are compact versions on the market, the traditional cable machine is a beastly contraption about 10 feet wide and requires almost 60 square feet of working space. For most people, this is just not feasible for home use. This is one of the reasons that fitness centers continue to offer the cable machine, it is very difficult to replicate in a home workout environment.
Almost any muscle group can be exercised using a cable machine, as each side includes adjustable pulleys that can be moved 6 feet to the floor.
Plus, the pulley mechanism includes a simple carabiner that supports all kinds of cool accessories. Different types of bars, ropes and handles can be attached to the pulley, allowing almost limitless combination options for the advanced user.
Some of my all-time favorite exercises were born out of experimenting with a cable machine, and I’ve written dozens of articles covering those moves in this column. This week I am increasing my library of cable machines with a great variation of a triceps extension.
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1. Connect a rope tie to a pulley machine and position the pulley about 4 feet from the ground.
2. Kneel facing the pulley and grab each handle of the rope.
3. Pull the rope down and plant your elbows right at your sides but slightly in front of your body.
4. Push down on the rope as you slowly extend your elbows.
5. When you reach 90 degrees, pause for a while, then continue until full extension.
6. Perform 2 sets of 12 repetitions.
There is a tendency to lean forward during this movement as the body works to gain leverage to reduce pressure on the triceps. Try to resist the temptation and keep your posture very straight throughout the set. This will help engage the core muscles and isolate the triceps more directly.
It’s a fun way to explore the versatility of the cable machine, and I’m sure the exercise will be a challenge. Enjoy!
Matt Parrott is happy to hear from readers. Send him questions or share a story about your pandemic training sessions at