Cable Press: Your Ultimate Guide

The Cable Press is another realm of workouts you should enter ASAP.

The gym is the powerhouse loaded with varieties of workout equipment. You will find many sizes of gears, ranging from the giant treadmill, stationary bike, smith machine, dumbbell, rowing machine, and the little boys like the Dumbbell, Barbell, Resistance bands, Medicine Ball.

Actually, some of the so-called “little boys” are not literally little. Trust me – whether small or big in size, they are effective in bodybuilding – and each has its own way of doing its thing.

Today, I introduce you to an incredible machine that is the favourite of many bodybuilders. Yes, you saw it coming. The name of this is the Cable Machine. It is large and cannot easily be moved about.

It is used to perform varieties of workouts, including Press workouts (known as Cable Press). Workouts of this nature lead to the building of the upper body, mainly the Pectorals, Deltoids and Triceps.

If you don’t know anything about Cable Presses or if you know a little bit about them, this article was written to educate you about everything about this kind of gym workout, and answer all your questions.

I am sure that at the end of this journey we are in together, you would lose the patience to do your first cable press.

Without wasting any time, let us now go into our topic proper. I can’t wait…

What is a Cable Press?

I have taken the time to do research in order to arrive at the most accurate meaning of this term, but it seems that people have different interpretations about what the term “Cable Press” is – and the reason is clear, too.

What I found out is that, many people use the term to mean a singular workout, while a few prefer to use it to represent a class of workouts. Which one do you think is right?

For me, my conclusion on this matter is simply that, the term ultimately refers to any workouts that fall under the divisions: Cable and Press. It is not about one workout, but about plural workouts, because you can do more than one workout using this same machine. Is this confusing? No.

A Cable Press refers to any type of press workouts done using a special gym machine called the cable machine. And these workouts target mainly the muscles of the upper body, which includes the muscles of the Chest and the Shoulders.

I am aware that some people may not agree with the meaning I present, but I don’t think it is yet the time to disagree. Just read till the end; At the end, you are free to tender your objections.

Talking about what is used to do the workout, we can perform a cable press using a Cable Machine. The machine is flexible enough to accommodate performing not only one kind of workout or movement, thereby removing common restrictions you’ll face in related machines. In short, it has a wide range of motion.

Most – if not all – of the cable press workouts have a similar technique for performing them. This is because of the architecture of the machine.

Cable Machines

Cable Machine
Source: Reddit

There are different architectures of the cable machine, but they are used for a similar purpose. There is the likelihood that you have seen at least one kind at the gym.

A cable machine (also known as Pulley Machine), is a large equipment found in the gym, used for weight, strength and resistance training. Nowadays, it is possible to get one for home use. Some persons are creative enough to build their own for home gym.

Cable Machine for workout

It is not possible to move the machine about. In some models, a seat or bench is attached for doing the Seated Cable Press. Seated, not Sitted.

It is made of steel and may reach up to 2-3 metres in height; some machines have rectangular shape; some can be mounted on the wall; the dual machines have a space between the two vertical steel structures, that allows free movement for anybody, whether fat or thin; while the single stack machines do not have. The space would usually be used to do standing workouts, squats and so on. So you see – there is a lot of possibilities.

I have put some images to explain further.

Of course, as the name implies, it is useless without the cables attached to the pulleys. The cables (like ropes), can turn in any direction. It is these components that make its name. One of the things that make the cable machine stand out is the option to adjust the height of the pulley(s).

As you know, if we had a fixed height (like some gym equipment), then we would be restricted in our use of the machine; but this barrier is overcome. Now that we have one whose height is adjustable, we can be sure of (almost) all-round movement.

There are two weight stacks on the machine if it has two rectangular vertical steels (dual), and one, if it has only one steel (single). There are different stack weights; the 200Lb is a common weight.

The apparatus provides resistance while training, hence, it is valuable for resistance-training.

With this singular equipment (with various architecture), one can perform a wide array of workouts. Examples of common workouts are, Cable Chest Press, Cable Shoulder Press, Cable Squats, Cable Chest fly etc.

For the sake of this topic, we will be focusing on Cable Presses. You could learn about other workouts here.

Benefits and Advantages of Cable Machines

There has been disagreement about the potency of the machine. Some people see it as a waste of time; some use it as an auxiliary exercise; while others see it as an invaluable apparatus.

People belong to different schools of thought, so, our opinion cannot be the same. Also, what worked for Peter may not work for Paul.

I have received the testimonies of some people about how doing workouts on the machine was their answer.

So here is the big question:

Are cable machines worth it? Yes, cable machines are definitely worth it. They can help tone up almost all the body muscles because of the wide range of motion – that is if you know how and when to use them.

Below are 3 benefits of Pulley Machines

Build Upper Body

Just like the Bench Press works, the Cable Press and Cable Fly are similar workouts you can do using this apparatus. The purpose of these workouts is to build the upper body – that is, the muscles worked are primarily the Chest (Pecs), Shoulders (Deltoids), and sometimes Triceps, including other muscles as secondary.

For the Pulley Machine, you can modify the technique to also show the Core some love.

For safety

One of the priorities of gym workouts is safety. It does not matter what workouts you are doing, there must be 100% safety guarantee, especially when the people at work are beginners.

Therefore, the proper pattern is to progress from simple workouts to tougher ones, familiarizing yourself with the equipment.

No sane fitness coach would allow a beginner to abruptly start using expert gym equipment, and doing compound workouts.

Here is where the Cable Machine comes in handy. For those seeking to do upper body improvements, they are usually introduced to the Cable Press Machine before going on to Barbells and Deadlifts.

Why? It is easier to handle. The Cable Press Machine would prepare you for the more challenging workouts.

It is not compulsory to start off with the Cable (there are many other alternatives and options); but if you start on the wrong foot, you have the risk of getting injuries.


Among hundreds of fitness gears in existence, the pulley machine gives you a reasonable amount of control to do whatever you like.

It was designed in such a way that the cables are not height-fixed. You can add to the height in order to do specific exercises, and you can reduce the height to do other exercises, as you wish. The cable(s) can be rotated to any angle, too.

Also, you can always adjust the weight and resistance of the machine. You see that?

In addition to this, if you decide to focus on building one arm, the Single weighted stack is there for you; if you want to evenly work on both arms, the dual stack is there.

What more do you need?

Cable Press Workouts

After getting familiar with the machine, it is time to use it for some workout.

For beginners, it is highly advisable to set a weight you are very much comfortable with. Try to go for 2-4 sets of 9-14 reps. Rest for 2 minutes between each rep.

Now, I will talk about two presses you can try on the cable machine. Each of them has several other ways of doing it (called variations), which you can add, too. If you can, be creative.

Cable Chest Press

In my opinion, the Standing Cable Chest Press is the more common and basic chest press performed using the machine. Therefore, we will take the basic one.

There is also the Seated Cable Chest Press, which is done while sitting. These two, seated and standing, form the basics for forming other variations.

It is a good substitute for the Cable Crossover or Cable Chest Fly, and even the Bench Press.


Standing Cable Chest Press Muscles Worked

The primary muscle worked on is the Chest (Pecs). Others include the Deltoids, Triceps and even the Core.

How to do a Standing Cable Chest Press

This is the basic chest press we are going to learn about.

For this we are going to use a dual station.

  • Adjust the pulleys to shoulder-height and stand at the centre. The reason for standing at the centre is so that the two arms and the chest will equally work and participate. You don’t want uneven muscle development.
  • Take one of your legs forward to about 3ft. Make sure not to lean forward, but that your spine is upright. In this way, you are in a lunge posture.
  • Tighten your core, raise your chest. Place attention on the chest.
  • Take hold of the handles (pronated grip), lift your arms to shoulder height, first by your sides. In this posture, your upper left arm is facing the left hand side and your upper right-arm the right hand side. The lower arms are facing forward. The elbows should make 90°.
  • Then extend them whole of your arms forward (the upper arms and lower arms are stretched to the front).
  • Repeat.

Ensure that your palms are facing down throughout the workout. Everytime your arms are extended forward, your chest should be squeezed, and everytime the arms return back to the shoulders, it should be relaxed. On extension, there should be a narrow space between the two handles.

The aim of this workout is to put the bulk of the load on and turn the attention to the Chest, in place of the shoulders. This is why it is called a Chest Press.

I have written a separate, in-depth article about the Standing Cable Chest Press, and it has everything you should know, including the alternatives, incredible variations, tips on how to incorporate it into your routine. You just have to check that out.

Cable Shoulder Press

The second cable workout we will learn is the Cable Shoulder Press. By mere looking, it may be difficult to spot the differences between the Cable Chest Press and the Cable Shoulder Press.

The latter builds the deltoids more than the former. The resistance is directed against the shoulders.

Cable Shoulder Press Muscles worked

Deltoids, Triceps,

How to do the Cable Shoulder Press

  • Adjust the pulley to the lowest point.
  • Stand at the centre of the cable machine, with your legs apart at shoulder-width. Make sure you stand upright with your head facing forward, and your chest braced.
  • Grab the handles and lift them to shoulder-height. This is the starting point.
  • Push your arms vertically upward (not forward) toward the ceiling and remain in this posture for about 5 seconds.
  • Return back to shoulder-height.
  • Repeat.

Remember: This time, the goal is to put the tension on the shoulders.

Cable Press Alternatives

If you are seeking for other workouts to do as alternatives to the cable press, then here are 11 alternatives you can try:

  • Bench Press
  • Dumbbell Press
  • Cable Fly
  • Cable Crossover
  • Cable Row (with the Rowing Machine or Cable Machine)
  • Landmine Press
  • Push-ups
  • Z Press
  • Arnold Press
  • Renegade Row
  • Resistance Band Crossover

These alternatives will yield the same or similar result as the Cable Chest Press.

Cable Press vs Bench Press

  • Bench Press is a free weight exercise, while the Cable Press isn’t.


How many cable presses should I do?

Most times, the recommended number of presses are around 2-4 sets of 9-14 reps. You can move on if you want.

Do cable machines build muscles?

Of course. Cable machines are good for building mainly the muscles of the upper body. The muscles worked include the Pecs, Deltoids, Triceps – and other muscles like the Core, Biceps etc.

Do cable presses decrease breast size?

Yes, cable presses may reduce the size of the breasts, but not significantly. For more reduction, you should focus on cardio exercises.
The breast is the layer in front of the Pecs; as the pec muscles are stretched and relaxed during workouts, it affects the breast.

The breasts are composed of the breast tissue and fats. The workouts will eventually burn a little bit of the fats in the breast. Sometimes, there may be no difference.

Are cables better than dumbbells? What’s better – cables or free weights?

Questions like these get asked a lot of time. Free weight exercises use gears like Barbells, Dumbbells.

As for me, cables are not better than dumbbells and dumbbells are not better than cables. Each has its own way of building the body, though, both primarily build the upper body. So, it actually depends on what you what to achieve and how you want to achieve it. None is better than the other.

Most times, people do cable exercises as warmups or as a finishing touch.

Wrapping it up

So guys, I have tried my best to explain everything about the cable press workouts and how to use the machine. Now, the ball is in your court – go back and practise these things.

Emma Ayo

Emma is the CEO of SimplyBioHealth. His passionate interest in living a healthy and fit lifestyle and improving living standard, drove him to creating this blog. Here, he shares only the fitness tips that work.