The 13 Best Cable Chest Exercises to Develop Serious Pec Power

cable chest workout
Last updated:

Cables are amongst the most underused equipment in the gym, but why?

Cables are actually extremely effective for stimulating muscle growth, and when it comes to a “show” muscle like your pecs, you will need to pull out the stops to craft a well-developed chest.

Part of the resistance when using cable machines comes from the fact that they aren’t as immediately intuitive as dumbbells or barbells, as you might need to “tinker” with it to adjust height, angles, and attachments.

But this barrier to entry is still very low.

And actually an advantage for you, since on chest day when everyone is waiting to do the barbell bench press, you can easily scoot over to a cable station and get a kickass workout in.

Reasons You Need To Do Chest Cable Exercises

There must be a compelling reason for you to add these types of exercises to your workout routine. And there are actually many.

The fact of the matter is that most people don’t appreciate cables when they could be getting superior results from their training efforts.

Here are a few of the most noteworthy ones:

1) Cables Force You To Use Strict Form

Good exercise form is next to godliness, but unfortunately, that isn’t often the case with free weights.

When you’re doing a bench press with dumbbells, for example, it’s easy to start swinging the weights up and using momentum to complete the lift.

This not only means that you’re not getting the full benefit of the exercise, but it also puts you at risk for injury.

Cables maintain constant tension throughout the entire range of motion, which minimizes the risk of injury.

And since you’re forced to use the strict form, you’ll be sure to recruit all of the muscle fibers in the target area.

2) Cables Help Target Your Muscles From a Different Angle

When you’re using free weights, the resistance is always perpendicular to your body.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it does limit the range of motion and the number of muscles that you can target.

Cables offer a greater range of motion and allow you to target your muscles from different angles.

This not only helps to build muscle but also prevents imbalances and keeps your muscles guessing.

Working through different planes of motion has to be one of the most underutilized and not throughout about variables that you can manipulate for added growth.

3) Cables Are Great For High-intensity Workouts

Have you ever tried to do pyramids, drop sets, or monster sets with a barbell or dumbbell?

The sheer chore of adding or removing, and transporting weights to and from different locations is a huge deterrent in itself.

Cables, on the other hand, are easily manipulated with the change of a pin.

This means that you can perform an endless variety of high-intensity interval exercises in a very short amount of time.

4) Cables Are Great For Targeting The Stabilizer Muscles

Free weights are great for targeting the primary muscles, but they often leave the stabilizer muscles out of the equation.

This is because the stabilizer muscles are used to help stabilize the weight, and they don’t get as much of a workout when you’re using free weights.

Cables are great for targeting the stabilizer muscles, which means that you can build a more balanced and symmetrical physique.

Not only that, but the stabilizer muscles play an important role in injury prevention.

Don’t ever underestimate the importance of stabilization in exercise and progression, especially related to those of the shoulder joint complex when rear delts are weak.

5) Cables Can Be Done At Home With Little Equipment.

If you’re working with a limited budget and want to really maximize how much you can get done with minimum equipment, cables are an excellent option.

Of course, an adjustable bench is an absolute necessity in addition to a cable station, which will allow you to hit your chest from a variety of angles, standing, sitting and of course, lying.

The Top 13 Workout Moves For Your Chest

There are many exercises that exist which can help stimulate the chest muscles.

What we have compiled below are some of the best chest exercises to promote muscle and strength gains.

Feel free to mix and match them in your workouts to find which you personally respond to best.

1) Cable Crossovers

Watch Video > https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=taI4XduLpTk

The cable crossover is a great exercise for targeting the chest muscles.

The cables allow you to move in multiple directions, which recruits more muscle fibers and results in a better workout.

Cable crossovers can be done standing, seated, or lying on a bench, allowing you to simulate multiple parts of the chest that might be underserved.

For the purpose of this explanation, we will focus on the standing cable crossover.

To Perform:

  • Start by Adjusting the pulleys on a high pulley station on both sides to be at shoulder level.
  • Attach a single handle to each side of the pulley.
  • Take a step forward with one leg and place your feet about shoulder-width apart.
  • Bend your elbows and bring the handles together in front of your chest, keeping your palms facing each other, almost like grabbing a barrel.
  • From here, slowly extend your arms out to the sides, maintaining the elbow bend.
  • Return to the starting position and repeat for 12-15 repetitions, and 2-3 total working sets.

2) Flat Bench Chest Press

Watch Video > https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VmB1G1K7v94

Cable bench presses are a great substitute for dumbbell or barbell presses owing to the constant resistance it offers throughout the movement.

To Perform:

  • Lie on a flat bench with your feet flat on the ground.
  • Attach a cable to each side of a crossover machine at the low attachment location.
  • Grasp D-attachment in each arm while laying on a flat bench, or have someone assist by handing you the cables.
  • Press the weight up by extending your arms until they are straight.
  • Return to the starting position and repeat for 12-15 repetitions, and 2-3 total working sets.

3) Incline Bench Cable Fly

Watch Video > https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GtHNC-5GtR0

Cable flyes are arguably superior to dumbbell flyes since they do not lose tension at the top of the movement, which has to be a major disadvantage of that type of equipment.

To Perform:

Set an incline bench at a 45-degree angle and adjust the pulleys on a cable machine to be at shoulder height.

2. Attach a single handle to each side of the pulley.

3. Lie on the bench and hold the handles with your palms facing each other.

4. Bring the handles together above your chest, then slowly extend them out to the sides. Keep elbows slightly bent, but static throughout the movement.

5. Return to the starting position and repeat for 12-15 repetitions, and 1-2 total working sets

4) Cable Pullovers

Watch Video > https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gxOwRCbkcqw

Cable pullovers are a great exercise for targeting the lats, but they also work the pecs to a great degree, helping to expand the size of the ribcage in young men.

This can help give the illusion of a larger chest.

To Perform:

  • Lie down on a bench and adjust the pulleys to be at the low attachment location.
  • Attach a single handle to the attachment and grasp with both hands.
  • With a starting position of arms extended overhead (horizontally on the bench), and elbows slightly bent, use your lats to initiate the movement, then engage your chest as you approach shoulder level.
  • Squeeze your chest and hold the contracted position when your arms are perpendicular to your torso.
  • Slowly return to the intended position before repeating for 8-10 reps and 2-3 sets.

5) Low to High Cable Flye

Watch Video > https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M1N804yWA-8

The low to high cable flye is an exercise that is performed by holding two handles, one in each hand with your palms facing each other.

The handles are attached to cables that are set to low pulley heights.

To Perform:

  • Start by Adjusting the pulleys on a cable machine so that they are at the level of your knee.
  • Attach a single handle to each side of the pulley.
  • Step forward with one leg and place your feet about shoulder-width apart.
  • Bend your elbows and bring the handles together in front of your chest, keeping your palms facing each other.
  • From here, slowly extend your arms out to the sides, maintaining the elbow bend until your arms are at about shoulder level.
  • Return to the starting position and repeat for 12-15 repetitions, and 2-3 total working sets.

This exercise helps to target the lower and middle regions of the pecs well and acts as a great addon to upper body training.

6) Standing Cable Chest Press

Watch Video > https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H1xkzPbvqDU

Performing a standing variation of a press is virtually impossible with a barbell or dumbbells, simply because the effect of gravity is too strong, making it impossible to move a weight horizontally while standing.

Cable chest presses face no such limitation, however, since the gravity exerted on the cables themselves is negligible, and the plates are placed to resist gravity as they should be.

To Perform:

  • Set the pulleys on a cable machine to be at about shoulder height, and attach a single handle to each side of the machine.
  • Step forward with one leg and place your feet about shoulder-width apart.
  • Grasp the handles with your palms facing each other and extend your arms out to the sides.
  • From here, slowly press the handles together in front of your chest, almost locking out your elbows in the fully contracted position.
  • Slowly resist the cables and return to the starting position, being sure to get a deep chest stretch in after each repetition.
  • Aim for 15-20 reps with lower resistance, and go for 1-2 working sets towards the end of your workout session.

7) Stability Ball Cable Chest Press

Watch Video > https://www.youtube.com/shorts/CkBM2yObK4Q

This cable chest exercise is a great exercise for developing strength and muscular endurance in the chest, shoulders, and arms.

The stability ball adds an element of instability to the exercise, which forces the muscles to work harder to maintain balance.

Not surprisingly, the amount of resistance you can use for this exercise is lower owing to the recruitment of stabilizers that is necessary.

To perform the exercise

  • First, position the stability ball between the cables of the machine.
  • Next, grasp the handles with your hands and extend your arms out to the sides.
  • Press the handles together in a chest press motion. Be sure to keep your core engaged and your back flat against the ball throughout the exercise.
  • To begin with, do a single set to failure. This will help assess your endurance and how strong your stabilizers are for the subsequent exercise.

You can increase or decrease the resistance to adjust the difficulty of the exercise.

Regardless of your training level, it is very likely that you will have to reduce the weight you use when performing this press.

8) Single Arm Cable Chest Press

Watch Video > https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uVmRqrTcHyc

Unilateral movements might seem like a long way to do an exercise, but trust me when I say that virtually everyone has one side of the body that is physically superior to the other.

The single-arm cable press can help to alleviate differences in strength, recovery, and also hypertrophy in an attempt to restore balance.

To Perform

  • Set the pulleys on a cable machine to be at about shoulder height, and attach a single handle to one side of the machine.
  • Step forward with one leg and place your feet about shoulder-width apart.
  • Grasp the handle with your palm facing away from you and extend your arm out to the side.
  • From here, slowly press the handle in front of your chest, almost locking out your elbow in the fully contracted position.
  • With a slow, controlled movement, resist the cable and return to the initial position, getting a significant chest stretch after each repetition.
  • 8-12 reps and 2-3 working sets are advised.

9) Cable Iron Cross

Watch Video > https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V1IYJGYj0YM

While this exercise is still technically a cable crossover, it should more appropriately be called a low pec flye.

Using the same high cable attachment, instead of going wide in an arc, you go low- your hands meeting below your waist in the bottom, fully contracted location.

To Perform

  • Set the pulleys on a cable machine to be at about shoulder height or higher, and attach a single handle to each side of the machine.
  • Feet should be no more than hip-width apart (narrow stance) with knees slightly bent.
  • Grasp the handles with your palms facing each other and extend your arms out to the sides.
  • Slowly press the handles together in front of your waist, almost locking out your elbows in the fully contracted position.
  • With a slow, controlled movement, resist the cable and return to the starting position, getting a deep chest stretch after each repetition.
  • 8-12 reps for 2-3 sets is a good target to aim for.

10) Incline Cable Press

Watch Video > https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qctZmqNhkfU

The cable incline bench press helps to stimulate the pectorals from a different angle, and also recruits the front deltoids to a greater extent than a traditional bench press.

It works as a substitute for the incline dumbbell bench press.

This can be beneficial for developing well-rounded middle and upper chest development and avoiding muscular imbalances (although people are generally more developed in this region than the lower/inner chest).

To Perform:

  • Set an adjustable bench at a 30-45 degree incline and place it in the middle of a cable crossover machine.
  • After selecting your desired weight, attach a single handle to each side of the machine.
  • Lay on the bench with your feet firmly planted on the floor.
  • Grasp the handles with your palms facing away from you and extend your arms out to the sides.
  • From here, slowly press the handles in front of your chest, almost locking out your elbows in the fully contracted position.
  • With a slow, controlled movement, resist the cable and return to the starting position.
  • For beginners, 2-3 sets of 8-12 reps are recommended. More experienced lifters can do 4-5 sets in the same rep range.

11) Push Up To Flye

Watch Video > https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6iam4u23zuM

Tired of the basic push-up? If you really want to make the pushup a beast, try combining it with a cable flye.

Working with gravity as you work against gravity is both ironic and challenging to make this a push-up variation you won’t soon forget.

To Perform:

  • Position two cable machines side by side, at the same height and weight.
  • Attach a single handle to each machine of a high attachment
  • Move into a kneeling position, and subsequently a push-up position with the D-handle attachment in hands.
  • As you lower yourself down into the push-up, keep your core engaged and squeeze your shoulder blades together.
  • At the bottom of the pushup, press through your palms and extend your arms out to the side, bringing the handles together in front of your chest.
  • From here, slowly return to the starting position and repeat for reps.
  • 3-4 sets of 10-12 reps is a good place to start.

12) Cable Decline Cable Press

Watch Video > https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mZWhDtuTtOw

The cable decline chest press is a modification of the traditional decline bench press that allows you to better target the lower chest.

This exercise also recruits the front deltoids to a lesser degree than a standard decline bench press.

To Perform:

  • Set an adjustable bench at a 45-60 degree decline and place it in the middle of a cable crossover machine.
  • After selecting your desired weight, attach a single handle to each side of the machine.
  • Grasp the handles with your palms facing each other and extend your arms out to the sides.
  • From here, slowly press the handles up and in front of your chest, almost locking out your elbows in the fully contracted position.
  • With a slow, controlled movement, resist the cable and return to the starting position.
  • For beginners, 2-3 sets of 8-12 reps are recommended. More experienced lifters can do 4-5 sets in the same rep range.

The decline cable press is perfect for anyone with issues of the shoulder joints, and generally allows for greater usage of weight thanks to the decreased range of motion required by it.

13) Seated Cable Press

Watch Video > https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tAILewhtCb0

The seated cable press is a modification of the traditional bench press that allows you to better target the middle pectoral muscles.

This exercise also recruits the front deltoids to a lesser degree than a standard bench press.

Best of all, as the name implies, you don’t need to lay on a bench to do it, as it is performed from a seated position.

To Perform:

  • Set an adjustable bench upright and place it in the middle of a cable crossover machine.
  • After selecting your desired weight, attach a single handle to each side of the machine.
  • Sit on the bench with your feet firmly planted on the floor and grasp the handles with your palms facing down.
  • From here, slowly press the handles out and away from your chest, almost locking out your elbows in the fully contracted position.
  • With a slow, controlled movement, resist the cable and return to the starting position.
  • For beginners, 2-3 sets of 8-12 reps is a good starting point. This can be increased depending on the overall training volume.

Final Words

The pectoral region is a fairly large area that requires a decent amount of volume to sufficiently stimulate it.

We advise you to shoot for a minimum of 10 working sets, but not exceeding 15. If you are really pushing yourself on these exercises, 12-15 sets should be more than enough to stimulate some growth.

As always, perform each set with perfect form and focus on the mind-muscle connection.

These are key principles that will help you get the most out of your cable chest workout routine!