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What Is a Cable Machine?

Dan Cavallari
Dan Cavallari

A cable machine is a type of weight training apparatus commonly seen in gyms and fitness centers, though they are available for purchase and use in the home. They tend to be quite large, however, so they are not always the best choice for home use. The machine uses one or more cables that run through adjustable pulleys to allow for a wide variety of exercises. A cable machine uses a large metal frame in which stacks of weight plates are placed, and the end of the cable is affixed to a metal rod that runs through the center of all the plates.

The rod is slotted so a pin can be slipped through the weights and the rod, thereby allowing the user to adjust the amount of weight being used in the exercise. The cable machine frame keeps the weights steady, thereby eliminating the possibility that the user can lose control of the weights. By adjusting the height of the pulleys, a person can do any number of different exercises that work different parts of the body, including both upper body and lower body workouts. Weight stacks are usually placed on two sides of the machine to allow more than one user to use the cable machine at one time.

Man with hands on his hips
Man with hands on his hips

The large rectangular frame features a crosspiece on which a chin-up bar can be mounted as well for even more variety in exercises. The user can even stand in the center of the machine, with weight stacks on either side, and do exercises utilizing pulleys from both sides of the machine. Adding a weight bench to the center of the apparatus opens up even more possibilities for exercises and full body workouts.

The versatility of the cable machine relies partly on the attachments available for the end of the cables. A simple straight bar can be used for biceps curls, and a one-hand handle can be used for biceps curls with one arm rather than two. A rope attachment can be used for triceps workouts as well as shoulder and back workouts. Leg strap attachments can be used to work the thighs, hamstrings, calves, groin, and other leg and core muscles.

Since a cable machine is so large and built with heavy-duty materials, the units can be quite expensive, and they will take up a significant amount of room. Purchasing one for the home should be done carefully, and measurements will need to be taken beforehand to ensure the unit will fit in a given space.

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