The Cable Push-Pull Exercise: Technique and Benefits

The Cable Push-Pull Provides a Great Workout for the Arms and Shoulders

The cable push-pull is an exercise that targets and works several different areas of the body. The popular exercise utilizes two cables set on a frame. The frame is typically between waist and shoulder height.

The actual exercise movement involves a horizontal push and a simultaneous horizontal pull. It is a little like a boxing one-two punching action. If properly performed, with some shoulder rotation and tightening of the abs, the cable push-pull can be a great core development exercise.

The pushing movement works to exercise the chest, the triceps, the quads, and the deltoids, while the pushing movement works out the back, the biceps, the rear deltoids, the​ trapezius and the forearms. Even the hamstrings get in on the workout, as they are utilized to maintain stability throughout the exercise.

Find out more about information about weight training terminology and exercise descriptions if you need additional background information before you try the cable push-pull exercise. 

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The Cable Push-Pull Exercise Movement

Boxer practicing with weights in gym. Judith Haeusler/ GettyImages
  1. Adjust a suitable cable rack so that you can comfortably grasp a cable handle in each hand; one from each end of the rack. You will face in the direction of the cable pulls. The cable grips should be positioned a little higher than waist high.
  2. Stand with one leg forward so that you have a balanced and stable position.
  3. Pull one cable as you push with the other in a motion somewhat resembling a one-two punching movement.
  4. Brace the abdominals and breathe regularly—out on exertion and in on recovery.
  5. The shoulders should rotate slightly and the knees should be slightly bent for balance.

A variation of this exercise involves using a dual cable cross machine, and adjusting the cable in front of you into a lower position, and adjusting the cable behind you into a higher position. This causes the exercise to be performed at an oblique angle instead of the horizontal angle. 

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Important Cable Push-Pull Notes

  • There are a couple different ways in which the cable push-pull exercise can be utilized. You can do this exercise more or less as an upper body aerobic exercise using light weights and with few breaks, or you can use heavier weights for strength training, pausing slightly at the end of each push-pull movement or after 10 repetitions, for example.
  • After one or two sets you should reverse the leg stance and arm combination by reversing your direction, facing the opposite cable pull from the one you began with and placing the alternate leg forward for stability. This will provide a nice balance of anatomical emphasis.
  • If you do not have access to a gym cable setup, you can organize similar equipment functionality with resistance bands and some solid furniture—but make sure the attachment points are solid.

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