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The Cable Crossover Machine

The cable crossover exercise has been around for many years. As a matter of fact I can remember when I was in my teens, I was always impressed with shots of Mr. America, and Mr. Universe in a bent over teeth clenching, pec popping shot holding on to two cables. Some of these men and shots were quite impressive and I am sure would impact many a reader as a result of their obvious results and stature in the body building world. The problem with those old shots and descriptions was that they would promote bad posture and ineffective use of the pecs.

The cable crossover machine in the new millennium has also changed quite a bit since those older stationary models of the 1980’s and early 90’s. Today’s machines are built with adjustable pulley’s that allow for a more direct and specific muscle target during the exercise, and additionally these new machines can accommodate people of all sizes as a result of their adjustability. Some of leaders in the fitness industry who have re-designed these machines include LifeFitness and Free Motion. They both manufacture some of the best cable machines around.

Cable Crossover The Exercise

To perform the cable crossover, begin by grasping one cable, and then carefully walking across the machine to grasp the opposite cable. You should set your self in the middle of the machine, and ensure that the cables are now meeting at the midline of your body, or with your hands together.

The emphasis on your pectorals will be determined by your upper body as a result of the joint angle at your hips. To effectively isolate your pectorals (pec minor and upper fibers of pec major) you must set your upper body at an angle of approximately 70-90 degrees with the ground. Your lumbar curve in the lower back should be in a neutral position, Do not perform this exercise unless you can hold this position. This will result in your back being in a horizontal and or slightly raised in relation to the ground. To ensure your core is set and ready to stabilize your upper body, slightly draw in your belly button, and contract your abdominals. This move will protect your spine and provide a solid foundation for you to begin the cable crossover.

Your hands should still be in front of you, with a slight bend in your elbows to alleviate any unnecessary stress. Begin by allowing your arms to move out and lower the weight. Only lower the weight to a point where your upper arm is horizontal to the ground. In many bodybuilding magazines you will see illustrations of people allowing their arms to move back as far as possible, placing greater stretch on the pectorals. The problem with moving so far back is that it provides undue stress on the anterior capsule of the shoulder, which could result in chronic pain, and instability in the shoulder area. My suggestion of only moving back until the arms are horizontal with the ground provides a safe foundation for training the pecs. Once you have reached this point, return to the starting position with your hands meeting at the midline of the body.

You can increase the intensity of this exercise by changing the tempo or speed of movement. When initially using this exercise in your program try to move in a slow and controlled manner. Lifting the weight in 2 seconds, holding it for 2 seconds, and lowering the weight in 4 seconds. After a few weeks, try changing the tempo to a slightly faster pace. This will provide continual stimulation and growth for your pectoral muscle; remember variety is the foundation of success in weight training.

Why Use Cables

So why should you use cables and is there any advantage to them as compared to a free weight movement? Well the most similar free weight movement would be the dumbbell chest fly. Although this is an excellent movement for training the pecs, there is a definite advantage to using the cable crossover with regard to muscle activation through an effective range of motion. Specifically when performing the dumbbell fly, when you reach the middle position, there is very little resistance directed to the pectorals, effectively there is none. On the other hand when using the cable crossover, there is constant resistance at the point where you bring your hands together, providing effective resistance to the pecs. So what would you choose effective resistance or ineffective resistance to maximize your training gains?

Lorne Goldenberg BPE, CSCS, PFLC

Lorne graduated from University of Ottawa with an honors degree in Physical Education. He also holds certifications as a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist, and a Professional Fitness and Lifestyle Consultant. He is the owner of Strength Tek Fitness Consulting which provides fitness services to major corporations in the Ottawa, Toronto, Belleville and Calgary. He has also been a strength and conditioning coach to 5 NHL teams and consultants for many NHL stars such as Gary Roberts, and Joe Neuwendyk. He recently opened Ottawa's first exclusive training facility for athletes- The Athletic Conditioning Center

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