Happy Fitness Friday and welcome to my first fitness flashback! I have written a lot of fitness posts in my over two years of blogging. Some of which are too useful to get lost in the thousand other posts I’ve written.
I first wrote this post back in June 2009 after getting numerous questions about how to use the cable machine. It is by far the most useful machine at the gym. But it’s also the most complicated and intimidating one to operate. Consider today a beginner’s class. Intermediate class to come ;)
Cable machines come in all shapes and sizes. But they are essential a pulley system attached to weighted plates and detachable handles.
Most can be adjusted by pulling out a knob on the side and sliding the pulley up or down. There are several different attachments you can clip on.
We’re mostly concerned with the above attachments. Not pictured though is the velcro strap that fits around your ankle. Usually these parts are hanging out somewhere around the machine, or you may have to remove it from another machine to use. Don’t worry, most of the following pictures clearly illustrate which one you’ll need.
Before we get into the exercises, I need to make a very important point.
Don’t let the cable boss you around.
As the weight plates drop on the machine, the cable will pull forward. It is SO important not to let it jerk you with it. Stay strong and balanced. If you’re struggling, lower the weight. Sometimes we can’t go as heavy on cable machines as we can with dumbbells. That’s okay. You’ll see better results when you actually hit the intended muscles ;)
A stiff-legged deadlift to work your glutes and hamstrings. You can also do a regular deadlift where you bend your knees. A straight bar to attach would be needed for this one.
The cable pull through hits mostly your glutes, but you’ll get a little thigh work in there too. Please keep your back straight and supported!
The one leg cable kickback is actually one of the best butt exercises there is. Want a bubble butt? This is one for you.
Cable thigh pull can work either your inner or outer thighs. The motion pictured above will hit your inner thighs. If you turn around and pull the cable away from your body, you’ll hit the outer thighs. Remember to pull the weight with your thigh muscles, don’t just put all the work in your hips.
The cable chest press is one of my favourite ways to change up the boring ole’ chest press. You can do this two arms at a time, or one arm at a time. Remember to push through your chest and not your shoulders. Keep that belly tight!
Standing cable row. I like doing this one best in a squat or lunge position to activate my legs as well. You can do this one arm at a time or with both. If doing both, you can also use the straight bar handle attachment. For the love of Jesus, just remember to pull with your back otherwise the exercise is a waste of time.
Cable face pull. This one targets your upper back and shoulders as well. Make sure to keep your shoulders down and neck soft. Elbows should come straight out to your sides to activate behind the shoulders.
Pictured above is the side lateral raise. This will work mostly the top of your shoulders. It requires very little weight, and if you’re on a machine with two cables, you can set it up so they cross in front of you. You can also turn around and pull your arms out in front of you to do a front shoulder raise.
The cable pushdown is one many people are already familiar with. Pleasepleaseplease do not move your shoulder joints in this exercise. The only joint that should be moving is your elbow, which should also be tucked in by your waist. I’ve made people hold towels between their elbows and waist to ensure they stay tucked there. You’ll be able to feel the difference in your triceps!
Cable overhead extension. The thing to remember for this is to keep your shoulders down, try not to shrug them up with the movement. Hold that tummy in. Again, make sure only your elbows are moving!
The one and only cable curl. Set the cable at the bottom of the machine and curl up! Much like with the triceps, keep those elbows pinched into your side, move only your forearms, and make sure your don’t hunch your shoulders forward. You can do a hammer curl with the rope attachment as pictured above. Or hook up the bar handle, or even do one arm at a time.
Cable woodchop. Above is the diagonal version. But you can also set the cable in the center and twist horizontally for the cable horizontal woodchop. Thing to remember here is to keep your arms straight, and pull through using your abs first.
For some reason I get asked about the cable crunch all the time. Maybe because it looks hardcore. I personally find it’s awkward. In the above picture, the guy is twisting diagonally to hit his obliques, but you can also just go up and down for a normal crunch. Again, keep the work in your abs here, and try not to curve your spine too much.
All the demonstrative pictures are hyperlinked, so click away to get more info on the exercise behind the photo.
These are just a very select few exercises hitting the main muscle groups in your body. But there are SO many exercises you can do on the cable machine, I think a second post will be needed in the future :)
Mooooaaaan. That’s the noise I’ve been making all “Moanday” :P For the third week in a row, I had high hopes of making it to a Monday morning spin class. And for the third week in a row, I failed to go! I’m not very good about going to bed early Sunday nights, so the idea lost all appeal by the time I set my alarm last night. Oh well, the sleep and nice breakfast was well worth it!
I went through a period where I was buying a lot of stuff at the Bulk Barn. I thought it was awesome because I could scoop out just as much as I wanted and the price was right. But the more I did it, the more I realized the product quality sucked. Everything was stale, and the oats were a “bad cut” (you oatmeal snobs know what I’m talking about). I finally finished up my bag of bad bulk oat bran last week and went back to my Golden Box.
It’s like reuniting with an old lover. I made 1/2 cup custard style with a whole egg whisked in.
Topped with Bekah’s Coconut Chia Granola, cashew butter and molasses. Heaven.
Also bought yesterday was a $3 lunchbag! I’m quite proud of it. The top separates from the bottom, so I don’t have to lug the whole thing to lunch with me if I don’t need to.
Hiding in that bag was…
Yogurt mixed with vanilla protein powder and granola.
Homemade protein bar. I used just chocolate protein powder on this batch and it actually made it taste more bland! Next week I will spice it up a bit ;)
Had a good day at work today, despite being in a daze for most of it. Have to work tonight too, filming a lecture for the website. So dinner was quick! Good thing I had leftovers ;)
Bean and vegetable chili. Chili leftovers rock my socks. So does turkey. I don’t know how I was a vegetarian for so long when I’m clearly a heartless carnivore :P
I figured it’s pretty much safe to assume that everyone’s gym is crowded these days. I thought it would be fun to compile a list of some helpful tips to beat (or tolerate) the crowds.
1. Stay away during peak times. This is the most obvious one. Everyone goes to the gym at 5pm. If there’s a way you can sneak it in elsewhere – do it! Friday nights and weekend afternoons are some of my favourite times to workout because it’s always abandoned there.
2. Try new machines. Good luck getting a treadmill or elliptical this time of year. Instead of throwing a hissy fit, try something new! Churn out some sprints on the stationary bike, work your arms on the rowing machine, or even (yes) climb onto the dreaded stairmaster. It’s your chance to step out of your comfort zone.
3. Hit up the weight room. New years resolution-ers tend to stick to the cardio equipment. Gym newbies are a little more apprehensive of free weights, so you’ll likely be in there with all the usual suspects. Perfect excuse to incorporate more strength training into your routine ;)
4. Take turns. Forget what I just said – sometimes the weight area is packed! I’ve gotten into the habit of asking people who are obviously doing alternating sets if they mind I use their machine or weights while they’re on their other set. Just because weight lifters are big and scary looking, doesn’t mean they’re not polite and sensible too :)
5. Be a hog. Okay, forget that polite thing I just mentioned too :P If I see a window to grab popular machines or weights, I grab them and hog them for all their worth. I was once the most hated person in the gym by hogging the 10, 20, and 25 lb dumbbells for 30 minutes.
6. Get there early. Exercise classes fill up fast in the New Year! I know getting there is sometimes hard enough, but make the extra effort to get there 10-15 minutes earlier. You can take the extra time to do a slower warm-up, which will boost your performance while you’re at it.
7. Be flexible. Don’t ditch your workout just because you can’t get your favourite treadmill, second last from the water fountain. And do not kick someone off your favourite spin bike! (yes, I’ve heard of both of these things happening before) Now is a perfect time to practice going with the flow.
8. Keep your cool. Don’t let the newbie incorrectly hogging the squat rack ruin your workout. There are worse things in life than having to sub out a set, or opt for a different machine. Remember, we go to the gym to relieve stress, not instigate it!
Question of the Day: How do you deal with busy gyms?