Cable Crossover Exercise


Cable Crossover Exercise

Cable crossover exercise is great for working the center (inner portion) of the chest. There is some front deltoid involvement as well. The main advantage of the cable over dumbbells or a machine is that you can bring your arms either toward your abdomen or toward your head (or anywhere else between these two points) to change the angle at which the pectoralis muscles work. In fact, the chest area should be worked at a variety of angles.

In this chest and shoulder exercise, your body is not supported by a bench, so the stabilizing muscles of your core and legs have to work to keep you in position. Using the cable machine also works your muscles over a large range of motion. This is one of the few exercises for the pectoral group, along with flyes, that does not make significant demands on the triceps (which operate only to fix the position) but does work the biceps, which can be compromised if technique is poor, the weight used is excessive, or you allow your elbow to straighten out too much as you open your arms.

How to Perform Cable Crossover – Proper Technique

STARTING POSITION: Attach D-handles to the upper pulleys (highest position) on a cable machine. Stand between the two pulleys with your legs semi-flexed (preferably with one leg set a little farther forward) and your trunk leaning slightly forward at the waist (approximately 15° to 45º) to fix your abdominal muscles. Grasp the handles with your palms facing each other and bend your elbows slightly. Let your arms travel back in a wide arc so that they are just behind the line of your torso. This is the start position.

Cable Crossover

Cable Crossover

ACTION: In a simultaneous downward/inward motion (in a wide arc), bring the handles to a point in the front of your midsection (in front of your waist), keeping your arms (elbows) slightly bent. Pause a moment and squeeze out a peak contraction before slowly allowing the handles to return to the start position, resisting the weight as you do so. A low trajectory, in which the handles meet in front of your hip or waist, targets the lower fibers of the pectoral muscle. Crossing over your hands at the bottom increases the range of motion and targets the inner, central portion of the pectorals. So it is very advisable to cross your hands over one another so that your wrists touch in order to get a much stronger contraction and to promote development in the center of your chest.

Muscles Involved

Cable crossover works a huge number of muscle groups, including the pectoralis major and minor (chest) muscles, serratus anterior (upper and outer rib cage), deltoids (shoulders), and coracobrachialis (inner upper arm).

  • MAIN MUSCLES: lower pectoralis major, deltoids (anterior)
  • SECONDARY MUSCLES: pectoralis minor, coracobrachialis, serratus anterior, subscapularis, biceps
  • ANTAGONISTS: latissimus dorsi, deltoids (posterior), triceps

Tips & Tricks

  • Choose a weight that is not so heavy as to pull your body back from its braced position.
  • Do not use the momentum of your body to complete the movement because you will almost certainly lose balance and risk injury.
  • A moderate load is better due to the strain on the elbows and shoulders.
  • With the standing cable crossover, you need to tilt your entire body—from your feet to your head— slightly forward (about 25 degrees in relation to the floor). This allows you to keep your balance as you raise and lower the cables from the high pulleys.
  • A low trajectory, in which the handles meet in front of your hip or waist, targets the lower fibers of the pectoral muscle. A high trajectory, in which the handles meet at chest level, targets the midsection of the pecs.
  • Make sure that your arms move at the same speed and that your elbows stay in the same slightly bent position throughout the movement.
  • Focus on using your chest muscles to perform the movement – do not curl your shoulders forwards as you bring the handles together.
  • Never straighten your arms completely during the exercise because doing so places too much unwanted stress on the biceps tendons.

Common Mistakes

  • Doing a press-style exercise rather than flyes (due to excessive weight or poor technique);
  • Shifting the trunk to help the movement;
  • Too little weight;

Cable Crossover Variations

You can perform the cable crossover exercise at varying heights by setting the pulley to a low position or to waist height. These different start position allow you to work your chest muscles from slightly different angles.

You can also cross over your hands at the bottom to increase the range of motion and target the inner, central portion of the pectorals.

Cable Crossover Variation: cross over your hands at the bottom

Cable Crossover Variation: cross over your hands at the bottom to get a much stronger contraction


Closing Thoughts

When it comes to stimulating the chest, we’re dealing with pressing and flying movements. Cable crossovers belong into flying movement. A flye movement is when the arms are bent and are drawn across the front of the upper body in a hugging motion.

The cable crossover is perhaps the most flamboyant of chest exercises. This is a great isolation exercise for the middle and lower portions of the chest muscle. The maneuver should resemble a bear hug. To perform this very effective lower chest exercise you’ll need the cable-crossover station and two D-shaped handles.


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