8 Best Cable Exercises For Chest (Workout Included)

Is your chest small and weak? Does it disappear when you put on a medium T-shirt?

Our cable chest exercises and workout are here to help you build bigger pecs with constant tension.

We’re going to teach you how to:

  1. Build a bigger chest with cable machines
  2. Get the most from each cable exercise
  3. Progress and vary exercises to progress consistently

Let’s start with a quick primer on why you should use cable exercises for your chest

Why Should You Use Cable Exercises For Chest Growth?

You should use cables to build your chest because they’re easy to use and load, and you can go heavy with minimal risk. They’re perfect for heavy weight or high reps to failure.

The constant tension they provide is perfect for building strength in full stretch without the instability of dumbbells.

The Best Cable Chest Exercises

1. Cable Crossover/ Cable Chest Fly

The cable chest fly – or cable crossover – is the best cable chest exercise for most people. 

It perfectly targets the movement the chest performs but doesn’t fatigue other muscles. You can use cable flys to build muscle and strength while keeping your shoulders healthy.

Cable crossover is just the cable fly with slightly longer end position, crossing your hands over. This is an exaggerated squeeze, which bodybuilders use to build mind-muscle connection.

How to perform the cable fly or crossover

  1. Take a cable machine handle in either hand, with the anchors just above shoulder height
  2. Step forward until you feel tension on the handles – either stand or sit as comfortable
  3. Find the start position by raising your arms to the side and backward until you feel a mild stretch in your chest.
  4. Start bringing the handles together, keeping the arms stiff, and focusing on bringing the hands together.
  5. Bring your hands together or past each other (crossover variation) and squeeze your chest actively to hold for a moment.
  6. Slowly reverse the movement as far back as you’re comfortable until you reach the starting position (3) 

How to train the cable fly or crossover

Train the cable fly patiently – it’s a muscle-building exercise, not a max-strength exercise. 

Focus on building better control over your chest muscles, slow loading, and smooth movement.

Use the cable fly as a light primer to increase chest activation. This lets you use more chest in other exercises, like bench press or cable chest press.

The cuff attachment cable fly can reduce shoulder and elbow loading while boosting chest activation.

2. Cable Chest Press

The cable chest press is perfect for loading end-range stretch with heavy weights. It lets you overload the pecs, delts, and triceps at once.

This is the best heavy cable chest exercise. It’s a perfect centerpiece for your cable chest workout or mixed in with free weights.

How to perform the cable chest press

  1. Take a cable machine handle in either hand, with the anchors just above shoulder height.
  2. Step forward until you feel tension on the handles – stand or sit as comfortably.
  3. Bend at the elbow, and bring them up and behind yourself at a roughly 45-degree angle to your body – until you can feel a stretch in the chest
  4. Keeping your wrist and elbow directly aligned, press the handles forward and together 
  5. Once the handles are together, directly in front of your sternum on locked arms, hold briefly and actively squeeze your chest.
  6. Slowly return to the start position (3) to finish the rep

How to train the cable chest press

The cable chest press can be loaded heavily because of the number of muscles it uses. So do it: load your chest press heavily, progress it linearly, and build mass.

As long as you’re moving with good form, you can get bigger and stronger easily.

You can perform the seated cable chest press for better stability. Just make sure you focus on a good range of motion.

This should be the center of most of your cable chest workouts. You can also perform a single-arm cable chest press, bringing your arm further across your body for a better squeeze.

3. Cable Pullover

The cable pullover is one of the best cable chest exercises nobody trains. It’s a perfect chest and lat exercise for full-range movement, emphasizing the lower pec.

Cable pullover variations can use the perfect angle for chest activation and reduce shoulder stress. This makes them one of the best ways to train the chest while building mobility.

The pullover should be in every cable chest workout, as it’s the perfect mid-point between heavy cable chest press and lighter flys. If you’ve not tried it, add it to your next workout.

How to perform the cable pullover

  1. Set up with a single straight bar on the cable machine at a low angle
  2. Rest on a bench with your back flat, with the straight bar in hand, and your arms overhead
  3. Keeping your arms stiff, bring the straight bar down, just below the sternum 
  4. In the end position, squeeze the chest to keep the bar low.
  5. Slowly return to the starting position (2) to finish the rep.

How to train the cable pullover

The pullover is more heavily weighted than the fly but less than the chest press. This makes it versatile – it fits into any chest workout.

Progress the cable pullover slowly, focusing on building more reps and sets. Lower the reps and add weight when you can comfortably perform 12-15 reps.

4. Cable Pinch Press 

This is a cable version of the plate pinch press: a perfect way to build your chest. It mixes a constant chest squeeze with pressing, and you can use good weights. 

This lets you combine the best effects of the fly and chest press at the same time. It’s one of the best cable chest exercises that nobody uses.

It’s not even on the other lists of best cable chest exercises! That’s right – an Oxygen Fitness exclusive! 

How to perform the Cable Pinch Press

  1. Place a bench between two cable stacks.
  2. Take a cable handle in each hand, laying down as you would in a normal bench press.
  3. Bring the two handles together, keeping your hands in contact, touching your sternum.
  4. Press the weight like a chest press, making sure you don’t let the handles move apart
  5. Lock your arms at the top, holding as long as is comfortable, and then reverse this until you reach the starting position (3)

How to train the Cable Pinch Press

This exercise is on our list because it fits any workout in any role. It works well at maximum effort, mid-weight as a staple, or light as a superset or finisher.

It can do anything you want, and it does it well. A great option to have in your chest-building toolkit. 

5. Cable Underarm Raise

The underarm chest raise is a great way to build the chest and delts together. The end position emphasizes the chest, letting you get an intense squeeze and load the chest isometrically.

This is also one of the best mid-level exercises for pushing to failure. The bottom position isn’t under a deep stretch or heavily loaded, and it’s easy to bail out.

That means you can blast the underarm chest raise as a finisher exercise – and get a ridiculous chest pump.

How to perform the Underarm Raise

  1. Take a pair of cable machine handles in an underhand grip with the anchors set low.
  2. Step forward with your hands at your sides until you feel tension on the cable machine.
  3. Keeping your torso straight and shoulders back, bring the handles up and across your body.
  4. Raise the handles until they’re at or above your sternum, and close together.
  5. Hold this position, squeezing the pecs, for 1-2 seconds before lowering under control.
  6. Return to the starting position (2) to finish the rep. 

How to train the Underarm Raise

The chest raise is easy to load heavily because the bottom position is very safe. If it’s too much, you simply step back.

This means you should use the chest raise as heavy as you can comfortably move and pause. This makes it the perfect choice for high-rep sets to failure for a chest pump. 

This also makes drop sets and pyramid sets very effective. More reps is better, and you can vary weight and reps easily with this exercise.

6. Single-arm Cable Crossover

The single-arm cable crossover is a great way to exaggerate the stretch of the chest muscles. With only one arm moving, you will naturally focus on the movement more closely.

This is an easy way to warm up your chest, build single-arm strength, or finish your workout with lighter weights.

Because of the single-arm focus, you can move your arm further and exaggerate the end position. Perfect for isolating your chest after a ‘push’ workout.

How to perform the single-arm cable crossover

  1. Take a cable machine handle in one hand, with the anchors just above shoulder height.
  2. Step forward until you feel tension on the handle – either stand or sit, as comfortable
  3. Find the start position by raising your arms to the side and backward until you feel a mild stretch in your chest.
  4. Keep your hips square and bring the handle down and across your body.
  5. When the handle is past your sternum, both down and across, hold the position for 1-2 seconds while actively squeezing the pec muscle.
  6. Slowly reverse the movement as far back as you’re comfortable until you reach the starting position (3) 

How to train the single-arm cable crossover

The same advice from the two-arm cable crossover applies here:

  • Focus on patiently adding reps and sets.
  • Build more control in the 12-15 rep range before adding weight.
  • Make sure you’re performing a full range of motion.

The only difference is that cuffs are less useful with single-arm cable flys since you want the long lever for a better squeeze. 

7. Cable Iron Cross 

The Cable Iron Cross is a powerful stretch and squeeze option for maximum chest range. It recruits the lower chest in particular, but the long-range makes it perfect for the whole chest.

The focus on two separate handles in a downward press is perfect for complete chest function. The added stretch in the top position makes this exercise even more effective than a normal decline fly (for example).

This is a perfect addition to the end of a workout, where it offers a long-range finisher. The time under tension and focus on end ranges make it incredibly effective.

How to perform the cable iron cross

  1. Take a cable machine handle in either hand, with the anchors at a high angle
  2. Step forward until you feel tension on the handles – standing tall with a slight bend forward at the hip
  3. Find the start position by setting the shoulders back and pressing the handles down by your sides
  4. Keep your arms straight, and let them rise with the cable tension until you reach a T shape
  5. Begin the movement by squeezing the arms and hands down in front of you as far as possible
  6. When your hands touch, flex your chest and hold them together for 1-2 seconds to get maximum pec recruitment
  7. Slowly reverse the movement until you return to the starting position (4)

How to train the Cable Iron Cross

You need to treat the Iron Cross like a Cable Fly: progress it slowly and always practice the full range of motion. The end ranges need patient growth, or you could pull a muscle – or worse.

Load up slowly and bend your arms slightly if you feel the straight arm is too difficult. You can always add weight or straighten the arm as you get stronger, so don’t rush it.

The first thing you should do to progress this exercise is simply slow down. Slower reps will improve pec recruitment, keep you safe, and increase the difficulty all at the same time.

8. Pallof Press

The Pallof Press is a core and chest exercise that you’ll see countless athletes performing. It uses the chest isometrically while also building up your rotational core strength.

This is an excellent exercise for superset later in your workout. It’s one of the best ways to work your chest isometrically while also getting through boring core work.

As with most cable chest exercises, you can adjust the angle to hit your upper or lower chest. Keep in mind this also changes the challenge on your core.

FURTHER READING: Top 7 Effective Lower Chest Cable Exercises

How to perform the Pallof press

  1. Take a single handle and step away from the cable machine, taking a 90-degree rotation. 
  2. Press the cable out as far as possible, keeping tension in your chest.
  3. Keep your core tight and hips square, with your arms as far away as possible
  4. Slowly reverse the pressing motion, bringing it back to your chest to complete the rep

How to train the Pallof Press

This isn’t a huge exercise, but a perfect way to add isometric chest exercise and core work into your session – perfect for a superset.

This exercise should progress very slowly. If you want to make it harder, focus on more time with extended arms. The longer lever is harder on the chest and core alike.

Sample Cable Chest Workout

There’s an order to a good chest workout that you can use if you’re ever unsure about what to do:

  1. Stretching exercises to prime the chest muscles
  2. Slow contraction exercises to build the mind-muscle connection
  3. Heavy exercises to build strength and mass
  4. Medium-weight exercises to target weakness or push more volume
  5. Lighter finisher exercises or supersets to round up your workout

Here’s an example cable workout for chest that you can use to sculpt your chest and fill out your shirts:

  • Cable flys – 2 sets of 8 reps (slow and controlled)
  • Single-arm crossover – 3 sets of 10 reps (each side)
  • Cable chest press – 1 set of 8 near failure and 2-3 sets of 8 at 85-90% load
  • Cable pullover – 2 sets of 12 (slow at each ‘end range’)
  • 3 supersets: 10 iron cross flys + 8 diagonal raises (each side) 

Tips And Tricks To Build A Better Chest

The best way to get more from your chest exercise is to focus on the following 6 key tips:

  1. Stretching the chest to full length under load
  2. Emphasizing greater elbow travel
  3. Putting more time into the ‘squeeze’
  4. Using appropriate exercises for your strength level
  5. Work different ranges of motion
  6. Work different angles to boost your chest size and shape

These help you build muscle mass and strength in your chest, making the most of each workout. 

Cable Chest Exercises FAQ

What cable exercises work chest?

The cable fly, cable chest press, and cable pullover are the main exercises that work the chest muscles.

These are 3 of the most popular and effective exercises. Other options include single-arm variations, incline and decline versions, and adaptations for personal needs (like the Pallof press).

Are cables good for building chest muscle?

Yes – cables are great for building chest muscles. You can perform many of the best exercises for the chest on a cable machine and even emulate favorites like the bench press.

Cable machines also provide constant tension, making them easier to push weights safely. You can even adjust the angles of the cable pulley anchors to find the best position for your goals and comfort.

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Chris Thompson
Hi, I'm Chris. I'm a personal trainer, writer & co-founder of OxygenFitnessCT. I've been writing hundreds of articles on strength training & muscle building for several fitness websites & apps since 2017. Our goal with OxygenFitnessCT is to help you pick the most effective, suitable exercises to improve your workout & achieve your fitness goals.

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