Cable Squats Vs. Free Weights: 7 Cables Exercises

We are outlining seven bodybuilding exercises that are slightly more effective. When you perform them using Cable Machine Squats rather than free weights.

Yes, basic barbells and dumbbells should form the underlying foundation of your overall training plan. But they do have certain drawbacks, depending on the specific lift that you’re performing.

How To Perform Cable Machine Squats

This is going to apply specifically to any exercise. where the weight is lift in a circular movement rather than in a straight line. Free weights rely only on the straight line force of gravity for each exercise.

And because of that, circular movements will always end up giving you an inconsistent resistance curve. where there’s either going to be a very high degree of tension in the bottom half of the range of motion.

But very little in the top half or a high degree of tension in the top half with very little in the bottom half.

Now, obviously if you want to maximize the stress on any given muscle. then the goal should be to place that muscle under consistent tension throughout the entire range of motion from top to bottom.

And so, this is a situation where cables allow you to do something that can’t be replicated using free weights. Because they let you place the resistance in. basically, the property line to get that consistent tension that you’re after.

Now, don’t get me wrong here, the basic free weight variations of all of the exercises that I’m about to cover are still highly effective. And I’m not saying that you have to eliminate them from your plan or that you must use cables in order to get great results.

Treating the issue of cables versus free weights as being one or the other really isn’t necessary. And you can just use a mixture of both if you prefer.

7 Cable Machine Squats Exercises

However, if you do have access to Cable Machine Squats and you want. To fully optimize your results, here are seven exercises that. I would recommend including in your routine using the cable variations.

Chest Flys


The downside of traditional dumbbell flys is that they only place. the pecs under a high degree of tension in the bottom half of the range of motion. But as you come up passed halfway and into the top position. The tension gets lost because gravity is pulling the resistance straight up and down.

The primary function as I’ve talked about many times of the pecs is to bring your upper arm across the front of your body. Flys are going to be best done when the resistance is pulling your arms out to the side. So that the chest is actively working through that function at all times.

And so, for that reason, your best bet here is going to be a cable fly. Either performed lying on a bench in between a Cable Machine Squats stand or done from a standing position. And using an inclined angle to target the upper chest. And a flat or declined angle to target the middle and lower chest.

Squat (exercise)

Cable Machine Squats Side Lateral Raises

So, the most common variation for this one is the standard dumbbell side lateral raise, either done from a standing or a seated position. Now, this still do allow you to effectively train the lateral head of your shoulder.

But the disadvantage of using dumbbells is the lack of tension that you get in the bottom half of the range of motion.

When you’re in a starting position and you’re just holding the dumbbells at your sides, there is almost no stress at all on the lateral head of your shoulder. And it’s only when you come up past halfway that the shoulder muscles really kick in to gear.

So just like with chest flys, the only way to solve that is by having the resistance pulling your arm from the side rather than using the straight line force of gravity.

And so, to do this, you’ll want to go with a cable side lateral, ideally performed one arm at a time. And you should really feel the difference with this variation, because the lateral head of your shoulder is going to be under constant tension from the bottom position all the way up to the very top.

Rear Lateral Raises

These are performed using the same basic movement as the side lateral raise. except that your body will be in a bent-over position. And you’ll be targeting the posterior head of your shoulder which is the rear as opposed to the lateral head which is located in the middle.

And the same basic logic applies to this exercise as well. If you do your rear lateral raises using dumbbells like most people do. then the posterior head of your shoulder is really only getting activated. in the top half of the movement with very little to no tension in the bottom half.

So once again, you can increase the effectiveness of this particular movement by going with a bent-over rear lateral cable raise. And performing it one arm at a time or you can also do it in a standing position in between a cable stand, and using a reverse fly motion.


Cable Machine Squats Straight-Bar Bicep Curls

Now, barbell curls have always been considered as the sort of bread and butter of bicep training. And yes, they are an effective exercise.

As I covered a few weeks back, because barbell curls are done in a circular motion. you end up losing tension in the bottom half of the range of motion with very little tension. on the biceps in the very bottom position when your arms are fully extended.

So, a better variation, again, as I covered recently is the single arm cable curl where you grab a single cable pulley attachment. Stand facing away from the weight stack. And then perform your cable curl from that position.

This way the weight will be pulling your arm both downward and back as well. And that’s going to force your biceps to be constantly engaged throughout the entire range of motion.

Triceps Extensions

The free weight variations of triceps extensions give you the opposite problem that free weight bicep curls do. And that is that your triceps are going to be fully engage in the bottom half of the range of motion. But the tension will gradually decrease as the weight is extended up into the fully extended position.

And this applies to any basic triceps extension movement that you might do. Including skull crushers, overhead extensions and triceps kickbacks. So again, you’ll ideally want to perform your tricep extension exercises using cables.

For overhead extensions you can stand facing away from the Cable Machine Squats. And grab onto a single pulley attachment using no attachments at all. And perform them one arm at a time or another option is to perform them two arms at a time and using a rope attachment.

For skull crushers, just put a bench a couple feet away from a cable stand. Then attach a straight bar, an easy curl bar or a rope to the bottom of the machine. From there, just perform your skull crushers as you normally would.

For kickbacks, place the cable at the very bottom of the machine, grab right on to the pulley without using any attachments at all. Then perform your kickbacks in a bent-over position.

Cable Machine Squats Pullovers for the Lats

The most common way that you’ll see these being done is by laying perpendicular across a flat bench. And then performing the pullover movement using a single dumbbell.

But as I discussed a couple months back. This variation doesn’t give you any significant tension on the lats in the top half of the range of motion. The way to go about performing this one is to go with cable pullovers. Done in a standing position facing the machine.

You take a look at the specific motion being use here. And the direction that the resistance is pulling in. Then you’ll see that you’re lats are going to be place under constant tension from the very bottom position, all the way up to the top.


Weighted Crunches

Performing standard weight crunches on the floor. Or on a decline bench or even on a Swiss Ball. These are all effective ways of training the rectus abdominus or the sixpack muscles as they’re call.

However, to hit your abs as intensely as possible. Cable crunches are going to be your best choice. Because they put your abs under constant tension. And through the largest possible range of motion.

Just attach a rope at the top of the machine. Get down into a kneeling position with your hands on either side of your head. Blow the air out of your lungs. Flex your abs hard and then just crunch down until your elbows touch the floor. You’ll need to play around a bit here in order to find the best position for yourself.

You should feel a very deep contraction in your abdominal muscles that you don’t get from other typical crunching exercises.


So, if your goal is to achieve maximum muscular hypertrophy and place your muscles. Under as much tension as you possibly can on each exercise that you perform in the gym. Then I would suggest either replacing the free weight versions of the exercises that I just covered with cables.

Or just mixing in the Cable Machine Squats variations alongside them. I hope you found the information useful here today.

Leave a Comment