The 7 Best Cable Chest Exercises

Cable machines are an extremely versatile piece of gym equipment and can be used to target almost every muscle group in your body. 

But today we will focus on the best cable chest exercises to give you some extra workout ideas.

Cables offer a different type of resistance to your normal barbell or dumbbell exercises and have a great range of motion. So adding a few cable exercises to your chest workout is a great way to help create a well-developed chest. 

Let's get to it and take a look at some of the best cable chest exercises.


Anatomy 101 - The Muscles in Your Chest

Before we get to talking about the best cable chest exercises, it's important for you to have a rough understanding of what the muscles in your chest look like and what their functions are.

Pectoralis Major vs Pectoralis Minor

Your chest is made-up out of two major muscles, the pectoralis major and the pectoralis minor.

When most people think of the chest, they think of the pectoralis major, that broad and big muscle that stretches all the way from the lower sternum to the collarbone and wraps around your arm. It's the muscle that you exercise when you do pushups and bench presses.

However, underneath this is the pectoralis minor, which are secondary muscles that work to assist the primary muscle, the pectoralis major.

Pectoralis Major

The Upper Chest – The Clavicular Heads

First, we have the clavicular heads of the pectoralis major, also known as your upper chest.

Your upper chest is important because it allows for internal rotation, horizontal adduction, and the flexion of the humerus.


The Mid Chest – The Sternal Heads

We then have the sternal heads of the pectoralis major, otherwise known as the mid-chest.

These are muscle fibers that start at your sternum and run down your chest, effectively connecting your sternum to your ribs.

This is the part of your chest that makes your pecs look thick.

The main function of this part of your pectoralis major muscle includes horizontal adduction, external rotation, and extension of the humerus.


The Lower Chest – The Abdominal Heads

We then have the abdominal heads of the pectoralis major, otherwise known as the lower chest.

These muscles start at the anterior layer of the rectus sheath and your external obliques.

This is also an important part of your pectoralis major muscle, as it is responsible for horizontal adduction, internal rotation, and depression of the humerus.


The Anterior or Front Deltoids

Although many people may not think of the anterior deltoids as being a part of your chest, most chest exercises target this muscle regardless.

Yes, most people would say that your anterior deltoids are shoulder muscles, but nonetheless, virtually all of the exercises we're about to discuss below target your anterior deltoids as well.


The 7 Best Cable Chest Exercises

Now that you have a little bit more information about using a cable machine for chest exercises, let's take a look at the very best cable chest exercises out there.

Our aim here is to provide you with a combination of isolation exercises and compound exercises that will allow you to work on both muscle hypertrophy and strength.

Remember, you don't have to do all of these exercises on the same day, because it might be a little much, but incorporating at least a couple of them into your chest day on a regular basis is recommended.


1. Standard or Flat Cable Chest Fly

If you're looking to activate the sternocostal head of your chest more than anything else, then doing a flat cable chest fly is a great way to go.

This is an isolation movement that targets this specific area of your chest very effectively. It's a really good alternative to both the pectoral fly machine and the dumbbell fly.

When compared to free weights, the force-curve which the pulleys and the cams create provides you with a different challenge, and this is what makes the flat cable chest fly so excellent for muscle hypertrophy.

This is an exercise that requires you to engage in a full range of motion, and this means that you need to be precise and controlled.


  1. Get a flat bench and place it in between the pulleys of a cable machine, and then adjust the pulleys so that they are low enough so that your chest lines up with the handles when you lie down on the bench.
  2. When laying down on the bench, ensure that your feet are planted firmly on the ground. Using a supinated grip, hold on to both the handles.
  3. You should keep your elbows bent just a little bit while extending your arms to the sides, and your forearms have to be parallel with the ground. This is the starting position.
  4. Take a deep breath, and then while you exhale, pull the cables slowly inwards in a semicircular manner, until your thumbs connect in the middle.
  5. As you release your arms and move back to the starting position in a controlled manner, slowly inhale.
  6. Aim to do between 12 and 15 repetitions, for 3 sets.


2. Cable Chest Press

Perhaps one of the most popular chest exercises is the cable chest press. This is a fantastic compound movement, and it's a good alternative to your regular barbell bench press.

If you are looking to activate your triceps, all parts of your pectoral muscles, and your anterior deltoids, then the cable chest press is a great option for you. What's also important to note is that this exercise is fantastic for working out your rotator cuff.

The cable chest press can be done in both standing and seated positions, and which one you choose depends on the exact focus you are looking to achieve.

For instance, if you are seated, you'll end up targeting your upper chest more, whereas the standing cable chest press activates your core and back a little more, because it requires you to maintain an upright posture.



  1. To do a cable chest press, start by adjusting the pulleys to shoulder height. Of course, exactly where the pulleys will be on the cable machine will depend on whether you are standing or seated.
  2. Holding a handle in each hand with an overhand grip, stand in between both of the cables, with your back against the cable machine. You should be standing with your feet just slightly wider than shoulder width, and then step forward. You should have one leg slightly in front of the other, with your knee slightly bent.
  3. Lift your arms up and bend your elbows to a 90° angle. The trick here is that both your forearms and elbows have to be aligned with the resistance line, as this is your starting position.
  4. Take a deep breath, hold it in, and then make sure to engage your core. Engaging your core for this movement is very important for stability.
  5. As you exhale, push your arms forward, ensuring that your thumbs touch each other in the middle, which is the peak of the position.
  6. As you return your arms to the starting position in a slow and controlled manner, inhale slowly.


3. Low-to-High Cable Chest Fly

OK, so we already covered the flat cable chest fly, but here we have a good variation, the low-to-high cable chest fly.

This particular movement is another great isolation exercise, with only your shoulder joint moving.

However, it does work a variety of muscles, such as the clavicular head of your pectoralis major, your anterior deltoid, and your serratus anterior. In essence, it's a fantastic exercise if you want to activate your upper chest.


  1. Stand in between the two pulleys of a cable machine, and adjust both of the pulleys so that they are at waist level. If you want even more tension, adjust them to lower than waist level.
  2. With your hands facing upwards and your knuckles facing towards you, keeping your arms straight at your sides or even behind your body, and your elbows bent, hold on to the handles. Keep in mind that your arms should create a 45° angle with your body from the shoulders.
  3. Your feet should be just a bit wider than shoulder width. To help with stability, step forward with one of your legs, and make sure your knee is slightly bent. At the same time, engage your core and keep it tight, keep your back straight, and puff your chest outwards. This is the starting position.
  4. Start by taking a deep breath, and then slowly exhale. As you exhale, pull your arms up towards your chest in a controlled manner. At the top of the motion, your hands should meet in the center.
  5. As you inhale, lower your arms to the starting position in a slow manner, and repeat this motion for anywhere between 10 and 15 repetitions, for up to 4 sets.


4. High-to-Low Cable Chest Fly

As opposed to the previous exercise that saw you starting in the low position, here we have a cable chest fly that starts in the high position.

Whereas the previous exercise worked out your upper chest, this is a fantastic exercise to help build definition in your lower chest. Those lower pectoralis muscles will very much benefit from the high-to-low cable chest fly.


  1. Position the pulleys so that they are at their highest position.
  2. Stand in between both of the pulleys with your back facing the machine, and hold one handle in each hand using an overhand grip, with your knuckles facing upwards and your palms facing downwards.
  3. Make sure to keep your feet shoulder width apart, with one leg slightly in front of the other, and the front knee bent a little bit. Also make sure to keep your back straight and engage your core.
  4. For your starting position, your arms should be raised out beside your body with your palms facing downwards, with your upper arms being parallel to the ground and your elbows bent.
  5. Take a deep breath and then while you exhale, slowly pull both of your hands down towards your chest until they meet right below your chest.
  6. Hold this position for one or two seconds, and then slowly return to your starting position. Aim to perform anywhere between 10 and 15 repetitions, and up to 4 sets.


5. Cable Crossover

Very similar to a flat chest fly, a cable crossover is also an excellent exercise if you want to work out all three parts of your pectoralis muscles.

It's a good isolation exercise that allows for really deep pectoral contraction, and because it's a crossover exercise, it activates your serratus anterior and your pectoralis major much more than a regular flat cable fly.

The fact that you are crossing your wrists over in front of you instead of stopping the motion when your hands meet in the middle means that the cable crossover allows for a much greater range of motion than the cable fly, effectively being the more difficult exercise that allows for greater muscle activation.


  1. To do a cable crossover, start by adjusting the pulleys to roughly shoulder height.
  2. Hold the handles using an overhand grip, keep your feet just wider than shoulder width, step forward with one leg, and keep this leg slightly bent at the knee.
  3. Raise your arms upwards and make sure that your elbows are bent at a 90° angle, with your forearms parallel to the ground.
  4. Tighten your core, straighten your back, and puff out your chest. Take a deep breath, and while you are exhaling, push your arms forward until your wrists cross over each other at chest height.
  5. Hold this position for one or two seconds, and then inhale as you slowly release and move back to the starting position. Try to alternate which wrist is on top of the other with each Rep.
  6. Aim to do 12 repetitions for 3 sets.


6. Low-to-High Cable Crossover

If you're looking for a good isolation exercise that will activate your upper pectorals, then the low-to-high cable crossover is always a fantastic exercise to consider. It's a type of cable crossover that puts a lot of load on your pectoralis major, particularly the clavicular head.

What's nice about this exercise is that it also activates both your biceps and your anterior deltoid, therefore exercising multiple muscles at once. This exercise also features a really large range of motion, which helps to train your chest very efficiently.


  1. To do a low-to-high cable crossover, adjust the pulleys so that they are at hip level, or for even more tension, lower.
  2. With your back facing the machine and your body in between both of the handles, grab one handle in each hand with your palms facing forwards and your knuckles facing towards you. Your arms should be extended down at your sides, or even slightly behind you.
  3. Make sure that your feet are roughly shoulder width apart. For stability, place one leg in front of the other, and keep the front leg bent at the knee.
  4. For your starting position, puff your chest out and retract your shoulder blades.
  5. Take a deep breath, and while you exhale, lift your arms up at the shoulders. Make sure that the only motion here is coming from your shoulder, not from your elbows. If you're bending your elbows to raise the cables up, then you're actually activating your biceps more than anything else. You should feel the strain on your chest when doing this motion.
  6. Raise your arms up until they cross in the middle at chest level, hold the position for a second or two, and then slowly return to the starting position.
  7. Aim to do anywhere between 8 and 15 repetitions, for up to 3 or 4 sets.


7. Cable Machine Skull Crushers

Cable Machine Skull Crushers

Although the skull crusher isn't the first exercise that most people would do with a cable machine, it is certainly a possibility. Skull crushers are usually done with dumbbells or barbells.

However, the issue with both dumbbells and barbells is that they don't put constant and even tension on your muscles, something that a cable machine is very good for.

This is why if you want to do skull crushers, and you really want to target your upper and outer chest muscles, then using a cable machine is best.


  1. Position a flat bench in between the pulleys.
  2. Adjust the pulleys so they are in line with the rest of your body when you are laying down, so you can hold on to the handles with your arms extended straight behind your head. In other words, you should be laying flat down with your arms fully extended behind you, holding on to the handles so that your palms are facing upwards towards the sky. Your arms should be horizontal and parallel to the ground.
  3. Keep both feet flat on the ground and puff your chest upwards.
  4. While keeping your elbows straight, pull the handles slowly upwards until your arms are perpendicular to the ground and facing the ceiling. Be sure that all of the motion is coming from your shoulders and not from your elbows.
  5. Hold the position for a couple of seconds and then slowly lower your arms back down so they are perfectly in line with the rest of your body as you are laying down.
  6. Aim to do anywhere between 12 and 15 repetitions for 3 sets.


Best Cable Chest Exercises – Final Thoughts

Best Cable Chest Exercises

As you can see, there are plenty of awesome chest exercises that you can do with the cable machine, and depending on which one you do, you can target a very specific part of your pecs.

If you're looking to grow a big and strong chest, using a cable machine is most certainly recommended.

Author's Photo

William Parrett

Will, co-founder of Home Gym Supply, launched the company in 2019 after 15-years in the fitness industry. His expertise stems not only from his professional background but also from his athletic pursuits. A former competitor in the World Beauty Fitness & Fashion (WBFF) and a competitive rugby player, Will has always been dedicated to health and fitness.