The cable machine is one of the most flexible machines in the gym and can make a great addition to your home gym as well. But what about that mountain of attachments? Which ones do you need and how do you use them? I found the answers for you and myself.
Which cable machine attachments are essential to have in your gym? Here are the five essential attachments;
- D Handles
- Lat pulldown bar
- Double D handle
- Ankle straps
With those five, you can perform all important exercises on a cable machine and more. There are a few other attachments that are nice to have but not essential.
Just having the right cable attachments isn’t quite enough to start building a good body. You also have to know how to use them. Find out how you can use your cable machine to its full potential below.
Essential cable machine attachments and how to use them
As said, a cable machine is a great piece of equipment to have in your gym. Without the right attachments it’s not very useful however. Here are the four best ones. These are essential because they all give you the opportunity to a ton of different exercises.
These attachments make it able to do things that are not possible to do with any other attachments or they make it possible to many things with just one item.
To use the attachments, your cable has to be in good shape. Find out how to fix your home gym cable in this post.
0. Spring loaded clips
I didn’t count this as number one because it’s more of a prerequisite for even being able to attach something to your gym cables. The end of the cable has a little eyelet. So has the attachment. That means you need something to connect the two.
The solution is something you probably know from mountain climbing as a carabiner. The ones for gym cables are a little different since they’re not lockable.
The spring keeps the clip closed until you push it. The moving part can only move inward and not outward. That means that once you put the clip on the cable and/or attachment, they won’t be able to get out of the clip until you push the spring loaded part. This makes these clips safe to use while still being able to switch attachments easily and quickly.
It’s the only way you should really attach anything to a gym cable, especially if you want to change attachments.
Now onto the “real” attachments.
1. Tricep rope
Deciding which one should take the number one spot is difficult. What finally made me put the tricep rope in this spot is how incredibly versatile it is. It might be called a “tricep” rope but you can do so many exercises with it, it’s almost not an appropriate name.
This attachment constist of a thick piece of rope with two round handles on the ends. The rope can move through an eye that attaches to the machine. For most of the exercises you grab the rope at the two ends so your hands are against the handles. The handles have a flat side that prevents your hand from sliding off the rope.
A (non-exhaustive) list of exercises the rope attachment can be used for;
- Triceps pushdown
- Rope hammer curls
- Face pull
- Cable Pullthrough
- Seated row
- Cable crunch
- Overhead triceps extension
- Straight arm pulldown
- Cable front raise
As you can see the rope attachment is incredibly versatile and is an absolute must have for any gym that has a cable machine.
2. D Handles
It’s just a metal eyelet with a nylon strap and a rubber handle. It’s a very simple cable attachment but that doesn’t make it any less important. The only reason this one didn’t take number one is that I just think some of the exercises you can do with the rope are more important for me personally.
This attachment is used with a single hand. If you want to use two hands at the same time, you’ll need another cable with the same attachment on the other side of your body.
There is a ton of exercises that can be performed with this attachment as you’ll see below. The benefit of this attachment is that you can only use one hand/arm to lift the weight. That means there is no way for you to hide muscle and strength imbalances between your arms. Attachments that use two hands can make you compensate the lack of strength in one arm with the other arm. You might not even notice you’re doing it.
With unilateral (one side) movements, you’ll notice really quickly if one side is weaker than the other. That means you can prevent and/or fix muscle imbalances.
Here’s a list of exercises you can use these grips for;
- Cable chest fly
- Bicep curl
- Cable (incline) chest press
- Russian twist
- Shoulder external rotation
- Overhead triceps extension
- Side raise
- Low crossover
- High crossover
- Torso twist
- Triceps kickback
- Wood chops
- One arm triceps extensions
3. Lat pulldown bar
Great for a lot of back exercises. Pulldowns, low pulls and everything in between. This type of bar is quite long which gives you a lot of variability in grip widths and hand positions. That means with just this attachment you can target a lot of your back muscles. It can even double as a curl bar or any other bar.
Bars have the benefit that they provide some extra stability since both hands are connected. What that means is that you can move more weight with a bar than with a rope or separate handles. Moving more weights means you can build more muscle.
A pulldown bar is wider than a curl bar or straight bars. Since you can just take a narrower grip this isn’t really an issue.
Here’s a list of exercises you can perform with this bar;
- Lat pulldown (wide, narrow, medium grips)+(Pronated, supinated hand position)
- Seated row(wide, narrow, medium grips)+(Pronated, supinated hand position)
- Bicep curls
- Lat pushdown
- Cable Shrugs
- Triceps overhead extension
You can see that as the other attachments on this list, the pulldown bar is a very versatile piece of equipment. It’s absolutely a necessary piece of equipment in your gym.
4. Double D row handle
Also known as a T-bar row handle. Two grips in a v-shaped shape. Your hands are parallel in a neutral position and pretty close to each other. Having your hands in a neutral position helps to keep some of the stress off your wrists. It also just provides a slightly different movement pattern compared to a bar. A different movement pattern mean a new stimulus for muscle growth.
This is one of the few attachments that has a purpose without a cable attached to it. As the alternative name suggests, you can do T-bar rows with this. That means you have another back exercise option as long as you’ve got a barbell and a corner. Since every room has a corner and gyms without barbells are not worth the name, this handle is a great addition to your gym.
This Yes4All Double D handle does everything a D handle should do for about 1/3rd of the price you pay for similar products. Check it out on Amazon.
Both T-bar rows and cable rows with this attachment are great back exercises. Next to those, there are some other great exercises you can do with this attachment;
- Seated row
- T-bar row
- Lat pulldown
- Pull ups
This attachment is suitable for almost any movement where you’re pulling with two hands. That makes The T-bar attachment essential for a good back workout. There is some overlap with the lat pulldown bar but the hand position and movement pattern differences make this worth having as well.
5. Ankle straps
This one is mostly for women but men can use them as well of course. The ankle strap is a Velcro strap that goes around your ankle. The strap attaches to the cable machine. This gives you the option to exercise your legs with the cable machine. There is no other attachment that allows you to do this.
You could put your feet in a normal rubber grip but you probably don’t want to put your dirty feet/shoes in the same handle you hold with your hands. Besides that it’s a little less safe since the rubber handles are not designed to be used with feet so they can slip off.
These Dmoose straps are the best I’ve found for the money. Find the current price on Amazon.
Here’s a list of exercises that ankle straps allow you to do;
- Hip adduction
- Hip abduction
- Hamstring curl
- Quad Leg extension
- Front leg raise
- Donkey kick
- Lateral lunges
- Weighted leg raises
- Weighted crunches
You can see that there are a lot of things you can do for your lower body that no other attachment is able to do. That makes this an essential piece of equipment for your home gym.
Nice to have
Here are a few things I wouldn’t call essential but are still nice to have in your gym. They still have everything to do with the cable machine. These attachments aren’t as versatile as the ones listed above. They serve a specific purpose or is used for some exercise you don’t do too often.
1. Triceps V bar
This attachment is an upside down V that attaches to the cable machine. It’s a great attachment for training your triceps. The hand position and movement pattern are a bit different than with some of the other attachments so you can give your triceps a different impulse. Different stimulation means more growth. For the person that wants big arms, this one is a good one to have around.
Here is a set of cable attachments that combines several great attachments (including a V bar) in one combo. Click here to find it on Amazon.
2. Curl bar
A curl bar is a little bit different from a straight bar. If you know the EZ bar, this is basically the same but as a cable attachment. The bar isn’t straight but has ‘waves’. This helps you to keep your hands in a more neutral position which puts less stress on your wrists.
With the curl bar can perform curls with different widths or high pulls.
3. Short straight bar
The straight bar is exactly what it says on the tin. It’s short and straight. It does the same thing as the curl bar but the hand position is different. That makes it more suitable for things like lat pushdowns and close grip rows. There are other attachments that can do the same thing like the lat pulldown bar.
The benefit of the short bar is that it’s a bit easier to handle since it’s just a bit smaller. If you can do everything you want with the bigger bar, you don’t need this one. But, if you think the other bars are too wide, this would be a good addition to your inventory.
Here is a set of cable attachments that combines several great attachments (including short bar) in one combo. Click here to find it on Amazon.
This isn’t a cable attachment or even necessary but it’s certainly nice to have. A storage rack for all you attachments. It looks good, you can safely store you attachments and always know where they are. There are some nice racks available that can make your gym look much tidier.
Can you just throw them in a box? Sure, and it’ll work perfectly fine. You might have to dig a little in the box to find the attachment you need but it’s not like there are 300 items in there so it isn’t a big issue. An attachment rack just looks a bit nicer and can prevent you attachments from scratching.
This Body-Solid accessories rack is perfect and looks great in any gym. It will help you organize all the loose parts that would otherwise just end up on the floor. Click here to see the current price on Amazon.
Which cable attachment should I use?
When you’re just starting out in the gym, you might get a little confused about which attachment you should use. And then to make matters worse, you can actually hold some of the attachments in different ways, especially the bars.
All of the attachments have their own use and often more than one. There will be a bit of a learning curve before you grab the right one every time. The list of exercises above can help you a little. To get you started, I’ve divided up the exercises in different categories and which attachment would be the best for that category.
Here’s a table to help you get started.
|Back||T-bar handle, Bar, rope|
|Arms||Bar, Rope, Handles|
This is not an exact table but it’s a good base to start from. You can of course use whatever attachment you see fit for the purpose you have in mind. It’s not like the gym police will arrest you. I’m a big believer in learning by doing so please try things for yourself as well.
Do you need a cable machine in your home gym? Next to the power rack, a cable machine is one of the most versatile pieces of equipment you can have in your gym. Home gyms often have space limitations that don’t allow for a cable machine. For gyms that do have enough room, it’s a really valuable piece of equipment.
Are expensive cable attachments worth the money? In many cases expensive attachments feel nicer, moving parts last longer, parts can be replaced and customer service is better. They are so much more expensive however that in many cases it’s not worth the price difference for a home gym. The exception would be if it’s a specialized attachment that other brands don’t offer.
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