21 Best Cable Chest Exercises

By: Jeremy Fox, CNC, CPTPublished: July 13, 2023

If you’re tired of the same old chest workouts, there’s good news! While traditional exercises like bench press, dumbbell press, and dumbbell flies are effective for building chest muscles, they don’t activate all your muscle fibers. Plus, they can get repetitive over time.

To mix things up and get the most out of your workouts, check out this comprehensive list of 21 cable chest exercises. These movements will help you achieve maximum strength and size gains while adding variety to your routine.

Keep scrolling to learn how to incorporate cables into your chest workout.

Cable Chest Exercises

What Are Cable Chest Exercises?

Cable machines can be used to perform a variety of resistance training exercises. This equipment consists of a cable attached to a weight stack that runs through pulleys and connects to handles.

Moreover, you can use the cable machine to specifically target your chest muscles using a variety of chest fly and chest press movements.

Benefits of Cable Chest Exercises

Most weightlifters utilize barbells, dumbbells, and machines for chest workouts. And they might use the cables to do a few sets of flies before calling it a day.

However, cable exercises offer several distinct advantages over free weights. And you might want to consider using cables for more exercises during your chest workouts.

Here are the benefits of cable chest exercises:

  • Perform multiple exercises with one piece of equipment
  • Constant tension throughout the range of motion
  • Can work both arms or one arm at a time
  • Train chest in less time
  • No need to lug around weight plates or dumbbells
  • Easy to do drop sets or supersets
  • Safer than free weights

Muscles Worked by Cable Chest Exercises

Before getting into the cable chest exercises, it’s vital to understand a little about muscle anatomy. This way, you’ll know which exercises to use to target specific areas of your chest.

The pectorals are the largest muscles of your chest, composed of several fiber bundles. And these muscle fibers attach to your sternum, clavicle, and upper arm bones.

To visualize a muscle’s function, it helps to think of the fibers as a rubber band. When the band contracts, it pulls the two ends together. So contracting the chest muscles pulls your upper arm closer to your sternum.

Pectoral Muscle Anatomy

It’s important to note that not all fiber bundles are necessary for every movement, and the specific muscle fibers used depend on the angle of arm movement.

To better understand this, we can divide the chest into upper, middle, and lower sections. However, remember that these divisions are not distinct but rather overlapping zones.

  • Middle Chest – The central part of your chest contains muscle fibers attached to your sternum. These fibers (S1-S5, as shown in Figure 1) are primarily engaged when you extend your arms straight across your body.
  • Upper Chest – The upper chest muscles comprise fibers that attach to the clavicle bone (CH) and the upper part of the sternum (S1). These muscles help lift and pull the arm inward.
  • Lower Chest – The lower chest comprises the fibers that connect to the lower sternum and rib cage cartilage (S4-S6). This area mainly pulls your arms down and across your body.

Moreover, we can target certain areas of the pectoral muscles by utilizing specific arm angles during chest exercises. The image below illustrates how body position affects the part of your chest worked.

Incline vs Flat vs Decline Bench Press

Best Cable Chest Exercises

Now that we have a clear comprehension of the anatomy of the chest muscles, we can classify cable chest exercises based on the specific area of the pectorals they focus on. Therefore, the following list is separated into sections with cable exercises that target the middle, upper, and lower chest.

Mid-Pec Cable Chest Exercises

As you know, exercises where you extend your arms straight in front of your body are best for working the mid-chest. These exercises include cable chest presses and flies.

1. Standing Cable Chest Press

Here’s a great exercise to work your mid-pectorals called the standing cable chest press. However, this exercise requires more stability and control than a standard bench press due to the standing position.

To do the standing cable press, adjust the pulleys to shoulder level, hold a handle in each hand, and step forward to put the cables under tension. Next, press straight out until your arms are fully extended.

It’s important to note that this exercise is most effective on a narrow cable machine rather than a wide one.

Cable Chest Exercises Standing Press

2. Seated Cable Chest Press

You can also perform the cable press while seated on an upright bench. The backrest provides stability so you can focus on using your chest to press the weight.

Start by adjusting the pulleys to shoulder height, which will be lower since you are seated. Then grab a handle in each hand and perform the pressing movement as illustrated below.

Again, it’s best to perform this exercise on a narrow cable station. Some larger gyms even have a specific cable machine for doing the seated cable press.

Cable Chest Exercises Seated Press

3. Lying Cable Chest Press

The lying cable chest press is performed on a flat bench with the pulleys set at the lowest position to the floor. Move the bench so your shoulders are directly between the cables when lying down.

This exercise is closest to a traditional bench press, except each arm works independently.

4. Standing Mid Cable Fly

The cable fly is one exercise that targets the chest muscles while minimizing involvement from other muscle groups like the triceps. During this isolation movement, the primary movers are the shoulders, while the elbows remain relatively straight.

To perform a standing cable fly for mid-chest, adjust the pulleys to shoulder level and grab the handles. Step forward with your arms slightly behind your torso and straight to the sides.

Then, move your hands horizontally towards the front while maintaining straight elbows until your hands almost touch in front of you.

Cable Chest Exercises Standing Fly

5. Seated Mid Cable Fly

Again, you can use an upright bench to stabilize your body during the cable fly movement. This also ensures you’re not using your body weight or momentum to initiate the movement and helps isolate the chest even more.

Cable Chest Exercises Seated Fly

6. Flat Bench Cable Fly

A different technique for performing cable fly involves lying flat on a bench with two cables on either side. To execute this variation, you will require a wider cable apparatus to maintain tension on your chest even when your arms are fully extended to the sides.

One advantage of this setup is that you will feel more tension in the contracted position when your hands are together.

Cable Chest Exercises Lying Fly

Upper-Pec Cable Chest Exercises

Now, we will explore cable chest exercises focusing on the upper chest. Although they may seem similar to the exercises we have already discussed, slight variations in body position can alter the activation of the chest muscles.

7. Standing Cable Upper Chest Press

To do the standing cable press for the upper chest, you should set the pulleys a little below shoulder level. Then press the cables in a slightly upward direction somewhere between a chest and shoulder press.

This movement angle will engage more upper chest fibers than pressing straight out.

8. Seated Cable Upper Chest Press

In addition, you can perform the upper chest press while seated on an upright bench. Again, set the pulleys just below shoulder level and think about pressing at a gradual upward angle.

9. Incline Bench Cable Chest Press

Another way to focus on your upper chest during the cable press is by using an incline bench positioned between the cables. Set the pulleys at the lowest position on either side of your shoulders.

Then, lie on the bench and press the cables straight up, perpendicular to the floor.

Cable Chest Exercises Incline Press

10. Low Pulley Cable Fly

For upper chest cable flies, start by setting the pulleys at the lowest position. After grabbing the handles, step forward until your arms are slightly behind your torso and the cables are taut.

From this position, push your hands up and across your body while keeping your arms relatively straight.

Cable Chest Exercises Standing Upper Fly

11. Incline Bench Cable Fly

Another way to do the upper chest cable fly is by using an incline bench. To do this, set the pulleys to the lowest position and place the incline bench between them.

Then, lay down on the bench with your arms extended out to the sides and hold a handle in each hand. Push your hands straight up across your chest without bending your elbows.

12. Low Pulley Underhand Front Raise

Here’s an alternative the regular standing low pulley fly that works your upper chest and anterior deltoid. Start by holding the handles with an underhand grip near the side of your thighs.

From here, lift your right hand out and up while keeping your arm relatively straight. Slowly lower back to the starting position and repeat with the other arm.

Cable Chest Exercises Underhand Front Raise

Lower-Pec Cable Chest Exercises

Let’s explore some cable chest exercises that are specifically effective in targeting the lower pectorals. Some of these exercises may seem familiar but with slight variations in angles for better results.

13. Standing Cable Lower Chest Press

You can target your lower chest on the standing cable press by adjusting the pulleys to a setting above shoulder level. Then focus on pressing at a downward angle toward the floor.

The key to doing this exercise safely and effectively is keeping your elbows up so your joints are aligned, and your arms follow the same path as the cables.

Cable Chest Exercises Lower Press

14. Seated Cable Lower Chest Press

As with other variations, you can perform the cable lower chest press while seated on an upright bench. Just remember to set the pulleys slightly above seated shoulder level and press at a downward angle.

15. Decline Bench Cable Chest Press

Another way to do the cable chest press for lower pectorals is by placing a decline bench between the cables. This allows you to press straight up since the declined body position results in the desired arm angle.

The image below illustrates the decline press using a wide cable machine. However, it would be better to use a narrow cable setup if possible.

Cable Chest Exercises Decline Press 2

16. High Pulley Cable Fly

To work on your lower chest, try doing flies at a high pulley position. Stand with a handle in each hand and step forward until the cables are taut and your arms are straight out to the sides with slightly bent elbows.

Then, push your hands forward and downward while keeping your arms mostly straight. Be careful not to lean too far forward, as this will shift the focus to your mid-chest.

Cable Chest Exercises Lower Fly

17. Kneeling High Pulley Cable Fly

The kneeling high pulley cable fly offers some advantages over the standing version. First, kneeling allows the cables to be higher above your shoulders, creating a steeper downward angle for working the lower chest.

In addition, the kneeling position is more stable and requires less forward lean when using heavier weights.

Cable Chest Exercises Kneeling Fly

Other Cable Chest Exercises

Lastly, I will show you a few less common cable chest exercises for working your middle, upper, and lower chest.

18. Stability Ball Cable Chest Press

For any cable chest press exercise, it’s possible to substitute a stability ball for a bench. This has the added benefit of allowing you to adjust your body angle and focus on different areas of your chest by rolling forward or backward.

Furthermore, using a stability ball challenges your balance and activates your core and shoulder stabilizer muscles.

Cable Press on Exercise Ball

19. Stability Ball Cable Fly

Likewise, you can also perform any of the cable fly variations while lying on a stability ball.

20. Single Arm Cable Fly

The single-arm cable fly is a useful variation when you only have a single cable to work with. Another advantage is that you can also rotate your body position to work the pectoral more in the stretched or contracted portion of the range of motion.

For example, the single-arm fly demonstrated in the image below works the pectoral more in the contracted range. Also, the unilateral movement enables you to concentrate on feeling the mind-muscle connection and getting a deeper contraction.

Single Arm Cable Fly

21. Twisting Single Arm Cable Chest Press

Finally, we have the single-arm twisting cable chest press. This exercise allows for greater flexibility in body positioning, similar to the single-arm fly.

Moreover, twisting your body during the press activates your core and results in a compound movement that is advantageous for enhancing athletic performance.

Cable Chest Workout

For your next workout, I suggest incorporating at least one of these cable chest exercises. Alternatively, you could focus solely on chest exercises using the cables.

One benefit of this workout is the ability to quickly adjust the weight between sets, saving you time. Additionally, transitioning between exercises is effortless by adjusting the attachment or pulley height.

The following cable chest workout includes a blend of compound and isolation exercises, with a rep range of 5-15 to ensure a balance of strength and hypertrophy training.

Cable Chest Workout

  • Standing Cable Press – 3 sets, 5-10 reps
  • Incline Cable Press – 3 sets, 5-10 reps
  • Incline Cable Fly – 3 sets 8-12 reps
  • High Pulley Cable Fly – 3 sets, 8-12 reps
  • Twisting Single Arm Press – 3 sets, 10-15 reps

More Exercises & Workouts

With this information, you’re on your way to building a better chest using cable exercises. But I also encourage you to include free weight exercises in your chest workout.

And, if you’re interested in building other muscle groups with cables, I’ve included a few more cable exercise lists below.

11 Barbell Chest Exercises With or Without Bench

Incline vs. Flat Bench Press for Building Chest

21 Cable Arm Exercises for Biceps & Triceps

Unique Cable Back Exercises & Complete Workout

17 Best Cable Shoulder Exercises for Chiseled Delts

Feel free to switch things up and explore some of my other fitness-focused content. You’ll discover useful advice on nutrition and supplements, as well as exercise guides and the latest news in bodybuilding.

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By |July 13, 2023|Workouts|Comments Off on 21 Cable Chest Exercises for Upper, Lower, & Mid Pec Workout
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