19 Reasons I Train With Cables
Everybody has seen the old spring cable expanders from the ’50’s. Probably picked one up and played with one as a kid. Then you got into real serious strength training and decided, “Hmm, it’s just another gimmick.” Well I’m here to tell you that it isn’t and the old spring style expander has come into the 21st century with rubber cables.
Some phenomenal athletes used the cable set for serious training in the pre-steroid era. It has some unique advantages. In the modern presentation of it as put out by Lifeline, it has some tremendous training applications for the serious athlete. Most people don’t see it as a real power tool that someone who is truly strong and developed would use. But that’s because they don’t have first hand knowledge with it. Because even thought I can press 200-pound dumbbells there are exercises and cables of such strength that no other world class power athlete or I can completely stretch. This is a serious tool. This isn’t your aerobic instructor’s junk rubber band and serious trainers in the know use these as well. Dennis Rogers, World Strongest Man Pound for Pound and World Arm Wrestling champ uses them. Mike Mahler, one of the world’s strongest vegetarians and Master Kettlebell trainer uses them. Matt Furey, who originally introduced me to the Lifeline sets and is a World Champion Grappler and bodyweight exercise guru uses them. That’s recommendations from three of the most serious and cutting edge trainers around.
Here are the top reasons I train with this wonderful piece of equipment:
1. It is a classical challenge that was well respected by the pre-steroid strength athletes. They had good reasons, good enough they even had competitions for stretching the cables. Some strongmen even had challenge cable sets just like the old time challenge dumbbells. Almost anything that they respected that much deserves a shot.
2. It develops a type of strength that is almost impossible to develop with any other tool. It is probably the most like grappling a live opponent, because the cables resist you out of their elasticity, not by being subject to gravity. Therefore the further you stretch them the harder it gets. This makes it a perfect training tool for martial artists, because to stretch the cables you have to accelerate all the way through to the end just like a well thrown strike. For grapplers, because it most simulates the resistance given my human muscle and arm wrestlers, because of the angles you can use it in and the expanding resistance.
3. They’re one of the safest forms of serious exercise you can do. There’s no weight to drop on you yet you can still develop serious muscle. There is technique to the exercises, but they’re simple to learn and even if you do it wrong you’re not likely to seriously injure yourself.
4. They develop stability. The ability to control strength and resistance within the muscles as well as stability in the tendons, ligaments and joints. They do this because they are literally pulling back against you and because you are leading the movement not gravity. If you watch most people begin with a set of hard exercises they shake all over the place, but then after doing it a while they’re stability strength goes up and it gets much smoother. This then transfers over to the real world.
5. You can exercise in ways and angles with cables that you can’t duplicate with almost any other strength tool including weights and it’s serious strength building exercise. By doing so you can hit muscles that give you strength in many applications and make you more injury resistant for sports and life in general. Intrinsic muscles that are hard to exercise any other way.
6. They are an extremely flexible tool. No pun intended. What I mean is because of the modern technology of them you can do everything from ultra-high reps down to literally single-rep max strength exertions. You can work individual muscles, whole muscle groups, the whole body for strength or conditioning.
7. They travel well. They weigh almost nothing, they will pack in any suitcase, you can work your whole body with them and I mean serious work, not mainstream junk training and they are inexpensive.
8. They’re great for rehab, prehab, and general training that makes your muscles feel better not beaten. Because of the offerings of different strength cables you can go light enough that literally children or extremely injured people can use the cables. They really help my biceps, shoulders, tendons and elbows feel good. They really work the kinks out not put them in.
9. I don’t think “pump” is an important concept in serious exercise. However these things give you a serious pump. They promote tremendous circulation and deep circulation not just in the muscles but in the joints. Because of the nature of their exercise they also promote flexibility.
10. Many of your top powerlifters now use a band setup along with weights in their training. They do this because of a theory called, “Accommodating Resistance.” What this basically does, means that you literally have to push all the way through a rep instead of exploding at the bottom and riding it out through the top. Why? Because the resistance increases the further along the range of motion you get. Meaning you have to pull harder at the top than you did to start. Because of this you get a very thorough muscular effort all they way through the rep. Hence the tremendous pump and muscular gains from cables.
11. The traditional cable set was limited to mostly upper bodywork with the occasional minor league low body exercise put in. The handles on the new sets make it easy to hook around your feet to do exercises such as the clean and jerk that you couldn’t have done with the old sets.
12. The long sets offered by Lifeline which would be called the “Portable Power Jumper,” broadens the horizons of cable training into a whole new world which allow you to do serious leg work with cable sets which was never before possible.
13. The design of some of the new products, especially the Power Jumper and Power Push Up offers the ability to add resistance to bodyweight exercises while still maintaining the integrity of the bodyweight exercise. You can add resistance to bridges, squats, push-ups, abdominal work, running, jumping, agility, animal movements, isometrics, etc. So those of you who hate doing hundreds of reps of bodyweight exercises can still do them and get the same conditioning effect with less reps. For those of you who are super-studs who easily crank through hundreds or thousands of bodyweight exercises, this will easily take you to the next level.
14. You can move very fast with the movements themselves, increasing your own speed and because of the accommodating resistance you work speed throughout the entire movement.
15. They create a tremendous aerobic response especially when you work them hard yet allow you to move very fast from exercise to exercise getting a tremendous muscular and aerobic workout which is consistent with our Alternative Conditioning style and theory.
16. They literally lend themselves to a multitude of exercises. On our videos we have explored the exercises that are possible with chest expander and the power jumper. We showed over 75 exercises on the Cable Video and a whopping 110 on the Power Jumper.
17. Because of their style of resistance they literally build muscle. But in building that muscle because of the intense contraction throughout the entire range of motion they also build definition and they teach tension, an important skill for strength and safety in training.
18. You can quickly change the cables for resistance level changes. The rubber doesn’t pinch you like the old style springs did. They are very durable and easy to care for.
19. They mix well with other exercise styles. Even though you get a tremendous workout from using cables alone, I think they mix great with other Alternative Conditioning styles such as bodyweight and kettlebell work for a superior endurance workout. As well as with heavy barbell work for a superior muscle building workout.
These are the reasons why I use these tools. They’ve been extremely productive for me. Notice also that I gave you legitimate reasons. Not overblown, snake oil sales marketing reasons. I didn’t tell you you’ll suddenly be the strongest man walking the planet as well as the biggest and most shredded from the first workout with these cables. I’ll tell you this like I said before; there’s no magic exercise. There’s no magic tool to exercise with, but there are some really good ones and there’s intelligent use of great tools within your whole training plan and pointing toward your focused objectives. There’s magic in belief and effort.
For tons of exercises and training with cables check out the following Alternative Conditioning DVD’s: