Cable Machine Back Workout

Hi love!

I’m not going to lie, back day has always been one of my faves. As a bikini competitor, I am obsessed with working on my ratios and creating that gorgeous hourglass shape.

Let’s be honest, I was absolutely not born with it. It’s something I continuously build because my natural shape was always… well…. lanky! Anyways, this is good news. If you’re like me and you were built without those coveted feminine curves OR if you just want to make your already bangin’ curves more pronounced, then read on. 

Working your back is step 1 to an hourglass shape! The wider and more sculpted your back is, the smaller your waist looks. 

In this workout, we are going to use just a cable machine to sculpt some beautiful back muscles. We will hit the back from all angles and using several different attachments.

My gym is awesome but there are definitely days during which it is really hard to get a hold of all the equipment I need/want. It gets busy! So having a cable only workout on hand is great for limited equipment availability, and you will still get an incredibly intense workout with nice, heavy weight. You ready? Let’s get to it!

Tips for Building Your Back

1. Make sure you’re getting full range of motion.

This really goes for any muscle group but I notice it a lot when people are working back. If you’re not executing the full range of motion, you’re leaving strength and muscle gains on the table. 

Take the lat pulldown, for example. You want your arms to be fully extended at the end of the movement so you can feel the stretch in your lats. Often, when the weight is too heavy for someone, you see them only raise the bar about halfway or 75% back up before pulling it back down (AKA a partial rep.) 

Most of the strength gains happen in the negative or eccentric contraction. The eccentric muscle contraction is the motion during which you’re moving in the same direction as the resistance. So when you’re doing that lat pulldown, it’s when your arms are going back up to that fully extended starting position.

You want to receive the full benefits of this motion by keeping the movement slow and controlled. You are essentially decelerating the movement of the bar and your arms back to the start position. If you’re only going halfway, you miss half the negative. Make sense?

2. Focus on mind muscle connection.

Don’t just go through the motions when you’re exercising. Make sure that you’re feeling the movement in the right muscles. Often, when we go too heavy or start using our body’s momentum to perform a movement, we stop feeling the correct muscles contract. 

If you’re lifting so heavy that the prime mover muscle cannot execute the lift, your body will find the easiest way for it to still perform the work you’re asking of it. It will recruit the synergist muscles (helper muscles for the exercise) to take over and do more/most of the work instead. We don’t want this!

Drop to a lower weight and see if you can feel the contraction better where you should. Usually, you will immediately notice that it’s easier to maintain proper form, and this is a good sign you will feel it more in the right spot. 

3. EAT! 

I’m talking to my under eaters and my serial dieter ladies! You need to eat to build muscle! Your body needs more nutrients to support the muscle building process - specifically protein and carbs. 

Protein is what your body uses to support muscle protein synthesis and muscle recovery. However, if you’re not getting enough carbs (your body’s main energy source), it will have to use protein for an energy source instead of for muscle building/recovery purposes. 

So fuel your body properly! You will see your best muscle building results if you’re in a caloric surplus. This means that you are consuming more calories than you’re burning. This also means that fat loss and muscle building are best done in cycles where you are focusing mainly on one or the other. 

The Workout 

  1. Single Arm Lat Pulldown 4x10
  2. Straight Arm Lat Pulldown 4x12 + 1 drop set until failure on the last set.
  3. Standing Bent Over Cable Row 4x10 with a slow negative (3 seconds)
  4. Seated Cable Row superset with Seated Cable High Row 4x12 each  

Exercise Instructions

Single Arm Lat Pulldown

  1. Set up a cable station with a single hand attachment attached to the top pulley.
  2. Kneel on the floor next to the station.
  3. Using an overhand grip, hold the handle as wide as comfortable. 
  4. Pull the handle down so that your elbow comes toward the side of your body.
  5. Pause and squeeze your shoulders together.
  6. Slowly return to the starting position.

Straight Arm Lat Pulldown

  1. Adjust the cable machine to the top pulley and attach the straight bar attachment.
  2. Grip the straight bar attachment in both hands and step backward a few feet.
  3. Slightly bend at the waist. Your arms should be fully extended in front of you and elbows should be slightly bent. 
  4. Push the bar down with your lats, maintaining the same straightness of your arms throughout the movement. You should only have movement at the shoulder joint.
  5. Your hands should finish at the top of your thighs in the downward position.
  6. Return to starting position.
  7. Repeat. After finishing the last set, immediately perform a drop set. Drop to a lower weight (about 50% of your previous weight) and perform additional reps until you can no longer perform the movement with good form. 

Standing Bent Over Cable Row

  1. Adjust the cable machine to the bottom pulley and attach the v bar attachment.
  2. Grab the v bar attachment and step back a few feet. 
  3. Stand with your feet shoulder width apart and a slight bend in both your knees and your torso.
  4. Pull the v bar toward your torso while maintaining a flat back. 
  5. Pause, squeeze the shoulder blades together, and then return to the starting position slowly. In this workout, we will perform a slow negative. This means that the return to the starting position should take about 3 seconds. Control and decelerate the return of the v bar to the starting position. Feel the stretch in your mid back. 
  6. Repeat. 

Seated Cable Row 

  1. Sit upright holding the handle with a wide grip. Your arms should be fully extended out in front of you.
  2. Bending at the elbows and squeezing your shoulder blades together to pull the handle toward you.
  3. Slowly return to the starting position by letting the arms extend out in front of you again. Stay upright throughout the movement. Do not allow the upper body to move forward and backward as you perform each rep. Your torso should be stationary.
  4. Repeat.

Seated High Row 

  1. Sit upright holding the wide bar attachment, palms down. 
  2. With your back upright throughout the whole movement, pull the bar towards the top of your chest. 
  3. When the bar touches the top of the chest, pause, and then slowly allow the arms to extend out in front of you.
  4. Repeat.

Are you ready to build a strong feminine physique and make fitness your everyday lifestyle?

Girl, it sounds like it’s time to apply for Emily Cramer Fitness 1:1 Coaching!

My 1:1 coaching program is for you if:

✔ You want to look and feel strong physically and mentally
✔ You want to learn to lift some heavy weights and build lean, feminine muscle
✔ Wonder Woman is goals in your mind
✔ You see exercise and nutrition as self care for your mental, physical, and spiritual well being or you would like to learn to see it that way
✔ You aren’t just looking to get to the finish line or a goal number on the scale but are looking to make fitness and healthy living your lifestyle

Not convinced it could work for you? Take a look at my Client Success Stories.

I look forward to coaching you! 

To Your Good Health & Success,




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