The bench press has long been the go-to move for bulking up your chest, and there is little doubt that it’s an exercise worth including in any workout designed to pump up the pecs. However, treating it as the be-all and end-all of chest builders is only going to be counter-productive in the long run, because if you want to build a truly terrific torso, you have to think outside the bench press box.
Just as with all the other major muscles in your body, if you want to increase the size and strength of your chest, you need to work it from a variety of angles using a mixture of exercises – some that isolate the chest muscles and some compound moves that hit multiple joints and muscle groups at the same time. The bench press is a compound move that works the shoulders and the triceps as well as the chest, while the cable cross-over is an isolation move that will directly target the chest muscles. It’s an exercise favoured by bodybuilders because it does wonders for the definition of your chest muscles. Read on for our form guide so you can perform the exercise safely and successfully.
How To Do The Cable Cross-Over
Set the handles at both ends of the pulleys at the highest level. Stand in the centre of the machine with feet shoulder-width apart. Bend your torso forwards slightly, keeping your spine neutral and back straight, and bend your elbows slightly as well, with your wrists facing the floor. Keeping your core engaged, pull both handles down and across your body. Squeeze your chest muscles in this fully contracted position (the handles don’t have to be touching). Slowly reverse to the start position, keeping the bend in your elbows throughout.
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Cable Cross-Over Variations
Low pulley cable cross-over
The upper chest is a particularly difficult area to grow. Typical incline pressing movements place a great deal of stress on your anterior (front) delt, which makes the muscle fibres around the collarbone hard to target. This is where the low pulley cable cross-over comes in.
Set the handles on the lowest pulley rung. Stand with feet shoulder-width apart and grasp the handles with palms facing forwards and hands beside your thighs. With a slight bend in your elbows, pull both handles up and inwards until your palms face each other in front of your chest. Squeeze your chest muscles for one to two seconds, then reverse to the start, keeping the movement under control.
Resistance band cross-over
As much as we love the cable cross-over, we recognise that not everyone has regular access to a cable machine. Fortunately you can also do a version of the move using a resistance band, a highly portable bit of training kit that means you can perform the cross-over whenever and wherever you like.
That’s as long as you have something sturdy to attach your resistance band to, which is the first step of the exercise. Wrap the band around your robust anchor point, then turn to face the other way, holding one end of the band in each hand. Move far enough away to put some tension into the band, then take your arms out to the sides, opening up your chest. Slowly bring your hands together in front of your chest, keeping a slight bend in your elbows throughout the move. Squeeze your chest muscles in this position, then open your arms up again.
Joe Warner worked for Men’s Fitness UK, which predated, and then shared a website with, Coach, from 2008 to 2013, then returned as editor of Men’s Fitness UK from 2016 to 2019.
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