Add This Muscle-Building Superset To Your Upper-Body Routine

Woman using cable machine in gym
(Image credit: South Agency / Getty Images)

The cable machine is one of the most underrated pieces of kit to build strength and it’s especially useful for developing muscle in your upper body.

In part that’s because, as on other weights machines, cable machine exercises have different resistance profiles to free-weight exercises, challenging your body in different ways.

The cable machine is also highly adjustable. You can change the attachment and the height of the pulley, and you can work unilaterally, asymmetrically and in different planes of motion. This versatility is what makes it such a gym hero.

If you want to include the cable machine in your next upper-body workout, try this superset demonstrated by personal trainer Alessandra Jovine that will work the muscles in your back and shoulders.

“Training your back muscles is beneficial for a number of reasons,”  says Jovine. “First and foremost it reduces the risk of injuries by stabilizing the spine and improving shoulder stability.”

Increasing muscle mass in your back will also support your core and improve the way you move. Watch Jovine’s Instagram reel to see her demonstrate each exercise.

Jovine’s superset is made up of the straight arm pull-down and face pull. If you don’t have access to a cable machine, you can use a resistance band instead, anchoring it overhead for the pull-down or at head height for the face pulls.

Complete three sets of 8-12 reps of each exercise, selecting a weight that makes the last few reps of the final sets challenging.

There are a few form tips to keep in mind when completing these moves. “Always start with your feet shoulder-width apart and maintain good posture with your chest up and shoulders back,” says Jovine.

“When initiating the pull, engage your lat muscles by pulling your shoulder blades down and back,” says Jovine, “squeezing your shoulder blades together.” Move slowly and with control, maintaining tension in the muscles throughout.

If you found this superset tough going, take a step back and build up to it using this beginner back workout.

Alice Porter

Alice Porter is a journalist who covers health, fitness and wellbeing, among other topics, for titles including Stylist, Fit & Well, Glamour, Cosmopolitan, Grazia, VICE and Refinery29. When she’s not writing about these topics, you can probably find her at her local CrossFit box.