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  • Writer's pictureChris Cooper

9 Lower Body Cable Exercises to Pump Your Legs Up

I don't know about you, but I happen to love leg day. A little quad pump, a glute pump, and you're on your way. While the barbell and the dumbbell get a lot of attention for your lower body day, the cable machine gets overlooked a bit. The cable machine does have a lot of versatility for upper body workouts, but it can also challenge your lower body in different ways using different lines of pull and resistance that you’d be unable to get with just dumbbells and barbells alone.

With the cables, we get a constant resistance from the weight pulling on us, which leads to our muscles having to work that much harder to maintain technique.

We can break down our lower body movements into 3 categories based on the movement patterns they use. We have squat patterns, hinge or deadlift patterns, and isolated movements because we all like to isolate certain areas of our body.

Squat Exercises

Cable Squat

I first saw this squat variation from Vince McConnell and the first time I did it, my quads lit up like a Christmas tree. The cable squat puts a lot of emphasis on the quads without overloading your spine.

Load up slowly on the lowering portion of the squat, then drive up at an angle, pushing away from the cable machine. Just not too much of an angle so you dont fall over.

Front Squat/Goblet Squat

This takes a more direct approach as you line up near the cable column, so that there is a direct path down for the cables. The constant resistance of the cables keeps the challenge constant no matter where you are in the squat.

If you have a bar that attaches to the cables you can use that as well but the key is to line up the cables with where your body is going to be.

Low Cable Reverse Lunge

Much like the cable squat above, we're working on the line of resistance where our load ends up putting emphasis on the quad and the glute of the front leg. With this exercise, I prefer to hold the cable handle in my opposite hand for better balance and some anti-rotation core element, however you can choose to do the other side as well.

Hinge Exercises

Single-Leg or Split Stance RDL

Single leg and split stance RDL's are some of my favorite exercises, as they are great for hamstring, glute and hip development. This version with the cables emphasizes the glute a bit more because of the direction of the resistance.

For some, doing a true single leg RDL is a challenge because of the balance and stability requirements, so adding a kick stand is a great alternative. Both versions will effectively target your posterior muscles

Tall Kneeling Hip Thrust

The hinge can be a difficult movement to learn, as you have to separate hip movement from lower back. Using a tall kneeling position, we can more easily learn the hinge, and then load it.

The pull from the cable forces you to reach your hips back, cueing the hingse, but also allows you to get a good glute pump as you drive back up to that tall position.

Cable Pull-through

The cable pull-through is another great way to introduce the hinge movement by using the pull of the cable to force you into reaching your hips back.

This is an excellent way to load up your hamstrings and glutes without a lot of direct stress to the lower back.

Isolated Exercises

Hamstring Curls

I'm a big proponent of having strong hamstrings in order to avoid hamstring strains. Plus, at the end of a workout, using the cable to do some burnout sets will leave you with hamstrings that are screaming fire.

Leg Extensions

The leg extension machine gets a bad reputation for stressing the knee joint too much. But who doesn't like to isolate their legs to really concentrate on quad strength and size?

If you don't have a machine, you can use the cables to set yourself up for a nice little quad pump.

Glute Kick Backs

We covered some isolation eexercises for the quads and hamstrings, why not one for the muscle that will help you fill out a pair of pants or leggings. Glute hip extensions or kickbacks isolate the muscle, making for a great pump at the end of a workout.

Getting into a bent over position creates the opportunity for more range of motion to be worked.

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