Free Weights vs. Cables? How Can You Incorporate Each Into Your Training Routine?

The gym is comprised of various pieces of equipment to help members reach their goals. Certain people stick to the free weights and others utilize the cable stations. As someone who has been training for sevens plus years, I’ve learned that each piece of equipment has its place in each individuals training routine. In order to reach a particular goal and overcome any possible obstacles, I 100% believe that you should use all tools available to you in the process.


Performing free weighted exercises has multiple benefits. You can maximize the most amount of tension on the primary muscle group, secondary muscles that assist with the movement will be recruited and stabilizers muscles such as you core are engaged to control the weight. Squats is a perfect example of your stabilizers being engage. You ever notice a power lifter preparing to squat? They take a deep breathe and hold it to tighten up their core to maintain a proper bar path when they squat down until they come back up to exhale. This is just one of few techniques to ensure that correct muscle groups are being fatigued throughout this particular movement.


There’s a limit to how much stress your body can take from free weighted exercises and when this happens your best option would be to utilize the cables. Unlike free weights, cables adds tension to a muscle on the bottom and at the top of movements due to the cables pulling against the muscles. This causes the muscle to fatigue that much quicker without the need of having to lift heavy weight like you would in a free weighted exercise. With cable movements one you are able to increase volume in your training and two you prevent injury on your joints by solely isolating the muscle


I personally revolved my entire training routine around the compound exercise such as squat, bench and deadlifts. Even though you can make some great progress performing the compound exercises there is a limit that you must keep in mind when structuring your programming. I remember a point of my life where I trained legs twice in a single day. Call me crazy but unlike most males in the gym, I truly enjoy training legs. I performed heavy squat for both sessions which causes my knee joints to be in pain. I can admit this now that this wasn’t a smart decision but this lesson proves that if you revolve your training around too many free weighted exercises, the chances of joint pain increases.


In order to prevent this from happening to you I suggest to follow these basic rules. If your performing an exercise where the weight is being moved in a single line, free weight would work. But if you’re performing a movement in a circular motions, cables would be best. Choose up to 2 free weighted exercises and up to 2-3 cable movements per muscle groups to complete your routine. Below is a sample chest routine that follows these principles to ensure that the muscle are being fatigued while the joints are not being over worked.


Free Weight Exercises

Flat Bench Press

Incline Dumbbell Press


Cable Movements

Low To High Cable Flys

High To Low Cable Flys

Cable Crossovers