Rope & Pulley Exercises

Updated April 17, 2017

Rope and pulley exercises are great because they allow you to pull resistance from nearly any angle. They are almost a necessity for any serious body builder because certain muscles, to fully grow, need an angle of resistance besides the straight down resistance free weights provide. Some of the best pulley exercises target your larger muscle groups and provide a great all-around benefit for your upper body.


The cable crunch is one of the best exercises at working out the muscles in your abs. When you get to the pulley machine, set the pulley at the highest setting possible. If the pulley isn't adjustable, make sure that it is at least 5 feet high, or you won't be able to use it for this exercise. The ideal handle attachment for this exercise is the rope attachment.

Stand on your knees with just enough room between them and the machine for you to fully bow your head forward without touching the machine. Grasp the two ends of the handles and place each end by your cheeks and keep your elbows tucked in. If you don't have a rope attachment, put the attachment right behind your neck and hold it there. To get into the starting position, flex your hips slightly, and allow for the weight to lift your chest up as far as it can without moving your legs. Slowly start lowering your head to the floor, but only contract your abdomen as you do it. Exhale as you crunch down, and inhale as you slowly release back up. Pick a weight that enables you to do three sets of 8 to 12 repetitions. You should feel a deep burn in your abs and lower back if you do this exercise correctly.


Cable rows work out many muscles in your back and arms. Find a pulley machine that either is set at or will allow you to adjust the pulley height to be about chest-high when you are seated. The best attachment for this exercise is the v-bar, with the two handles running parallel to each other. The rope attachment can also be used if no v-bar is available.

Sit down with your knees slightly bent, and grasp the v-bar or rope so that your palms are facing each other. Keep your spine straight up, and let the weight pull your arms out until they are fully extended. Without moving your back, exhale and slowly pull the handle to your chest. Hold it there for one second and slowly release it back to the starting position while inhaling. Pick a weight that allows you to do three sets of 8 to 12 repetitions. You should feel a nice burn in your back, shoulders and biceps if performed correctly.


Cable crossovers target the inner chest muscles unlike any free weight exercise can. To perform this exercise, find a cable pulley machine with two pulleys on opposite sides. Use single-handed handle attachments. Attach one to each cable. Set the pulleys to the highest position, and stand in the middle of the machine with an arm out to each side of the machine.

Grab a handle with each arm and let the weight pull your arms out to the sides. Keep your feet firmly planted on the ground and slightly tilt your chest forward. Slowly pull the handles down to your waist as you exhale until your hands cross each other. Exhale and slowly bring your hands back to the starting position. Keep your elbows slightly bent throughout the exercise to prevent injury. Use a weight that allows you to do three sets of 8 to 12 reps. You should feel a burn in your chest, shoulders, biceps and forearms.

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About the Author

Zachary Mitton is a writer for Demand Studios. Being an avid bodybuilder for the past several years, he has become an expert in health and fitness. He is currently a pre-law major at Grand Valley State University.