The pectoral muscles don’t have as many exercises as the muscles of the upper back. You’ve got bench presses, dips, and pec flies. Cable crossovers are an excellent version of a pec fly, and one that not enough people know how to do. In this article, we will look at how to do cable crossovers with perfect form.
The cable crossover is a form of pec fly that is performed standing upright with a cable station. It’s a superb isolation exercise for the pectorals and is a gym staple for many bodybuilders and general gym lovers.
The cable crossover is a great exercise for the pecs, and one of the few pec-related exercises that does not use any other major muscle groups. The bench press uses the deltoids and triceps, dips also use these muscles. This means that if your deltoids and triceps are tired, you won’t be able to perform them properly. But you can perform a cable crossover because it only works the pecs.
One thing we should state before proceeding, the name crossover refers to placing one hand over the other at the end of the movement. Your arms cross over. This is how most people perform this exercise. But you don’t need to.
There are no additional benefits to crossing your hands over each other. You can perform the exercise so that your hands finish beside each other, which is easier to do and provides the same benefits. Which is why we are describing this method. Check out an example of it here:
For this exercise you will need a cable station, this is so that you can stand in the centre with a cable handle in each hand. Start with both handles in front of your body, at just below chest height. The cables themselves should be set to the highest setting so that there is a diagonal line from their origin to the handles.
Place one foot forward and one backwards, this will give you greater stability during the exercise. Push your chest out and hold your hands out in front of your body. Bend your arms very slightly. Keep this bend as you slowly pull your arms apart, bringing the handles back to their origin on the cable station. Think of a bird flapping its wings backwards. Do this movement slowly and stay in control.
With your arms back almost behind you and chest pushed out, slowly pull your arms forwards and down towards your starting position. As if you are about to clap your hands together. Stop when your hands are beside each other, and then repeat the movement again and again until you have hit the requisite reps.
There is only one major cable crossover variation, and that is where you place the origins of the handles on the lowest setting rather than the highest. Instead of pulling your hands down and forward, you are pulling your hands upwards and forwards. This completely changes the angle that your chest is working at.
It’s a nice variation, but the classic cable crossover requires less coordination, and is a little more beginner friendly. If you’ve mastered classic cable crossovers, then this could well be worth giving a go as an alternate.
You have also got the more traditional lying dumbbell fly, which is where you lie on a bench with a dumbbell in each hand. You start this movement with both arms slightly bent, and your hands raised directly above your chest.
Push your chest out and then pull your bent arms apart, again like a bird spreading its wings. Pause when your arms are slightly below chest level, and then pull them together like you are clapping hard. The main benefit of the dumbbell variation is that it doesn’t require you using a whole cable station, which can be tricky to manage in a busy gym.
The only muscles that cable crossovers work are the pectoral muscles (chest). There may be a little emphasis on your forearms, and the upper back (which works as a stabiliser). But you’ll barely notice this. Cable crossovers are essentially isolation exercises.
Yes, they are a decent chest exercise. But they are nowhere near as effective as bench pressing, dips, and even push ups. They are more of an accessory exercise, but a very good accessory exercise.
You can perform them while lying down on an incline bench. This is an amazing variation (set the cables on the lowest setting). Alternatively, you can perform dumbbell flyes, or if your gym has a pec dec or pec fly machine then you can use that. Ultimately, you could build an amazing chest with just the bench press, dips, and a chest press machine. Use a wider grip to (slightly) recreate some of the benefits of a cable crossover.