Weight Loss Made Practical » Exercise

10 Effective Cable Crossover Alternatives

Cable crossovers can offer many benefits but you may want other options. What are some alternatives to cable crossovers with similar benefits?

Cable crossovers are a resistance training exercise where you move your hands to the middle and one over the other from the sides. You do this movement with resistance, often a cable machine, possibly resistance bands.

This exercise is mainly done to isolate your chest muscles which in turn means that cable crossovers can help you build muscle mass, burn calories, and offer other typical exercise benefits.

Whether you don’t enjoy cable crossovers, you want to use other fitness equipment, or you want an alternative for any other reason, these alternatives to cable crossovers can offer you some or all of the same benefits.

Keep in mind that implementing these alternatives can offer benefits but like any exercise, there is always some risk of injury. Implement a good technique to keep your injury risk low. When in doubt talk to an expert.

1. Chest fly

For this first cable crossover alternative you preferably have a surface to lie on, for example a weight bench, and a type of one-handed resistance, for example dumbbells.

You could also only use a cable machine or resistance bands with an anchor at chest height. To do a chest fly with dumbbells on a weight bench take the following steps:

  1. Lie down with your back on a weight bench with a dumbbell in each hand.
  2. Keep your arms with the dumbbells slightly less than stretched and pointing up. Your hand palms should face each other and your hands should be as close together as possible.
  3. While keeping your arms slightly less than stretched slowly lower the dumbbells down sideways until your arms are about horizontally to the ground.
  4. Move your arms back to the position in step 2 in a controlled motion.

Similar to cable crossovers, the chest fly is a chest isolation exercise. That means other muscles will not have to work to a very big extent.

The downside of this alternative is that your chest goes through a slightly smaller range of motion. In turn, this likely leads to slightly less muscle gain.

You change what part of your chest muscles you mainly focus on by doing the chest fly at different angles. A dumbbell chest fly on an incline weight bench targets your upper chest muscles more. The same exercise on a decline bench focuses more on your lower chest muscles.

2. Pec deck machine

The pec deck is a chest gym machine where you sit up straight with your arms folded and your upper arms behind pads. To do the exercise you then push these pads toward each other by using your chest muscles.

The motion of this machine is similar to the chest fly but they are not exactly the same. Your arms start stretched out to the side with the chest fly instead of folded like with the pec deck machine.

A benefit of the pec deck machine is that it becomes a lot easier to really isolate your chest muscles since you are seated with back support. This can in turn lead to more focus on your chest muscles and faster and more muscle growth.

A potential downside of the pec deck machine as a cable crossover alternative is that it engages your core muscles a lot less.

3. Pushup

Pushups are an extremely popular bodyweight compound exercise you can use as a cable crossover alternative at home or in the gym. To do a pushup take the following steps:

  1. Get into the position where your face is facing the floor with your hand palms on the ground. Your arms stretched, and your knees on the ground.
  2. Move your feet back until your body is in a straight line.
  3. Slowly fold your arms at your elbows until your face is close to the ground. Your arms should be at an angle of about 45 degrees to your sides. Another way to put it is if someone is looking down at you from above your arms should make an arrow, not a T.
  4. Stretch your arms again until you are back in a straight arm plank position.

A potential downside or upside depending on your training goals is that pushups target a wide variety of muscles. Besides your chest, you will also train your triceps, shoulders, and core muscles a good amount.

For many people bodyweight pushups are already challenging enough but you can also use extra weights like a weighted vest or weight plate to make them more challenging. You can also do many pushup variations to focus on slightly different muscles.

One downside of pushups is that it can be a bit harder to make them very challenging. If you are more experienced with chest training you may not be able to build a lot of muscle with pushups, even weighted ones.

How to do a pushup

4. Dumbbell pullover

For the dumbbell pullover you preferably want a dumbbell and a weight bench. Similar weights and a similar surface to lie on can work too. Once you have these to do a dumbbell pullover take the following steps:

  1. Lie on a weight bench with your head on the end of the bench. Hold a dumbbell on your chest.
  2. Grab one end of the dumbbell with both of your hands with your hand palms pointing upward. Extend your arms upward until they are slightly less than stretched and point them up.
  3. Slowly move back your arms as far as comfortable. Keep your elbows close to your sides, not pointing outward. Your arms stay slightly less than stretched throughout the exercise.
  4. Move your arms back to the position in step 3 in a controlled motion.

If you feel your latissimus dorsi (middle back muscle) working a lot harder than your lower chest muscles your technique may be off.

You can also use other chest workout equipment options like kettlebells, a cable machine, resistance bands, a weight plate, etc. for pullovers but a dumbbell is generally the most convenient one to use.

5. Landmine press

For this next exercise you need a landmine setup. This is an attachment that secures a barbell at the ground level. The landmine setup opens the door to exercises like the landmine chest press. To do a landmine chest press take the following steps:

  1. Set up the landmine with the desired number of plates. Stand upright in front of the landmine with your feet at about shoulder width and your face toward the landmine. Make sure you are far enough from the anchor so the barbell is at a tilted angle.
  2. Grab the end of the barbell with one hand with a neutral grip, so hand palm pointing to the center/upward. The upper arm of the hand with the barbell is next to your body. The arm is about fully folded and the hand with the barbell is close to your chest.
  3. Slowly move the barbell forward and up until your arm is slightly less than stretched.
  4. Lower the barbell back into the position of step 2 in a controlled motion.

Similar to pushups, this cable crossover alternative also engages other muscles besides your chest like your triceps and shoulders. This can be good or bad depending on your personal situation and training goals.

Something that is generally a downside is that you have to train each arm separately with the landmine press. This makes it so you have to work out longer to get the same effect.

6. Cable fly

The standing cable fly looks and is very similar to cable crossovers but your arms don’t go as far to the middle. To do a standing cable fly take the following steps:

  1. Attach single-grip handles to each side of the cable machine at shoulder level.
  2. Grab 1 handle, walk towards the other handle and grab it with the other hand. Stand in the middle between the two cables.
  3. Put one foot a small distance backward and the other foot forward for balance. Slightly tilt your upper body forward while keeping your back straight. Keep your arms slightly less than extended throughout the exercise.
  4. Slowly bring your hands to the center until right before they touch each other.
  5. Go back to starting position in a controlled motion.

If you are not comfortable with crossing your arms as far as during a cable crossover you can stop at a regular cable fly. This will engage similar muscles to a similar extent. One downside is that your chest muscles will have to work less hard due to the smaller range of motion.

You can also do the standing cable fly with resistance bands if you have a sturdy resistance band anchor at about chest height.

7. Chest press

For this next cable crossover alternative you again need a cable machine or resistance band with a good anchor. Once you have one of these to do a standing chest press take the following steps:

  1. Attach single-grip handles to each side of the cable machine at slightly below chest level.
  2. Grab 1 handle, walk towards the other handle and grab it with the other hand. Stand in the middle between the two cables.
  3. Put one foot a small distance backward and the other foot forward for balance. Slightly tilt your upper body forward while keeping your back straight. How you grip the handles depends on what muscles you want to focus on.
  4. Your upper arms should be at an angle of about 45 degrees to your sides. Your forearms pointing forward horizontally.
  5. Push your hands forward until your arms are slightly less than stretched. Keep your forearms in the same line as the cable so you can exert force optimally.
  6. Return to the position in step 4 in a controlled motion.

The movement of the chest press is very similar to the pushup but because of the cable machine you can do it standing up. This requires less of your core muscles but still more than the bench press which is the same movement lying down.

Besides your chest and core muscles, chest presses also train your tricep and shoulder muscles.

8. Chest dip

The dip exercise mainly helps you train your triceps if you keep your body straight, but also your lower chest if you tilt your upper body forward. You will need dip bars or something similar for this chest exercise. To do a lower chest dip take the following steps:

  1. Place your hands on the dip bars. Start with your arms in an extended but not locked position. You will likely need to step-ups to get into this position. Your upper body should slightly tilt forward.
  2. Slowly lower your body by bending your elbows until these are at a 90-degree angle.
  3. Raise yourself back up again into starting position in a controlled motion.

By tilting your body you engage your chest muscles a bit more but you will also still engage your tricep muscles.

For most people bodyweight dips are already more than challenging enough. Doing weighted dips with dumbbells, a dip belt, a weighted vest, or ankle weights is possible but generally for individuals more experienced with resistance training.

9. Bench press

The bench press is one of the most popular weight lifting exercises. For this exercise, you will need a weight bench and a weight to press, for example a barbell, and a barbell rack. To do a barbell bench press take the following steps:

  1. Load up the barbell in the rack with the desired weight.
  2. Lie down with your back on the weight bench and place your hands with an overhanded grip on the barbell at about shoulder width.
  3. Unrack the barbell and keep your arms slightly less than stretched and pointing up.
  4. Slowly lower the barbell to your chest. Your upper arms should be at an angle of about 45 degrees or less to your sides.
  5. Push the barbell back up in the position of step 3 in a controlled motion.

You can also change the angle of the weight bench to focus more on different parts of your chest muscles. Putting the bench more incline, so your upper body higher than your lower body, engages your upper chest and shoulders more. A barbell bench press with a more decline bench will focus more on your lower chest muscles.

It is also possible to do bench presses with free weights like dumbbells, kettlebells, weight plates, etc., and machines like the cable machine, smith machine, and chest press machine.

The bench press is another cable crossover alternative that is more focused on multiple muscles instead of just your chest muscles.

10. Jackhammer pushdowns

For the jackhammer pushdown you only need one pulley of a cable machine and a straight bar handle. Once you have these to do a jackhammer pushdown take the following steps:

  1. Set the pulley as high as possible and attach a straight bar handle.
  2. Stand next to the cable machine with your face toward it. Tilt your body slightly forward while keeping your back straight, and grab the straight bar with both of your hands. Your hand palms should face downward. In starting position you want your hands at about shoulder height.
  3. Slowly push down the straight bar until your arms are slightly less than stretched.
  4. Return to the position in step 2 in a controlled motion.

There are not many pieces of fitness equipment that allow you do to do jackhammer pushdowns. One alternative to using a cable machine is a resistance band.

With both types of equipment, jackhammer pushdowns will mainly focus on your triceps and lower part of the chest muscles.