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The cable machine can be extremely versatile. Different types of attachments can help you use the cable machine to its full extent.
The cable machine is a piece of fitness equipment where a steel frame holds weights and pulleys. Thanks to the cable going through these pulleys and attached to these weights you can do many types of strength training exercises for a wide variety of muscles.
You can attach different cable machine handle attachments to the other end of the cable. Different types can be used for different exercises. In other cases, the choice between two alternatives is simply a matter of personal preference.
Whether certain of these cable machine attachments are a worthwhile investment ultimately depends on things like your training goals, personal situation, budget, and personal preference.
In any case, this article will give you an oversight of the different options and explain what the different types are used for.
1. Double rope handle
The double rope handle, also known as the tricep rope attachment, is as the name implies two sturdy ropes attached to an anchor point in the middle.
These ropes generally have thick parts at their ends. These thick parts have a flat surface to put your hands on and a round surface on the other end to make it more comfortable if you hit your body.
This cable machine attachment also comes at different lengths. Which one is the best for you depends on the exercises you intend to do and your personal body proportions.
The name tricep rope does not represent the potential of this cable machine attachment. You can also use the double rope handle to train shoulders, back, biceps, traps, legs, hip flexors, forearms, chest, and even abs and obliques.
If you only have the ability to choose one cable machine attachment option, the double rope handle likely allows you to train the most body parts.
Some more specific exercises you can do with a double rope handle include bicep curls, overhead triceps extensions, face pulls, upright rows, shrugs, lunges, knee raises, wrist curls, chest fly, crunches, and side bends.
2. Ankle strap
One downside of many cable machine attachments, and many free weights in general, is that you need to use your hands to hold them.
For isolating certain body parts like hamstrings, quadriceps, glutes, inner thighs, and outer thighs you want your leg to be able to “hold” weights.
The ankle strap cable machine attachment is made specifically for this goal. On top of that, it can be a more comfortable handle than just a cable if you don’t have any other attachments available.
Some ankle strap specific exercises include weighted leg abductions, weighted led adductions, hamstring curls, glute kickbacks, and leg extensions.
In theory, you could also use the ankle strap for exercises like bicep curls, tricep extensions, wrist curls, etc.
3. Single D handle
Single D handles are a type of cable machine attachment that comes in two main types. The first is a steel handle with more or less the shape of the capital letter D. The second is a short bar attached to straps.
Steel ones tend to be stronger and last longer than the strap versions but some people like the feel of the latter. Both can come with rubber padding for extra comfort.
When doing cable exercises with two-handed attachments it is possible to use one arm more than the other for lifting the weight. This can lead to muscle imbalances.
The single D handle is a cable machine attachment that can help you avoid this issue. It is made to do unilateral, one side at a time, exercises. For other exercises, a rope is not ideal and a long bar is not really a good option.
Some single D handle exercises include bicep curls, lateral raises, wrist curls, side bends, cable crossovers, Pallof presses, and chest presses.
4. Lat pulldown bar
The lat pulldown bar is a long bar that is straight in the middle and slightly bent at the ends. Some versions have handles at the end.
As the name implies this attachment is made for the cable machine back exercise called the lat pulldown. This is a very cable-machine-specific exercise since you have to pull down a weight towards yourself.
The bar attachment allows you to keep your hands in a position where your lats, latissimus dorsi muscles, have to work hard.
If you don’t have any other cable attachments available you can also grab the lat pulldown bar in the middle to do other exercises. Some of these include bicep curls, wrist curls, skull crushers, deadlifts, etc.
One potential downside for these other exercises is that the lat pulldown bar is relatively long. This can make it a bit awkward to use in these other exercise options.
5. Double D handle
This next option is basically two single D handles put into one cable machine attachment. The double D handle is mainly used to do seated cable machine rows.
Some models also allow you to use this handle together with a landmine barbell setup to do a bent-over row in a similar way.
One potential downside of the double D handle is that it has a relatively specific use. The upside of this option is that you are not really able to get the same wrist angle with the other cable machine attachments.
6. EZ curl bar
An EZ curl bar cable attachment looks and is relatively similar to the lat pulldown bar but instead of the middle of the bar being straight it is curled. EZ curl bar attachments also tend to be shorter than the lat pulldown bar.
The main benefit of this curled middle part is that it feels more comfortable to some people in certain exercises than the straight bar. A shorter bar can also be helpful if you are relatively short on space.
The EZ curl bar attachment can be used for similar exercises as the lat pulldown bar but can be especially helpful in exercises like bicep curls, skull crushers, and bent-over cable rows.
7. Straight bar
The next cable attachment is simply a straight steel bar, generally on the short side. This makes how you use it very similar to how you can use the lat pulldown bar but in a more mobile way.
Some examples of straight bar cable attachment exercises include tricep pushdowns, rows, bicep curls, straight arm pulldowns, and wrist curls.
The straight bar attachment is likely not an essential part of your cable machine setup, especially if you already have a lat pulldown bar. Even so, it can make certain exercises more convenient at a relatively low price.
8. Tricep pushdown handle
The tricep pushdown handle is a V-shaped cable machine attachment, sometimes with rubber padding. As the name implies this piece of fitness equipment is mainly a tricep pushdown exercise attachment.
Whether you want to use this tricep pushdown handle, or for example a double rope handle, for this exercise is mostly a case of personal preference.
When using the tricep pushdown handle you will have to pay less attention to keeping your hands at a certain width. This lack of mobility can also feel like a downside to some people.
The tricep pushdown handle is another option with a relatively specific use. You could use it for something like bicep curls but this may feel suboptimal compared to other handles.
9. Cable crunch harness
Most people don’t think ab workouts when talking about the cable machine but this is another area of your body the cable machine can help you work out.
The most typical exercise to do this is the cable machine crunch. This exercise is often done with other attachments like the double rope. One downside of this option is that the ropes can feel uncomfortable.
Cable crunch harnesses are made to allow you to do this same exercise but more comfortably.
The main downside of this cable attachment is that it has a relatively specific use. Even so, it can be a worthwhile, relatively low, investment if you plan to implement the cable crunch exercise a lot.
10. Single rope handle
The single rope handle is simply one rope that can be anchored to the cable machine. It basically has the same build as the double rope handle. That means a thick rope with at the end a thick part with a flat and a round side.
A single rope handle allows you to do exercises unilaterally. Similar to the single D handle this can help you avoid muscle imbalances.
Some examples of exercises you can do with the single rope handle cable attachment include tricep kickbacks, hammer curls, and overhead tricep extensions.
Instead of investing in a single rope handle, you can also just grab a double rope handle on one side. The downside of that is that the other rope can get in the way.
If that is something that bothers you, you can invest in a single rope handle which is a relatively low investment.
Bonus: cable attachment storage rack
When investing in cable machine attachments, and fitness equipment in general, your collection of different options can grow a lot.
Instead of throwing everything on one pile and having to look for 3 minutes before you find the option you intend to use, you can invest in a cable machine attachment storage rack.
This is basically a coat rack that allows you to store cable machine attachments and other fitness equipment like a weight lifting belt, steel chains, resistance bands, and in some cases bars, in an orderly way.
How do I use different cable attachments?
There are many different cable attachments that can be used in many different ways. A double rope handle can be used in many exercises like tricep pushdowns, face pulls, curls, etc. On the other hand, something like a cable crunch harness is generally only used for cable crunches.
Which attachment is used for cable rows?
The most commonly used attachment for cable rows is the double D handle. You can also use attachments like a straight bar, lat pulldown bar, and EZ curl bar.
What is the cable bar for?
A straight cable bar can be used for exercises like bicep curls, tricep pushdowns, rows, etc. The lat pulldown cable bar can additionally be great for the lat pulldown exercise.
How do you use a double D handle?
The most common use for a double D handle is the seated cable machine row. You can also use it for close-handed lat pulldowns. For other exercises you generally want to use other cable machine handles.