How to use a cable cross / lat pull down machine

Try this workout to work your upper back, shoulders, arms and abs

A cable cross and lat pull down machine offers a great workout—and you can find one at your local Y.

If you’ve never used this machine before, or aren’t sure how to give it a try, Dru Dalton, Personal Training program manager at the St. Paul Midway Y offers up some exercises you can do on your own in this 15-minute workout:

Single-arm external shoulder rotation

This move helps strengthen rotator cuffs in your shoulders.

  • Select the weight you’d like to use (suggest 5-15 pounds).
  • Adjust the handle of the cable cross so it is aligned with your elbows while arms are at rest.
  • Place a small hand towel between your right elbow and rib cage.
  • Grasp the cable cross handle with your right hand.
  • Rotate your right forearm out while keeping your elbow pressed against the towel.
  • Do 10-15 reps of this exercise.
  • Switch sides and repeat.

Lat pull down

This exercise works the latissimus dorsi (lat) muscles in your shoulders.

  • Select the weight you’d like to use.
  • Take a seat on the chair attached to the lat pull down.
  • Place your hands shoulder-width apart on the bar above.
  • Stabilize your shoulders by bringing them down and slightly back before performing the movement.
  • Pull the bar down below your chin and neck—just above your chest.
  • Do 10-15 reps.
  • Repeat for 2-3 sets.

Straight-arm press down

In addition to exercising lats and serratus anterior in your shoulders, this move works abdominal muscles.

  • Select the weight you’d like to use.
  • Stand an arm’s-length away from the lat pull down, with your feet hip-width apart.
  • Make sure the bar is no higher than your shoulders.
  • Place your hands shoulder-width apart on the bar in front of you.
  • Stabilize your shoulders by bringing them down and slightly back before performing the movement.
  • Press the bar down toward your waist.
  • Do 10-15 reps.
  • Repeat for 2-3 sets.

Single-arm row

This exercise works lat muscles in your shoulders, rhomboids and trapezius in your upper back and biceps in your upper-arms.

  • Select the weight you’d like to use.
  • Adjust the handle of the cable cross so it is aligned with your elbows while arms are at rest.
  • Stand with feet hip-width apart and a slight bend in your knees.
  • Grab the cable cross handle with one hand.
  • Pull the handle straight back toward your rib cage. 
  • Do 10-15 reps.
  • Switch sides and repeat.

Dru suggests incorporating this quick strength-training workout into your fitness routine 2-3 times a week.

For more help on strength training your upper body, you can meet with a Personal Trainer to get a customized exercise plan, or drop into strength-focused Group Exercise classes at the Y.