Beat Weight Room Boredom with Cable Supersets

I’ve talked about the benefits of supersets but sometimes we need a fresh kick in the pants to challenge ourselves (or just a fresh workout). Sure, supersets can overload your muscles, save time and help break us out plateaus. But as with anything, supersets (two exercises back to back without rest) can become boring and routine if repeated relentlessly.

That’s why a little creativity goes a long way. (In case you didn’t know, you can be creative with your workouts. They can be fun!) When I’m following a particular program my workouts are structured, but otherwise I like to change things up a lot.

You want to avoid boredom at all costs because the longer you are bored, the less motivation you will have.

Please note that supersets are not circuits. A circuit is a succession of exercises (more than two) done without rest. A circuit’s main purposes are calorie burn, saving time, and possibly endurance. Supersets are used to increase strength and muscle mass.

Doing the same supersets for more than four to six weeks will eventually result in diminishing results. So remember to mix it up – replace supersets with straight sets and continually change the grip, equipment, type of superset, etc. There are many variables to work with so become well versed in all of them if you want to see them muscles gettin’ bigger and stronger.

Exploiting the Cable Machine

You could do an entire workout using cables. I adore cable machines because they create a lot of interest in my workouts, plus they provide continuous tension throughout the exercise and oftentimes force you to use your core more. You may have to go a bit lower in the weight consequently.

One of my favorite cable supersets is the straight-arm pushdown and bent-over high pulley row, which hits your back (lats, specifically). Attach a long bar to a high pulley and use the bar for both exercises. You will need to use less weight because you are effectively doing two exercises in a row. Rest 60-90 seconds (depending on how heavy you’re lifting) and repeat for three to four sets. See how convenient it is to do two exercises back to back on the same cable station? With this same bar you could also do an upright row/front raise superset or a bicep curl/tricep pushdown superset. Of course, the rope can be substituted for the bar in many exercises and allows you to change up your routine a bit.

Same-muscle supersets such as this are also called pre-exhaustion sets: You use an isolation exercise to first exhaust a primary muscle (in this case lats), then follow up with a compound exercise that uses the primary muscle and supporting muscles (biceps, shoulders). Of course, you can also reverse this and do the compound exercise followed by the isolation exercise.

If you don’t have access to cable machines, you can use dumbbells and do bent-over rows and pull ups (or chin ups) or a superman and a prone (face down) incline row.

If your gym has FreeMotion machines (both the large all-purpose ones), get to know them well. On the FreeMotion chest machine (pictured), do a chest press and chest fly superset. Or using the shoulder machine, do a seated overhead press followed by a standing front raise. The pictures on the machine don’t show this combo, but a little creativity proves you can do it anyway.

You can also do opposing muscle supersets – chest/back, front delts/rear delts, biceps/triceps, or quadriceps/hamstrings, for example. It’s a bit astonishing to see how quickly a workout goes when you’re training this way.

Try some of these ideas for hitting the quadriceps on a cable machine and pair them with hip extensions or hamstring curls. Or do front delt raises paired with rear delt flys.

The ways of mixing up supersets aren’t limited to what I’ve listed here. You can do three exercises in a row, add in an unrelated muscle group to the superset, do isolation or compound supersets, etc.

What creative ideas have you used for avoiding boredom? Have you used cable machines in a creative way?

13 thoughts on “Beat Weight Room Boredom with Cable Supersets

  1. The cable machines are so cool because you can do like 20 different exercises on one machine (at least the ones at my gym). I do tend to get in a rut and do the same routine each time, so it’s a good reminder to change things up.


    • I find myself spending a LOT of time on them since my tennis elbow injury. Many have left/right weight stacks, allowing for unilateral training. Plus there’s more control than dumbbells for a weak side.


  2. You know I love this Suzanne!! I am like you – all about mixing it up & keep the bod guessing! I never get bored n the gym – so many ways to lift! 🙂 I just got 2 new ankle cable cuffs from Harbinger to use/review! I had a leather one for close to 20 years & it finally broke. I bought a cheapy velcro one that comes undone with weights over 40 pounds so I asked if I could try their 2 heavy duty ones – I am a very happy lady! 🙂


  3. I adore the Pro-Motion machine at my gym and really appreciate all of these great ideas for cable exercise love! Thanks for sharing the cable superset videos of those specific moves; it’s much easier for me to learn when I can see the exercise being performed well. 🙂


  4. I run and go to the gym but do not really take advantage of the cable machine that much because I thought I want more from it. And that’s exactly what you brought here on this post – good activities to perform with cable machines. Nice!


  5. There is so much you can do on the cable machines, PLUS as a added benifit you do not have to trip over, or pick up weights that the last user was too lazy to put back in place. Thanks Suzanne for all your GREAT posts!


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