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Cable Deadlift Guide: What It Is, How to Do It, Muscles Worked, Benefits, and Tips

 Written by 

Julien Raby

 Last updated on 

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The deadlift is one of the best exercises to train posterior muscles and gain muscle mass. In this article, we are going to talk about the cable deadlift. Let’s get started.

What Is A Cable Deadlift?

The cable deadlift is one of the variations of the deadlift. To perform it, you should use a cable pulley instead of free-weights. The cable deadlift targets major muscles: the hamstrings, back, and gluteus muscles.

Different lifting machines, including a cable deadlift machine
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A man performing cable deadlifts at the gym
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Benefits of the Cable Deadlift: Why and When Can I Perform It

1. Alternative to the Barbell Deadlift

If you don’t have access to a barbell, the cable deadlift is a great alternative to your barbell deadlift. And it’s a great option just so you can still get that motion in.

The second reason that you would try this is you can’t get on the traditional deadlift platform. How many times have you walked in the gym with this grand plan and then there’s someone on it for an hour? That’s no excuse not to still hit your deadlifts.

2. For Beginners 

If you’re a beginner or even intermediate and you’re still trying to master the form of the barbell deadlift, this is going to be a little safer option until you cope with that form. Because you can get lead to injury quickly on traditional deadlifts.

A woman performing cable deadlifts at the gym
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How to Do the Cable Deadlift

Take a cable stack setup. The pulley station is going to be set up low. You can use different handle attachments. For example, the straight bar. Also, you can definitely use a rope or your D-handle attachments for this. Attach a bar handle to the lowest setting on the cable machine.

Grab the bar. The typical starting position for this is going to be shoulder-width apart facing the cable machine. And then with a soft knee and flat back, you’re going to lean forward until you start to feel that real deep stretch in the hamstrings. And you’re going to keep going until you can no longer keep your back straight.

If you start to round that means you’re too deep, come up a little bit. With the arms straight, you’re just going to start to come up and squeeze the buttocks to the top. Again, stretch hinging at the hip, maintain a slight bend in your knees, stretch all the way back up, and return to the starting position.

Common Variations of The Cable Deadlift

There are a couple of things you can do. You can vary your stance for this. You can keep feet together or do shoulder width. It’s going to hit the hamstrings a little differently. And then you can also try feet wide. With this particular variation, you’re going to feel a lot more inner thighs as you come down.

But anyway, it’s a great compound exercise and you actually have resistance both ways which you really don’t have with a barbell.

For maximum muscle toning, you can step over the handle so that the pulley is behind you and then you want to go about two feet forward or so to get enough resistance on the handles.

When you’re down in the full-bottom position of the cable when we need a deadlift, you have tension on the cable. This simple move is like the Romanian deadlift where you’re simply lowering down. With cable, you actually have a counter resistance so that’s another benefit.

An athlete performing cable deadlifts at the gym
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Cable Deadlift Guide: FAQs

Are cable deadlifts effective?

The cable deadlift is one of the alternative exercises to the barbell deadlift. Using proper form, you can work the hamstring, back, forearms, and gluteus muscles during this movement.

Can I do deadlifts on a cable machine?

Yes, you can do cable deadlifts on a cable machine using a cable pulley.

Which deadlift style is best?

The squat stance deadlift is one of the most effective exercises for muscle building and strength. Using heavy weights, you can target the leg, arm, back, and core muscles with this hip hinge exercise.


Julien Raby is the owner of BoxLife. He owns a bachelor in literature and a certificate in marketing from Concordia. He's Crossfit Level 1 certified and has been involved in Crossfit since 2010. In 2023 he finally made it to Crossfit Open Quarterfinals for the first time. LinkedIn Instagram Facebook

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