Time under tension
Over the past years, there have been many debates in the fitness world about the differences between cable training and free weight training. Naturally, each method of training comes with its own pros and cons. But which one is better for you and your training style?
First, you have to understand that these two methods, while they might seem similar at a glance, are quite different. For example, free weight training uses the natural movements of your body and gravity to work your muscles. On the other hand, cable training relies more on the tension and difficulty that it creates. This means that if while using free weights your muscles go through short relaxation periods, with cable training there’s a constant tension kept throughout the exercise.
When you use free weights such as dumbbells and barbells, regardless of the exercise you’re doing, you pull the weights against gravity. If you were to analyze, for example, the barbell curl, you would notice that at the very beginning and end of each rep, the movements of the bar are almost horizontal. That means you’re no longer pulling the weight against gravity, giving your muscles that short relaxation moment.
However, if you were using cables for the same type of exercise, that relaxation period would be gone, because the cables keep continuous tension on your muscles, regardless of your movement. Furthermore, everyone should know that when working on a specific group of muscles, they’re not the only groups of muscles involved in the exercise. Besides the working group, we have the stabilizing muscle group as well. These are the muscles that give us the stability to perform exercises with proper form. One of the advantages of cable training is that it requires less stabilizing muscles, thus making it easier to achieve proper form, even if you’re a beginner.
Another aspect that should be taken into consideration while training is the amount of weights used. From a technical point of view, you would use the same amount of strength to lift a 40 kilo barbell as you would use during a 40 kilo cable exercise. This only works in theory, because practically, using cable exercises puts more tension and strain on your muscles through the pulley system and the friction they cause. This also translates into more energy spent during exercise.
One of the main advantages of cable training is the fact that you can work a very wide variety of muscles without having to move a lot through the gym. You just add or subtract weights, you change your stance, and you’re good to go for your next sets of exercises. This does not only decrease the time you spend in the gym, but also gives you the benefit of keeping your muscles warm in-between exercises. Furthermore, most athletes have slight muscle imbalances between both sides of the body. This can be cause by a variety of reasons, but through the help of cable training, you can reestablish the balance through isolation exercises that focus on only one side of your body.
Basically, cable training offers an increases the time your muscles spend in tension, increasing the energy you use. This also maximizes the strength you put in during your workouts. And it does it all without requiring the same amount of stability as free weight training. It’s an excellent workout choice for both beginners and advanced athletes.