Why Cable Training Instead of Free Weights?

When I was young I was a successful athlete. Running “middle distance” in university and later for Russia, I had to be strong, fit and fast. And always getting faster. I enjoyed it, but the continuous strain and relentless drive for performance improvement resulted in injuries.

Completing my degrees in coaching, fitness and physiotherapy I learned the physics and physiology of movement – both correct and incorrect. Then, my years of training in, certification and teaching of Pilates have rounded out my knowledge and practice.

Much wiser today than when I was competing, I employ a combination of Pilates, functional and cable resistance training to bring out the best in myself and my clients. Why cable training? Why not weights? Both use resistance, but there are big differences between them:

Cable Resistance Free (Heavy-)Weights

Good for improved strength, range of motion, balance, flexibility

Good for building strength; And adding explosiveness

Improved skill sports – e.g., golf, tennis, basketball

Build lean muscle mass: “Bulk up!”

Strengthen and add length to a range of muscles – large and small

Build density, size and strength in unique muscles and muscle groups

Improve bone density

Improve done density

Controlled; cable and pulley encourage smooth, well-timed movement

“Free”, uncontrolled movement; more injury prone

Can work in multiple “planes” – not just horizontal or vertical. Can “decompress”

many muscles and muscle groups for much more functional fitness.

Single plane movement and very limited decompression (In fact, heavy weights are a damaging way to decompress muscle.)

Continuous tension – best performance is achieved without rest. Very time efficient.

To build strength requires strain (30% eccentric is optimal) then rest, strain then rest. Not time efficient. Can lead to injuries.

Sleek, confined – limited space and ease of use.

Lots of space (and big clanging bars and weights!)

Assistance or guidance not needed

Dangerous without assistance

Which is best for you? If you are young, looking to be more powerful in a contact sport or one requiring jumping, then progressive free weight training is probably for you. Maybe you are a 20-year old football player who wants to cut an aggressive V-shape and strain the sleeves in his shirt! Free weights are best then. With assistance please!

Maybe you are past your competitive years or no longer looking to “bulk up” or leap your longest and highest, rather you want to look more lean or avoid injury, not risk one. Regardless of age or gender, you are looking to live life fully, whether it is pushing a golf buggy or a baby buggy! Perhaps you enjoy skiing, but not looking to “get more air.” And you appreciate how you look when you are fit, but not worried about counting the muscles. If one or more of these descriptions fit, then cable weight training is for you.

Cable training encompasses long, fluid movement with consistent resistance across the entire range. In my practice, especially with KinetiCube and KinetiCa, I add compound movement at multiple angles and directions. A long arm movement is compounded with a turn of the hips or a squat, while keeping the back straight and the neck relaxed. This has many benefits: It is highly “functional,” just like how you and I move all day! Turning to picking something off the floor of a car or hitting a backhand in tennis – these are compound movements that are enhanced by cable training, much more than working with free weights. A weighted, compound movement done correctly will strengthen many muscles, including multiple areas of your “core.” It will improve balance and flexibility. With weighted cable training, you may not be able to “leap tall buildings at a single bound” or look like a well-muscled superman, but you will find you are more ‘fit’ than someone bulkier than you, and will look super in a suit or a dress. For many, this is a great goal.

In my practice and on-line trainings, I employ free weights for increased strength and endurance, but they rarely exceed 4kg. And again, they are always part of a compound exercise. Long, controlled, compound movements build up a range of large and small muscles, layers of them in your abdomen and strengthen the connective tissue as well. And it is a lot harder to get hurt with 4kg than 40!

“Aah to be young again!” is phrase I hear my new clients say. But after personalized programs that combine disciplines, including cable resistance, I hear, “I’m not so tired in my tennis matches”, “I haven’t had that back pain in more than six months!”, “I had so much fun dancing this weekend and didn’t feel it the next day!” These phrases are even more satisfying – and achievable – for everyone.

Welcome to KinetiCube,