How to Build a DIY Cable Machine

STACK Expert Roger Lockridge gives you instructions on how to build your own DIY cable machine.

One of the advantages of training at a gym or school weight room instead of at home is that you can do more exercises, thanks to the machines, especially the cable machine. If you have a home gym, it can be frustrating to read articles that recommend cable exercises you are unable to do. With this DIY project, now you can.

First, find the right location for your cable station to be and measure the ceiling in your weight room. Keep this number handy because you'll need it when you get your supplies. Also find where the floor joists are if you have a two-story building or find two solid spots where you can hang your new station so it won't fall on you. Mark these two spots. They should be 12 inches wider than your wing span on each side.

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Shopping List

If you don't already have some of these items at home, you shouldn't need to spend more than $60.

  • 2 screw hooks. Make sure they have a heavy working load capacity.
  • 2 pulley wheels you can hang from your hooks, at least 125-pound grade.
  • 2 2-foot sections of chain. Make sure the chains can hold a lot of weight. Mine are 1,300-pound grade.
  • 4 utility links. Make sure they can handle a heavy load. Mine were 150 pounds.
  • Electrical tape
  • 4 cable clamps (1/2 inch).
  • 2 sections of 3/16 steel cable. Get 12 inches more than your ceiling height. My two spots were 7 feet high so I got 8 feet.
  • 1 fitness band with handles.
  • Scissors, box cutter or knife.

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Putting Together Your First Cable Station

  • Screw your hook into the ceiling on one of the marks you made earlier.
  • Place one of your pulleys on the hook. Feed one of your cables through the pulley.
  • Fold the first 6-8 inches of one end of your cable over so it has a loop. Secure it with electrical tape followed by one of the cable clamps.
  • Repeat with the other side of your cable.
  • Add 10 pounds of weight to one of the chains. Connect both ends of the chain with a utility link. Connect that utility link with one of the ends of your cable via the loop you made.
  • Connect the other utility link to the other end of the cable.
  • Cut the handles off the fitness band with your scissors. Connect the detached handles to your opposite utility link.

Testing It Out

Take the handles of your new cable station and perform a Pulldown or Pressdown. It should be able to easily handle the 10 pounds on the chain. Perform a few reps to make sure it will hold the load. Repeat this process with more weight until you have as much as you think you can lift successfully. If you got everything on the list with quality and sturdy grades, you can easily handle over 70 pounds on this system. If it falls, find a new spot in the ceiling and try again, or get equipment that can handle heavier loads.

Once you've tested the system and determined it works, install the other cable system on the other side of the room where you made your second mark. Make sure your handles are on the inside of where you would reach them if you were standing between them. Test it out exactly as you did the first one until it successfully holds your max weight.

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Finally, test both at the same time. Perform a set of Cable Crossovers for 20 reps with light weight. Next, go a little heavier and perform 10 reps. Once you've done this successfully, you will have completed your installation. You are now the proud owner of your own DIY cable station!

Extra Tips on Different Handles

If you want to perform rope movements, you can buy 3 feet of rope from your local hardware store, tie ends on them, and connect the utility link on the cable to the middle of the rope.

If you want a straight bar, you can feed your bar through the utility link or place a u-bolt in the middle of the bar you want to use and connect the utility link to it.

Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock