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There are a number of cable attachments on the market. Since they all serve different purposes and are used to target different muscles, it can be difficult to determine which ones you need for your cable machine.
The 10 best cable attachments are:
- Tricep rope
- EZ curl attachment
- Replaceable single cable
- Long straight bar
- Short straight bar
- Ankle straps
- Single tricep rope
- Double-d attachment
In this article, I’ll discuss the benefits and drawbacks of each attachment and which exercises each one can be used for. I’ll also tell you whether each cable attachment is a must-have or a nice-to-have item so you can narrow down your choices to the most necessary attachments.
10 Best Cable Attachments
1. Tricep Rope
A tricep rope is a must-have attachment for anyone who wants to do a lot of arm isolation work with their cable machine.
The positioning of your hands allows you to target the lateral head of the tricep, which is located on the outside of the upper arm and aids in the straightening of your elbow.
What Is a Tricep Rope?
A tricep rope is a thick, braided rope looped through a piece of metal that attaches to the clip on a cable machine. It’s available in a range of lengths and thicknesses — typically 24-28 inches in length (although some are longer) and 1¼ to 1½ inches in diameter.
Many tricep ropes also have rubber stoppers at the ends. They give you something to rest your hands against while you’re holding onto the rope and prevent your hands from slipping off.
Tricep Rope Positives and Drawbacks
As I’ll explain below, the tricep rope is a versatile cable attachment because you can use it for more than just tricep exercises. It’s also beneficial if you have a history of hand, wrist, or forearm injuries because you have more freedom of movement than you’d have with a straight bar attachment.
Another benefit of the tricep rope attachment is that it allows for a larger range of motion so you can extend your arms even further at the bottom of a tricep pushdown. If you do overhead tricep extensions, you can also achieve a greater stretch in your upper arms since you can typically bring them down further than you’d be able to with a different attachment.
Tricep ropes are prone to fraying, and they can be more difficult to clean since sweat, chalk, and dust can caught in the threads. The rubber stoppers can also become loose over time, and you may need to tighten them often if you use your rope attachment frequently.
Exercises To Do and Muscles Worked With a Tricep Rope
As the name implies, the tricep rope is ideal for exercises that target the triceps such as tricep pressdowns and overhead tricep extensions. It can also be used to pull your hands closer to your torso and get a greater range of motion during seated rows.
Other exercises that you can do with a tricep rope include:
- Hammer curls (to work the biceps and forearm muscles)
- Cable crunches (to work the abs)
- Seated rows (to work the lat, rhomboid, and trap muscles in the upper and middle back as well as the biceps)
- Straight-arm pulldowns (to primarily work the lats but also target the triceps, back of the shoulders, traps, and rhomboids)
- Face pulls (to work the rear deltoids at the back of the shoulders as well as the rhomboids and traps in the upper back)
Who Should and Should Not Use a Tricep Rope?
Anyone with a vertical cable machine in their home gym can benefit from having a tricep rope attachment. It’s an especially useful tool for bodybuilders and anyone who has physique-based goals. Even powerlifters and CrossFitters can use it to strengthen the triceps and shoulders.
However, while you can use a tricep rope for seated cable rows, you don’t necessarily need one if you already have other attachments for your seated cable machine.
Tricep Rope Recommendation
I recommend the Harbinger Tricep Rope. It’s affordable, durable, and the black and red threads will help it stand out if you ever wanted to bring it to a commercial gym. It’s available in 26” or 36”, both of which are 1¼ inches in diameter. The heavy-duty nylon doesn’t fray easily, and the rubber stoppers provide a lot of hand support.
2. EZ Curl Attachment
An EZ curl attachment is another must-have for anyone with a vertical cable machine in their home gym. It’s not quite as versatile as the tricep rope attachment, but there is still plenty you can do with it.
What Is an EZ Curl Attachment?
EZ curl attachments resemble an EZ curl bar. Instead of being completely straight, they have a zigzag shape. They’re usually 30 inches in length and weigh between 2-7lbs.
EZ curl attachments are often made out of chrome, steel, or aluminum. Many bars have knurled grip sections, but there are also several options that have rubber grip sections. These rubber sections are gentler on the hands and can be more comfortable to hold onto for multiple reps.
EZ Curl Attachment Positives and Drawbacks
The zigzag shape of the EZ curl attachment puts your arms in a position that alleviates pressure on the wrists and elbows when doing curl exercises.
If you have a cable stack that increases in weight in 2.5lb increments, it can also be easier to progress EZ curls on a cable machine. It’s not always feasible to jump up in weight in smaller increments when doing curls with dumbbells or EZ curl bars with fixed weights.
It also offers various grip options. You can hold your hands wide or narrow, use an underhand or overhand grip, or keep your hands in a natural, shoulder-width grip. All of these different grips allow you to target the biceps in different ways.
One drawback of the EZ curl attachment is that it’s not as versatile as other attachments. There is still a wide range of exercises you can do with it, but it’s not easy to do things like cable crunches with it. Because they’re shorter, it’s also challenging to get a wide enough grip for wide-grip lat pulldowns.
Exercises To Do and Muscles Worked With an EZ Curl Attachment
The EZ curl attachment is most often used for bicep curls to target the biceps. Different grips allow you to work the two bicep heads (the short head, which is closer to the inner arm and faces your chest, and the long head, which is located more towards the upper/outer part of the arm) in different ways.
For example, a wider grip will work more of the short head while a narrower grip will work more of the long head. As well, you can hold the bar with an overhand grip to engage more of your forearms.
The EZ curl attachment can also be used for tricep pushdowns, upright rows (which work the shoulders and upper back), and lat pulldowns, although you can’t use a very wide grip.
Who Should and Should Not Use an EZ Curl Attachment?
The EZ curl attachment is ideal for bodybuilders and anyone who wants to add more bicep exercises into their routine. Because it allows you to use different grips without placing extra stress on the joints, it’s also a good option for people with previous elbow, wrist, or forearm injuries.
If you’re only looking to use your cable machine for wide-grip lat pulldowns or other upper body exercises, the EZ curl attachment may not be worth it. While you can do a lot of movements with it, there are other attachments that work other muscle groups more effectively.
EZ Curl Attachment Product Recommendation
The yuhqc revolving bar is a solid choice for an EZ curl attachment. It has anti-slip rubber grips with a knurled texture, and the carabiner clip rotates to allow for more natural movement during each exercise.
This bar is a solid 8lb bar made out of chrome. The rubber grips may wear down over time, but the bar itself is sturdy and well-made, so it should last for a long time.
Related Article: 20 Home Fitness Equipment Brands (That We Trust)
3. Replaceable Single Cable
Having a strong, sturdy cable wire is a must with any cable machine. Most cable machines come with one, but it’s beneficial to have a backup cable in case the original one frays or snaps completely.
Trying to repair a cable can cause further damage to your cable machine or injury to yourself if you don’t fix it properly. Fortunately, replacement cables are widely available and inexpensive. It doesn’t hurt to have one even if you don’t need it right away so you can replace your original cable quickly if it does break.
Replaceable Single Cable Attachment Product Recommendation
I recommend the J Bryant replacement cable wire. It’s available in four different pre-set lengths, and you can purchase it in a custom length. I also like that it’s constructed with several safety features such as a stop ball to prevent it from falling out of the machine and an anti-fray protective coating.
This cable is compatible with a large selection of cable machines, so it will likely fit your machine regardless of which kind you have.
If you have a seated cable machine at home, a D-handle attachment is a must. It’s sometimes called a stirrup handle and is one of the only cable attachments that can be used for single-arm work.
What Is a D-handle?
A D-handle is a D-shaped metal handle, often with knurling, that you can hold onto with one hand. Some are made out of nylon and have thick rubber grips.
It enables you to train one side at a time, which is important for overcoming strength imbalances and learning how to use both sides of your body equally to prevent your dominant side from compensating for your weaker side.
D-Handle Positives and Drawbacks
The fact that you can use the D-handle attachment for unilateral (single-sided) exercises is both a positive and a negative. Being able to train one side of your body at a time is a huge benefit, but since you can’t easily use this handle for two-handed exercises, you shouldn’t rely solely on it for all of your cable exercises.
On the plus side, a D-handle attachment is small and often inexpensive. It won’t break the bank or take up too much room in your home gym when you’re not using it.
Exercises To Do and Muscles Worked With a D-Handle
Many exercises that you can do with other cable attachments can be done with a D-handle attachment. These include:
- Single-arm seated rows (to work the lats, traps, rhomboids, and teres major — a small but thick muscle at the back of the upper body that helps you move your arm — as well as the back of the shoulders)
- Single-arm cable curls (to primarily target the biceps)
- Cable crossovers (to work the pec muscles in the chest)
- Cable lateral raises (to work the front and side of the shoulder as well as the serratus anterior, a large muscle that sits on top of your ribs and attaches to your shoulder blades)
- Pallof presses (for some anti-rotational core work)
Who Should and Should Not Use a D-Handle?
Anyone who wants to incorporate unilateral work into their training should use a D-handle. It’s an excellent option for anyone who needs to work on restrengthening one side of the body after an injury or anyone who has one side that is significantly stronger than the other.
Anyone who has room for a full cable station can also benefit from having two D-handles to use for exercises like cable crossovers.
If you already do a lot of unilateral training with dumbbells, you may not need a D-handle. But cable exercises provide a different stimulus than dumbbells do, so it’s still something worth considering if you want to add more variety to your routine.
D-Handle Product Recommendation
I recommend the Yes4All single D attachment for a very affordable yet durable D-handle. It’s made out of high-quality steel, finished with chrome to prevent rust, and has a knurled, rotating handle to allow for more freedom of movement and alleviate stress on your joints.
If you’re looking for a budget-friendly way to add more cable attachments to your home gym in addition to a D-handle, I recommend this cable attachment bundle from IFAST Fitness. It comes with a short straight bar, a V-shaped bar, a double V-handle, and a tricep rope. Buying all of the attachments in a bundle will cost much less than buying them all individually. If you want a 12% discount, use the code “powerlifting” when checking out.
Except for the rope, which is made out of heavy-duty nylon and has rubber stoppers, the attachments are all made out of solid steel and have rubber handles to allow for a better grip.
5. Long Straight Bar
A long straight bar attachment is another must-have for a seated cable machine. It’s one of the only attachments that enables you to get a wide enough grip to target your lats effectively.
What Is a Long Straight Bar Attachment?
A long straight bar is often also called a lat pulldown bar. It’s straight in the center and then angles downward on each side.
Like most cable attachments, lat pulldown bars are made out of steel or chrome and have knurled grip sections. Some have rubber grips as well. These bars are usually at least 48” long, which enables you to use either a narrow or wide grip to target different muscle groups.
Long Straight Bar Attachment Positives and Drawbacks
The biggest benefit of the long straight bar attachment is how effective it is at strengthening and adding size to the back, particularly the lats.
However, the lat pulldown bar isn’t as versatile as other cable attachments. While you can widen or narrow your grip or use an overhand or underhand grip when doing pulldowns with it, using it for other exercises like cable curls can feel awkward because of the extra length.
Exercises To Do and Muscles Worked With a Long Straight Bar Attachment
The most common exercise performed with a long straight bar is the lat pulldown. It primarily works the lats but also works the rhomboids, rear deltoids, traps, and biceps. You can keep your hands wide to target the lats more effectively or keep them narrower to target the traps and rhomboids more.
As well, you can hold the bar with an underhand grip to engage the biceps more. You can also use it for straight-arm pulldowns to give your lats a bit of a different stimulus or do lat pulldown curls in which you keep your arms extended but curl the bar towards your head to work the biceps.
Who Should and Should Not Use a Long Straight Bar Attachment?
There aren’t many people who wouldn’t benefit from using a long bar attachment.
It’s ideal for anyone who wants to strengthen their back, especially the lats. Because the lat pulldown is one of the best exercises to add width to the lats, this bar is also a necessity for anyone with physique goals.
Long Straight Bar Attachment Product Recommendation
For a durable, sturdy lat pulldown bar, I recommend the Synergee pulldown attachment. At 48” long, it’s an ideal length that enables you to use varying grips for lat pulldowns. It’s made from high-grade steel and has knurling on each grip section. It’s also coated with chrome to prevent rust, which is ideal for garage gyms in humid climates.
A V-handle isn’t a necessity for a cable machine because there’s a limited number of exercises you can do with it.
However, it can be easier to use if you have a history of wrist injuries because it places your hands and wrists in a more comfortable position.
What Is a V-Handle Attachment?
The V-handle is a single piece of metal that’s bent in the shape of a V. It usually has knurled handles and knobbed ends for you to rest your hands on.
V-Handle Positives and Drawbacks
The V-handle can provide you with different ways to do tricep pushdowns and narrow-grip lat pulldowns. Another benefit is that you could also use it to get a greater range of motion on seated cable rows. It is affordable and doesn’t take up much space, which is a plus.
Beyond that, there aren’t many other exercises you can do with this handle, so it’s likely not an attachment you’d reach for frequently. But you may find that you can lift more weight with a V-handle because it puts your wrists in a more neutral position, whereas using a straight bar attachment keeps them fixed in a pronated (overhand) position, which can cause discomfort.
Exercises To Do and Muscles Worked With a V-Handle
Exercises that you can do with a V-handle are similar to the ones you can do with a tricep rope, including tricep pushdowns, narrow-grip lat pulldowns, and seated cable rows.
Tricep pushdowns are excellent for isolating the triceps while narrow-grip lat pulldowns and seated cable rows will work the lats, traps, rhomboids, and rear deltoids.
Who Should and Should Not Use a V-Handle?
The V-handle can be a worthy substitute for a tricep rope if you don’t want to use a rope for any reason. If you find that your strength is limited with a tricep rope attachment, you may benefit from a V-handle attachment instead since you can usually lift more weight with it.
Anyone who experiences wrist discomfort when doing tricep pushdowns with a straight bar would also benefit from a V-handle.
But since there aren’t many exercises you can do with a V-handle that you can’t do with another attachment, you likely won’t need it if you don’t have wrist issues and already have other attachments to choose from.
V-Handle Product Recommendation
If you do want to add a V-handle to your collection of cable attachments, I recommend the Yes4All V-shape tricep pushdown attachment. It’s made out of alloy steel and coated with chrome, which gives it anti-rust capabilities. It also has knurled handles and extra-wide knobs on the ends to prevent your hands from slipping.
7. Short Straight Bar
As you can probably tell, a short straight bar is a shorter version of the long straight bar attachment. But unlike the long bar, the straight bar doesn’t angle downward at the ends.
It’s not quite as versatile as some other cable attachments, so while it can be a useful tool, it’s not a necessity. Any exercises you can do with a short straight bar attachment can also be done with other cable attachments.
What Is a Short Straight Bar Attachment?
Short straight bars are made out of steel and are usually finished with chrome. They have knurled handles or rubber grips and stoppers at the ends to prevent your hands from slipping. They’re typically no longer than 20”.
Short Straight Bar Positives and Drawbacks
The short straight bar attachment is a useful tool for doing a variety of exercises to work the arms, back, and shoulders.
However, because it’s narrow, you’re limited in how much you can alter your grip. But on the plus side, you can alternate between an overhand and underhand grip depending on which muscles you want to focus on more.
Exercises To Do and Muscles Worked With a Short Straight Bar
There is a wide range of exercises you can do with a short straight bar, including:
- Cable curls (to target the biceps)
- Tricep pushdowns (to target the triceps)
- Upright rows (to target the traps and shoulders)
- Face pulls (to target the back of the shoulders, the rhomboids, and traps)
- Seated rows (to target the upper and mid-back and the backs of the shoulders)
Who Should and Should Not Use a Short Straight Bar?
If you’re looking for a cable attachment that you can use to work the majority of the muscles in the upper body, the short bar is an excellent option. While it doesn’t necessarily take the place of all other cable attachments, it can be a worthwhile addition to your home gym if you want an attachment that you can use for a variety of exercises.
One thing to be aware of is that using this bar for rows and tricep pushdowns can exacerbate pre-existing wrist issues. This is because it keeps your hands in a fixed pronated position, which can cause discomfort in some people. If you have a history of wrist injuries, you’d be better off using a rope or V-shaped handle instead.
Short Straight Bar Attachment Product Recommendation
I recommend the CAP barbell black and chrome attachment. Like most attachments on this list, it’s coated with chrome to protect it against rust and has rubber grips for added comfort. It also has stoppers at the end to prevent your hands from sliding off and has a rotating hanger to keep your hands and arms in an optimal position.
This attachment is also unique in that it has a 30-day manufacturer’s guarantee, so if you don’t like it, you can get a full refund.
8. Ankle Straps
Ankle straps are necessary if you want to do lower body exercises with your cable machine. But they’re not a must-have item if your main goal with your cable machine is to focus on upper body exercises.
What Is an Ankle Strap Attachment?
An ankle strap attachment is a nylon or neoprene ankle cuff that you can secure to your ankle with velcro.
Some brands put additional foot straps on their attachments that go under the bottom of your shoe for extra reassurance that the attachment will stay in place.
Ankle Strap Attachment Positives and Drawbacks
The biggest benefit of an ankle strap attachment is that it enables you to perform exercises that really target the glutes and hamstrings, which can be difficult to isolate when doing lower body barbell or dumbbell exercises.
However, depending on which ankle strap you buy, you may notice some skin irritation, and the velcro can wear out over time. Ankle attachments also have a tendency to slide around if they’re not fastened strongly enough. If you have very skinny ankles, you may also have a difficult time finding an attachment that you can fasten tight enough.
Exercises To Do and Muscles Worked With an Ankle Strap Attachment
Below are examples of lower body exercises you can do to target the legs and glutes:
- Cable kickbacks (to target the glutes)
- Lateral lunges (to target the glutes, quads, and hamstrings)
- Standing hamstring curls (to target the hamstrings)
- Cable leg extensions (to target the quads)
Who Should and Should Not Use an Ankle Strap Attachment?
Anyone who wants to add variety to their lower body training and target muscle groups that are difficult to isolate will find an ankle strap attachment useful. Bodybuilders, in particular, can benefit from having one since it can be used to add size to the legs and glutes.
However, if you prefer doing lower body work with a barbell or dumbbells and you’re satisfied with your progress, you can skip the ankle attachment. You also don’t need one if you plan on primarily using your cable machine for upper body movements.
Ankle Strap Attachment Product Recommendation
I recommend the Gymreapers Ankle Straps. Not only are they affordable but they’re built to last for a long time, with reinforced stitching and sturdy velcro that will stay secure during your entire set.
These ankle straps are also available in a variety of colors and are made from neoprene, so they’re comfortable to wear and won’t dig into your skin if you’re using a lot of weight.
9. Single Tricep Rope
A single tricep rope is another optional attachment, but it can be useful if you want to incorporate more one-sided tricep work into your routine.
What Is a Single Tricep Rope Attachment?
A single tricep rope attachment is just like a regular rope attachment except it’s not looped through a metal clip to make it a two-handed attachment. Instead, it’s just one long, braided piece of rope that you can use for one-handed exercises.
These attachments are usually about 15” in length and have rubber stoppers at the ends to keep your hands from slipping off.
Single Tricep Rope Attachment Positives and Drawbacks
The biggest benefit of the single rope attachment is that you can train one side of the body at a time. As I’ve discussed, unilateral training can help prevent strength imbalances and can be useful in rehabbing one side of the body after an injury.
One potential drawback is that some single rope attachments have lower weight capacities than regular tricep ropes. You may not be able to lift as much when lifting with one arm anyway, so this is unlikely to be a huge issue.
Exercises To Do and Muscles Worked With a Single Tricep Rope
Single-arm tricep pushdowns are the most common exercise performed with a single tricep rope.
It can also be used to do core exercises like woodchoppers to work the abs and obliques. If you’re looking to add more variety to your back training, you can use it for half-kneeling single-arm pulldowns as well. This exercise works the lats, rhomboids, and traps.
Who Should and Should Not Use a Single Rope Attachment?
A single rope attachment is ideal for anyone who wants to add unilateral upper-body work into their routine, specifically for the triceps.
If you already have a D-handle attachment that you can do unilateral work with and you already train your triceps through other single-arm exercises, you likely can get away without a single rope attachment.
Single Rope Attachment Product Recommendation
I recommend the RDX tricep rope. It’s made from stiff, heavy-duty nylon that won’t fray, stretch out, or lose its rigidity with long-term use.
Unlike other rope attachments, the ends on this one are rubber instead of hard plastic. This makes it more comfortable on the hands and prevents the ends from pinching or scratching your skin when you lift a lot of weight.
10. Double-D Handle
A double-D handle isn’t a necessity for a cable machine. But it can also be used with a barbell to do landmine rows, so it could be a useful tool if you’re looking for something that you don’t need to use exclusively with a cable machine.
What Is a Double-D Attachment?
Double-D attachments are two D-handles fused together to form the shape of a V. They’re usually made out of metal, have a chrome finish, and have either knurled or rubber grip handles.
Double-D Attachment Positives and Drawbacks
With a double-D attachment, you’re quite limited with what kind of grip you can use, which also limits how many exercises you can use it for. You can really only use it for close-grip exercises, which doesn’t offer much variety.
However, this attachment is unique in that you can use it without a cable machine, which makes up for the lack of cable exercises you can use it for. It also allows you to achieve a greater range of motion so you can activate your back muscles more.
Exercises To Do and Muscles Worked With a Double-D Attachment
Seated cable rows are the most common exercise done with a double D-attachment. The lats and rhomboids are the primary movers while the traps and biceps also play a role.
You can also do close-grip lat pulldowns with a double-D attachment, which allow you to isolate the lats more than a narrow-grip lat pulldown with a bar attachment. They also work the rhomboids and traps.
If you have a barbell and landmine attachment in your home gym, you can also use the double-D handle for T-bar rows. T-bar rows work the same muscles as seated cable rows (the lats, rhomboids, traps, and rear deltoids). They’re an excellent alternative to barbell rows since they require less core activation, which allows you to isolate the back muscles more.
Who Should and Should Not Use a Double-D attachment?
The double-D handle is a good option for anyone who’s looking to do close-grip variations of exercises like cable rows and lat pulldowns with a narrow, neutral (palms facing each other) grip. Because you can use it for T-bar rows, you can also benefit from a double-D handle even if you don’t have access to a cable machine.
However, if you don’t have the budget for one or you already have several other cable attachments to choose from, this is one that you can skip.
Double-D Attachment Product Recommendation
The Yes4All double-D attachment is an excellent option. Its chrome finish will prevent rust and corrosion, and the textured rubber handles enable you to maintain a comfortable grip. It also has an 880lb weight capacity, which is more than sufficient for most individuals.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Are Cable Machine Attachments?
Cable machine attachments are bars, V- or D-shaped metal handles, or ankle cuffs that you clip onto the wire of a cable machine. There are several different attachments available that serve different purposes and can be used to work different muscle groups.
What Cable Attachments Do You Need?
What cable attachments you need depends on your goals and which exercises you want to do most often. At a minimum, I recommend a tricep rope attachment, an EZ curl attachment, a lat pulldown attachment, and a D-handle. A replacement cable is also handy if you plan on using your cable machine frequently.
Other Cable Attachment Resources
- What Attachment Do You Use for Cable Kickbacks? (3 Options)
- What Attachment to Use for Cable Rows? (5 Options)
About The Author
Amanda Dvorak is a freelance writer and powerlifting enthusiast. Amanda played softball for 12 years and discovered her passion for fitness when she was in college. It wasn’t until she started CrossFit in 2015 that she became interested in powerlifting and realized how much she loves lifting heavy weights. In addition to powerlifting, Amanda also enjoys running and cycling.