Home workouts always have some limitations.
Home gyms are a fantastic option to have, but sometimes we need to get creative to bring out the same results as a $$$$$ commercial gym.
Today, we’re looking at the cable crossover and why you don’t need a cable crossover machine to get a big chest.
You’re going to learn what it does, why you’re doing it, and what alternatives you might have – no matter what equipment is in your home gym.
What Muscles Do Cable Crossovers Work?
The important thing to note about a cable crossover is that it provides a specific chest stimulus.
It’s not only working your chest but is focusing on the full range of the chest’s role.
It’s about stretching the end-range of your chest muscles and using that long movement to isolate the chest. The chest should be doing almost all the work in this exercise, meaning you can get an excellent pec workout with a relatively lightweight.
Not only that, but it helps to control the weak part of the movement (the end range). The cable crossover can be great for improving the shoulders’ health – but only if you do it right.
When looking for cable crossover home gym alternatives, we need to make sure they fit at least one of these roles:
- Develops your chest muscles
- Helps support your end-range
- Stretches the muscle before contracting it
- Maintains constant tension
- Focuses on bringing the hands together across the body
These are the main factors that define an excellent cable crossover – and our alternatives today are going to focus on them. Some will focus on all of them, others only some.
The best alternative to a cable crossover is probably more than one exercise!
Cable Crossover Alternatives with No equipment
If you don’t have an extensive home gym, you need to be willing to use bodyweight.
Three major exercises make the most sense – offset push-ups for beginners, wide push-ups for intermediates, and Maltese push-ups for advanced trainees.
You can’t perform a crossover if you don’t have weights, but these two exercises develop the pec muscles.
They also use the stretch into end-range that we talked about above – this helps strengthen the shoulder joint itself and provides the best results to your muscle gains.
This is an excellent exercise for developing wide-grip and one-handed push-up strength. However, it isn’t as challenging, and you can use incline, flat, and decline versions to build up strength.
It’s going to provide a fast chest “burn” without any equipment, and it’s super accessible.
If you’re struggling with an offset push-up, then work from an incline. This allows you to get the same stretching stimulus but without the same challenge. It reduces stress on the single shoulder and provides the same amazing chest pump.
This is a little trickier.
Increasing the width of your grip during a push-up increases the chest involvement. It also starts to build up to that stretch we talked about before.
This is important for replicating that wide, stretched-chest position at the start of a good cable crossover.
You can creep out wider overtime to get a more challenging – and effective – exercise. Start inching it out slowly from a standard push-up position to see what you can do. Make sure to keep your core and upper back active to prevent injury.
They’re a wide-grip push-up with a reversed hand position and more of your weight forwards over the hands. This is a challenging exercise, but it’s how elite gymnasts build incredible strength and great chest muscles.
This can be difficult to build up to, so make sure you’ve practiced your wide-grip pull-up first. You need to keep your upper back, core, and shoulders active throughout – and work on your technique rather than reps, to start with!
Dips are one of the best pushing exercises.
They use a stretching stimulus in full ROM, which makes them perfect for the chest. They have a different angle to the crossover.
However, they still work some of the same shoulder movements with an excellent route for progression and overload.
Start with assisted dips or “bench dips” if you can’t perform the full movement.
The chest stretch can be hard on your shoulders if you’re impatient. You need to give your body time to adapt to the stimulus – so perform more sets and fewer reps per set when you start with dips.
Cable Crossover Alternatives Using a Resistance Band
Even one resistance band can change how you train at home. It’s a standard piece of equipment that is cheap, versatile, and effective!
There is a range of ways you can use a resistance band to emulate cable tension. It’s a similar form of constant tension. However, the elastic resistance makes it harder to stretch the band further – but that’s perfect for some of these alternatives.
Single-Arm Band Fly
This is an easy one – you can move through the full range of motion with just one band.
It can be heavy-resistance, but it’s also just a great way to provide tension in the full range with plenty of stretching at the end range and crossing your body at the end.
Try using a position that is just above your shoulder height so you can get the ‘across-the-body and the downward motion. These are perfect for replicating the cable crossover at home.
It is also great for that end-range stretch: let the band pull you back!
Standing/Lying Band Crossover
This is like the band fly with one arm, but with two.
If you can produce tension behind you on a bench, for example, this is a great exercise. You can perform it without additional tension, but you might max out the load on the chest a little too early in the movement.
We want to focus on getting the band tension highest at the end of the movement where we are strongest, need more resistance, and work the squeeze.
This is a light movement, so put it at the end and use very high reps (12-25) to get the best results.
The banded push-up is great for shifting the focus more towards the chest muscles as the final squeeze portion is more challenging.
This is great for building up chest muscle and replicates some of the end-range challenges of the crossover.
You can combine this with a wide-grip or an offset push-up as you become more confident and familiar. These stack up quickly, however, and shouldn’t be taken lightly.
Even those with a well-developed chest and triceps will get a great pump from a banded push-up.
Band pull-overs are a great way of isolating the chest muscles with stiff-arm movements.
They help build up the stretch-contract that will be so familiar with the cable crossover – just at a different angle.
Most of us neglect this aspect of the chest’s function but working it together with things like flyes helps us develop a complete chest.
It’s also a great way of learning to use the chest, shoulders, and upper back together.
It can be hard to set this exercise up, but it pays off!
Cable Crossover Alternatives Using Dumbbells
When you have some form of weight, you can get a lot done.
The main focus for alternatives to the cable crossover will be dumbbells – especially since it’s quite light.
We get to work through the movements with a different kind of resistance – since there’s not constant tension.
However, the action itself can be easily replicated with a pair of dumbbells (especially the adjustable kind).
This is a simple, effective way to get the best out of your dumbbell workout. It’s a powerful chest-building exercise that involves stiff-arm, end-range, stretching, and squeezing.
Make sure you use a lightweight and aim for the stretch in the fly.
That end-of-range stretch is perfect for the chest. It helps build strength across the whole movement, improves the muscles themselves, and keeps your shoulders healthy.
The cable crossover exists to work as a standing fly, so return to the lying version if you don’t have a cable crossover machine!
Decline Dumbbell Bench Press
This is obvious; any form of benching is going to develop the chest.
However, the dumbbell bench provides the most similarity to the crossover. This is because it can achieve longer ranges and requires the stabilizer muscles of the shoulders to work overtime to control the unstable weight.
This is a classic movement. We want to focus on getting all the way to the bottom position with a stretch – maybe even adding a pause for that extra challenge with each rep.
This is one of the main exercises where you can focus on adding real weight and progressing consistently.
It’s a great start to any chest workout and is popular for a reason: it helps you build a strong chest whether you have a cable crossover machine or not.
If you don’t have a bench, check out our DIY Guide to Building Your Own Weight Bench.
Like the band pull-over, this is a fantastic way of developing the same end-range, but overhead rather than sideways.
The chest controls both of these ranges, so combining this with flyes makes for an amazing full-chest workout. Again, the stretching and squeezing make it perfect.
This should be incorporated with other exercises we’ve mentioned so far. You can even consider supersetting lighter dumbbell pull-overs with other chest exercises.
Something like a dumbbell bench and pull-overs (with light weights) can produce ridiculous gains with relatively little weight.
Seated Dumbbell Raise
With a proper seated position, the DB chest raise is a great way to simulate the crossover.
It is easy to load and drop down as you get tired, offering the same kind of lower-weight, deep stretch experience that the crossover is so good for!
The goal is to raise the dumbbells to chest height where – once again – you can focus on the squeeze.
This will overlap closely with the development of your delts, too, which is never a bad thing.
Best Power Racks with Cable Crossover Attachments
If you are looking to get a cable crossover machine, check out our list of the best power racks with cable crossover attachments.
Additional Resources For Chest Workouts
Check out our other articles:
- How to Work Out Your Lower Chest for Maximum Results
- 5 Lower Chest Workouts You Can Do At Home
- Strength Goals: How to Bench Press Your Bodyweight
Closing Remarks: Do What You Can With What You Have
Whatever equipment and space you have access to, the idea is simple: Find what you can do. Work with what you have to get the best stimulus possible.
You can replace the cable crossover with any or all of the exercises we’ve outlined. They’re all great chest builders and will offer you some of the same benefits that make crossovers so popular.
You can get big, strong, and healthier with these crossover alternatives if you treat them with the right mindset and progress them patiently over time.
The specific constant tension of a cable machine is great. Still, people have been building great chests with bodyweight and simple weights since the start of recorded history.
Bands, dumbbells, and bodyweight all have their options – and it’s exciting to see what will work best for you!