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Differences in Muscle Activation and Kinematics Between Cable-Based and Selectorized Weight Training

Signorile, Joseph F.; Rendos, Nicole K.; Heredia Vargas, Hector H.; Alipio, Taislaine C.; Regis, Rebecca C.; Eltoukhy, Moataz M.; Nargund, Renu S.; Romero, Matthew A.

Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research: February 2017 - Volume 31 - Issue 2 - p 313–322
doi: 10.1519/JSC.0000000000001493
Original Research

Signorile, JF, Rendos, NK, Heredia Vargas, HH, Alipio, TC, Regis, RC, Eltoukhy, MM, Nargund, RS, and Romero, MA. Differences in muscle activation and kinematics between cable-based and selectorized weight training. J Strength Cond Res 31(2): 313–322, 2017—Cable resistance training machines are showing resurgent popularity and allow greater number of degrees of freedom than typical selectorized equipment. Given that specific kinetic chains are used during distinct activities of daily living (ADL), cable machines may provide more effective interventions for some ADL, whereas others may be best addressed using selectorized equipment. This study examined differences in activity levels (root mean square of the EMG [rmsEMG]) of 6 major muscles (pectoralis major, PM; anterior deltoid, AD; biceps brachii, BB; rectus abdominis, RA; external obliques, EO; and triceps brachii, TB) and kinematics of multiple joints between a cable and standard selectorized machines during the biceps curl, the chest press, and the overhead press performed at 1.5 seconds per contractile stage. Fifteen individuals (9 men, 6 women; mean age ± SD, 24.33 ± 4.88 years) participated. Machine order was randomized. Significant differences favoring cable training were seen for PM and AD during biceps curl; BB, AD, and EO for chest press; and BB and EO during overhead press (p ≤ 0.05). Greater starting and ending angles were seen for the elbow and shoulder joints during selectorized biceps curl, whereas hip and knee starting and ending angles were greater for cable machine during chest and overhead presses (p < 0.0001). Greater range of motion (ROM) favoring the cable machine was also evident (p < 0.0001). These results indicate that utilization patterns of selected muscles, joint angles, and ROMs can be varied because of machine application even when similar exercises are used, and therefore, these machines can be used selectively in training programs requiring specific motor or biomechanical patterns.

1Laboratory of Neuromuscular Research and Active Aging, Department of Kinesiology and Sport Sciences, University of Miami, Coral Gables, Florida; and

2Miller School of Medicine, Center on Aging, University of Miami, Miami, Florida

Address correspondence to Dr. Joseph F. Signorile,

Copyright © 2017 by the National Strength & Conditioning Association.