What Muscles Do Cable Crossovers Work With?

You can do cable crossovers with high, middle or low pulleys.
i Chris Clinton/Photodisc/Getty Images

To perform cable crossovers, also known as standing cable flyes, you need a pair of cable machines positioned so you can stand between the two devices. You can choose from several versions of the exercise, but cable crossovers typically focus on your chest muscles. The exact target within your chest can vary, however, depending on how you perform your crossovers.

Standard Crossovers

The cable crossover is an isolation exercise because your shoulder joint is the only one that moves. To gain the maximum strength benefits from the activity, it’s important to use proper form. To do a standard cable crossover, stand with your shoulders pointed at two high or shoulder-level pulley machines. Grasp the handles and hold them in front of your waist with your palms facing each other and your elbows slightly flexed. Maintain the elbow flex throughout the exercise. Bend forward a bit from the waist, flex your knees and then raise your hands slowly to about shoulder level at each side. Pull the handles back to the starting position, using a hugging motion, then cross one hand in front of the other at the end of your movement.

Muscles Worked

Standard crossovers target the sternal head of the pectoralis major, the largest muscles in your chest. Your remaining pecs -- the clavicular head near your collarbone and the pectoralis minor in front of each shoulder -- assist your movements, as do the anterior deltoids in front of your shoulders, plus several back muscles. Upper-arm and forearm muscles also engage as stabilizers, along with core muscles such as your rectus abdominis, obliques and erector spinae. If you use a high pulley machine, the exercise targets the lower portion of the sternal pecs. Using a medium pulley machine, with the cable roughly horizontal at shoulder level, targets the middle of your pectoral muscles.

Low Crossover

Use a different motion if you perform cable crossovers with a low pulley machine. Hold the handles at about hip level with your arms at your sides, angled roughly 45 degrees to the floor, with your palms facing forward. Bring your hands up to about eye level, using the same type of wide arc you employed with the high pulley machine. The low crossover targets the upper-pectoral muscles.


See a doctor before you start a new exercise program, especially if you’ve been inactive or have any health concerns. Warm up before doing crossovers with five to 10 minutes of light cardio activity. Stop performing crossovers if you feel pain. Use sufficient weight for all of your crossovers so your final repetitions are challenging. If you’re new to the exercise, consult a personal trainer to be sure you’re doing crossovers with the correct form.

the nest