top of page

BEST Cable Machine Pulley System for Small Home Gyms! Ota-ku Personal Trainer Tokyo Titan



Note: Click the link below to watch a video on the same content.


The biggest issue in building your own home gym is bridging the gap between a home gym and a commercial gym. Granted, as long as you have free weights so dumbbells and a barbell, you can do the most effective training possible. But with commercial gyms, there is definitely a certain novelty in being able to do machine exercises. At the very least, machines provide different options in your isolation exercises. Having access to the types of machines they have in commercial gyms can provide your training with more variety and stop it from feeling stale. I often say this, but the training you enjoy the most is going to have more of an impact because you're more likely to continue doing it. But again, with a home gym, it's usually quite difficult to do that.


But there is actually one piece of equipment you can see on the wall behind me that bridges the gap between home gyms and commercial gyms. It's actually this one. Excluding one machine, all the machines you'll find in a commercial gym are all built on a fixed axis. This restricts the movement of your body to a fixed path. It also means you can only use that machine for what it's designed to do.


In contrast, there is free weights. Free weights move around on a free moving axis. Essentially, your body becomes the guide for the movement path. Having a free moving path has so many benefits you have to engage multiple muscles at the same time. And it also applies force on the muscles from many different angles. So you're going to see more results from your training in less time. Having a free moving axis also means you're not limited by the design of the equipment. The obvious benefit of this means you can do many different exercises with the same equipment. But in addition to this, it means every movement you do is designed for your body.


With a machine, you're forced into doing a movement path for the type of person that that machine was designed for. Normally, this is going to be a person of "standard" height and "standard" body proportions. Unfortunately, most people are not of "standard" height and "standard" body proportions. Height, very obvious. You get people of short stature and tall stature. But something you probably haven't noticed is that the majority of people don't have balanced proportions between upper body and lower body. Some people have slightly longer arms. Some people have slightly longer legs. So these machines, which are designed for the standard person, will accommodate everyone but not really be optimized for anyone. Sure, you can adjust them to make them better for you, but it's still not optimal. But remember, I said there is one machine you'll find in a commercial gym that is an exception to this, and that is the cable machine.


Cable machines are that perfect midway point between machines and free weights. Just like a machine, they usually have a tower of plates and you take out a pin and put it into the weight you want. But like free weights, it's a free moving axis. Your body dictates the movement for the exercise. So just like free weights, there are many different options in the types of exercises you can do. Plus it applies force on the muscles from a wide range of angles. The only difference to free weights is the point of contact where you have to resist is not counteracting gravity. So compared to free weights, you don't engage as many muscles, like for example, having to brace your core. But even then it's still the perfect combination of machine and free weights.


So as you can see, a cable machine is the perfect option for bridging that gap between home gym and commercial gym. So why this product? Ideally, if you have the space and the money, an actual commercial cable machine would be the best option for your home gym. But they're not very practical, they're very expensive, they take up a lot of space, and they're very difficult to setup and install. And if you ever had to move house, wow, I would not want to have to move a commercial cable machine. So obviously for me, a commercial cable machine was just not an option.


The next option, and for most people I do recommend this, is to get a power rack that comes with a pulley system so you can do cable exercises. This essentially just doubles up on the same space your power rack takes up. Plus you can reuse all your barbell plates. And this is usually really easy, as all you need to do is slide the plates onto a horizontal bar. The only difference is that these pulley machines installed on power racks usually have to go a little bit above the power rack. So obviously you might be able to just fit a power rack in your room, but not get one of these pulley systems that comes with it. But for the majority of people, I think a power rack that comes with a pulley system is the most viable option. Ideally, I too would have one of these systems, but as you can see, I don't.


We're currently on the ground floor of my house and the height of the ceiling is very low. From memory, I think it's 2.2 meters. Unfortunately, every power rack and every half rack is at least 2.1 meters. You're probably thinking: "2.1 meter rack, 2.2 meter ceiling. That's ten centimeters to work with." Well, we have some problems. First of all is the air conditioner.


And so now having heard that, you're probably thinking: "Okay, come out from the wall." Well, then we have the problem of the light. Trust me, I spent about half a year planning out my home gym, running the calculations. I just couldn't get a rack, even a half rack, to fit. And that's just the rack, so trying to get a pulley system that comes up ten centimeters higher than the actual rack...


So as you can see, not an option for me. And if you live in a place like Tokyo, where all the houses are made as compact as possible, it's probably not an option for you, too. So that's why I have the quarter rack behind me. For a home gym with no limitations, it's not ideal. But for my gym, it's the best option.


So now we have all these restrictions on the type of cable machine equipment we can get. We need something compact that can fit in this room. We need some kind of pulley system we can use without a power rack, or even a half rack. And ideally, it'll reuse my barbell plates. I don't want to have to store new plates or anything else just for this new system that's going to be taking up a lot of space. Plus, you know, ideally it won't cost too much. That's why I bought this pulley system for cable exercises.


This is the perfect product which bridges the gap between my home gym and commercial gyms. This cable system comes with a pulley, a harness for hanging up the pulley, two cables, one longer, one shorter, a plate stand, a collar to secure the plates on the plate stand, four chain links, a bar attachment, and a rope attachment. For how to set this cable system up, for most people, hopefully have a half rack or a power rack. For these people, you can hang this harness over the top of your rack and then connect the pulley system to the harness. But if you're like me and use a quarter rack, obviously that's not possible.


"So how do we use this?" you ask. Well, we can also hang this harness over a pull up bar. The pulley system does have to be able to resist a fair amount of weight. But if it's a pull up bar, it can already support your body weight plus more, so it should have no issues supporting the plates when you use them with the cable machine. You can actually set this cable machine up two ways. Let's show you the first way, which you're probably going to use the most.


And that's how you setup this cable system. Let's look at some of the exercises you can do.


The majority of the time, you'll be using this cable system with this setup. But you may have noticed there were some body parts that we couldn't do. So let's look at the second setup.


So as you can see, it's a pretty good cable system, but it does have a few shortcomings, at least compared to an actual cable machine. First, it only has two settings. On a cable machine, it's like you could only use the top and bottom setting. This makes it difficult or sometimes even impossible to do some of the exercises that are better at chest height. It also means you can't make those minor adjustments you can on a cable machine.


You also might have noticed that I didn't demonstrate any leg exercises. If I were going to do it, the pulley system would have to be on the bottom setting. But you probably notice when this happens, the whole system shifts out further away from the door. So now I need more space to do those exercises, and the leg exercises, that's just not possible. Having said that, the only leg exercise really worth doing on a cable machine is a pull through. But even then, not really ideal. Leg exercises need a lot of resistance, but the way cable machines are designed, you can't really use a lot of weight. You're far better using free weights, and if you're doing isolation exercises in a commercial gym, you're better off using just regular machines. The only way you're going to do machine-like leg exercises in a home gym is with resistance bands and leg straps.


This cable system is extremely cheap. Now remember, I live in Tokyo, so this cost ¥5,000 or about 50 USD. If you live in Japan, fantastic. I'll put the link for this product in the description. If you live overseas and like me, you're very restricted in your home gym, then hopefully you can find a very similar product. Granted, it's not the most essential piece of equipment to your home gym, but it will add a lot of options to the types of exercises you can do in your workouts, plus, cable machines are a lot of fun.


Tokyo Titan Provides Effective Personal Training, Fully Customized for Client

I am Tokyo Titan, an International Sports Science Association certified bodybuilding specialist fitness trainer and nutritionist. By utilizing advanced bodybuilding techniques, together, we will create your dream body. I provide fitness and dieting coaching at my private gym located in Ota-ku, Tokyo, just 4 minutes walk from Omori-machi Station on the Keikyu Line, and also online. The online sessions allow effective training, even with the busiest of schedules.


I am a native English speaker and am bilingual in Japanese, and can provide lessons in either English or Japanese. Lessons can also be designed to help English learners build up their English skills while training as a more efficient way to learn English. Please inquire for more details.


Comments


bottom of page