We all know we should be living a healthy and active lifestyle and going to the gym should be part of that equation. Unfortunately, it can be intimidating and stressful for many. I know a lot of people that won’t go past the cardio equipment for lack of confidence and fear of being made fun of internally or bumped off a piece of equipment because they took a break to get water or someone just straight up took over!

Going to the gym also requires time and discipline. Gone are the days that you need to spend 2+ hours in the gym. Getting in a 30-60min workout will help you maintain consistency and making those small 1% changes every day will yield massive results long term. Unfortunately, the time spent at the gym isn’t always efficient. A large amount of that time is usually spent on our phones, talking to friends or trying to navigate the gym which can cause our workouts to suffer. 

This Upper Body Push Pull Circuit tackles all of our problems and can be done with only ONE piece of equipment, The Functional Trainer (Cable Machine). You will be able to set up, camp out and perform supersets of exercises, take breaks and grab water without someone stealing your machine. Just bring a “BACK OFF” sign just in case though!

Complexity kills execution, so our goal is to keep it simple, so you can keep it consistent.

You can change this workout up by playing around with the rep ranges and variations of the exercises.

Sample Rep ranges and what they work.

1-6 reps = Pure Strength (will not make you bulky)

8-12 reps- Hypertrophy or toning/building lean muscle

15+ reps- Endurance

Horizontal Press and Vertical Pull

1a) Cable Chest Press– Start with the cable attachments at their highest position. Make sure your elbows are higher than the handles when you pull the weight down to protect the shoulders. Keep your arms straight as you step forward with one leg into a split stance position. Make sure the heel of your back leg is up and on your toe. Once in position bring your hands back to your chest and press forward. Think in a rainbow type pattern.

1b) X Pull Downs

Keeping the handles in the highest position on the cable machine. Face the machine and grab the left handle with your right hand and right handle with your left hand making an X with your arms. Drop down to one knee, keeping your pelvis tucked and core neutral. Pull the handles across your body so that your hands finish at your armpits with your thumbs facing up and shoulder blades back and down. Repeat for desired reps.

Horizontal Row and Vertical Press

2a) Squat and Row- Set the handles at chest height. Step back and pull the handles away from the machine. Keeping your arms straight, drop down into a deep squat, making sure to drive your knees out and creating a strong base. As you stand back up, row the cable into your chest. Make sure to lean back slightly and get full extension of your hip, squeezing your glutes. This is a great exercise for creating more hip mobility, getting comfortable in a squat position while working your upper and mid back.

2b) Half Kneeling Shoulder Press

On one knee facing away from the machine. Make sure to be centred front/back and side to side. Have the handles on the lowest setting. Half Kneeling is a great position for most people because it is easier to engage your core and we get to work on lower body stability at the same time. Make sure your legs are each at 90 degrees and squeeze the glute of the knee that’s on the ground. This will stabilize your lower body. Bring the handles up to your shoulders. Make sure your pelvis is tucked and core set. Press both handles up at the same time or you can alternate back and forth for desired reps.

Core

3a) Anti Rotation and Rotation

Half Kneeling Pallof Press-  Grab one handle and make sure to have the right knee down if the handle is on your right side. Vice versa for the left. Bring the handle to the center of your chest. Making sure your pelvis is tucked and core engaged. Press the handle straight out keeping your hands in the center and not letting yourself get pulled back to the machine. Hold for 2s. Bring it back in and repeat.

3b) Half Kneeling Cable Rotations

Staying on one knee. Change the handle out for a rope attachment. Keeping the handle on the right side if you are on your right knee. Press the rope out in front of you. Making sure your lower body is stable, keep your arms locked out straight as you rotate away from the anchor point over the knee that is up. Come back to center and repeat. Start light to get a feel for the movement. I would rather low weight and higher reps to begin with.

Arm Pump Finisher

4a) Cable Rope Curls Classic Arm pump to finish off the workout. There are many variations for curls on a cable machine. For this we are going to do a rope hammer curl. Standing on your feet, make sure you are over top of the cable. Make sure you can get your arms to full extension before you curl back up. No rocking back and forth. Keep core tight and you can set up in a mini split stance position to help keep your pelvis and core engaged. Repeat for reps

4b) Tall Kneeling Tricep Pulldowns Changing this one up from the traditional pulldown you may have seen in the gym. Most people butcher the tricep pulldown by overloading the cables, rounding their shoulders and trying “muscle” the weight down. We need to keep our spine tall, shoulders back and elbows in tight. Drop down to tall kneeling, on both knees. Facing out from the machine. The rope directly in front of you. Tuck your pelvis, Squeeze your glutes and rep it out. Superset back and forth.

Sample workout below

1a) 4 sets 8-12 reps

1b) 4 sets 8-12 reps
90s rest. Again, we want to make the most of our time. Rather than doing core at the end. Do a set of situps, planking or other variations during your 90s of rest. Not only will your workout be more efficient you will burn the greatest amount of calories.

2a)  4 sets 8-12 reps

2b)  4 sets 8-12 reps

90s rest or core

3a) 3 sets 10 reps a side.

3b) 3 sets 10 reps a side.

90s rest no core

4a) 20.16.12.8.4

4b) 20.16.12.8.4

Don’t take any breaks. Try and find a weight you can finish the entire superset with.

Have fun and let me know how you do!! Getting into a routine doesn’t have to be painful. Keep it fun, simple and short and you will start to notice the changes over time. Don’t give up!!

By Jordan Jeske