You've most likely seen—and played around with—a number of different types of handles for cable exercises. But you're probably still not sure what they were designed for and which exercises they work best on. That's why we asked MF training adviser Jason Ferruggia to give us a primer on the most important attachments, and how to put them to work for maximum gains and safety.
1. SINGLE D HANDLE
Uses: Single-limb exercises such as rows and rear-delt flys, and ab moves like cable chops.
Advantage: Allows your wrists to move in a very natural range of motion, twisting and turning in ways that may help you work around injuries.
How to use it: If you're doing single-arm rows or pulldowns, start with your palm facing away and rotate your wrist to face you as you pull downward.
2. EZ BAR
Uses: Curls, wrist curls, and pulldowns.
Advantage: It's a good substitute for a straight bar, which can stress the wrists.
How to use it: Grab the angled part of the bar with hands shoulder-width apart or slightly closer. This should place your hands at a 45-degree angle to your arms. "Be sure to squeeze the bar extremely tightly to avoid any excessive wrist rotation as you perform your reps," says Ferruggia.
3. ROPE HANDLE
Uses: Triceps moves such as pushdowns and extensions, but also cable pull-throughs and cable curls.
Advantage: The flexibility of the rope allows you to rotate your wrists outward as you perform various triceps exercises, activating more of your tri's.
How to use it: For triceps exercises, hold the rope with palms facing each other, the heels of your hands touching the knobs.
4. STRAIGHT BAR
Uses: A wide range of pulldown and cable-row variations.
Advantage: The straight bar allows you to use more weight than any other handle.
How to use it: Most lifts should be done with your arms shoulder-width apart. "Palms-down exercises should be done with a thumbless grip," says Ferruggia, "and palms-up exercises should be done with your thumbs around the bar."