Cable Attachments Round Up

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Over the last year or so, I’ve gone through a renaissance of my cable attachments. I originally bought the Amazon special of lat bars and triceps ropes, gathered additional options through craigslist, and amassed an assortment of attachments worth probably $100 in total. Now, my mission has been to have ONLY the best attachments possible for the job, but to keep that rather limited. For instance, I don’t want every single triceps attachment variant, I want the one or two that will murder my Triceps and get the job done every single time. I’m not into the variation for the sake of variation concept, I want the most effective exercises and equipment for me, every single time I lift. Now I’m not about to buy a gold plated triceps bar, so when I say “best”, I truly mean it in terms of its ability to achieve the desired goal, often building bigger and stronger muscles.

This has led me down a path of exploring attachments that cost as much as my entire previous collection combined. While cost doesn’t always link up to quality or performance, I’m merely saying that I’m ok spending $100 on an attachment, over $15 for an attachment, if the $100 one is better for my goals.

With that said, I wanted to dive into my experience and thoughts around some of the attachments I’ve handled over the past year plus some.

MAG Attachments

If you haven’t seen it, I wrote a fairly comprehensive first impressions review, and video, on the MAG attachments in 2018. I’m not going to spend much time covering the same details, so please start there if your first question is “what are MAG attachments?”.

Instead, lets talk about, after a full year plus of use, where I am at with them.

First, the things look brand new. No dents, dings, scratches, or anything else. Not a week goes by that I’m not using at least one attachment, often times two or three. So it certainly isn’t a lack of use thing. They get stored on my wall control board, in the elements of my garage gym, and I’m confident they’ll be intact for years to come regardless of how I treat them, how often they get used, etc.

In my initial review I talked about how impressed I was with them. That still stands today. Since my review went live though, Prime Fitness has put out their 3-in-1 attachments. If you haven’t seen them, they use a similar hand placement and grip strategy as the MAGs, but each attachment gives you the ability to adjust for either Pronated, Neutral, or Supinated. From a storage and space stance, this is awesome. From a price stance, the Prime attachments cost as much as the three MAGs do. So to me, the decision between the MAGs and the Prime comes down to utilization. As in, will you use all three positions on each attachment?

For the close grip, I doubt it. I’ve not heard anyone that was super jazzed about the close grip Pronate or Neutral MAGs, and the same thoughts seem to be circulating about the 3-in-1s. So the close grip is likely an expensive multifaceted tool that will only see one use. Winner goes to MAG.

For the medium grip, it seems that the MAGs and the Prime are not the same width. I personally feel that the medium MAGs are spaced PERFECTLY. Others that have handled both seem to agree, the MAGs are better spaced than the Prime. While I would likely use all three adjustment points on the 3-in-1, as the Medium Neutral is the only MAG attachment I’ve strongly considered adding to my arsenal, if the overall function isn’t better, then why bother? Winner goes to MAG.

Let me be perfectly clear. I have not handled the Prime 3-in-1s personally. I’d love to, to give you a completely fair comparison, but based on research and others viewpoints that I trust, I think the MAGs are still the right choice.

One guy who has handled the Primes and MAGs weighed in on my recent Instagram post. You can see with the screenshot below that he believes the MAGs are the best.

In my initial review I mentioned that I owned the Wide Grip, the Medium Pronate and Supinate, and the Close Supinate. I think where I land today in terms of recommendations is this:

If you are smaller, say a female, the close grip is a go-to for both rows and pulldowns. If you are bigger, say a larger male, then the medium grips are the king. I think the medium grip supinated is the best multi-purpose attachment for cable work, but the pronated does a better job when hooked up to a landmine. That said, if you were only buying one, buy the supinated and simply flip it around for the occasional landmine work. It isn’t perfect, but it works. The wide grip, while nice to add for variation, gets used the least in my gym. I don’t have any regrets owning it, but it terms of use it is probably Mediums, Close, Wide in a 5-3-1 ratio of use (i.e. I use the medium 5 times more than wide). If I ever have more room for attachments, I might honestly buy the rest of the lineup just because.

I still see no reason to own any other back-focused cable attachments other than the MAGs, as they let me handle more weight, with better contractions, for more reps, and are built to last. After a year plus of use, they are still one of the few items in my gym that I go out of my way to tell people to buy. I’ve only ever seen one person say they weren’t a fan, outnumbered by hordes of underground fans of equipment snobs. Stop wasting your money on the cheap chrome plated Amazon bars, and pony up for the real deal. You won’t be sorry.

American Barbell Solid Rotating Pressdown Bar

American Barbell is best known for their bars, one of the few strong competitors for Rogue in that $300 range of quality American Made equipment. If you spend enough time getting into the fancy-pants of cable attachments, you’ll see American Barbell mentioned over and over. Their line is likely intended for commercial facilities, and they come at the commercial facility price. The majority of their attachments are back focused, and as we already discussed, I’m covered there. So I grabbed their Rotating Pressdown bar to hammer my triceps and biceps.

First, I want to give American Barbell credit for their packaging. The attachment was in a solid box, taped up cleanly, and inside was very adequate bubble wrap. I’m not painting this picture very well. This box could have been drop kicked against my door, chewed on by my dog, and left in the rain overnight, and I’m pretty sure the attachment would have been fully intact. The other piece to that puzzle, is a quick box cutter and I was in. So they nailed the packaging, without killing me in the process. A++++ for their packaging.

As soon as you take it out of the box, you know you made a good decision. This thing is heavy, I mean solid in every way. The knurling on the handles is perfect, it doesn’t need to be death grip sharp, just enough to hold on for those extra couple of reps. The end caps are, opposed to almost every other end cap on an attachment, attached in some fashion to where I think they’ll stay in place. The amount of plastic end caps I’ve had to glue into place over the years, or just toss, is insane. And the rotation of the bar is buttery smooth. Not loose, not stiff, smooooooth. The overall build, as you can probably tell, is just phenomenal. It is a beautiful attachment that impresses right out of the box.

The angles seem to be very nice for both biceps and triceps work, regardless of if you are doing extensions, pushdowns, curls, reverse curls, etc. As someone with regular elbow discomfort, the bar seems to give me the good without the bad, which is crucial. I don’t get a good mind-muscle connection in my arms, so any support in the right direction is greatly appreciated. As I mentioned, the rotation is so smooth, that even slight adjustments during your reps, where a stiff non-rotating attachment would likely cause elbow and wrist issues, this is allowing you to move in a much more free motion path.

The downside is obviously the price. The attachment costs a solid 3-4 times what a typical attachment costs on Amazon. That said, your typical v-bar is slapped together leftover steel and chrome plated. Often inconsistent angles, sloppy welds, and of course, no rotation. The American Barbell Rotating Pressdown Bar is not only a work of art, it out performs the competition in every way. Well worth the price.

Troy VTX Butterfly

I’ve spent most of my weightlifting life avoiding direct arm training. From someone who thinks of themselves as a bodybuilder first, and a powerlifter second, that likely sounds weird. However, I’ve had two key reasons why. First, I’ve never really enjoyed arms, and if I had more time in the gym I’d just do more legs or back work. Second, I have a terrible mind muscle connection with my biceps and triceps, and often just feel it in my elbows, which has a negative carryover to my upper body work, which plagues daily life, etc.

The problem is, avoiding direct arm training has left me with big shoulders and underwhelming arms, and also is leaving pounds off my bench. I’m also starting to lean towards more arm work done with the right intent, focus, and activation, leading towards less elbow pain.

This brings me to the Butterfly. With rotating handles that allow your hands to move fairly free as you go through various triceps extensions, you should (in theory) have less pressure placed on the joints. More triceps focus, and less elbow and wrist pain? Sign me up!

First, the attachment is rock solid. Like the American Barbell attachment, this thing is heavy. Way more heavy duty than the typical Amazon attachments. Again, this is meant for a commercial facility, so it makes sense. The chrome plating on the outside rims is ok. What I mean is, I’m sure it’ll hold up to whatever I throw at it, but with some welded parts and other things going on, the chrome, in my opinion, probably wasn’t the right choice in materials. It shows too many bumps, spots, and imperfections. This doesn’t impact the use by any means, but when you spend $100 on an attachment that does one thing, you’d like it to look like the king of the crop attachment. The handles and spinning rings have I believe, a black oxide coating. Again, nice from a longevity stance, but they seemed to miss a few small spots. With the high moisture in Northern California this time of year, I can easily see flash rust and any missing coating. Again, not going to impact the use, but slightly annoying for such an expensive piece.

I’m honestly probably just being picky and comparing it to the American Barbell piece, but when one is cheaper and better than the other, it makes comparisons that much more fair.

 The overall function of the attachment is something that takes a while to get used to. I don’t mean this in a bad way, I mean it in a… no other attachment works like this… kind of way. The rotating handles is just not natural in terms of common function of attachments and gym equipment. Most things are fixed, which makes finding the right execution of the extensions an interesting test. First, if you’ve ever used anything that is free motion, you know that it requires you to find stability on your own, rather than create it for you. So you are having to lock down your grip and tension in the muscles, something that reinforces good lifting and constant tension in the triceps. You also need to figure out if you are meant to exaggerate the end range contraction, or not, as the end range of the reps is going to leave you with a little room to experiment.

What I’m getting at is, most attachments differ by means of their quality of components, attention to detail, angles etc. Like comparing the American Barbell Rotating Pressdown to a cheaper, less heavy duty Amazon special. The Butterfly is more like comparing a MAG to a Lat Bar, in that I’m not sure it is even fair to compare it to a traditional triceps extension type attachment. I’m not giving it the same praise I give my MAGs by any means, the experience was not some eye-opening, world shattering difference. I didn’t use this attachment and then question my entire experience training Triceps.

If you believe that different angles, different contraction types, and different executions of a lift are important for adaption, and thus growth, then this attachment certainly provides a unique experience unlike any other I’ve used and will meet your needs. If you simply need a good arm-based attachment, I’d go with the American Barbell first. It can do biceps and triceps, is cheaper, and I don’t see any flaws in the design, build, or even aesthetics. No complaints adding the Butterfly to my assortment, and it won’t likely be leaving any time soon, but a good note to end on… I won’t likely be buying their rotating curl bar. I’ll stick to cable curls with the American Barbell attachment.

Spud Lat Saw

I purchased the Lat Saw a few years ago before I snagged the MAG grips, thinking I had found the holy grail of cable attachments. I could do mechanical drop sets, adjust the width each set, I could use no hands, rotate my wrists, etc. Get really tricky and make it fit me exactly. Then I used it, and I used it again, and I used it a few more times. I quickly realized that my hopes and dreams had been smashed. The Lat Saw’s biggest downfall, which is a common complaint of Primes newer adjustable attachments, they just hang too low from the carabiner and entirely remove the stretch and reduce the ROM of your work. The handles also didn’t really fit my hands the way I wanted so the idea of doing pulldowns “handless” was out the window. I did a review on it and basically said, while it was built well structurally, the thing just did not work in a home gym environment.

Since then, I’ve taken one step back. I’ve been able to hook up the Lat Saw with some chains and D-handles, and make a pseudo cable crossover. It isn’t perfect mind you, you don’t truly have two individual arms and cables, but it is damn close. The Lat Saw is just wide enough to allow you to get your arms out and around you like a cable crossover so you can get a solid stretch and contraction in the pecs. Again, I’m not saying this replaces a functional trainer or dedicated crossover. If you can get one of those into your space, that is the ideal solution. But switching between the Lat Saw crossovers, and my band crossovers from my rack, I feel pretty good in my ability to get the job done in the crossover realm.

The Lat Saw also works well for a few other exercises. Things like straight arm lat pulldowns work well, because you can adjust the width to fit you. The straps themselves work VERY well for facepulls. Connect them both to your high pulley, and you notice two things. One, is that you can get your hands INSIDE the straps very well, leading to more weight and a solid pull compared to a rope. Two, you can spread the straps apart as you pull, allowing you to really hit the rear delts.  

If you do not own a Lat Saw, I still don’t recommend it. It is expensive, and unless you have a VERY tall lat pulldown, the functionality is just not there. I’d rather see someone snag a medium grip MAG and call it a day. If you do, maybe you can take a few of my experiments and run with them. Overall it is still a very well built, just functionally lacking, attachment.

What is Next

I have a few attachments on my short-list.

Prime makes a Spreader Bar that intrigues me. As someone that does Face Pulls every single week, sometimes multiple times a week, this is a very interesting piece. The price is disgusting, but we’ll see.

The only other attachment I’m looking at closely is Rogue’s Wrist Roller. Not technically an “attachment” for cable work, it can easily be hooked up to do so. I have a DIY version made of rope and PVC pipe that I truly love, but the powder coat would add just the right amount of grip needed, and just be an overall upgrade.

That is it. Not much on the future wish-list.

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