When it comes to our workouts, many of us are turning our backs on the gym in favor of home workouts. 

These workouts can be completed at any time, and with the music we choose, a luxury, I know. Usually saving us money in the long-term, or as a workout in between gym visits, the home workout is being transformed from a simple cardio workout in front of the TV to intense and muscle-building activity. 

But who has the money to spend on expensive equipment? Especially when you can make fantastic pulley systems that will allow you to exercise your triceps and lats with ease? That’s right, the days of homemade cable pulley machines are here! 

Now, I know what you are thinking. These sound hard to do; how can they work? But have no fear, I have three methods that will allow you to make a DIY cable pulley system at home. Prepare to revolutionize the home gym once and for all! 

There are also some handy tips and workouts you can complete on your machine, so be sure to stick around for those!

Why make a homemade cable machine?

Before we get into these methods, you might be wondering, but why would I make my cable machine? 

Well, there are plenty of benefits that come with a  homemade cable machine. Need convincing? Keep reading to find out more about homemade cable machines!

The downside to free weights is that they only work against gravity. Now don’t get the wrong idea; free weights are still a firm favorite here! 

But can you beat a cable exercise when it comes to training your muscles in multiple ways? I don’t think so!

While dumbbells are also fantastic for upward lifting movements, the pulley machine will allow you to push downwards, too, allowing you to complete tricep pulldown and lat pulldown exercises. 

Cable machines allow you to reverse gravity, hitting muscles more effectively thanks to the constant tension created! Perfect for a workout that is sure to get your muscles popping!  

Adjustable or not?

One of the pulleys discussed today is an adjustable pulley system that allows you to have a functional trainer. 

Yes, it might not be the same as the best and priciest functional trainers on the market, but it’s going to do the job and save you a fortune when it comes to your home gym

Adjustable cables will allow you to explore more angles and planes of motion. What does this mean? It means you can explore more exercises and target more muscle groups, perfect for a full workout!

Having an adjustable cable is also useful if you are working with limited space. It means that you can do several different exercises with just one machine! The ultimate space-saving hack!

Precise control 

Cables will offer precise control over the resistance, allowing you to isolate and load up specific muscles depending on your workout plan. 

With a homemade tricep pulldown, you can lift more weight with good form than an overhead tricep extension, without any danger to your head. Perfect for those wanting to lift heavier weights and build those muscles!

With this control also comes protection for your muscles and back. When lifting a dumbbell that is too heavy, other muscles can sometimes join in to help, bending your back and shifting your center of gravity, leading to pains or health issues. 

A cable pulley system’s angles help promote proper form and prevent injuries caused by imbalances or muscle compensation, another positive for a cable pulley system!

You can expect constant resistance, too, compared to free weights that lose their resistance over time. 

Thanks to the cable system, resistance stays taught throughout the entire movement. The constant resistance helps offer that extra burn that makes your muscles look more defined. A winner! 

Have you been convinced that homemade cable pulley systems are the one for you? They do have fantastic benefits and are much cheaper than buying a machine. 

So what are you waiting for? Keep reading to see our excellent methods for creating your pulley system and build your muscles in the comfort of your own home!

The Super Simple DIY Pulley 

Kickstarting our list is the Super Simple DIY Pulley machine. The machine is easy to build and is sure to provide you with some excellent workouts. 

To create the system, you only need two tools: pliers with wire cutters and a lighter! 

Let’s look at the supplies needed; then, you can follow our simple step-by-step guide to building the simply DIY pulley. 

You will need the following items:

  • 1 Nylon rope – ideally twice the height of the structure you’ll suspend your pulley from. The rope should be thin enough to fit the pulley but durable enough to hold your weight and the weights lifted. 
  • One pulley 
  • 1-foot length PVC or metal pipe (this will be your handle).
  • 3-foot length of galvanized wire
  • 1 S-shaped iron hook  
  • One carabiner 
  • Something heavy to attach to the iron hook as a weight

Once you have these supplies, you can build your system in 10 easy steps! Let’s get into them now. 

  1. Begin by cutting the galvanized wire in half using the wire cutters. 
  2. Take the middle of one of the wires and wrap it tightly around the middle of the pipe using the pliers a few times. Twist the wire around itself first to make the loop even stronger, giving you a handlebar with a loop.
  3. Tie a knot at one end of the rope. Using the lighter, melt the end of the knot to ensure it stays in place. 
  4. Behind the melted knot, tie another knot and close it around one side of the iron hook. 
  5. Next, head to the structure you intend to suspend your pulley from. Popular options include exposed ceiling bars in garages, a porch beam, or a high tree branch. Please test to ensure these can support the weight.
  6. Thread the remaining length of wire through the loop on your pulley. Use the pliers to wrap the ends of the wire firmly around your tall structure. Wrap as many times as possible to ensure your safety.
  7. Thread the open end of the rope through the suspended pulley. Once through, tie a knot and melt the end with the lighter too. 
  8. Again, tie a second knot and close it around the carabiner. 
  9. Grab your pipe handle with a wire loop sticking out the middle and hook the loop onto the carabiner. And just like that, your system has a handle!
  10. To finish, attach the S-shaped hook at the other end of the nylon rope to something heavy. Now you can begin to pump your muscles.

That wasn’t too hard, was it? Be sure to take your time when building your pulley system and ensure that the structure you use can support the weight to ensure your safety at all times. 

Now that you have the pulley built, you will want to start working out! But before you jump out, check out some top tips that we have for you to make the most of your machine!

Top tips 

You can make use of any leftover nylon rope to create a pulldown accessory for your machine. Using roughly two-foot of rope, tie it and melt a knot at either end. 

You can then remove the pimple handle from the carabiner and attach the rope handle instead. 

To create a weight stack too, using a bucket full of rocks, a jug of sand, or a weight plate with a hole in the middle. 

These will all make fantastic options that are sure to get your muscles popping! Why not give them all a go and see which one works best for you?

Homemade Tricep Pulldown

The following method is our tricep pulldown system, which would you believe is even easier than our first method? 

It’s perfect for beginners, and you won’t need any tools either, just some knowledge on tying strong knots (there are plenty of tutorials to help with this). 

To create your tricep pulldown, you will need the following supplies:

  • One swivel pulley 
  • One pullup bar or horizontal structure to attach the pulley too
  • One foot of hollow pipe that fits around the pullup bar as a  sheath. Metal or PVC are fantastic options
  • A weight plate or heavy item to lift 
  • 30 feet of rope. You will want it strong enough to hold the weight and thin enough to fit through the pulley 
  • One belt or short rod for your  handle  

These items should all be easy to locate, and once you have them all, it’s time to build your tricep pulldown. Follow our five easy steps below to achieve this!

Step by step:

  1. If you are using a pull-up bar, slide the hollow pipe over the bar first.  This distributes the weight of your pulley system over a larger area to prevent the bar from snapping. If you are using a high structure that’s strong, you can skip the first step.
  2. Cust one foot of rope and use it to tie the swivel pulley to the pipe-covered pull-up bar or the other high structure. Ensure you use the strongest knot to avoid injury or property damage; you can use tutorials to find the best for you. 
  3. Cut the rope long enough to pass through the pulley, and hold a weight stack on one end and a handle on the other. Thread the rope through your mounted pulley. 
  4. Tie one end of the rope to your weight plate and the other to your belt or handle. Ensure these knots are as strong and tight as possible, so the weight and handle don’t slip or cause any damage. 
  5. You are ready to work your triceps hard! 

The system is perfect for a pulley system, with little parts that you will need to be bought! Ready to get going? Before you do, we have some top tips that are sure to enhance your workout. 

Top tips 

It’s a good idea to place a chair, mat, or something soft under the weight plate. If you work to the point of failure, you won’t need to worry about the weight landing on the floor and ruining it. It should also avoid loud noises that can disturb your neighbors or anyone that you live with. 

DIY Cable Crossover with High and Low Pulley Setup

Our final pulley is a cable crossover that is a little more tricky than the other two methods but will offer a well-rounded workout for your body. Want to know more? Just keep on reading!

The only tool that you will need for this method is a socket wrench. 

If you do not have one, these are widely available and should not cost you too much. Once you have one, check our supply list before getting started.

You will need the following to create your own cable crossover with a high and low pulley setup.

  • Two swivel pulleys. A swivel pulley will give you more angles of resistance. 
  • Four carabiners 
  • Four cable thimbles 
  • Eight cable clamps
  • Eight soft-loop tie-down straps 
  • 2 10 foot lengths of vinyl-covered wire rope
  • One Delta Quick Link or small weight plate to use as the bottom of your weight stack. Using a link or weight plate is entirely optional.  
  • Weights for the weight stack 
  • Power rack or a tall structure to anchor the pulleys

Once you have these items, you can follow the step-by-step guide below to build your pulley system. It has been separated into sections to make it easier for you to follow. Let’s get into it.

Attaching the pulleys 

To begin, attach the two pulleys to the two-wire rope cables, then put a thimble loop on each end of the pulley cables. 

It’s best to do it one at a time, following these steps.

  1. Thread one wire rope cable through one swivel pulley. 
  2. The cable clamps should have a loop at the top and a screw nut at the bottom. Thread your wire through the loop at the end of two clamps with the screw-on nuts pointing downwards. Circle the wire rope back around and loosely thread it back through the clamp loops.
  3. The circle of wire is where the cable thimble will be inserted. These thimbles protect your wire rope from fraying with heavy use. Insert a thimble into the wire circle and pull on the end of the wire. Keep pulling until the circle tightens around the thimble. 
  4. Tighten the nuts at the bottom of the clamps using a socket wrench. This will keep your wire loop and thimble in place. 
  5. Repeat the above four steps to attach a thimble and cable clamp to the other end of the wire rope. This leaves you with one wire rope with a swivel pulley in the middle and a thimble loop at both ends. These will be held in place with your cable clamps. 
  6. Repeat the whole process on the second wire rope cable. Check that everything is securely in place and tight enough to withstand weights before moving in.

Making the weight stack

The next step is to make your weight stack attached to one end of the pulley. 

A small weight or Delta Quick Link at the bottom of the weight stack can keep the weights on the stack. You can do this following these two steps: 

  1. Inset a tie-down strap through the Delta Quick Link or the hole in the small weight plate. Next, thread one of the straps loops through its other loop, creating an adjustable knot. The strap and your weight or plug will hold the adjustable weight stack.
  2. Clip a carabiner to the straps exposed loop, where you will attach your weight stack to the pulley system. 

You can modify the above setup to use a high pulley, a low pulley, or a cable crossover machine. Want to know how to do that? Then let’s look at how you can use the weight stack for all three setups. 

Cable crossover setup

A cable crossover machine will need two pulley cables suspended from a tall structure. 

Set these up about shoulder-width apart or wider, allowing you to do crossover and files. 

You can also use a power rack or a pull-up bar if you have one or an exposed ceiling beam in a barn or shed. Some people even use a high tree branch. 

Whichever option, be sure that the beam can support the weight to avoid any issues. 

  1. Loop a tie-down strap through itself around your power rack or tall structure. Clip a carabiner around the straps exposed loop and clip the swivel loop on one of your cable attached pulleys through the carabiner. 
  2. Repeat on the other end of the tall structure with the other cable. The result will be both ends of your cables dangling freely from two pulleys attached to your structure at shoulder width or wider. Each end of the cable should have a  thimble held in place by two cable clamps too.
  3. Clip the thimbles at the back end of the two pulley cables to the carabiner holding the weight stack. This will be the adjustable weight end where you can unclip the carabiner to load more weights onto the strap. 
  4. Next, you can create handles for your cable crossover machine. Take a tiedown strap and secure it to each thimble at the front end of the cables. You can use different positions if you wish for different grips. Use a separate strap for each thimble for crossovers, or you can hook the thimbles together with the same strap for any pulldown exercises. 
  5. Pull either or both handles, and your weight stack will now lift!

High Pulley Setup

Now we can move onto the high pulley setup. Instead of two cables, we only need one. 

It’s generally easier to set up too, follow just two sets to complete it!

  1. Unclip the second cable from your weight stack.  There is now one single pulley cable attached to your weight stack. 
  2. Pull the handle to lift the weights, working out the muscle of your choosing. 

How easy is that? The method is based on having already set up a cable crossover system and simply adjusting it to a high pulley system. These methods allow for a fantastic range of flexibility, perfect for multiple workouts and muscle groups to be targeted!

Low Pulley Setup

Let’s take a look at the low pulley setup. This method features leaving one cable in place, taking the second cable you removed in your high pulley setup, and using it again! 

For those with a power rack, you can use one of its legs as a low anchor. If you are using ceiling beams or other tall structures, you will need to find a place below your high pulley to anchor the low pulley. 

Once you have done this, you can follow the five steps below to create a low pulley setup. 

  1. Begin by looping a loose tie-down strap through itself around the bottom of one leg of the power rack or low structure. The loop will be your low anchor that you can use.
  2. Take the second cable and unhook the carabiner from its strap that attaches the cable to the tall structure. You can leave the strap there for the next time you complete cable crossover exercises.
  3. Using the carabiner attached to the second cable, attach it to the exposed loop strap on the low anchor that we created in step 1.
  4. Next, take another carabiner to attach your first and second cables. You will want to hook the carabiner around the thimble on the front end of the first cable and then around the thimble located on the back end of your second cable attached to the weight stack. The other side of this cable should be attached to a tiedown strap handle and the swivel pulley to the low anchor.
  5. You can then pull on the low strap handle to lift the weight stack.

And there you have it!  Another fantastic way to use your DIY pulley system to work out! Some of the methods can be a little time-consuming but remember not to rush and ensure every connection is securely made to avoid any safety issues down the line.

Exercises and Home Workouts

Once the pulley system has been set up and your home gym enhanced, it’s time to get working out! 

You might even debate canceling your gym membership after giving this system a go!

Although it’s in its name, your pulley system does a fantastic job of pushing your muscles! 

Expect to work your triceps, lats, pecs, and even your delts and core! Your lower body will be treated to pushing your glutes, quads, hamstrings, and calves. It sounds like the full-body workout we all need, doesn’t it?

To help you fall in love with your pulley machine, there are some workouts below that you can do on your DIY pulley machine. The exercises have been divided into the major muscle that they target too!

What are you waiting for? Check them out now!

Lats

  • Cable crunches
  • Lat pulldowns 
  • High cable rows
  • Straight arm cable pullovers
  • Underhand pulldowns

Triceps 

  • Tricep pushdowns
  • Reverse grip tricep pushdowns
  • Overhead tricep extensions

Delts 

  • Face pulls 

Pecs

  • Pec flies 

Core 

  • Wood chops 
  • Core rotations 
  • Kneeling crunches 

For those who create an adjustable DIY cable machine with a low pulley and cable  crossover, you can try out the following exercises too:

Triceps 

  • Single-arm kickbacks 

Lats 

  • Single-arm rows

Biceps 

  • Biceps curls 

Delts

  • Lateral raises 
  • Front raises 
  • Posterior delt flies

Pecs

  • Cable crossovers 

Glutes 

  • Standing hip abductions
  • Standing hip adductions 
  • Hip extensions 
  • Cable lunges 
  • Cable lateral lunges

Calves 

  • Cable calf raises

Hamstrings 

  • Cable leg curls 

If you have any questions about these workouts, be sure to check some tutorials beforehand! 

These days there is a wealth of information online, allowing you to improve your form and technique without leaving the house.

As always, be sure to check the information is correct as poor form can cause serious injuries and leave you with long-term impacts. 

You can always ask a friend to spot you or get a trainer round for some advice, too; why not bring the gym to you? 

Final thoughts 

And just like that, we have reached the end of the road today! As you can see, building your DIY pulley system isn’t as complicated as you initially thought! While it might take some time initially, the rewards will be fantastic!

The DIY pulley machines can be very diverse, too; my personal favorite is the adjustable pulley system that allows you to work a range of different muscles with ease. Why not find a sturdy beam or structure and give it a go today?

Remember to consider your safety and the safety of others at all times when building and using your pulley system. 

Correct form and maintaining your safety will ensure that your muscles grow without causing any harm. What are you waiting for? Give it a go today!

Picture of DAniel

Article by:

Daniel DeMoss

I’m a personal trainer based in Denver (Matrix Gym) and a true fitness nerd. If I’m not training clients or working out at my home gym, I’m probably skiing, cycling or hiking with my dog Rufus.