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Building a strong core isn’t limited to endless sit ups and crunches, and you can easily and effectively develop core strength by making use of the cable machine in your gym.
When compared to using free weights, a cable machine can offer several advantages:
- Variable Resistance. Cable machines provide a constant tension throughout the entire range of motion. This can help stimulate muscle fibers more effectively than some other forms of resistance training.
- Isolates Your Core Muscles. The variety of abdominal exercises you can do on a cable machine allows you to work all the different muscles that make up your core, whether that’s the rectus abdominis (the six-pack muscle), external obliques or your lower abs.
- Wide Range of Motion. The cables allow you to perform exercises through a wide range of motion and at different angles and planes of movement. This is perfect if you want to focus on different muscle groups.
Keep reading to discover our ultimate list of cable ab exercises designed to work your entire core.
Best Cable Ab Exercises For Core Strength
While it’s true that abs are made in the kitchen, we mustn’t forget that they’re built in the gym.
With that in mind, let’s jump to the best exercises to blow up your abdominal muscles using cables only.
Cable Side Rotation Crunch
Sometimes called the cable wood chop, the side rotation movement involved in this exercise helps to target your obliques.
These are the muscles that run down your sides and help to rotate and twist your torso.
Aside from your obliques, this exercise will also recruit your rectus abdominis.
How To Do The Cable Side Rotation Crunch:
- Attach a D-handle to the cable machine at around chest height.
- Stand perpendicular to the machine with one side facing the cable.
- Take hold of the handle with both handles and interlock your fingers.
- Position yourself a few feet away from the cable machine, with your feet shoulder-width apart. This is the starting position.
- Rotate your torso and pull the cable handle across your body towards your opposite hip.
- Initiate the crunch by bringing your elbow and shoulder towards your hip.
- Keep your lower body stable and try to avoid too much hip movement.
- Slowly reverse the movement to return to the starting position.
- Perform 2 sets of 20 reps on either side.
Cable Push Twist
The cable push twist is an oscillatory exercise designed to work the obliques.
This one is a great exercise if you suffer from lower back pain as it allows you to target your abs while minimizing stress on the lumbar spine.
This is a challenging exercise with a very small range of motion, so you only need to select a couple of plates on the weight stack.
How To Do The Cable Push Twist:
- Attach a rope attachment to the machine so it’s at shoulder height.
- Stand side on the to the machine and take hold of the rope with both hands.
- Keep your feet at a shoulder-width distance and extend your arms straight out in front of you.
- Brace your core and keep a slight bend to your knees.
- From here pull the rope to the side just a few inches.
- Quickly return back to the start making sure your arms remain extended throughout.
- Continue with this pulsing movement for 20 reps and then repeat on the other side.
Cable Side Bend
Cable side bends are a great way of recruiting the external and internal obliques.
The more common variation of the side bend is to be done with a dumbbell.
However, the up and down movement of the weight means there is less resistance on the muscles you want to target.
The sideways pulling of this exercise allows for great activation of the obliques.
How To Do Cable Side Bends:
- Using a D handle attachment set the pulley to around knee height.
- Stand side on to the machine and take hold of the attachment with the hand closest to it.
- Adopt a hip width foot stance and brace your core.
- With your free arm resting on your hip, slowly lean to the side so the weight stack raises from the floor.
- Squeeze your abs and pause briefly.
- Use control to lower back to the start.
- Do 3 sets of 10 to 15 reps on either side.
Cable Reverse Crunch
The cable reverse crunch will work both the lower and upper abs but with greater emphasis on the lower abdominals.
A good tip when doing this exercise is to make sure that your lower back remains pressed into the floor as this will keep tension on your abs throughout the full range of motion.
How To Do Cable Reverse Crunches:
- Set the pulley to the lowest setting and clip on two stirrup handles or other ankle attachment.
- Sit on the ground and hook the attachments over both feet.
- Move back so there is tension on the cables and extend your legs out in front of you.
- Lie down and place your hands under your glutes.
- From here bend your knees and crunch them towards your chest.
- Lower your legs back to the start position without letting them touch the floor.
- Perform 3 sets of 10 to 15 reps.
Bosu Ball Cable Crunch
Using a Bosu ball during this exercise adds an element of instability which helps to increase the recruitment of your abdominals.
The instability introduced by the Bosu ball requires the engagement of stabilizing muscles, making it the best way for strengthening the entire core.
How To Do The Bosu Ball Cable Crunch:
- Position the Bosu ball flat side down just in front of the cable pulley machine.
- Clip on a rope attachment and set it just below knee height.
- Sit back on the ball and make sure your lower back is supported by it.
- Reach back and take hold of the rope with both hands.
- Keep your elbows bent to a 90-degree angle with your hands just above your head.
- Holding this position, raise your upper back and shoulders to perform a crunch exercise.
- The weight stack should lift creating resistance on your abs.
- Use control to lower back down and repeat for 15 to 20 reps and 3 to 4 sets.
Standing Cable Crunch
The standing cable crunch is a very functional exercise which means that it mimics movements you likely perform often in everyday life.
Another benefit of performing crunches from a standing position is that you’ll burn more calories than if you were to do them while seated.
How To Do A Standing Cable Crunch:
- Set the pulley to its highest setting and attach a rope.
- Stand directly against the machine so that the rope is above your head.
- Take hold of the attachment with both hands and pull it down so it’s either side of your head.
- Hold either end of the rope against your upper chest and push your glutes back so they rest against the cable machine.
- Keep a slight bend in the knee and hinge forward at your hips bring your chest towards your knees.
- Slowly raise back up and complete 20 reps for 3 sets.
Kneeling Cable Crunch
This is like the standing cable crunch but instead of performing it while standing you’ll be kneeling down with your back to the machine.
The main difference is that doing them kneeling does result in a smaller range of motion, but it will put less stress on your lower back.
How To Do The Kneeling Cable Crunch:
- Setup by attaching a rope to the highest setting on the cable machine.
- Kneel on the ground while facing the machine.
- Take hold of the rope with both hands and bring it down so it’s either side of your head.
- Keep your elbows bent and pointing outwards.
- Maintain a neutral spine by keeping your head in a natural position (neither looking up nor down).
- Initiate the movement by flexing at the waist and bringing your chest toward your thighs.
- At the bottom of the movement, your chest should be as close to your thighs as possible, and your abs should be fully contracted.
- Slowly and controlled, allow your torso to return to the starting position by extending at the waist.
Strong Abs Benefits
If you perform our recommended cable ab exercises often you’ll develop your entire core, creating definition and increasing strength.
Let’s look at some of the benefits of having strong abs.
- Increases Core Stability. You’ll have better core stability which provides a solid foundation for many day to day movements.
- Reduces Risk of Injury. Stronger abs will help to protect your spine which can reduce the risk of injury during physical activity and other sports.
- Improves Functional Strength. Strong abs can enhance your functional movement which can improve your ability to perform daily activities that involve lifting, bending, reaching etc.
- Reduces Low Back Pain. Strengthening the core muscles, including the abs, is associated with a lower risk of lower back pain. Strong abs provide support to the lumbar spine and reduce stress on the lower back.
- They look nice! Well-developed abs contribute to a toned and defined midsection, which many people find aesthetically pleasing.
- Improved Breathing Patterns. The diaphragm and other respiratory muscles work in conjunction with your abs. Strong abs can contribute to efficient breathing and respiratory function.
- Better Balance & Coordination. A strong core, including the abs, is crucial for maintaining balance and coordination. This is beneficial for activities that require stability and control.
The cable ab workouts listed above will help you to build a shredded core but don’t forget they’ll stay hidden unless you incorporate an effective nutritional plan to strip away body fat so you can reveal those six-pack abs.
A good diet in conjunction with exercise will always give you the best results.
Aside from using cables to develop your abs, have you ever tried the plank?
This is a hugely popular bodyweight exercise that is a fantastic way of boosting core strength and stability.
If you’re new to the plank but fancy having a go, why not take a read of our article ‘popular plank exercises for beginners‘.
It offers step by step guidance on how to do the plank with proper form while also suggesting some variations for you to try out.