cable exercises for abs
Fitness

20 Quick and Effective Cable Exercises for Abs

We all want six-pack abs, yet few of us ever end up achieving them. A lot of that is to do with what we are putting into our mouths. But, the choice of exercise is another big factor. Repping out on the wrong exercises is not going to get you a strong, shredded set of abs. 

The best way to train your abs is with a cable machine. Cables are the only way to deliver constant tension to your abs and the rest of your upper body. You are also able to progressively overload the abs by increasing the weight stack.

In this article, I’m about to provide you with the most comprehensive breakdown of cable exercises for the abs that you will find anywhere online.

1. Cable Tuck Crunch

Muscles Worked

Rectus Abdominis

Equipment Used

Double Cable Pulley Machine, ankle attachment, rope handle

Training Tip

Perform this action in a smooth, controlled manner. Tense the core in the contracted position. Make sure that you are far enough away from the machine to get a full arm extension.

How to Do It

  1. Attach the ankle attachment to one pulley tower, which is set at its lowest setting. Set a rope cable handle on the other pulley tower, which is set high.
  2. Lie on the floor between the two towers, facing away from it. Put the ankle attachment over your ankles and grab the rope handle with your hands. Extend your arms overhead and straighten your legs.
  3. Simultaneously bring your straightened arms u and overhead and draw your knees toward your torso. Lower and repeat.

2. Cable Pallof Press

Muscles Worked

Intercostals, obliques

Equipment Used

Cable Pulley Machine

Training Tip

Do not twist your hips as you push the cable out in front of you.

How to Do It

  1. Set the pulley at shoulder level. Grab the cable handle with both hands and stand side onto the machine at arm’s length.
  2. Hold the cable in front of your chest. 
  3. Press your arms directly out in front of the body to full extension. 
  4. Return to the start position and repeat.

3. Plank Cable Row

Muscles Worked

Rectus Abdominis, obliques, 

Equipment Used

Cable Pulley Machine

Training Tip

Position yourself so that the cable is taut when your arm is outstretched. Maintain a straight line with your body.

How to Do It

  1. Set the pulley to its lowest setting. Lie on the floor facing the machine resting on your forearms in plank position. Reach out to grab the cable handle with your right hand.
  2. Row the cable in toward your rib cage. 
  3. Reverse and repeat.

4. Cable Russian Twist

Muscles Worked

Obliques, intercostals

Equipment Used

Cable Pulley Machine

Training Tip

Maintain a secure foot position throughout the movement. Maintain a tight core to develop core strength. 

How to Do It

  1. Set the pulley at its lowest setting and position a fitness ball three feet in front of the machine.
  2. Lie on the fitness ball and grab the handle with both hands.  Place your arms directly above your chest at full extension.
  3. Keeping your arms straight, bring them down to the left side, contracting your core throughout.
  4. Return to the start position and then go down to the right side.
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5. Bosu Ball Cable Crunch

Muscles Worked

Rectus Abdominis, obliques, erector spinae

Equipment Used

Cable Pulley Machine, Bosu Ball

Training Tip

Do not lift your lower back off the Bosu Ball.

How to Do It

  1. Set the pulley at its lowest setting and connect a rope handle to the cable. Position a Bosu Ball about three feet in front of the machine.
  2. Lie on the Bosu Ball and grab the cable behind you. Your feet should be shoulder-width apart and firmly set. 
  3. Crunch your torso up to a full contraction.
  4. Hold for a 2-count and then lower.

6. Cable Side Bends

Muscles Worked

Internal and external obliques

Equipment Used

Cable Pulley Machine

Training Tip

Contract your obliques in the bottom position of the movement. 

How to Do It

  1. Set the pulley to its lowest setting and stand side on to it, holding the cable in your closest hand. Spread your feet apart.
  2. Arch your body down by bringing your outer hand down to the ankle without bending the knee.
  3. Return and repeat.

7. Cable Mountain Climbers

Muscles Worked

Rectus abdominis, transverse abdominis, intercostals

Equipment Used

Cable Pulley Machine, ankle attachment, Bosu Ball

Training Tip

Maintain a straight line through your entire body. Do the same number of reps on each leg.

How to Do It

  1. Set the pulley to its lowest setting and put an ankle strap on it.
  2. Lie in front of the machine facing away from it with your hands on a Bosu Ball. Attack the ankle strap to your right ankle.
  3. Pull your right knee up toward your right elbow. 
  4. Reverse and repeat.

8. Cable Woodchops

Muscles Worked

Internal and external obliques, transverse abdominis

Equipment Used

Cable Pulley Machine, Rope Attachment

Training Tip

Walk out until there is tension on the cable when your arms are in the start position. Forcefully contract the entire core in the bottom position.

How to Do It

  1. Set the pulley to its highest setting and attach a rope handle to the cable.
  2. Stand side onto the machine and reach up to grab the handle above your near shoulder.
  3. Bring the cables across and down your body to the opposite hip.
  4. Return and repeat.

9. Standing Cable Lift

Muscles Worked

Rectus abdominis, internal and external obliques

Equipment Used

Cable Pulley Machine, Rope Attachment

Training Tip

Maintain a slight knee bend throughout this exercise, along with a neutral spine. 

How to Do It

  1. Attach a rope handle to the cable, which is set at its lowest setting.
  2. Stand with a wide stance side onto the machine and grab the handle with both hands.
  3. Start with your arms at waist level and then bring the cable up and across your body to full extension.
  4. Lower and repeat.

10. Cable Ab Crunch (Standing)

Muscles Worked

Rectus abdominis

Equipment Used

Cable Pulley Machine, Rope Attachment

Training Tip

Fully stretch and contract the abs on every rep. 

How to Do It

  1. Set the pulley at its highest setting put a rope handle on the cable.
  2. Grab the handles and stand, facing away from the machine.
  3. From a starting position, with your arms above your head, crunch down to contract your abs. 
  4. Reverse the action to return to the start position.
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11. Cable Ab Crunch (Seated)

Muscles Worked

Rectus abdominis

Equipment Used

Cable Pulley Machine, Rope attachment, back supported bench

Training Tip

Make sure that you are far enough away from the machine to get a full extension through the arms.

How to Do It

  1. Set the pulley at its highest setting put a rope handle on the cable.
  2. Grab the handles and sit on the bench, facing away from the machine.
  3. From a starting position, with your arms above your head, crunch down to contract your abs. 
  4. Reverse the action to return to the start position.

12. Cable Leg Raise

Muscles Worked

Rectus abdominis, intercostals, gluteus maximus

Equipment Used

Cable Pulley Machine, ankle attachment

Training Tip

Maintain an upright body and contract the entire core region throughout the exercise.

How to Do It

  1. Position the pulley at its lowest setting. Put the ankle attachment on the cable and put it on your right foot. Stand in front of the machine facing away from it.
  2. Draw your right knee up toward full extension.
  3. Lower and repeat. Do the same number of reps on both legs.

13. Cable Reverse Crunch

Muscles Worked

Rectus abdominis

Equipment Used

Cable Pulley Machine, ankle attachment

Training Tip

Do not grasp behind the head, as this will put pressure on your spine.

How to Do It

  1. Set the pulley to a low setting and put an ankle attachment on it.
  2. Lie on the floor facing the machine and put your feet through the attachment. Bend your knees. Place your hands above your ears. 
  3. Pull your knees in to toward your torso, simultaneously crunching forward. Lower and repeat.

14. Cable Side Crunches

Muscles Worked

Rectus abdominis, internal and external obliques

Equipment Used

Cable Pulley Machine

Training Tip

Position yourself so that the cable is taut in the starting position. Contract the core tightly in the bottom position. 

How to Do It

  1. Set the pulley at its highest setting. Stand side onto the machine with feet shoulder-width apart and grab the handle with the closest hand.
  2. Crunch the pulley down to touch your hip.
  3. Return and repeat.

15. One Arm Cable Crunch

Muscles Worked

Rectus abdominis, external obliques

Equipment Used

Cable Pulley Machine

Training Tip

Forcefully contract the core muscles in the bottom position. 

How to Do It

  1. Set the pulley at its highest setting.
  2. Grab the handles with your left hand, kneeling in front of the machine, facing it.
  3. From a starting position with your arms above your head, crunch down to contract your abs, simultaneously twisting to the opposite side. 
  4. Reverse the action to return to the start position.

16. Kneeling Cable Crunch

Muscles Worked

Rectus abdominis

Equipment Used

Cable Pulley Machine, Rope Attachment

Training Tip

Perform reps in the 15-30 range, progressively increasing the weight stack.

How to Do It

  1. Set the pulley to its highest position and put a rope handle on it.
  2. Kneel in front of the machine and grab the handles above your head.
  3. Crunch down to fully contract the abdominal muscles.
  4. Reverse and repeat.

17. Kneeling Oblique Cable Twists

Muscles Worked

Internal and external obliques, transverse abdominis, intercostals

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Equipment Used

Cable Pulley Machine, Rope Handle

Training Tip

Forcefully contract the core muscles in the bottom position.

How to Do It

  1. Set the pulley to its highest position and put a rope handle on it.
  2. Kneel in front of the machine and grab the handles above your head.
  3. Crunch down and to the left to bring your hands down toward the floor outside of your left knees.
  4. Reverse and repeat on the other side.

18. Side Plank Cable Row

Muscles Worked

Internal and external obliques, intercostals

Equipment Used

Cable Pulley Machine

Training Tip

Keep your core tight and your body rigid throughout the action. Move far enough away from the machine to maintain tautness in the cable when the arms are at full extension.

How to Do It

  1. Set the pulley 3 positions from its lowest setting. Lie side-on to the machine in a side plank position, resting on your left forearm and with your feet stacked.
  2. Grab the handle at full arm extension.
  3. Row the handle into your ribcage.
  4. Reverse and repeat.

19. Cable Push Pull

Muscles Worked

Internal and external obliques, intercostals

Equipment Used

Twin Tower Cable Pulley Machine

Training Tip

Make sure that your elbows remain horizontal and that you maintain a split stance throughout the movement. 

How to Do It

  1. Set the pulley machine at shoulder height.
  2. Grab both handles with an overhand grip and walk out so that your right arm is extended and your left arm is bent at your side. Stand with a split stance.
  3. Extend your left arm to full extension and simultaneously draw your right hand back. 
  4. Continue in a fluid push pull manner to complete your reps.

20. Cable Judo Flip

Muscles Worked

Internal and external obliques, intercostals

Equipment Used

Cable Pulley Machine, Rope Handle

Training Tip

Forcefully contract your entire core as you bring the cable across your body.

How to Do It

  1. Set the pulley at its lowest setting and attach a rope handle to the cable.
  2. Grab the handle in both handles and bring it behind your right shoulder as you are standing facing away from the machine.
  3. Pull the cable down and cross your body (imagine you are doing a Judo flip) down to your opposite hip. 
  4. Return and repeat.

Conclusion

Make effective use of these 20 cable machine abdominal exercises to sculpt abs of distinction. Combine 3 different exercises into a workout, doing 9 total sets, with a rep range of between 15-30. Add to the weight stack as the reps decrease. Train your abs once every 4-5 days for best results.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it enough to do only cable exercises for abdominals?

Yes, it is enough to do only cable exercises for abdominals. Cable exercises fully stimulate the abs through their full range of motion while also allowing you to add resistance. 

What is an alternative to a cable machine?

The least expensive alternative to a cable machine is a set of resistance bands. Attach the band to either the top or bottom of a door to effectively simulate a high or low cable pulley machine. 

Do crunches burn belly fat?

No crunches do not burn belly fat. It is impossible to spot reduce fat from any part of the body. Crunches strengthen and build the abdominal muscles. To reduce belly fat, you need to reduce your caloric intake and burn calories through cardio exercise.

Steve Theunissen

Steve Theunissen is a former gym owner and personal trainer based in Tauranga, New Zealand. He is the author of six hardcopy books and more than a hundred ebooks on the topics of bodybuilding, fitness, and fat loss.

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