There are lots of different ways to work out your abs, but many people are unaware of the fact that you can get a great ab workout using the cable machine.
So, what are the best cable ab exercises? How should you structure a cable machine abs workout to see results?
In this article, we will discuss the benefits of cable ab workouts and provide step-by-step instructions for some of the best cable core exercises to add to your cable ab workouts:
- Cable Kneeling Crunches
- Anti-Rotation Pulses
- Stability Ball Cable Crunches
- Cable Chops
- Cable Side Bends
- Standing Cable Oblique Twists
- Seated Cable Oblique Twists
- Cable Reverse Crunches
Let’s jump in!
Benefits of Cable Machine Ab Workouts
An abs cable workout takes advantage of the resistance provided by the cable machine, which places your abs (or whatever muscle you are targeting) under constant tension throughout the range of motion.
This is one of the best ways to trigger hypertrophy, allowing you to build muscle in your abs while strengthening your core.
Additionally, because you are working against constant tension during a cable ab exercise, you will strengthen your abs at all different angles throughout the range of motion for better functional core strength.
The Best Cable Ab Workout
Here are some of the best cable machine core exercises to add to your abs cable workouts:
#1: Cable Kneeling Crunches
Likely the cable ab exercise that beginners are most familiar with is the kneeling cable crunch.
It is an effective ab cable exercise and a beginner-friendly one at that because the technique is simple to master, and you can easily progress the exercise by adding more weight as you get stronger.
Here are the steps for performing this cable machine ab exercise:
- Secure the rope attachment to the cable pulley and set the pulley at the highest setting.
- Kneel down in front of the cable machine, about 3 feet back from the upright, grabbing the end of the rope in each hand as you get into position.
- Keep your back straight, chest up, shoulders relaxed and down, and core and glutes tight in the starting position.
- Squeeze your rectus abdominis abs as hard as possible as you bend your torso and head down towards the floor.
- Hold the bottom position, the lead engaging those abs in a strong isometric contraction.
- As slowly as possible, return to the starting position, resisting the pull of the weight stack.
- Perform 8-15 reps, depending on your fitness level and training goals.
#2: Anti-Rotation Pulses
This is a great exercise for cable ab workouts.
It builds strength in the obliques, deep core muscles, as well as the shoulders, and the other abdominal and low back muscles of the core.
Here are the steps for this cable machine ab exercise:
- Attach the single handle and set the pulley at chest height.
- Position yourself so that your body is angled 90 degrees from the cable, so it should be to the right or left side of your body.
- Hold the handle in both hands with your arms straight out in front of your body. You should be far enough away from the pulley so that there is significant tension on the cable in the starting position. You will also need to take a few steps backward so that the cable is being pulled straight out in front of the machine when your arms are straight out in front of your body.
- Engage your abs and glutes while pulsing the cable further away from the anchor point by about six inches and then bringing it back to the starting place. For example, if the band is anchored to your left side, pulse the band with extended arms to the right about 6 inches per pulse.
- Pulse 25-30 times and then switch sides.
#3: Stability Ball Cable Crunches
This is one of the more challenging cable ab exercises because the stability ball increases the range of motion and instability, requiring more engagement of your abs.
Here are the steps for performing this ab cable machine exercise:
- Attach the rope attachment to the cable pulley and position a stability ball in front of the cable machine. The height of the pulley should be roughly on par with the height of the stability ball.
- Lie back on the stability ball so that your head and neck are off the ball and your hips and knees are bridging off the ball. Your knees should be bent to 90°, and your feet should be flat on the floor. Essentially, you should assume the position you would use for stability ball crunches.
- Grip each end of the rope attachment with your hands extended overhead. You want the stability ball to be positioned far enough in front of the cable machine so that there is tension on the cable that lifts the weights back into the starting position.
- Engage your abs to crunch up, pulling the handle up so that the rope is pulled all the way up over your head as you crunch towards your thighs.
- Pause before slowly lowering back down, extending backward a bit before beginning the next rep.
- Perform 15-25 reps.
#4: Cable Chops
Adding this exercise to your cable machine ab workouts is a great way to improve your rotational core strength.
Here are the steps:
- Attach the single handle and set the pulley at chest height.
- Position yourself so that your body is angled 90 degrees from the cable, so it should be to the right or left side of your body. Stand with good posture, knees slightly bent, chest up, shoulders back, and feet shoulder-width apart.
- You will need to take a few steps backward so that the cable is being pulled straight out in front of the machine when your arms are straight out in front of your body.
- Engage your core to twist your torso towards the cable, reaching both hands to grab the handle with your arms extended.
- Begin to chop by pulling the cable straight across towards the opposite wall, twisting your torso through the full range of motion.
- When you have twisted all the way to the outside, away from the weight stack, pause and hold the contraction for 3 to 5 seconds.
- Rather than allowing the weight stack to pull you back to the starting position, actively resist as you slowly return back before beginning the next rep.
- Complete 12 to 15 reps and then face the other way.
#5: Cable Side Bends
Another highly effective cable core exercise to add to your cable abs workouts is the cable side bend.
This is a lateral flexion exercise that helps increase strength and definition in your obliques.
Here are the steps for performing this cable ab workout exercise:
- Attach the single-grip handle to the cable and set the pulley at a low height.
- Stand upright with good posture, keeping your chest up, shoulders down, back straight, and core and glutes engaged. You should be standing to the side of the cable so that one shoulder is facing the attachment point and your body is 90° relative to the cable.
- Step about 3 to 4 feet away from the cable machine and grab the handle with the hand closest to the cable. There should be tension on the cable at all times so that in the starting position, your torso is leaning in towards the cable machine. This will maximize the range of motion for this cable oblique exercise and keep your abs under constant tension throughout the duration of each rep.
- Bend your torso to the opposite side, bringing your head and shoulders down towards your hip that is away from the machine. As you do so, you will be pulling the cable to work your obliques.
- Pause and hold the contraction, squeezing your obliques for 3 to 5 seconds.
- Slowly return to the starting position by passing the upright position until you are leaning back towards the cable.
- Complete 12-15 reps on one side and then switch sides.
#6: Standing Cable Oblique Twists
This is a great cable ab exercise for your obliques.
Just be sure to twist carefully and mindfully so that you do not injure your back. Keep your core tight and think about initiating and controlling the movement from your obliques rather than your spine.
Here are the steps for performing this cable ab exercise:
- Attach the stirrup handle to the cable machine and set the pulley at shoulder height. Stand with your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, angled about 45° facing away from the cable attachment point.
- Grasping the handle with both hands, fully straighten your arms so that they are extended out and parallel to the floor. The weight stack should be lifted in the starting position so that there will be tension on the cable throughout the range of motion. This will help you determine how far away from the cable you will need to stand.
- Exhale as you slowly rotate your entire torso away from the cable, engaging your obliques and keeping your core tight and arms completely straight.
- Pause at the end range of motion, squeezing your obliques.
- Slowly twist back to the starting position without allowing the weight stack to pull you or touch all the way down before beginning the next rep.
- Perform 8-15 reps per side.
#7: Seated Cable Oblique Twists
You can perform the same cable oblique ab exercise in the seated position as you did with the standing cable rotation.
The benefit of sitting down is that it helps isolate the obliques and helps eliminate the possibility of twisting from your hips.
- To perform this oblique exercise with the cable machine, sit down on the floor with your legs extended and your body facing angled away from the machine in a similar orientation as you were while standing.
- The cable should still be at shoulder height.
- The motion will be exactly the same. The only difference is that you are sitting flat on the floor with your legs stretched out in front of you instead of standing upright.
- Complete all of your reps and then switch sides. Remember to move slowly and carefully.
#8: Cable Reverse Crunches
Many cable ab workouts fail to include cable machine ab exercises that target your lower abs.
The cable reverse crunch is an effective exercise to add to cable machine ab workouts for your lower abs.
Here are the steps:
- Attach the ankle cuff strap to the cable machine and set the pulley to a low height.
- Sit on the floor in front of the machine and secure the ankle strap around your ankles.
- In the starting position, you want there to be some tension on the cable that lifts the weight stack up, so you will need to scoot your body back far enough so that the weight lifts up before you lie back.
- Then lift into the reverse crunch position such that your hips are flexed, your thighs are perpendicular to the floor, your knees are bent 90°, and your shins are parallel to the floor with your feet close to the machine and your head pointing away from the cable machine. This will require using your lower abs to help draw the cable toward your body.
- From here, continue to draw your knees up towards your chest, lifting your tailbone and butt off of the floor.
- Hold the squeeze with your knees tucked in towards your chest.
- Slowly extend your hips, keeping a bend in your knees as you drop your heels out towards the machine.
- Pause at the extended position before your feet touch the ground.
- Then, contract your abs to bring your knees back up towards your chest, lifting your lower pelvis to squeeze your lower abs. Try to keep your lower back firmly planted on the floor throughout the duration of the exercise.
- Perform 15-20 reps.
For more core workout ideas, check out our guide here.