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Building your abs doesn’t have to only be through sit-ups or flutter kicks. Those exercises are undoubtedly useful, but using a cable machine allows you to progress faster than with those exercises.
Plus, bodyweight exercises get boring after some time. The cable machine offers you a surprising array of exciting exercises you can do for your abs.
In this article, we’ll go over some of the best cable abs exercises you can do to strengthen your core faster and in a more fun way. Finally, no more breaking your back like this…
Why Use a Cable Machine for Building Abs?
Before we dive straight into the exercises, let’s dive into the benefits of using a cable machine for building abs.
Firstly, the cable machine allows you to progress faster when you’re building your abs. You can start with a relatively low weight if you’re a beginner. And once you’re a bit more advanced, you can keep adding more weight to make your workouts more challenging.
When you do only bodyweight exercises, you can only progress by:
- Doing more exercises and sets
- Adding weights to the exercises (which is unconventional and impractical)
The cable machine mitigates this problem.
Secondly, the cable machine allows you to better hit all parts of your abs by incorporating rotational movements. This lets you target obliques better, as well as almost every part of your abdominal area.
An additional benefit of using the cable machine for abs is that you’ll be under tension throughout the whole movement, unlike with bodyweight exercises where there are parts of the exercises where we are not under tension.
Considering these benefits, let’s dive into the best cable abs exercises!
Best Cable Abs Exercises You Should Do
These exercises follow no specific order – if you are looking for a sample ab workout with the cable machine, scroll to the bottom of the article!
1. Cable Crunches
The cable crunch is one of the most effective ab-building exercises you can do with the cable machine. It looks deceptively easy when others do it, but once you do it with proper form, you’ll quickly learn why it has this reputation as a great ab-builder.
This exercise is great for two reasons:
- It features a relatively big range of motion, which lets you target both your lower and upper abs
- You can easily overload it and add weight when you’re more advanced, making it the go-to exercise for your core
It also incorporates movements you would use when playing sports, so it’s a highly functional exercise. Here’s how you do it, step-by-step.
- Kneel down on your knees, and make sure you use the lower cable grip
- Then, grab the cable grip and have it just above your head
- Start kneeling downwards, but do so by squeezing your abs instead of using arms to move the cable down
- Rise back slowly and repeat
2. Oblique Twists (aka Wood Choppers)
This exercise is one of the best exercises for your obliques. Out of all the exercises you can do for obliques, we believe this one is one of the more effective ones. It’s definitely a challenging one, too, once you start adding weight.
The reason why it’s challenging is that it puts focus on your obliques, and your entire core will work. You’ll feel your obliques primarily, but you should feel your abs working right across the entire width. You’ll even feel your arms and chest work to an extent.
It’s all about the technique here, though.
- The cable pulley should be at your hips’ level
- Plant your feet wide apart and plant them firmly onto the ground
- Then, grab the pulley and start the movement on one side, and move the cable pulley to the other side of your body just as if you are chopping wood
- The key is to keep your legs planted, your back firm and straight, and your core engaged. Use the rotation of your knees to perform the exercise correctly
3. Pallof Press
No kidding, this exercise will look easy when you see it performed by someone else. You might even start to wonder about the point of this exercise.
But the truth is it’s the exact opposite of easy. Once you do it correctly and with a bit more weight, it becomes super hard.
The reason why it’s hard is that you’re resisting the rotation of the weight of the cable. You will have to keep your core tight in order to do that, which is deceptively hard. The key is to keep your hands locked out fully and stable in the extended position. Also, make sure you keep your back straight and your shoulders backward.
- With the cable at your chest level, grip the pulley and put it right in front of your body
- Extend your arms out fully and lock them out in front of your body with the pulley in your hands
- Keep moving your arms forward and back until you feel fatigued
4. Standing Cable Crunch
Now, this exercise looks very similar to the no.1 exercise on our list, but it is slightly different. The main difference is you’ll do it standing, which will give you a bit more room to move your body, so the range of motion will be superior here.
But it’s also true it’s slightly more challenging than kneeling crunches, and they’re harder to master in terms of form. Plus, it can turn into a lower back hell quickly if you don’t perform it properly. So if you have lower back pain, then forget about this exercise.
So the key is to do this exercise properly and in a controlled way. Follow these steps.
- Grip the cable pulley just behind your head while standing up
- Bend your knees slightly and start moving downwards with your upper body
- Make sure you squeeze your abs and keep your back straight while you do this exercise, and your legs firmly planted on the ground
5. Cable Tuck Reverse Crunch
This exercise is quite similar to sit-ups, but the main difference here is that you’re putting almost your entire body under tension throughout the entire movement. This is key for making the most out of the exercise.
You’ll need a cable machine that has two parallel points for attaching the pulley (the one that you would use to do cable crossovers, for example). Here’s how you do this exercise.
- Put the mat in between the cable pulleys and make sure the pulleys are in the lower positions
- Then, attach one pulley to your legs, and grab the other with your arms just a little above your head
- Start crunching so that you bring your upper body and your knees together
- Squeeze and pause slightly at the top before extending again
6. Cable Russian Twists
Now, for this movement, you’ll need both a cable machine and an exercise ball. This move is great for targeting your obliques primarily, but also your entire abdominal area.
Again, the form matters a lot here, since you’re doing a slightly more technical move. You’ll start with your back on the exercise ball, gripping the cable, and using the ball to create this side movement that allows you to target your obliques. Start with a lower weight if it feels too challenging at first.
- Put the cable pulley in the middle position, and the exercise ball next to the pulley
- Then, put your upper back onto the ball and grip the pulley with your arms extended
- When your arms are pointing straight up, start moving to the side with the help of the ball
- Pause at the end of the movement for a second and move back
7. Standing Cable Lift
The standing cable lift is a great functional exercise you can do. Because you will use the rotation of your torso to do the exercise, it will help you a lot for sports as well as for running.
The main focus of this move will be on your obliques. But perhaps more importantly, you’re also incorporating other parts of your body into the movement, especially your arms, shoulders, and your lower back.
However, if you do it properly, you should feel most of the tension in your obliques. Here’s how to do this move correctly.
- Grip the cable with your torso facing forwards
- Then, bend your knees slightly and plant your legs firmly onto the ground, which will help you propel your body upwards and lift the cable
- Next, with the cable in your hands, press the cable upwards diagonally until you extend your arms fully
- Make sure you use the rotation of your torso instead as well as the rotation of your knees, which will help you perform the exercise smoothly
8. Plank Cable Row
The plank cable row is an interesting exercise. It’s not your typical plank, because you’ll be using the cable machine to be active during the plank. It will work almost your entire body, but with this cable row addition, you’ll put some extra focus on your upper back and on your core.
So it’s a compound exercise that targets multiple muscles at the same time. And because you’ll have to balance your entire body, your core will be put under great stress during the move!
- Start with the plank position close to the pulley – it’s easier to first grab the pulley and then move to the plank position
- When in the plank position, start rowing with the cable attachment in one of your hands
- When you tire out, switch the hands and repeat
9. Low Pulley Side Bends
Here’s another exercise for your obliques that you can use as a finisher exercise. It’s quite similar to the standard side bend, just that you will use your cable machine this time.
As such, it works your obliques primarily. You’ll have to repeat it on both sides of your body, though. This will allow you to target both sides of your core effectively.
- Start by standing next to the cable machine
- Grip the cable pulley with one of your hands, and load weight
- With the pulley in your hand, start bending to the opposite side
- Repeat on the other side
10. Cable Push-Pull
Last but not least, we have the cable push-pull exercise. This move will require some coordination and balance, but that’s exactly why this exercise is so effective.
If you’re a boxer, for example, this move will do wonders for your core and arms. It’s basically the same as your shadow boxing exercises, just that it’s done with weights and in a more controlled manner.
- Start by grabbing the cable pulleys in both of your arms. Your front arm should be extended, while the back arm should be next to your body
- Switch the arms – extend the back arm and contract the front arm
Sample Cable Ab Workout
Using some of these exercises, you can craft your own cable machine ab workout. Here’s a good example you can use (but feel free to add or remove exercises from the list we’ve discussed above).
- Pallof press – 3 sets of 6-12
- Kneeling cable crunches – 3 sets of 8-12
- Oblique twists – 3 sets of 8-12
- Plank cable rows – 3 sets of 6-12
- Cable push-pull – 3 sets of 30-60 seconds
Again, feel free to modify the workout and add/remove the exercises we’ve mentioned above.
With these cable abs exercises, you’ll be able to target your entire core – from your obliques to the central abdominal muscles. The key is to do these exercises properly and then to progress them according to your strength level.
The cable machine offers quite a lot of possibilities for your core, and you can even use it as your primary “driver” for building your abs. Try these out and you’ll see just how effective they can be!