If you’ve never used the cable machine for your abs workouts, you’re missing a trick. Many of the best abs exercises can be done using the machine, which provides constant resistance to keep your core muscles under tension throughout the movement.
Our guide to the best cable machine exercises for your abs is split into three sections to suit all abilities and levels of experience with the machine.
The beginner moves will get you acquainted with the benefits of crunching with additional tension provided by the cables, as well as tackling two torso-twisting exercises to work your abs and obliques.
The intermediate moves work different parts of your abs, with exercises like an upgraded cable crunch and a reverse crunch to target the lower abs.
The advanced exercises start with a tried-and-trusted core strengthener, the judo throw, and then you move on to a double-tension cable tuck crunch to target the entire abdominal area. Adding a gym ball with the cable leg raise maximises core strength and stability, before testing your obliques with the high cable woodchop. Then it’s back to the gym ball to finish off with some Russian twists.
To incorporate the cable abs exercises into your workouts you can pick out a few to do in supersets between sets of bigger full-body compound exercises, or do two to three of them as an abs-focused finisher to a core workout, cycling between the moves with minimal rest inbetween.
And if you find you take to the cable machine like a duck to water, use our guide to cable machine exercises to spend even more time on it.
Beginner Cable Machine Abs Exercises
High cable crunch
Using a high cable, kneel down and hold the handle by your head. Tense your abs and curl your shoulders down, keeping your hands in the same spot by your head. Pause at the bottom of the move, then rise slowly back to the start.
Stand in a split stance, holding a low cable in the opposite hand to your front leg. Twist your torso away from the machine and bring the cable in to your side.
Adopt a split stance facing away from the machine, holding a high cable by your shoulder in the opposite hand to your front leg. Twist your torso and press the cable out in front of your body.
Intermediate Cable Machine Abs Exercises
Low cable crunch
Lie on the ground with your feet furthest away from the machine, holding a low cable in both hands by your forehead. Curl your shoulders off the floor, pause for a moment, then lower again.
Cable reverse crunch
Lie on your back with your feet towards the machine and put a low cable handle around your ankles. Hold your legs up so your thighs are vertical and knees are bent at 90°. Curl your hips up off the floor, then lower them slowly.
One-arm cross crunch
Kneel down in front of the machine, holding a high cable in one hand in front of your face. Curl your shoulders towards your knees without letting your body twist to the side. Pause at the bottom, then rise slowly.
Advanced Cable Machine Abs Exercises
Stand side-on to the machine in a wide stance. Hold a high cable in both hands to the side of you that’s nearest the machine. Twist your body away from the machine and pull the cable over your shoulder, then crunch forwards, pulling the cable down.
Cable tuck crunch
Lie down between two cables, holding one handle in both hands by your head and with the other around your ankles. Your elbows and knees should be bent at 90°. Raise your shoulders and your hips off the ground at the same time, pause for a beat, then lower.
Gym ball cable leg raise
Lie back on a gym ball with a low cable handle around your feet. Grasp a pole behind your head for stability and extend your legs towards the machine. Raise your legs while trying to ensure your torso stays as still as possible on the ball.
High cable woodchop
Stand side-on to the machine, holding a high cable out to the side in both hands with your torso turned towards the machine. Twist your torso and draw the cable down and across your body, keeping your back straight and core tensed throughout.
Cable Russian twist
Lie on a gym ball on your back side-on to the machine. Turn your torso towards the machine, holding a low cable in both hands out in front of your chest. Keeping your arms straight, twist your torso and draw the cable across to the other side of your body.
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Joe Warner is a highly experienced journalist and editor who began working in fitness media in 2008. He has featured on the cover of Men’s Fitness UK twice and has co-authored Amazon best-sellers including 12-Week Body Plan. He was the editor of Men’s Fitness UK magazine between 2016 and 2019, when that title shared a website with Coach.
- Nick Harris-FrySenior writer