14 Cable Crunch Alternatives (No Cable Machine Needed)


Cable Crunch is one of the most popular exercises done on a cable machine. They’re one of the most unique ways to do abs with a weighted resistance.

However, sometimes you may find yourself needing a Cable Crunch alternative. The most obvious of which being you don’t have access to a cable machine. But, perhaps you’re just looking to change your workout up a bit.

Whatever the reason, you’re in the right place. In this guide, I’m going to give you 14 of my favorite Cable Crunch alternatives.

Alternatives to Cable Crunches

These Cable Crunch alternatives have a lot of variety within them. Some still require equipment – medicine balls, weight plates, stability ball – but many exercises don’t require any equipment at all.

My goal with this list was to give you a bunch of ideas so you could pick and choose which exercises you like the best to serve as a replacement for Cable Crunches.


Weighted Sit-Ups


Weighted Situps

Equipment Needed

  • Weight Plate, Dumbbell or Kettlebell

Step-by-Step Instructions

  • Grab a plate or dumbbell, lay on your back, knees bent, feet flat on the floor.
  • Hold the weight tight against the chest if possible.
  • Sit up by contracting and flexing the abdominals
  • Lower back down to the floor and repeat

Coaching Points

The biggest mistake I see with Weighted Sit-Ups is holding the weight too low, down towards the stomach. Holding the weight too low takes away much (if not all) of the added resistance that the weight is supposed to be providing.


Med Ball Sit-up and Throw


Med Ball Situp and Throw (1)

Equipment Needed

  • Medicine Ball
  • Partner or a sturdy wall to throw the ball against

Step-by-Step Instructions

  • Find a partner (or wall) and sit down an appropriate distance away*.
  • Lay on your back holding the medicine ball overhead on the ground.
  • Brace the core, engage the lats, aggressively begin to raise off the ground and throw the ball as hard as possible for distance.
  • The follow-through of the throw should bring you to a full situp position.
  • Allow your partner to throw the ball back (or retrieve the ball coming back from the wall) and repeat.

Coaching Points

*The distance away from your partner should be far enough that the ball will hit the ground before reaching your partner so they do not have to catch the ball out of the air. If using a wall, the distance away will be dependent upon the amount of bounce the ball gets off the wall. Find a distance so that you do not need to move between reps.

The biggest mistake I see with athletes trying to learn Sit-up and Throws involves the timing of the movement. The throw should initiate the sit-up, not the other way around. If you try to sit up first, the movement will turn into more of a sit-up followed by a chest pass – not the intention of the movement.


Reverse Crunch


Reverse Crunch

Equipment Needed

  • None

Muscles Worked

  • Abdominals (Rectus Abdominis, Obliquus Externus Abdominis)
  • Hip Flexors (Iliopsoas, Rectus Femoris, Tensor Fasciae Latae)

How To

  • Start laying on your back with hands either out to the side or under the low back for support.
  • Lift the legs up six inches off the ground.
  • Pull the knees in toward the core.
  • Now, extend the legs and drive the feet straight up in the air – lifting the hips up off the ground.
  • Retrace back to the starting position (keep feet off the ground) and repeat.

Coaching Points

When doing Reverse Crunches, focus on using the core to really lift the hips off the ground and drive the legs into the air at the top. Then, move more slowly and under control back to the start.


Crunches


Crunches

Equipment Needed

  • None

How To

  • Lay flat on your back with your knees bent to 90 degrees, feet off the ground
  • Place your hands behind to head and keep your chin off you chest throughout the entire movement
  • Lift your shoulder blades off of the ground approximately 3 to 5 inches
  • Slowly return to the starting position and immediately repeat the exercise until all reps are completed

Coaching Points

Do not pull on the back of the head when doing Crunches. The hands behind your head should only be there to support the head, not pull on it. Keeping your chin up and away from your chest will help in preventing this.


Front Plank


Female Athlete doing Planks

Equipment Needed

  • None

Step-by-Step Instructions

  • Start on the ground on your stomach.
  • Assume a push-up like position on your elbows and toes. Elbows should be directly under the shoulders.
  • Position your body in a straight line from the shoulders through the hips, knees and ankles.
  • Brace the core tight. (As if you’re going to be punched in the stomach)
  • Do not let the body slouch to the ground nor push the hips up high in the air.
  • Hold for the designated amount of time.

Coaching Points

The biggest mistake that I see with Front Planks is athletes holding the position, but not properly keeping the core engaged and just allowing the torso to slouch. So, while they are technically up on their elbows and toes, all they’re really doing is straining the low back.


Medicine Ball Slams


Med Ball Slams

Equipment Needed

  • Medicine Ball (it’s literally in the name)

Step-by-Step Instructions

  • Grab a medicine ball and stand tall with feet roughly shoulder-width apart.
  • Reach the medicine ball high overhead.
  • Using the core, pull the body down – hinging forward at the hips.
  • Follow through with the arms and release the ball.
  • Let the ball slam into the ground, catch it off the bounce and repeat for the designated number of reps.

Coaching Points

First and foremost, test how ‘bouncy’ your medicine ball is before starting. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen athletes almost have their face smashed by a Medicine Ball Slam bouncing much harder and rebounding much faster off the ground than they were anticipating.


Dead Bug


Equipment Needed

  • None

How To

  • Begin by lying on the floor on your back.
  • Raise both arms straight up toward the sky.
  • Bend both knees at a 90-degree and raise the legs until the knees are directly vertical of the hips.
  • Brace the core and simultaneously lower the right leg and left arm toward the floor.
  • The arm should end up six inches from the ground directly overhead.
  • The leg should end up six inches from the ground directly below the hip.
  • Return both back to the starting position and then lower the opposite arm and leg.
  • Continue alternating back and forth, pausing and ‘locking-in’ each rep.

Coaching Points

The back will naturally want to arch as you go through this movement. Try not to let it. Keep the core braced and maintain a neutral torso.


Seated Twist


Seated Med Ball Twists

Equipment Needed

  • Medicine Ball

Step-by-Step Instructions

  • Start by taking a seat on the floor and clasping your hands together.
  • Slightly bend the knees and raise your feet roughly six inches off the floor.
  • Start by rotating your torso to the left, taking your right elbow toward your left knee.
  • Now turn your shoulders and rotate your torso to the right, now taking your left elbow toward your right knee.
  • Keep legs mostly still and maintain the feet off the floor throughout the movement.
  • Continue rotating back and forth until all reps are completed.

Coaching Points (Common Mistakes)

The biggest mistake I see with my athletes when doing Seated Twists is moving their hands back and forth instead of rotating through the core. The focus should be on the rotation. What the hands and arms do is merely a product of rotating through the torso.


Stir The Pot


Stir The Pot

Equipment Needed

  • Stability Ball (also sometimes called a Physio Ball)

Step-by-Step Instructions

  • Start on your knees with the Stability Ball directly in front of you.
  • Place your forearms on the ball and clasp your hands together.
  • Now slowly lift up off of your knees, balancing yourself with your forearms on the ball and toes on the ground.
  • You should now basically be in plank position, but with your forearms on a stability ball instead of the ground.
  • Now work your hands into small circles. This should simulate, you guessed it, stirring a pot with a big wooden spoon.
  • Work clockwise until all reps are completed and then switch and go counter-clockwise as well.
  • Once all reps are completed lower back down to your knees.

Coaching Points

Take your time getting properly set up! If you’ve never done Stir the Pot before it can be surprising just how hard it is to balance yourself on a stability ball in this manner let alone shift in circles.


Hanging Straight Leg Raises


Hanging Straight Leg Raise

Equipment Needed

  • Pull-Up Bar – Ideally a stand-alone pull-up bar or one connected to a squat rack although any sturdy object you can hang from will technically work.

Step-by-Step Instructions

  • Find yourself a pull-up bar and grip the bar with an overhand grip.
  • Engage your lats so your body doesn’t go limp once you begin to hang.
  • Now hang from the bar and keeping your legs straight, drive them up to hip height (or slightly above hip height).
  • Finally, actively lower your legs back to the starting position – don’t allow the legs to just swing down.
  • Repeat until all reps are completed.

Coaching Points

The biggest issue that most of my athletes run into when doing Hanging Straight Leg Raises (or any hanging ab exercise for that matter) is how to keep from swinging out of control.


Suitcase Crunches


Suitcase Crunches

Equipment Needed

  • None

Step-by-Step Instructions

  • Start by sitting on the ground, balancing on your butt with legs and back up off the ground.
  • Legs should be almost straight, feet roughly six inches off the ground. Torso should be leaned back at about a 30-degree angle.
  • From the starting position, crunch up, bringing the knees and chest together above the hips (like a suitcase shutting)
  • Lower back to the starting position and repeat until all reps are completed. (Feet and back should stay off the ground throughout the movement)

Coaching Points

If you keep your feet uncrossed during the movement, your groin will be forced to stay engaged. This creates a small added bonus to the exercise.


Toes to Bar


Equipment Needed

  • Pull-Up Bar – Ideally a stand-alone pull-up bar or one connected to a squat rack although any sturdy object you can hang from will technically work.

Muscles Worked

  • Abdominal Core Muscles (Rectus Femoris, Obliques Externus Abdominus)
  • Quadriceps, Rectus Femoris
  • Tensor Fasciae Latae (TFL)
  • Secondarily: Back, Biceps and Forearms

Step-by-Step Instructions

  • Find yourself a pull-up bar and grip the bar with an overhand grip
  • Engage your lats so your body doesn’t go limp once you begin to hang
  • Now hang from the bar with a slight flex at the elbow
  • Keeping the legs straight, flex the core and lift the legs up until your toes touch the pull-up bar.
  • Lower the legs under control to help keep them from swinging uncontrollably.
  • Repeat for the designated number of reps

Coaching Points

The biggest issue that most of my athletes run into when doing Toes to Bar is how to keep from swinging, or better yet, how to properly utilize that swing as a positive and not a negative.

To keep from swinging, you have to actively lower your legs back down. If you ‘let your legs go’ and just allow gravity to take over you’ll completely lose control of the movement.


Ab Rollouts


Ab Wheel

Equipment Needed

  • Ab Wheel

OR

  • Barbell with Bumper Plates on each side

How To

  • Start on your knees with your hands on the Ab Wheel handles.
  • Brace the core hard and begin rolling the wheel forward.
  • Roll out until you feel you’re about to fall and then begin pulling the wheel back.
  • Repeat until all reps are completed.

Coaching Points

Don’t allow your hips to stay behind you as you begin to roll forward. Hips should stay relatively in line with the knees and shoulders, similar to a Plank.


Hollow Rocks


Equipment Needed

  • None

How To

  • Lay on your back, legs straight and arms extended overhead.
  • Brace the core and lift the feet roughly six inches off the ground.
  • Now, slowly rock up and down, a few inches in each direction.
  • Focus on keeping core tension throughout the movement.

Coaching Points

  • You don’t need to go crazy with how much you rock. Keep the rock small and controlled (arms and feet shouldn’t hit the ground) and focus on maintaining core tension.

Final Thoughts

Cable Crunches are an excellent exercise for developing a strong core, however, sometimes Cable Crunches are just not possible. You may not have the proper equipment, but you also may just want something a little different.

In these situations, you’ll need a Cable Crunch alternative and I hope that at least one of the alternative exercises I’ve listed here fits what you were looking for.

Featured Image Photo Credit: Skydive Erick / shutterstock.com

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Ryan Horton

Horton Barbell was created by Ryan Horton who has served as a Sports Performance Coach for almost 20 years. My mission is to create a training resource to help as many coaches and athletes as possible maximize athletic potential.

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