Cable Crunches vs Ab Machine Crunches

Cable Crunch vs Ab Machine Crunch (Is One Better?)

Two popular crunch variations, particularly found in commercial gyms, are Cable Crunches and Ab Machine Crunches. Both are good exercises for adding resistance to your core workouts.

But, is one movement better than the other? Which should you be incorporating into your strength training?

In this article, I’m going to go over how to properly do both of these gym staples along with their benefits and some coaching points. I’ll also compare Cable Crunches and Ab Machine Crunches side-by-side to help you figure out which (or both) you should be doing based on your training goals and experience.

Cable Crunches

Cable Crunches
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Equipment Needed

  • Cable Machine

Muscles Worked

  • Abdominal Core Muscles (Rectus Abdominus, Obliques Externus Abdominus, Pyramidalis)

Step-by-Step Instructions

  • Set up a cable machine at a height where the attachment can reach close to the floor.
  • Grab the attachment*, pull it to the back of the shoulders (similar to a back squat) and sit down on your knees.
  • Start with the torso completely upright.
  • Then, crunch down, taking your shoulders down towards your thighs.
  • Slowly return back to the starting position and repeat.

Coaching Points

*The two most popular attachment to use for Cable Crunches is the rope and the long straight bar. I would suggest trying both and seeing which you like better.

You don’t need to go super heavy with Cable Crunches. Instead, keep tension on the core throughout the movement and focus on the contraction of each rep. The time under tension over the course of the set will accumulate and you’ll really notice the burn towards the tail end of the set.

Pro Tip: If you don’t have a cable machine, you can do the exact same exercise with a resistance band. Simply loop a resistance band around the top of the squat rack and do the exact same movement with the band. (You could also try one of these Cable Crunch alternatives)


The main benefit specifically for Cable Crunches is having the ability to easily change the weight being used for an abdominal exercise. And, the ability to use a considerable amount of weight with it being a logistical nightmare.

For example, many (if not most) core exercises are done with bodyweight only. Weighted variations are typically done with a weight plate or maybe a dumbbell. However, for many movements using a plate or a dumbbell makes the movement itself harder to do, not just because of the weight, but because holding a large implement can be cumbersome.

Cable Crunches allow for weight to easily be changed and you can go as heavy as the machine (or your strength) will allow without compromising the integrity of the movement.

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Ab Machine Crunch

Ab Machine Crunch

Equipment Needed

  • Ab Machine

Muscles Worked

Muscles Worked - Rectus Abdominis
Muscles Worked – Rectus Abdominis
  • Rectus Abdominis

Step-by-Step Instructions

Note: This may vary slightly from one ab machine to another as not all ab machines are built exactly the same.

  • Adjust the machine to fit your body. Make sure the pads are positioned comfortably on your upper back and the handles are within reach.
  • Sit on the machine and grip the handles.
  • Engage your core and lift your upper body off the pads, bringing your elbows towards your knees.
  • Slowly lower your upper body back down to the starting position.
  • Repeat for the desired number of reps.

Coaching Points

Keep your movements slow and controlled, rather than jerky. Also, make sure to keep your core engaged throughout the exercise.

Avoid pulling on the handles too hard, as this can strain your neck and shoulders.

If the resistance is too easy or too hard, simply adjust the weight on the machine accordingly.

Benefits of Ab Machine Crunches

There are several benefits to doing Ab Machine Crunches:

Improved core strength: Oftentimes, athletes (and recreational lifters) can get into a routine of only doing bodyweight style abs like crunches and situps. Ab Machine Crunches adds weighted resistance to your core training which is an important aspect of developing ab strength.

Improved core stability: Strong abs can help to improve your overall stability, which can be beneficial for activities such as lifting weights, running, or playing sports.

Reduced back pain: Weak abs can contribute to back pain, as they are unable to support the spine properly. By strengthening your abs, you may be able to reduce or prevent back pain.

Cable Crunches vs Ab Machine Crunches

Now, let’s compare to the two exercises side-by-side and discuss whether one is better than the other for some common lifting goals.

Better For Developing Core Strength: Toss Up

Cable Crunches and Ab Machine Crunches are so similar in their design and movement pattern that there really is no discernable difference between them when it comes to improving core strength.

Both exercises generally involve holding on to a form of resistance from above the shoulders and then crunching down towards the floor, pulling away from the resistance.

I say generally because it can possibly vary a bit as ab machines themselves can vary depending on the manufacturer. However, the overall concept doesn’t tend to change.

RELATED –> Don’t have access to an ab crunch machine? Here are 14 Ab Machine Crunch alternatives to challenge your core.

Better For Beginners: Cable Crunch

Here’s why I give Cable Crunches the edge. Cable Crunches are going to look and work the same regardless of the cable machine. Grab a rope attachment, kneel down in front of the machine and crunch.

Now, maybe it’s just me, but I’ve run across some ab crunch machines that are needlessly complicated and often extremely uncomfortable to use. Granted I have a somewhat limited experience with ab machines (I don’t believe any college weight room I’ve worked in has ever had one), but I’ve used my fair share in commercial gyms over the years.

Of course, this all depends on the particular ab machine (some are great to use), but because of that inconsistency, I’m giving the edge to Cable Crunches.

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Final Thoughts

I’ve just spent the last section of this article discussing which is better – Cable Crunches or Ab Machine Crunches. But, in reality (assuming you have both pieces of equipment) there is no reason to not include both in your strength training.

Both are great options for doing resisted core work. And, by incorporating both into your training you can add variety and keep your workouts from getting stale.

So, instead of trying to figure out which core exercise you should be doing, I suggest figuring out how you can utilize both Cable Crunches and Ab Machine Crunches.

More Links and Info

Check out Cable Crunches compare against some other popular ab exercises.

Cable Crunches vs Sit-ups

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