Cable Crunch

Cable Crunches (How To, Muscles Worked, Benefits)

Cable Crunches are one of the most effective abdominal exercises that can be done with a cable machine. It’s also one of the best weighted core exercises because you can easily add weight without it affecting the movement itself.

In this guide, I’m going to teach you how to do Cable Crunches, what muscles it works and a few alternative exercises you can use as a substitution.

How To Do Cable Crunches

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.


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.

How Many Reps?

I like to program Cable Crunches with fewer reps than the typical sets of 20 or 25. I recommend using a heavier weight (that you can still maintain good form with) and doing 3 to 4 sets of 8 to 12 reps.

Cable Crunch Alternatives

Don’t have a cable machine? Here are a few alternatives that you may be able to try out instead.

Want more options? Here are 14 alternatives for Cable Crunches that work great.

Medicine Ball Slams

Med Ball Slams

Med Ball Slams are basically a dynamic version of Cable Crunches. Instead of slow, controlled movement to build strength Medicine Ball Slams are designed to develop power.

If you have a medicine ball they can be an excellent replacement for Cable Crunches.

Ab Wheel

If you have an Ab Wheel it can serve as the perfect replacement for Cable Crunches. It’s a similar movement that focuses heavily on the eccentric portion of the crunch and overall time under tension.

Suitcase Crunches

Suitcase Crunches

If you’re really limited on equipment, you can always sub Suitcase Crunches for Cable Crunches. Suitcase Crunches require zero equipment and are still a very effective core strengthening exercise.

More Links and Info

Featured Image Photo Credit: Skydive Erick /

If you’d like to see even more core exercises, head over to the Core Section of our Exercise Library. There you’ll find dozens of core exercises, all complete with detailed instructions and form tips.

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