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10 Cable Machine Workouts for Killer Abs

The cable machine is one of the most versatile pieces of equipment in the gym. While many exercisers only use the cable machine to do upper-body exercises, the truth is that the cable machine can provide you with a killer ab workout. Set the standard by trying all 10 of these great ab exercises to create a sizzling cable machine workout.

A Quick Introduction to Cable Machine Workouts

If you are new to the gym, a cable machine can seem a little intimidating. What’s with the pulleys and all those different handle options? Like most other exercise machines, a cable machine provides resistance that the exerciser works against to build muscular strength.

What sets the cable machine apart is that it provides resistance through two separate pulley systems. The machine is so versatile because exercisers can move the pulley systems up and down to change the point of resistance. They can also affix different handles at the end of the pulley to perform different exercises. As if that weren’t enough, exercisers can choose to use one or both pulleys depending on the exercise, and they can change weights to make reps easier or more difficult.

With all these different options, no wonder an exerciser can do a nearly limitless amount of cable machine workouts. If you want to tighten your tummy, a cable machine can be an incredible ally. The pulley system allows you to add more resistance to your exercises than most bodyweight movements and target different areas of your core for special attention.

Here are 10 excellent exercises to add to your cable machine ab workout.

1. Kneeling Cable Crunch

This is a great exercise for cable machine beginners.

  •         Cable setting: Middle
  •         Cable handle: Rope / Pressdown bar
  •         Starting position: Kneel facing the machine

Lean forward and grip the handles, keeping your elbows bent at 90 degrees. Your hands should be just in front of your forehead. Tighten your abs, then crunch forward, activating your abs throughout the movement. Bend forward until your elbows nearly touch your knees, then slowly rise to the starting position. DO NOT use your arms and shoulders to pull down the handles. Your abs should be doing all the work.

2. Kneeling Oblique Cable Twists

  •         Cable setting: Middle
  •         Cable handle: Rope / Pressdown bar
  •         Starting position: Kneel facing the machine

Start in the same position as a kneeling cable crunch. However, instead of bending straight downward on the crunch, twist your body slightly to one side to activate your oblique, the long muscle that runs along each side of your abdomen. Rise to your starting position and then twist to the other side on your next crunch. You can also perform a full set of oblique twists on one side of your body and then perform a second set on the other.

3. Cable Leg Tucks

  •         Cable setting: Low
  •         Cable handle: Stirrups
  •         Starting position: On your back, legs straight, feet pointed toward the pulley

Cable legs tucks will help you strengthen your lower abs. Place each foot into the stirrup. The bar of each stirrup should rest across the top of your midfoot. Start with your legs straight, then slowly pull your knees into your chest, pulling the weight. Try to tuck your knees as far as you can and then slowly straighten your legs again. Don’t let the weights crash down.

4. Cable Reverse Crunches

  •         Cable setting: Low
  •         Cable handle: Stirrups
  •         Starting position: Lay your back, legs straight, feet point toward the pulley

Here’s a more challenging twist on the leg tuck. While performing the cable leg tuck, place your hands behind your head and crunch up at the same time you pull your knees into your chest. This will activate your entire abdominal. Just make sure you don’t pull on your neck. Your hands should only serve as a support for your head.

5. Cable Woodchops

  •         Cable setting: High
  •         Cable handle: Rope/ Triangle
  •         Starting position: Standing sideways to the pulley

This is an excellent cable machine abs exercise for intermediate gym-goers who want to take their ab routine to the next level. To perform the movement, place the pulley so that it hangs above your shoulder. Grab the handle with both hands. Stand with your feet slightly wider than your shoulders. Tighten your abs and pull the handle down and across your body so that your hands pass your opposite hip. As the name implies, this movement is reminiscent of chopping wood. When performed correctly, it should look like a big, smooth twist. Make sure that your obliques are doing most of the work. It’s very easy to use too much back and arms in this movement. Don’t forget to switch sides when you finish your first set.  

6. Gym Ball Crunch

  •         Cable setting: Middle
  •         Cable handle: Rope/Stirrups/V handle
  •         Starting position: Lie on a gym ball with the ball under the mid-back, facing away from the pulley

Intermediate and advanced exercisers will love this extra tough, upper-ab exercise. Choose a large rubber gym ball or a Bosu Ball and place it under your mid-back. Place your feet squarely on the floor. Make sure the pulley line is taut. Gripping the handle, crunch upward, feeling the resistance. You don’t have to crunch too far to feel the burn. Again, make sure your abs are doing the work, not your arms.

7. Low Pulley Side Bend

  •         Cable setting: Low
  •         Cable handle: Stirrup/Single grip
  •         Starting position: Standing sideways to the pulley

Set the pulley as low as it will go, then stand far enough away so that the cable is taut. Stand with your feet wider than your shoulders (don’t lock your knees). Grip the handle with the hand closest to the pulley. Lock your arm to your side, then bend sideways away from the pulley. You should feel the burn in the oblique farther away from the pulley (the side you are bending toward). Keep the rest of your body tight so you can target the oblique with each rep. Switch sides after each set.

8. Judo Flip

  •         Cable setting: Low
  •         Cable handle: Rope
  •         Starting position: Standing sideways to the pulley

This advanced cable machine ab exercise should only be performed by exercisers who already have a strong core. Start this movement by gripping the rope handle in both hands and pulling it up and onto the shoulder closest to the pulley. Have the handle positioned as if you were carrying a heavy bag over your shoulder. Make sure your feet are planted wider than shoulder-width. Keeping the rope handles on your shoulder, bend forward and twist. To reiterate, you ARE NOT moving the handles. They stay on your shoulder. The resistance comes from bending and twisting your upper body. This movement should be powerful and smooth, though that doesn’t mean it needs to be fast. Return to your standing position smoothly, making sure not to allow the weights to slam. To get the most out of each rep, crunch and twist hard at the bottom of the movement.

9. Cable Russian Twist

  •         Cable setting: Middle
  •         Cable handle: Stirrup/Single grip
  •         Starting position: Lie on your back with a  gym ball under your mid-back, perpendicular to the pulley

If you’ve been doing ab workouts for a while, you might already be familiar with a Russian twist, where you twist from side-to-side to work your obliques. In this “twist” on the twist, you’ll position a large rubber gym ball or Bosu ball under your mid-back. Start with your feet planted solidly on the ground and keep your hips up. Hold the handle in both hands above your chest with arms straight. Keeping your arms straight, twist away from the pulley, pulling your arms across your body. Make sure not to let your arms and shoulders do the work. You should feel the burn in your obliques. Once you complete your set, switch sides to get your other oblique.

10. Double Cable Tuck Crunch

  •         Cable setting: Low
  •         Cable handle: Rope/stirrups/V handle
  •         Starting position: Lie on your back in the middle of the cable machine, your head facing one side, your legs facing the other

Do you want to light your abs on fire? Then this torch-worthy ab exercise will do the trick. All the previous exercises have only utilized a single pulley, but the cable machine has two. Now it’s time to get a double dose of resistance. Strick your feet into the stirrups of one pulley and grab the rope or V handle in your hands on the other pulley. Position yourself so that both pulleys are taut and your legs are straight. Bring your hands either behind your head or just in front of your forehead and lock them into position.

Now, crunch your upper body while tucking your knees in toward your chest. You should feel resistance from both pulleys, giving you an excellent, full-ab workout.

Your Abs Will Never Be the Same

If you try even a few of these ab exercises, you’ll soon discover that a cable machine ab workout is like no other. The extra resistance makes each rep more difficult, allowing you to get faster results in a shorter amount of time.

Want more great exercise options for the gym? Take a look at all the helpful blog articles at EōS Fitness. You can also sign up for a 7-day free trial to your nearest EōS Fitness gym and put together your own cable machine workout.

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