Cable crunches are one of the most effective ab exercises, but only if you do them right. This post will tell you everything about doing cable crunches, including how to do a cable crunch, the benefits, the muscles worked, alternative exercises and tips for beginners.
Cable crunches offer a more complete abdominal muscle workout, helping you both strengthen and define your abdominal muscles.
In short – searching for that ripped up 6 pack? Do cable crunches and the variations of them. They will shred you up in no time.
But a lot of people do them wrong which makes the exercise a lot less effective. Furthermore, there are other things to understand as well that will help you get more out of this simple and fun abdominal exercise.
So stick around as we tell you everything you need to know about cable crunches and doing them the right way.
What Are Cable Crunches?
Simply put, cables crunches are one of the most effective ab exercises that focus mainly on your core (middle abs) to even the outermost abdominal muscles (obliques).
They are also very useful for the upper part of your lats.
They come in different forms, with the most common being the standard cable crunches we will discuss in detail below.
However, a combination of the different variations of cable crunches discussed below can help ensure a more complete abdominal muscle development and faster strengthening of your core.
How to Do Cable Crunches?
The effectiveness of cable crunches is in the accuracy of your exercise. The more accurately you perform the reps, the more you would get out of them in terms of your abs exercise.
Unfortunately, it’s common to do cable crunches the wrong way. So what we will do is first explain how to do them the right way and avoid some common mistakes, before getting into the alternatives, variations, and benefits.
Cable Crunch Video Demonstration
Doing Cable Crunches the Right Way
There are mainly three elements involved that help ensure that you do cable crunches the right way. Let us walk you through them below.
Your hip isn’t actively involved in this exercise, but it’s essential to keep it in the right position to be able to get the full range of motion you need to perform cable crunches properly.
You just need to make sure that your hip stays locked in a high position throughout the exercise, which paves the way for the full range of motion and prevents you from using your hip flexors.
The reason many people do it wrong is they end up moving their hips during the exercise and using their hip flexors. This not only limits their movement but also means that it’s mostly their body weight doing the lifting and not their abs, which is the only part of your body that’s supposed to do the lifting.
Similarly, you cannot complete a full crunch when your hips are not high enough during the reps.
So make sure your hips are high and locked in that position while your abs do the lifting to perform a full crunch.
Your hand position affects your range of motion to some extent too while doing the reps, and the same goes for the lever length you use as well.
A rope attachment is commonly used which is also what I recommend. However, the way you pull the rope can make the difference between doing cable crunches the right way and the wrong way.
What many people do is pull the rope around their shoulders while keeping their hands on the upper part of their chest.
However, the right way to position your hands is on your forehead or on the side of your head, with your thumb knuckles touching the top of your head.
Then move your chin towards your chest until it’s about 2 inches from your chest, which is the perfect position for performing cable crunches and also helps keep your neck in the right, stable position.
Unlike when doing crunches the wrong, common way, this position helps you avoid having your hands and arms get in the way of your movement, allowing for a full range of movement and getting more stimulation without using your body weight.
Deep contraction of your abdominal muscles is the most important element of ab crunches.
Flex your abs as hard as you can.
You ideally want your abs to get as close to your legs as possible, without lowering your hips. And even while you retract back, you don’t want your hips to move much.
However, something important to keep in mind here is that you must be in full control of your torso during the entire process. If you aren’t in control or having problem with balancing, you’re probably not doing something right.
A good way of making sure you’re in control is to simply move your elbows as much up towards your upper thighs as possible. If you don’t lose your control or balance, you’re likely doing well.
Difficulty in Getting the Hip Position Right?
Being able to keep your hips in the right position throughout the exercise is definitely one of the most challenging parts. And this is also the reason it’s common to get it wrong and get too low with your hips while moving back up in the crunch motion.
A good way to help deal with this issue is to simply put a med ball under your butt. However, make sure you don’t use it for support or end up sitting on it while performing your reps.
You should just let the lower part of your hips stay in contact with the ball during the reps so that it can give you a good idea about your hip position and help you get it right quickly.
How to Do Oblique Cable Crunches
There are many different versions of cable crunches, and oblique cable crunches are one of them. The biggest and only major difference between the cable crunches we explained above and their “oblique” version is that the latter focuses on the oblique muscles of your core.
Most ab exercises mostly focus on the rectus abdominus, popularly known as the six pack. However, oblique muscles – which are basically the outermost part of your core or abdominal muscles – are important as well if you’re aiming for a complete core abdominal muscle development.
The good news is that performing oblique cable crunches is not much different than the usual cable crunches we discussed above.
All you need to do differently is go down in a slanting position when reaching your upper thighs. This means that instead of both your elbows moving towards your thighs when going straight down, you will bring only one of your elbows forward towards the ground while the other would move upwards.
Then in the next rep you will have the other elbow coming forward to get closer to the ground, and repeat these steps during the entire course of your workout.
Video Demonstration of Oblique Cable Crunches
Weighted Crunches vs. Standard Cable Crunches
Weighted crunches are another form of the standard cable crunches just like oblique cable crunches. However, they differ quite a bit from both the standard and the oblique variations due to the involvement of additional weight on the body.
Weighted crunches typically involve putting a plate on the chest or the back of your head while performing the standard cable crunches. Pretty much everything else remains the same.
Weighted crunches can turn out to be more effective in the beginning than standard crunches as they help build the abdominal muscles faster. However, it also makes the exercise uncomfortable and more challenging, as the weight on your body is a constant “troubling” element.
But that’s not the real problem. It’s actually the next stage of this cable crunch variation that makes it less desirable than the standard cable crunches.
When you get stronger with your abs, you want to increase the weight. But the problem is that a higher amount of weight on your chest comes with a risk of injury to your rib cage.
If the weight is put on the back of your head, the risk would be to your neck.
On the other hand, it’s much easier to “level up” with the standard cable crunches. You can simply increase the weight using the cable station, which would demand more power and effort from your obliques and ab muscles to perform the standard cable crunches.
However, the risk of any kind of injury is much lower, the weight is evenly distributed across all your abdominal muscles, and makes the range of motion more effective.
So the conclusion here is that while it’s not a bad idea to do some weighted crunches in the beginning if you want to “get there” faster, but you must eventually switch to the safer and more effective variations of the exercise when you’re ready to handle heavier weight.
Common Mistakes While Performing Cable Crunches
Let us quickly cover some of the common mistakes which are the reason many people end up doing cable crunches the wrong way.
Failing to Round the Back
Cable crunches require that you round your back properly and allow your abs to be in control of your movement and motion.
In order to get the full motion and the squeeze that your abs need, you must contract fully at the end of the rep motion.
At the end you need to curl your torso towards the floor and contract your abs as if you are doing a normal crunch.
Letting Your Hands & Lats Take Too Much Control
What some people do is hold the rope too far behind or above their head, and then use the force of their hands combined with their lats to pull down the rope as they bend forward.
What you need to do instead is keep your thumb knuckles right above your head, so that they are actually touching your forehead. And then pull the rope as you go down while not letting the relative position of your head and hands change.
This goes a long way in making sure your abs get the the majority of the resistance throughout the motion.
Sitting on Your Lower Thighs
This is really a beginner mistake where you end up sitting on your lower thighs as you move up after performing a rep.
This puts your shoulders in action and takes the focus away from your abdominal muscles, which is not what you want.
This is a common form mistake that beginners typically until they get used to the cable crunch movement.
Benefits of Cable Crunches
As we mentioned above, cable crunches are one of the most effective ab exercises. They are a must to include in your workout schedule if you want to develop strong abdominal muscles.
Let us discuss a few of their important benefits below.
When it comes to the development of your abdominal muscles, there’s probably no exercise that turns out to be more effective than cable crunches. It’s a complete exercise that focuses on your entire core, and goes a long way in developing strong, defined abs.
However, you must make sure that you’re performing different variations of the cable crunches to get the most out of them, as doing one single variation alone may not do much in terms of overall abs development.
The higher the range of your variations, movements and positions, the more effective they will turn out to be for your abs.
For instance, if you add in some standing oblique crunches as well, you manage to cover the outermost abdominal muscles that the standard cable crunches do not focus on as much as the abdominal muscles.
Bigger Range of Motion
The level of effectiveness of an exercise often depends on the range of motion it demands, especially when it comes to exercises focusing on your abdominal muscles or the lower part of your body.
And cable crunches definitely offer a great range of motion, especially if you’re doing it the right way by not lowering your hips when going down as explained above.
This is contrast to some of the other ab exercises like traditional sit-ups or crunches, which do not offer as much in terms of the motion.
Developing the Striations in Your Six Pack!
Cable crunches are also very effective when it comes to developing the six pack, especially if you perform a healthy mix of different variations of cable crunches as we mentioned above.
However, if you want to develop a toned set of abs, you need to do more of the standard cable crunches that we explained above. This is because they focus on all the abdominal muscles you need to develop for getting that dream set of washboard abs.
Cable Crunches are a Fun Exercise – Least for me they are
Compared to other ab exercises, cable crunches are fun and easy to do even for beginners. While this doesn’t make this exercise more effective in itself, what makes it more effective is the fact that you’re likely to do more of the exercise that you find fun to perform.
In other words, you wouldn’t hesitate doing more of it, and increasing it over time as your abs start developing.
Cable crunches are actually my go to after I do my 100 crunches. Yes, I do 100 crunches a day, almost everyday. Cable crunches are easier and I feel them more in my lower abs rather than in my upper abs that I do with normal crunches.
FAQ Most Beginners Have About Cable Crunches
While cable crunches are a fairly simple abdominal exercise, beginners can still have questions about its effectiveness, drawbacks, or doing it the right way.
So we will try to cover some common beginner questions about cable crunches below.
Are cable crunches effective at building and shredding abs?
As one of the most complete abdominal exercises (given you perform the different variations as well), cable crunches are undoubtedly extremely effective at building and shredding abs. They allow for muscle growth that you would not otherwise get if you were to stick to typical ab exercises like sit ups and the likes.
In fact, we just discussed above how cable crunches and their variations can help both strengthen abs and get shredded or develop the six pack.
But don’t forget to include the oblique cable crunches for a more complete abdominal workout as they also help cover the outermost part of your abdominal muscles which is useful for shredding abs as well.
Are Cable Crunches Bad for Your Back?
Pretty much any exercise can get bad for any involved body part if you don’t do it right. And the same is true for cable crunches as well.
Although in all reality, this exercise is extremely friendly to your body. We are not talking squats and deadlifts, or even heavy bag workouts we are talking cable ab exercises. Nuff said.
As explained above, one of the main mistakes here is not rounding your back properly when doing the reps. What this does is prevent your rectus abdominis muscles from contracting as deep as they need to, as well as restrict you from getting the full range of motion.
Don’t cheat yourself.
Sitting back on your lower thighs as you go up during the crunches is another common mistake that could lead to some form of back pain over time. This is because there would likely be a constant loss of control during the reps if you’re doing this, which may strain your back.
If you take the time to understand and avoid these mistakes, you will likely never have any issues from this exercise.
What exercises would complement cable crunches well?
There are plenty of exercises that help develop your core, although as we have been saying cable crunches are among some of the more effective ones.
However, complementing the different variations of cable crunches with some other core exercises like straight barbell , or safety bar squats, trap bar deadlifts, and even pull ups would help in getting you those dream abs you have always wanted.
It’s a great way to ensure a complete development of your core, and it can also be used to prepare your core to perform the more compound lifts.
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