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Cable-Ready Abs: 10 Cable-Based Ab Workouts

Cable-Ready Abs: 10 Cable-Based Ab Workouts

Incorporate these exercises, and your stomach will soon be the premium package.

Cable television has been responsible for more bloated midsections than just about anything since the invention of the Oreo cookie. We have so much time to surf, so many channels filled with games, dramas, specials, shopping opportunities … wait, what time is it again? The gym closed when? You don't say!

Ironically, cable-based ab workouts can help burn off all the unwanted pounds you packed on watching re-runs and 'reality' shows. They do so by applying constant resistance throughout each rep.

"Cables are great to get your abs to really pop because of the isolated resistance they provide without the use of machines that can lead to the overdevelopment of the obliques," said Hany Rambod, the training guru known as "The Pro Creator" for his work with Jay Cutler, Phil Heath and others.

That's not the only reason to add cables to your add arsenal: "The variations of ab exercises that can be done with cables are nearly endless," said Aubrie Richeson Faxon, Team Bodybuilding.com member and owner of The Sweaty Betties personal training business.

The possibilities are endless, but you have to start somewhere. Add these 10 moves to your abs workouts as needed, and go from being cable-impaired to cable-ready in no time flat.

Exercise 1//
(1 set to failure)
Bosu Ball Cable Crunch With Side Bends

This exercise is brutal (in a good way), because it hits both the upper and lower ab regions. When your abs burn from crunching, you transition into side bends to target the obliques.

Just when you think your abs can rest, you have to keep them flexed while in the elevated side-bend position.

Step-by-step instructions:

  1. Connect a standard handle to each arm of a FreeMotion Machine, and position them in the most downward position.
  2. Grab a Bosu Ball and position it in front and center of the FreeMotion Machine.
  3. Lie down on the Bosu Ball with the small of your back arched around the ball. Your rear end should be close to the floor without touching it.
  4. With both hands, reach back and grab the handle of each cable.
  5. With your feet positioned in a wide stance, extend your arms straight out in front of you and in between your knees. Your hands should be at knee level.
  6. Keep your arms straight and in-line with the upward angle of the cable. Elevate your torso in a crunching motion without dropping or bending your arms.
  7. Maintain the rigid position with your arms. Slowly descend back to the starting position with your back arched around the Bosu Ball and your abdominals elongated.
  8. Repeat the same series of movements to failure.
  9. Once you reach failure, keep your abs tight and raise your torso into plank position so your back is elevated off the Bosu Ball.
  10. Lower your arms down to your side; keep them straight. Start doing alternating side bends; reach for your heels! This finishing movement will focus on your obliques.
  11. Go to failure. Bam - you're done!

Tip: Arch your back around the Bosu Ball before each rep to fully elongate your abdominals. This will provide a full range of motion and lengthen your muscle fibers, giving them a much fuller appearance.



Exercise 2//
(1 set to failure)
One-Arm High-Pulley Cable Side Bends

This exercise is a fantastic, yet under-utilized oblique exercise. As opposed to standing oblique exercises, this exercise uses upward weight-bearing tension on the same side that you're targeting.

Constant tension on each individual oblique as well as a direct and isolating contraction equals shock treatment.

Step-by-step instructions:

  1. Connect a standard handle to a tower. Move cable to highest pulley position.
  2. Stand with side to cable. With one hand, reach up and grab handle with underhand grip.
  3. Pull down cable until elbow touches your side and the handle is by your shoulder.
  4. Position feet hip-width apart. Place free hand on hip to help gauge pivot point.
  5. Keep arm in static position. Contract oblique to bring the weight down in a side crunch.
  6. Once you reach maximum contraction, slowly release the weight to the starting position. The weight stack should never be unloaded in a resting position. The aim is constant tension during the set.
  7. Repeat to failure.
  8. Then, reposition and repeat the same series of movements on the opposite side.

Tip: Keep your arm tucked in tight to your side; don't move it. This technique will ensure the weight is isolated directly to the obliques and not your biceps or shoulder.



Exercise 3//
(1 set to failure)
Pallof Press With Rotation

The Pallof Press, developed by John Pallof, is a dynamic exercise that targets overall core stability. With side weight-bearing tension, your core will be engaged at all times as your stabilizers are activated to maintain balance.

Rotation is added to actively target the abdominals, obliques and serratus.

Step-by-step instructions:

  1. Connect a standard handle to a tower, and position the cable to shoulder height.
  2. With your side to the cable, grab the handle with one hand and step away from the tower. You should be approximately arm's length away from the pulley, with the tension of the weight on the cable. Align outstretched arm with cable.
  3. With your feet positioned hip-width apart, pull the cable into your chest and grab the handle with your other hand. Both hands should be on the handle at this time.
  4. Facing forward, press the cable away from your chest. You core should be tight and engaged.
  5. Keeping your hips straight, twist your torso away from the pulley until you get a full quarter rotation.
  6. Maintain your rigid stance and straight arms. Return to the neutral position in a slow and controlled manner. Your arms should be extended in front of you.
  7. With the side tension still engaging your core, bring your hands to your chest and immediately press outward to a fully extended position. This constitutes one rep.
  8. Repeat to failure.
  9. Then, reposition and repeat the same series of movements on the opposite side.

Tip: The closer you keep your feet together, the greater the core activation. A wide base puts the pressure on your legs instead of your core.



Exercise 4//
(1 set to failure)
Standing Cable Wood Chop

No wood or ax needed! Like its outdoor predecessor, this exercise is a great core movement. With its downward-twisting movement, it progressively targets the serratus, obliques and abdominals.

You might not get your winter wood supply, but you'll definitely increase your muscle mass to keep you warm on those cold, lonely nights.

Step-by-step instructions:

  1. Connect a standard handle to a tower, and move the cable to the highest pulley position.
  2. With your side to the cable, grab the handle with one hand and step away from the tower. You should be approximately arm's length away from the pulley, with the tension of the weight on the cable. Your outstretched arm should be aligned with the cable.
  3. With your feet positioned shoulder width apart, reach upward with your other hand and grab the handle with both hands. Your arms should still be fully extended.
  4. In one motion, pull the handle down and across your body to your front knee while rotating your torso.
  5. Keep your back and arms straight and core tight while you pivot your back foot and bend your knees to get a full range of motion.
  6. Maintain your stance and straight arms. Return to the neutral position in a slow and controlled manner.
  7. Repeat to failure.
  8. Then, reposition and repeat the same series of movements on the opposite side.

Tip: You will twist your entire body with this exercise, but really focus on getting maximal torso rotation and a strong clinch at the end of the movement. To ensure a good mind-muscle connection, keep your abs tense at all times.



Exercise 5//
(1 set to failure)
Standing Cable Lift

Imagine you watched someone do the cable wood chop, but then pressed the slow-mo rewind button. That's the standing cable lift. Our muscles are dynamic, and it's good to work the fibers in varying angles.

This exercise still works the core in a progressive manner, but targets the obliques first, then the abdominals, and then the serratus to finish you off.

Step-by-step instructions:

  1. Connect a standard handle on a tower, and move the cable to the lowest pulley position.
  2. With your side to the cable, grab the handle with one hand and step away from the tower. You should be approximately arm's length away from the pulley, with the tension of the weight on the cable. Your outstretched arm should be aligned with the cable.
  3. With your feet positioned shoulder width apart, squat down and grab the handle with both hands. Your arms should still be fully extended.
  4. In one motion, pull the handle up and across your body until your arms are in a fully-extended position above your head.
  5. Keep your back straight and your arms close to your body as you pivot your back foot and straighten your legs to get a full range of motion.
  6. Retract your arms and then your body. Return to the neutral position in a slow and controlled manner.
  7. Repeat to failure.
  8. Then, reposition and repeat the same series of movements on the opposite side.

Tip: You will twist your entire body with this exercise, but focus on getting maximal torso rotation and a strong clinch at the end of the movement. To ensure a good mind-muscle connection, keep your abs tense at all times.



Exercise 6//
(1 set to failure)
Kneeling Cable Crunch With Alternating Oblique Twists

This is an upward weight-bearing exercise which targets the upper and lower abdominals. The overhead tension creates constant pressure on the abs even though you're doing a normal crunching movement.

If that isn't enough, the alternating oblique twists activate the, you guessed it, obliques. This exercise feels like you're playing tug-of-war against a sumo wrestler.

Step-by-step instructions:

  1. Connect a rope attachment to a high pulley cable and position a mat on the floor in front of it.
  2. Grab the rope with both hands and kneel approximately two feet back from the tower.
  3. Position the rope behind your head with your hands by your ears.
  4. Keep your hands in the same place, contract your abs and pull downward on the rope in a crunching movement until your elbows reach your knees.
  5. Pause briefly at the bottom and rise up in a slow and controlled manner until you reach the starting position.
  6. Repeat the same downward movement until you're halfway down, at which time you'll begin rotating one of your elbows to the opposite knee.
  7. Again, pause briefly at the bottom and rise up in a slow and controlled manner until you reach the starting position.
  8. Repeat the same movement as before, but alternate the other elbow to the opposite knee.
  9. Continue this series of movements to failure.

Tip: Keep your elbows in tight when doing the normal crunching movement, but extend them outward when doing the oblique twist. This technique will open your body for a greater rotation, as well as allow your elbow to drive backward with more force.



Exercise 7//
(1 set to failure)
Cable Reverse Crunch

This exercise targets the lower abs, and is effective to say the least. Imagine your feet are tied to a horse that's about to take you for the ride of your life … same feeling.

The tension from the cable pulling on your legs makes it challenging even to hold the neutral 90-degree angle, let alone do a reverse crunch with no forward momentum - giddy up!

Step-by-step instructions:

  1. Connect an ankle strap attachment to a low pulley cable and position a mat on the floor in front of it.
  2. Sit down with your feet toward the pulley and attach the cable to your ankles
  3. Lie down, elevate your legs and bend your knees at a 90-degree angle. Your legs and the cable should be aligned. If not, adjust the pulley up or down until they are.
  4. With your hands behind your head, bring your knees inward to your torso and elevate your hips off the floor.
  5. Pause for a moment and in a slow and controlled manner drop your hips and bring your legs back to the starting 90-degree angle. You should still have tension on your abs in the resting position.
  6. Repeat the same movement to failure.

Tip: Don't put pressure against your neck when your hands are behind your head. This position is only to keep your upper back slightly elevated so your upper abs engage. If you tweak your neck, then reposition your arms at your side.



Exercise 8//
(1 set to failure)
Cable Judo Flip

Don't worry, you don't need a black belt to be able to do this move, but you'll sure get the respect of one if you do this action-packed exercise.

It targets the obliques with the twisting motion and the uppers abs with the extra flipping motion - wax on, wax off!

Step-by-step instructions:

  1. Connect a rope attachment to a tower, and move the cable to the lowest pulley position.
  2. Stand with your side to the cable with a wide stance, and grab the rope with both hands.
  3. Twist your body away from the pulley as you bring the rope over your shoulder like you're performing a judo flip.
  4. Shift your weight between your feet as you twist and crunch forward, pulling the cable downward.
  5. Return to the starting position and repeat until failure.
  6. Then, reposition and repeat the same series of movements on the opposite side.

Tip: Although this should be one continuous movement, think of it as two separate ab movements: the twist for obliques and the crunch for abs. This will help with the mind-muscle connection. Also, over exaggerate the end of the crunch by pausing for a moment and clinching your abs in an isometric hold before releasing.



Exercise 9//
(1 set to failure)
Cable Russian Twists

Anything with Russian in the name is tough, including these twists. This crazy exercise not only incorporates side cable tension, but side cable tension on a stability ball. And if merely staying on the ball wasn't challenging enough, you also rotate for a little extra oblique and serratus benefit. It will crush you, comrade!

Step-by-step instructions:

  1. Connect a standard handle attachment, and position the cable to a middle pulley position.
  2. Lie on a stability ball perpendicular to the cable and grab the handle with one hand. You should be approximately arm's length away from the pulley, with the tension of the weight on the cable.
  3. Grab the handle with both hands and fully extend your arms above your chest. You hands should be directly in-line with the pulley. If not, adjust the pulley up or down until they are.
  4. Keep your hips elevated and abs engaged. Rotate your torso away from the pulley for a full-quarter rotation. Your body should be flat from head to knees.
  5. Pause for a moment and in a slow and controlled manner reset to the starting position. You should still have side tension on the cable in the resting position.
  6. Repeat the same movement to failure.
  7. Then, reposition and repeat the same series of movements on the opposite side.

Tip: It's extremely important to keep your hips elevated during this exercise. If you do it correctly, your upper back will be on the ball, but your lower back and rear-end will be completely unsupported. Keeping your hips elevated will engage your core (lower back and abdominals), and make the exercise more effective.



Exercise 10//
(1 set to failure)
Cable Tuck Reverse Crunch

Get ready to pull the fire alarm, because this advanced ab-sculpting exercise will set your core ablaze. This exercise is an all-in-one movement to set both your upper and lower abs on fire.

Let's turn up the heat to build a scorcher stomach!

Step-by-step instructions:

  1. Use a twin cable tower. Connect a rope attachment to one cable and an ankle attachment to the other. Both should be positioned at the lowest pulley setting.
  2. Place a mat in between the cables and sit down; attach the ankle strap to your feet.
  3. Lie back and grab the rope with both hands; position the rope behind your head with your hands by your ears.
  4. Make sure you are positioned in the middle with your legs completely outstretched.
  5. In one motion, pull the rope forward in a crunching movement and bring your knees inward to your torso.
  6. As your elbows and knees come together, elevate your shoulders and hips off the floor.
  7. Pause for a moment and in a slow and controlled manner reset to the starting position. You should hold your legs off the ground after the beginning repetition to keep tension on the cable in the resting position.
  8. Repeat the same movement to failure.

Tip: For maximum challenge and effectiveness, lower your legs as close to the floor as possible without touching before going into the crunch. In the lowered position, your legs should also be completely straight. Don't cheat yourself by bending your knees.


The Cable-Ready Abs Workout:

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About The Author

Kirk has seen results for himself and his clients, and now enjoys sharing his fitness knowledge in hopes of helping as many people as possible.

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AJacks92

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AJacks92

Eh, so so. I think the "Lights, Camera, Abs" article had far more advanced abdominal exercises. But I guess considering this is "cable-based" only, I suppose this list is pretty good

Jan 19, 2012 3:17am | report
ewilliamslibby

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ewilliamslibby

I thought this article was great. Im looking for some new ab routines and I thought these looked to be beneficial. I will have to give these a try

Jan 23, 2012 10:36am | report
megaman1983

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megaman1983

I like it, I need to incorporate more of these cable ab excercises.

Jan 25, 2012 9:18pm | report
viper68

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viper68

Very good Information..

Jan 30, 2012 7:53am | report
Showing 1 - 4 of 4 Comments

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