Cable crunches can be a powerful tool in your workout kit but they are not for everyone. Discover some alternatives that offer similar results.
Doing cable crunches is mainly useful for training your ab muscles which can in turn, help with things like avoiding and reducing back pain.
Two things that really stand out in cable crunches are that it is a dynamic core exercise where you don’t have to lie on your back and that you can easily add a lot of extra resistance.
Whether you don’t enjoy cable crunches, you want to focus on different parts of your abs or core, or you want an alternative for any other reason, these cable crunch substitutes will offer similar positive results.
Remember that you don’t necessarily need a cable machine to do this motion. You can use quality resistance bands to do a similar version of the exercise at home or in the gym.
1. Regular lying crunches
While this first alternative is not the most creative option out there, there are good reasons that regular crunches are so popular. Take the following steps to do this exercise:
- Lie down on your back, preferably on a soft surface. Put your feet flat on the ground in front of your butt and your arms against your chest.
- Slowly raise your shoulders as much as comfortable while keeping your lower back on the ground.
- Lower your shoulders back to the floor in a controlled motion.
Similar to cable crunches, lying crunches focus on the upper part of your abs. The main benefit is that you don’t necessarily need equipment to do this exercise.
At the same time, more advanced lifters could still choose to add crunch exercise equipment like dumbbells for more and faster ab muscle growth and strength results.
One potential downside of regular crunches is that some people will find lying down on their backs uncomfortable.
2. Plank toe touches
This next cable crunch alternative will not only work your core muscles but also train your balance. Take the following steps to do two plank toe touches:
- Sit on your hands and knees with your shoulders above your wrists.
- Move your feet back until your body is in a straight line. This means that your knees will be off the ground and that you are resting on your feet and hand.
- Move one hand toward the foot of the opposite side as far as you can. To do this you will have to move your butt in the air.
- Slowly return the hand back to the position of step 2.
- Move the other hand toward the foot of the opposite side as far as you can.
- Return to the position of step 2.
The main way you can consider plank toe touches to be a cable crunch alternative is that they work your abs (and obliques) without lying down on your back.
If you find more standard ab exercises uncomfortable on your back, this can be useful.
You can also say that plank toe touches work your upper abs a nice amount, similar to cable crunches.
At the same time, plank toe touches are different in that they work your obliques a lot more.
Additionally, it is hard to do plank toe touches weighted. This may be a big downside for people who are more experienced with core workouts.
3. Pike crunches
This next exercise requires you to have an exercise ball. This is a soft elastic ball that can be used in a variety of exercises.
With that, take the following steps to do a pike crunch:
- Put your hands in front of the exercise ball and your chins on the ball.
- Stretch your body and arms. In starting position you want your shoulder to be above your elbows.
- Slowly lift your hips as far as comfortable and safe. At the same time roll the ball forward by moving your legs more to the front of the ball.
- Lower your hips back into the position of step 2 in a controlled motion.
The main technique attention point for pike crunches is not lowering your hips too far. Preferably not farther than a straight line from your heels to your head.
Again, pike crunches are a way to work your abs without lying down on your back.
As you can, see there are many differences with cable crunches too.
More specifically, pike crunches focus a lot more on the lower part of your abs, it is hard to add resistance, and the balance and coordination requirements are more strict.
At the same time, an exercise ball is a bit more at-home-friendly than a cable machine.
4. Bicycle crunches
Take the following steps to do a bicycle crunch:
- Lie down on your back with a 90-degree angle in both your hips and knees. Hold your hands against the side of your head with your elbows pointing sideways.
- Raise your shoulders and push your lower back against the ground with the help of your ab muscles.
- Slightly turn your upper body to one side and reach with your elbow to the knee of the opposite side (for example your left elbow to your right knee) while stretching the leg of the side of the elbow you use while still keeping it off the ground (continuing the example stretching your left leg).
- Bring the stretched leg back into the starting position and repeat with the other side. Keep your shoulders off the ground during the exercise.
Bicycle crunches are a more all-around core exercise compared to cable crunches. This movement will also work your oblique muscles a lot. Even to a larger extent than your abs.
Whether this is an upside or downside depends on why you are interested in cable crunch alternatives.
That aside, it is also possible to do weighted bicycle crunches if the bodyweight version is not challenging enough
5. Ab wheel rollouts
You can describe ab wheels as a wheel with two handles. This may sound strange but ab wheel exercises can actually offer good ab workouts.
Take the following steps to do an ab wheel knee roll-out:
- Start with your face facing the floor on your knees and with your hands on the ab wheel.
- Stretch your hips so that your body is in a straight line from your knees to your shoulders.
- Roll forward in a controlled motion, preferably until your stomach is right above the ground.
- Slowly roll back into the position of step 2.
Ab workout beginners can start by rolling small distances. More experienced lifters can continue until their stomachs are right above the ground.
In any case, ab wheel rollouts give your abs a nice workout.
One thing to note is that exercises like cable crunches that work your abs more dynamically tend to be more effective for growth and strength progress.
So if you are fine doing something like crunches, these could be a better cable crunch alternative.
6. Lying leg raises
You will benefit a lot of comfort during lying leg raises by doing the exercise on something like a yoga mat. That aside, take the following steps:
- Lie down on your back with your legs stretched and right next to each other on the ground. Put your arms on the ground at your sides for balance.
- Slowly turn your hips and move them toward your chest. In theory, your legs should not really move relative to your hips. You can go as far as raising your lower back off the ground. Keep the middle of your back on the ground.
- Slowly lower your legs back to the ground.
Contrary to cable crunches, lying leg raises focus on the lower part of your ab muscles. At least if you do them the right way.
To do this, you really want to focus on only moving your hips. Your legs should not really move in relation to your hips if you want to keep this an ab-focused alternative to cable crunches.
That aside, very experienced lifters could consider wearing quality ankle weights or clamping a weight between their legs to make the exercise more challenging.
At the same time, the bodyweight version of lying leg raises is already very challenging too.