Cable crunches are an isolation exercise that can help you achieve a strong and defined six-pack! However, since it only involves movement at one joint (spine), you won’t be able to activate other muscle groups. This exercise only activates your external abdominal oblique, traverse abdominis, rectus abdominis, and internal abdominal oblique. 

Although cable crunches are an excellent exercise to include in your abs fitness program, you still need a variety of workouts to ensure that you’re engaging your other muscles. Additionally, your muscles are more active when challenged by performing various exercises, thus resulting in hypertrophy. Diversifying your exercises that target your core effectively makes the routine more engaging and fun. That’s why together with this exercise, you also need to try these ten cable crunch alternative exercises to make sure that you get that solid midsection!

Cable Crunch Alternative Exercises (Our 10 Recommendations)

You’ve probably noticed that the more you do a particular workout, the less tired you feel. That’s because the exercise is starting to lose its potency, making your progress decline. So, to guarantee that all the hard work that you are putting into building your abs does not go down the drain, pair your cable crunches with these ten alternatives!

1. Weighted Crunch

If you can perform around twenty bodyweight crunches, then you need to find a way to make the workout more difficult. If you don’t, you will end up wasting a lot of time executing high-rep sets. Weighted crunches are an excellent solution, particularly if your local gym does not have a Cable Machine.

How to do it

  • Lie down on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Grab a weight plate and position it behind your head, across your chest or in front of you with your arms extended.
  • Breath out and lift your shoulders and head off the ground. Avoid moving your feet.
  • Stop for a moment at the top of the movement for about one to two seconds. Then, breathe out and lie back down. 
  • Do ten to fifteen reps.
  • To make this exercise even harder, use a Decline Bench.

2. Kneeling Resistance Band Crunch

This cable crunch substitute will enable you to perform kneeling cable crunches even without a Cable Machine. Here, all you need is a resistance band which is why it also makes for an excellent at-home workout! 

When doing kneeling resistance band crunch, you’ll notice that the stress on your abs really peaks as you get to the mid-rep point. So, to make the most out of it, plus for a few seconds in that position. 

How to do it

  • Attach your Resistance Band at a higher setup anchor to get enough opposition. Grab one handle in each hand and kneel down about two to three feet from the hanging point. Pull the ends of the band downwards until you reach your shoulders.
  • Avoid sitting back on your heel. Flex your spine and pull your shoulder downwards until it reaches your hips. Form a C-shape with your spine. Stop momentarily.
  • Slowly with control, lift your upper body back to the starting position.
  • Perform as many reps as necessary.

3. Bosu Crunch

One of the benefits of doing cable crunches is it gives your muscles extra extension once you reach the top of the movement. The Bosu crunch can give you a similar stretch in your abdominals using a more compact piece of equipment compared to a cable rope crunch.

How to do it

  • Sit on the edge of the Bosu ball. Lay back and use your hands to support your head.
  • Sink your hips and go down to get a good stretch on your abs. Then crunch your head and hips going up.
  • Lower down carefully.
  • Perform ten to twelve reps in proper form.

4. Ab Crunch Machine

Although your gym may not have a cable crunch machine, there’s a bigger chance that they have a dedicated plate-loaded or pin machine. This piece of equipment has an adjustable weight similar to a cable machine but with the added convenience of a seated stance. Ab crunch machine is a good alternative that targets your rectus abdominis.

How to do it 

  • Set the machine where you can pivot from the crease of your hip.
  • Grab the handles on either side of your head and tuck your legs behind the pad.
  • Beginning from the start position, crouch down and bring your knees up towards your chest. Ensure that you keep a constant tension as you go back to the starting stance.
  • Do eight to twelve reps.

5. Hanging Leg Raises

When performing crunches, you only need to lift your head and shoulders off the floor. However, this only represents a small percentage of your total body weight. With this alternative to a cable crunch exercise, you raise your entire lower body, which is around forty percent of your body weight. 

When doing hanging leg raises, don’t swing or use momentum. Keep your core tight always to effectively activate your muscles and avoid arching your back. It’s better if you have a straight, upright posture or lean forward slightly to prevent rounding your spine. Also, if you’re using a bar, assure that you won’t rock back and forth!

How to do it

  • Go up on a dip stand or captain’s chair, so your back is against the padding and your arms supporting your body weight.
  • With your knees bent slightly, lift both feet up until your upper legs are in line to the ground. Contract your abdominal muscles.
  • Slowly lower your legs down and repeat the movement.
  • Perform as many reps as you see fit. 

6. Ab Wheel Rollout

The ab wheel is a piece of equipment that you can easily purchase and use at home. When doing this exercise, rather than loading your abs with weight, it requires it to stabilize the trunk through extension. While the ab wheel looks less intimidating than a cable machine, you cannot belittle this workout as it’s demanding enough to overload your abs quickly!

The ab wheel rollout is an excellent alternative that will engage your rectus abdominis, lower back stabilizer muscles, and deep core muscles.

How to do it

  • Begin in a kneeling position with your shoulders positioned above your hands holding the ab wheel.
  • With a hollow body position, stretch outwards as far as you can or up until the wheel is in an overhead position and your chest facing the ground.
  • Tighten the muscle fibers in your abdominals as you crunch back to an upright position.
  • Perform five to ten low-reps.

7. 90/90 Crunch

This next alternative cable ab exercise can give you upper abs a good burn and is suitable if you have an intermediate fitness level. Because of the instability of your leg being lifted, you need to have a great concentration to execute the ab movement under control.

The 90/90 crunch targets your hip flexors and rectus abdominis. Also, since you only need a fitness mat (for extra comfort), you can do this workout at home!

How to do it

  • Lay down on the floor with your legs lifted, and hips and knees bent to 90 degrees.
  • The range of motion in this workout is similar to regular crunches on the floor. Lift your shoulders towards your knees.
  • Make sure that you maintain total body tension.
  • Perform twelve to fifteen reps.

8. Medicine Ball Sit-Up + Throw

This exercise is an explosive substitute to weighted cable crunches, training your core control and trunk power. You don’t need a cable machine to execute a medicine ball sit-up + throw since you only need a medicine ball and a wall. To make this exercise more fun, call a workout buddy to do it with you!

How to do it

  • Position yourself in a lying sit-up stance, with the medicine ball resting on your chest.
  • Maintain a neutral spine, Sit Up quickly, and throw the ball against the wall or to your partner.
  • Catch the ball and contain the negative range of motion as you make your way down.
  • Do eight to ten repetitions.

9. Single-Arm Farmer’s Walk

This exercise is nowhere near the same movement pattern as cable crunches, but still, they make an excellent alternative! When performing a single-arm farmer’s walk, you need to engage your abs to keep your torso upright and counter lateral flexion. 

As a bonus, this exercise also activates your obliques! With that in mind, single-arm farmer’s walks are indeed a good alternative for cable crunches.

How to do it

  • Grab a heavy kettlebell or dumbbell in one hand, keeping your arm by your sides. Tighten your abs and ensure you maintain an upright torso. You should not lean towards or away from the weight.
  • Walk around your gym, home, or training area for as long as you can. Place the weight down as you feel your grip starting to slip.
  • Switch to your other hand and repeat. 

10. Stability Ball Reverse Crunches

If you have already mastered the regular stability ball (swiss ball or gym ball) and are looking for a new way to train your abs, this alternative is perfect for you! When performing stability ball reverse crunches, you’ll be lifting your legs, making it more challenging than the standard version.

How to do it

  • Sit on a stability ball. Then, lean back and move your feet forward until the ball fills the curve of your lower back. Grab onto a sturdy anchor behind your head, like a Squat Rack.
  • Exhale and tighten your abs as you raise your feet off the floor. Curl your hips towards your shoulder.
  • Carefully lower your legs and repeat.
  • You can make this exercise more challenging by holding a weight between your legs or moving more slowly.
  • Perform as many reps as you can.


Cable crunches are undoubtedly one of the best cable abs exercises you can include in your fitness program. However, you may not have access to an adjustable cable machine, or your abdominal muscles are getting used to the engagement. Fortunately, you can do these substitutes, which can save you from doing high-reps and wasting your time!

Out of the ten, the best cable crunch alternatives are weighted crunch and ab wheel rollout! Once you try them, you’ll see that these exercises will give you the same muscle activation and build a defined midsection!

Frequently Asked Questions

Cable crutches will not do you back any harm if you perform them in proper form. As a matter of fact, the advantage of this exercise is it assist you in stretching out your spine, only distributing load as you contact down with gravity. If you’re experiencing any back pains, make sure to consult a physician first before doing this exercise. 

What is the best ab exercise?

There’s no single exercise that will give you beautiful and defined abs. You need to engage the different muscle groups in this area, which include your upper and lower abs, deeper core muscles, and obliques. To create a well-rounded ab training regimen, you should do four to six exercises covering those four areas.

Even if you’re using a heavyweight cable machine, it’s still not enough to ultimately target your ab muscles. While they are a great workout for your upper rectus abdominis, it’s only one step to achieving six-pack abs! So, as mentioned above, you need to target those four areas.

  • Upper and lower abs
  • Obliques
  • Rectus Abdominis (six-pack abs)

Cable crunch is a valuable exercise to activate your upper and lower abs, including the most sought-after rectus abdominis or the six-pack abs. Aside from the aesthetic side, a strong core is essential in performing compound exercises like Pull-Ups, Deadlifts, and Bench Presses.

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