If you’re looking for a new ab workout to include in your training plan, consider cable crunches.
Cable crunches are also sometimes called kneeling cable jams; this is probably a better name for them as it describes the action more specifically. This type of exercise is a weighted crunch, an exercise that targets your abs.
In this article, we’ll look at some of the best ways to do cable crunches and how to get the most out of the exercises.
What Are Cable Crunches?
Cable crunches, also known as kneeling cable crunches, are weighted crunch variations that target your abdominal muscles. Perform cable crunch exercises by kneeling in front of a cable station with a pulley attachment. Grip the rope attachment with both hands and pull it down until it rests right above your head. While keeping your hips and arms still, squeeze your core muscles and bring your shoulders toward your pelvis. Lower your upper body until your elbows nearly touch your knees. Repeat this movement for the desired amount of repetitions.
Abdominal Anatomy and Functions
The rectus abdominis (abdomen) is the target muscle group here, so knowing its anatomical function will be helpful to maximize development.
However, the transverse abdominals and obliques will also be actively engaged during this movement.
The rectus abdominis is just some of the muscles that make up your core and is located in the front of the pelvis between the ribs and the pubic bone; most commonly referred to as a “six-pack”.
And while these muscles function to flex the torso by leaning forward or “curving“, the transverse abdominis creates intra-abdominal pressure to compress core contents and stabilize the spine.
So, you’ll be working both muscles during the cable squeeze, but again, the focus is on building and developing the muscles that make up the six-pack, and this exercise is one of the best ways to achieve that.
Numerous studies have shown that movements involving forward bend/bump are superior for building the front of the midsection; which tells us that it is ideal to choose exercises based on anatomical function.
Now let’s talk about the right and wrong way to do cable crunches.
How to Do Cable Crunches With Proper Form
Start by using a weight you can control for 2-3 sets of 10-20 repetitions for cable compression. Choose a weight that allows you to maintain good technique throughout all sets and reps.
- On a cable machine, secure a cable rope attachment to a pulley and set the pulley to its highest height setting.
- Face the cable machine and grasp the rope attachment by grasping it from above.
- To carry the weight of the weight stack, take a few steps back and kneel on an exercise mat or foam pad. Your toes should be bent and in contact with the floor.
- With your hands above your head, pull the rope handles towards your face.
- Hinge from your hips to position your hips slightly back. Keep your hips stable and high to make sure you’re only moving through your spine to perform the crunch.
- Your shoulders should be slightly in front of your hips.
- Your chin should remain tucked throughout the movement as if you were holding an egg under your chin.
- Tighten your abs and bring your shoulders toward your pelvis while keeping your hips and arms stable. Continue lowering as you tighten your abs until your elbows are close to your legs.
- Pause at the end of the movement as you tighten your abs.
- Slowly return to the starting position while maintaining tension in your abdominal muscles.
- Repeat for the desired number of repetitions.
3 Tips to Master Cable Crunches
If you want to do cable crimping correctly, remember these three tips to maintain the correct form:
- Keep your waist straight. Avoid rounding your back or allowing your midsection to slouch during exercise. If you have trouble maintaining good posture, consider doing the bodyweight version of the cable squeeze first.
- Use your abdominal muscles. Instead of letting your triceps or hip flexors do the work, use your abs to move the pulley cable in full motion. Try to keep your hips and arms still throughout the exercise.
- Activate your lower body. Activate your glutes and hamstrings during the exercise to protect yourself from sitting on your heels and loosening your lower body.
Wrong Cable Crunches Technique
To begin, let’s talk about what not to do…
Therefore, the cable crunch differs from the standard crunch solely because of the body position, and as a result, you can achieve a greater range of motion, but it is still a crunch.
And based on what we know about how the rectus abdominis works anatomically, the most appropriate way to get a really good contraction would be to lean forward or “curl” (or curl in this case) torso.
However, it is common for people to keep their torso completely straight during the crunch and bend the hips almost as if they are bending over to kiss the ground.
Also, another common mistake is to put your butt on your ankles during the crunch, which takes some of the work away from your abs and limits your range of motion. The butt should stay elevated from the setup position and stay that way throughout the exercise, but it doesn’t matter if it comes down a bit.
3 Benefits of Cable Crunches
Incorporating cable exercise into your core workout routine can have many benefits.
- Cable jams can increase your core strength and stability. The cable exercise activates muscles throughout the upper abdomen and lower abdomen, including the rectus abdominis (six abs). A strong core is required to perform more challenging compound exercises such as deadlifts, bench presses, and pull-ups.
- Cable jams can be easily adjusted. Unlike other core exercises like sit-ups, cable exercises allow you to keep your abs constantly tense. Adjust the weight level to your needs, gradually build up your core strength.
- Cable exercises can improve your posture. If you want to correct incorrect posture in your upper body by engaging your abs, glutes, and lower back muscles, the cable curl exercise is a great exercise to do.
How to Work Safely and Avoid Injury
If you have a pre-existing or pre-existing health condition, consult your doctor before starting an exercise program. Correct exercise technique is essential to ensure the safety and effectiveness of an exercise program, but you may need to vary each exercise to achieve the best results based on your individual needs. Always choose a weight that gives you full control over your body throughout the movement. Pay close attention to your body when doing any exercise and stop immediately if you feel pain or discomfort.
Include proper warm-up, rest, and nutrition in your workouts to see continued progress and increase body strength. Your results will ultimately be based on your ability to adequately recover from your workouts. Rest for 24 to 48 hours before working the same muscle groups to ensure adequate recovery.
Does The Cable Crunch Work The Lower Abs Too?
There is a widespread belief that top-down movements such as cable squeezes or anything similar will only maximize the activation of the upper abs. But research shows differently.
In fact, an ACE-powered study comparing the muscle activity (electromyographic test) of several ab exercises found no difference in activation between the upper and lower abs.
“You can’t selectively recruit the upper abs versus the lower abs. And this study reinforces the fact that there really is no difference between 15 different popular ab exercises and ab devices,” explains John Porcari, the University of Wisconsin-LaCrosse and principal investigator in the Clinical Exercise Physiology program.
While this is not the only study to suggest this is the case, this is the only study in which outcomes were determined under certain conditions. But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible to emphasize the upper or lower half of the abs, as real-world experience will suggest that you may feel one area more than the other.
Common Variations of Cable Crunches
There are a few good variations you can apply in place of or in addition to the standard Cable Crunch we’ve described in this article.
Standing Cable Crunches
The standing variation is another great way to practice this exercise, and a big benefit is that it’s more applicable to everyday functions just because you’re standing. Although the focus is entirely on hypertrophy, there shouldn’t be much of a difference compared to the kneeling variation.
Here’s a great video example of how it’s done…
Seated Cable Crunches
The seated variation takes the lower body out of the equation so you can focus more on just crunch.
If you want to build an impressive set of washboard abs then we’d recommend you go ahead and do some cable crunches the next time you train your core muscles. It’s a great movement for adding weight and most importantly, you now know how to do it the right way if you didn’t before.
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