The best cable abs moves for six-pack abs
Want to sculpt a rock-hard six-pack? Then add my top-rated cable abs exercises to your workout programme to build the lean, defined and athletic body you’ve always wanted, says New Body Plan’s Joe Warner
Some people will claim that you don’t need to train your abs to develop a rock-hard six-pack. They’ll say that if you do enough heavy compound lifts – such as the barbell deadlift, or the barbell back squat, or the barbell overhead shoulder press – you’ll hit your abs hard enough to force them to grow as they work to support and stabilise your torso.
They’re not entirely wrong. Big lifts like those mentioned above do work your entire core very hard and you will develop stronger abs by doing them. But in my experience the abs are like every other of your muscle groups – and that means you need to work them directly to get the best-possible results.
Think of it like this. The barbell bench press will build up your triceps, but if you want the biggest arms possible you need to add some triceps-specific lifts to your workout, such as triceps pressdowns.
Hard abs made easy!
Bodyweight abs exercises are a fantastic place to start if you’re serious about sculpting a rock-hard midsection. Once your abs have grown stronger and more defined you can then graduate to doing these best dumbbell abs moves to work your abs harder to keep the results coming.
While bodyweight and dumbbell abs moves are great, if you’re workout out in a gym you should seriously consider using your gym’s cable machine to take your abs training to the next level. And that’s where the best cable abs moves come in to play.
I’ve detailed my top-rated cable abs exercises below. Each one will hit a different part of your abdominal region – upper abs, lower abs, side abs (obliques) – as well as those deeper-lying core muscles that are so important for maintain good posture and preventing injury.
Add my top cable abs moves to your workout programme – if you don’t have one, take the New Body quiz to find your perfect workout plan – and start your journey towards the sculpting the six-pack abs you’ve always wanted!
Find your perfect fat-loss plan!
Take the New Body quiz!
The best cable abs moves for six-pack abs!
High cable crunch
What muscles does a high cable crunch work?
The high cable crunch targets the upper part of the abdominals (the top two-pack of a six-pack).
Why should I do the high cable crunch?
The high cable crunch is a fantastic move for working the top of your abs far harder than is possible in the standard bodyweight crunch exercise. That’s because you can add a significant amount of additional weight to the move to force your upper abs to contract harder to lower your torso down.
How do I do a high cable crunch?
Select the desired weight in the cable stack, then kneel in front of a cable machine holding a double-rope handle (attached to the high pulley) in each hand either side of your head. This is the start position. Keeping your chest and chin up to maintain a neutral neck, use your upper abs to crunch your torso down towards the ground. Pause in the bottom position, keeping tension on your abs, then reverse the movement back to the start. That’s one rep.
High cable twist crunch
What muscles does a high cable twist crunch work?
The high cable twist crunch works your upper and side abs, which are also known as the obliques.
Why should I do the high cable twist crunch?
The high cable twist crunch is a variation of the standard cable crunch, but adds a rotational or twisting element to each rep. This means it works your side abs as well as your upper abs to target more of the abdominal region in a single exercise.
How do I do a high cable twist crunch?
The move is performed with the exact same set up as the standard cable crunch. But when you crunch down you twist to one side, then reverse the movement back to the start. You then twist to the other side on the next rep, and so on, so you work each side section of your abs equally. Do this by crunching and twisting to your left on odd numbered reps, and by crunching and twisting to your right on even numbered reps.
Alternatively, you could do all the reps to your left in one go, then do the same number of reps to the right in one go. For instance, in a set of 12 reps, do 6 twisting to your left, then do 6 twisting to your right.
Low cable crunch
What muscles does a low cable crunch work?
The low cable crunch works the same muscles as when doing the bodyweight crunch – the upper abs.
Why should I do the low cable crunch?
The low cable crunch is the exact same movement as the bodyweight variation but with one big advantage – you can increase the amount of resistance your upper abs must overcome to raise your torso up off the ground. In the standard move your abs only have to lift your own bodyweight, or maybe a dumbbell or medicine ball, if you hold one across your chest. But doing low cable crunches allows you to increase the workload on your abs significant by using the weight plates on the cable machine.
How do I do a low cable crunch?
Start in the standard crunch position with your upper back on the floor and your knees bent, but lie with your head at the bottom end of a cable stack, holding a double-rope handle, attached to the low pulley, in each hand either side of your head. Ensure there’s so slack in the cable before you start. Use your upper abs to raise your torso off the floor as high as you can go. Pause at the top then slowly reverse the movement back down to the start.
Cable reverse abs crunch
What muscles does a cable reverse abs crunch work?
The cable reverse crunch, just like the more well-known bodyweight reverse crunch, works the bottom part of the abs, also called the lower abs.
Why should I do the cable reverse abs crunch?
Just as the cable crunch is a more advanced version of the bodyweight crunch, the cable reverse crunch is a serious upgrade on its more basic bodyweight version. The additional resistance provided by the cable weight stack makes the move far more challenging to work your lower abs harder for faster strength and definition gains.
How do I do a cable reverse abs crunch?
The move is performed just like a bodyweight reverse crunch, except that your feet are looped in a handle secured to the low pulley of the cable machine. Lie flat on your back and ensure there is no slack in the cable before your begin. With your hands by your sides or under the small of your back, raise up your knees and bring them in towards your torso. Pause at the top with tension on your lower abs, then reverse the movement back to the start. That’s one rep.
Standing cable Russian twist
What muscles does a standing cable Russian twist work?
The standing cable Russian twist is a rotational movement, so it primarily works your obliques (side abs) because these are the muscles responsible for twisting your torso back and forth. But it also works your entire abdominal region, because that’s how your torso stays upright and stable throughout each rep.
Why should I do the standing cable Russian twist?
There are few moves better at targeting your obliques as thoroughly as the standing cable Russian twist. That means it’s a great move for developing definition to build a complete six-pack. From a sports performance point of view, it’s fantastic for developing strength and power through a rotational movement. That means it has big transfer benefits to many sports, including golf (for building a more powerful swing).
The advantage of using a cable machine to do this move is that you can fix the cable attachment at the perfect height on the machine to allow you torso to rotate smoothly without risking injury to your shoulders. You can do a standing Russian twist holding a dumbbell, med ball, weight plate or other bits of training kit. But doing so can quickly fatigue your shoulder muscles, which must work very hard to keep your arms parallel to the ground as your rotate back and forth.
How do I do a standing cable Russian twist?
Fix the cable to around chest height then attach your handle of choice (a D-handle works best). Then stand side-on to the weight stack holding the handle in both hands with straight arms. Make sure there’s no slack in the cable. Keeping your chest up and your core braced, move your hands around in a smooth and controlled arc as far as you can, rotating your torso as you go. Pause once your back is to the weight stack, then reverse the movement back to the start. That’s one rep. Do all the reps rotating to one side, then immediately do the same number of reps rotating to the other side for balanced gains.
Gym ball cable Russian twist
What muscles does a gym ball cable Russian twist work?
Much like the standing version of this move, the gym ball cable Russian twist mainly works your side abs because these rotate your torso to the sides. But this variation is much harder than the standing Russian twist because you do the move lying with your back on a gym ball. This means your entire body is far less stable so your whole core and abdominal region is recruited to a far greater extent to stabilise your body so you don’t fall off the gym ball on to the floor.
Why should I do the gym ball cable Russian twist?
It’s one of the hardest cable abs moves so you should include it in your abs workouts if you want to put your core strength and control to the ultimate test. Once you start adding sets of the gym ball cable Russian twist to your training programme you’ll soon feel the changes across your entire abs: first as they begin to feel “tighter” and then in clear and defined lines as you six-pack takes shape.
How do I do a gym ball cable Russian twist?
Fix the cable to around shin height with a D-handle attached. Lie with your upper back on a gym ball side-on to the cable’s weight stack, holding the handle in both hands. Have the ball far enough away from the machine so there’s no slack in the cable. Brace your core and plant your feet on the floor for maximum stability. Then move your hands in a smooth arc up and over your body until your torso is turned so your back is facing the weight stack. Hold this position, keeping tension on your abs, then slowly reverse the movement back to the start. That’s one rep. Do all reps rotating to your left, then immediately change position and do the same number of reps twisting to your right.
Standing cable woodchop
What muscles does a standing cable woodchop work?
This move is very similar to the standing cable Russian twist, except there’s an additional up-and-down movement in each rotational rep, rather than just rotating from side to side. The standing cable woodchop comes in two variations: the high-to-low cable woodchop; and the low-to-high cable woodchop. Both versions work the majority of your abdominal musculature, but most of the workload is on the upper and side abs.
Why should I do the standing cable woodchop?
Rotational strength, power and co-ordination is a huge component of many popular sports or other physical disciplines, including climbing and combat sports. So adding cable woodchops to your abs workouts will improve sporting performance as well as help chisel a defined six-pack.
How do I do a standing cable woodchop?
For high-to-low woodchops: Attach a D-handle to the high pulley and stand side-on to the weight stack. With your arms straight, move your hands down and in front of your body until they’re behind your leg furthest from the machine. Hold this position, maintaining tension on your abs, then reverse the movement back to the start. That’s one reps. Do all the reps rotating one way, then immediately do the same number of reps rotating the other way.
For low-to-high woodchops. The move is very similar, except you start with the D-handle attached to the low pulley. You then rotate up and across your body. Pause and hold this position, the slowly reverse the movement pattern back to the start. Again, ensure you do all the reps rotating one way, then do the same number of reps to the other side.
Find your perfect fat-loss plan!
Take the New Body quiz!