If you’re looking to develop your six-pack abs, the cable crunch is an effective and popular exercise to work the abdominal muscles.

If you don’t have access to a cable machine in your home gym, then you’ll need to find some alternatives that are just as effective. 

In this guide, I'm providing the 13 best cable crunch alternative exercises and how to perform each one.

Strong abs are very important for functional reasons, it helps protect you from injury, increases sports and athletic performance and they look great. 

If you find yourself in a position where you don’t have access to a cable crunch machine, then you’ll want to try some of the cable crunch alternatives. Let's dive into my top 13 cable crunch alternatives.

1. Weighted Crunch

woman doing weighted crunches at the gym

The weighted crunch is a brilliant kneeling cable crunch alternative you can use if you don’t have access to a cable crunch machine in your home gym.  

You can use any external weight to add tension to your crunches, such as dumbbells, kettlebells, even a bottle of water, or a can of beans... you get the idea, and it takes up barely any room to perform. 

This cable crunch substitute mainly targets your abdominal muscles, lower back, obliques, and all of the muscles you need to develop for a beach-ready stomach.


  • Requires minimal equipment and can be easily done at home.
  • Increased stimulus on the abdominals.
  • Increased core strength improves posture and helps prevents low back pain.

How to do a weighted crunch: 

  1. Lie on the floor with your knees bent to 90-degrees. 
  2. Hold a weight above your head or on your chest if the weight is difficult to hold. 
  3. Tighten your abs and lift your shoulders off the floor, flexing your spine. (Keep your lower back on the floor). 
  4. Hold at the top for a second and slowly return to the start. 
  5. Repeat.

Tips From A Trainer!

Start with lighter weight and increase as you gain strength, doing too much too soon increases your risk of injury. 

2. Lying Bench Leg Raise

Lying Bench Leg Raise

Lying bench leg raise exercise simulates the lower abs, which can be difficult to target. 

This cable crunch variation is very effective and can easily be done at home without any equipment or just a flat bench at the gym.


  • Improve contraction of the core muscles.
  • Can easily be done at home, no equipment required. 
  • Great burner for the end of a workout or as part of a HIIT circuit. 

How to do a lying bench leg raise: 

  1. Lie on a bench and anchor yourself by raising your arms overhead and holding onto the top of the bench.
  2. Raise your arms above your head and extend your legs out straight and in level with your body and keep the feet together.
  3. Bending at the hips only, slowly raise your legs up so they are pointing straight up.
  4. Slowly lower your legs back to the starting position and repeat. 

Tips From A Trainer!

This can also be done on the floor, if you do not have access to a flat bench. 

3. Decline Bench Crunch 

Woman Doing Decline Bench Crunch Exercise

The decline bench crunch is an ideal kneeling cable crunch alternative to perform in your home gym. It doesn’t require much equipment; all you need is a bench capable of going into the decline position.

The exercise is more challenging than the regular crunch as you’re fighting against gravity. The lower the decline, the more complex the movement becomes.  

While the decline bench crunch works your abs and obliques, it does work your rectus femoris (one of your quad muscles).  


  • Effective way to work your core, back and hip flexors.
  • Great option for those who are advanced and need more of a challenge.
  • Strong abs promote better posture and less back pain.

How to do a decline bench crunch: 

  1. Set the bench in a decline position and lie down so your head is the lowest point on your body. 
  2. Hook your feet under the bench pads. 
  3. Curl your upper body upwards toward the ceiling and lower yourself slowly back to the start. 
  4. Repeat.

Tips From A Trainer!

Keep your chin tucked during this movement to keep your head in a neutral position and to avoid straining your neck.  

4. Ab crunch machine 

Man Doing Ab Crunch Machine Exercise

If you have a dedicated ab crunch machine available in your gym or at home, it is a fantastic alternative for cable crunch.

Its adjustable positioning makes it a comfortable ab exercise to perform and is ideal for beginners learning the movement. The ab crunch machine primarily targets your rectus abdominis and works your obliques.


  • Allows for progressive overload of the core muscles.
  • The machine creates stability and makes it hard to cheat.
  • Easy to modified the weight and do drop sets for an intense burn.

How to do the ab crunch machine: 

  1. Set the machine up so it’s comfortable for you (adjust the seat etc.). 
  2. Choose a moderate weight. 
  3. Grab the handles and tuck your legs behind the pad. 
  4. Crunch your body and knees toward each other, so your knees move towards your chest. 
  5. Slowly reverse the movement and repeat until you finish your set.

Tips From A Trainer!

If you are new to this exercise, start light and controlled. Going heavy too soon could lead to a strain.  

5. Stability Ball Reverse Crunch 

Man Doing Stability Ball Reverse Crunches

This cable crunch alternative is a more advanced version of the standard stability ball crunch, so if you’ve mastered that and want a harder challenge, then this is the one for you.

The movement places a lot of tension on your core as they work to control your legs and prevent your body from moving off the ball.


  • Challenges the stabalizer muscles in your core and back.
  • Keeps complete tension on the abs during the movement.
  • A more advanced stability ball movement if you've become bored with other variations.

How to do a Stability Ball Reverse Crunch:

  1. Place a stability ball in front of a squat rack or frame. 
  2. Sit on an exercise ball and walk your feet forward while leaning back until the ball supports your lower back. 
  3. Place your hands overhead and hold onto the frame. 
  4. Contract your abdominals and lift your feet towards your shoulders, curling your hips upward. 
  5. Lower your legs slowly and repeat.

Tips From A Trainer!

Keep your feet off the floor between reps, this will create more time under tension and make the exercise more effective.  

6. Hanging Leg Raises 

Man Doing Hanging Leg Raises

The hanging leg raise is one of the best abdominal exercises around. It requires considerable grip strength and has several variations you can perform (they’re all pretty tricky).

You do need a pull up bar to be able to perform this exercise. If you're struggling to perform this exercise, you can try hanging leg raise alternatives.


  • Engages all abdominal muscles, particularly the lower abs.
  • Improves grip strength.
  • Challenging exercise that can be progressed further, see options above.

How to do a hanging leg raise: 

  1. Stand under a pull-up bar or frame. 
  2. Jump up and hold on to the frame with a shoulder-width overhand grip. 
  3. Let your body hang and tighten your abs. 
  4. Keep your legs straight and lift your legs bending from your hips. 
  5. Stop at 90-degrees, and hold for a second. 
  6. Reverse the movement to the starting position in a slow and controlled manner using no momentum. 
  7. Repeat.

Tips From A Trainer!

It works most of your core muscles, such as your rectus abdominis, hip flexors, and obliques. This cable crunch substitute is challenging for beginners but you can still give it a try by doing it with knees bent, which will reduce the difficulty of this exercise.

7. Ab Wheel Rollout 

Woman Doing Ab Wheel Rollout

This alternative for cable crunch is one of my favorite ab exercises. It's a simple movement to perform but can be highly challenging if you’re new to exercising, so it’s best suited for intermediate-advanced gym-goers. 

The ab wheel rollout works the abdominal muscles by forcing the abs to stabilize your body throughout the movement; no additional weight is needed. It mainly works your rectus abdominis and your lower back.  


  • Highly effective exercise for building core strength.
  • Strengthens your lower back.
  • One of the best ab exercises for training the rectus abdominis muscles. 

How to do an ab wheel rollout: 

  1. Kneel on a mat (a comfortable surface is a must). 
  2. Grab the ab wheel and hold each of the side handles. 
  3. Place your shoulders over your hands. 
  4. Pull your belly button towards your spine, tightening your abs together (hollow body position). 
  5. Extend forwards, allowing the wheel to push away from your body. Aim to keep yourself as stable as you can. 
  6. Stop when your chest is close to the ground. 
  7. Contract your abs and bring yourself back to the starting position. 
  8. Repeat.

Tips From A Trainer!

Make sure you don't turn this into a lat exercise by keeping your hips back and rolling out your upper body. Lengthen out as you roll forwards, letting your hips drop towards the floor. 

Related Article - Best Ab Rollout Wheels

8. Medicine Ball Sit-Up + Throw 

man doing medicine ball sit up and throw exercise

This cable crunch alternative is a brilliant exercise that works more than just your abdominal muscles; it hits your hip flexors, pec major, deltoids, and triceps.  

Even though it’s a fantastic cable crunch substitute, it does have one downside - you need a partner to exercise with. I have tried this exercise by using a wall but found it had varied results. 


  • Challenges coordination.
  • Great exercise as part of a HIIT workout.
  • Effectively strengthens the core muscles. 

How to do A Medicine Ball Sit-Up + Throw:

  1. Lie on the floor in a sit-up position with a medicine ball placed on your chest. 
  2. Quickly sit up and throw the ball against a wall or to your partner. 
  3. Catch the ball (either from the wall or your partner). 
  4. Slowly lower yourself through the negative part of the movement to the starting position and repeat.

Tips From A Trainer!

Keep your core engaged throughout this exercise for the best results.  

Related Article - Medicine Ball Vs Slam Ball

9. 90/90 Crunch 

Woman Doing 90-90 Crunch

The 90/90 crunch is the perfect cable crunch alternative to perform in your home gym. It’s best suited for intermediate gym-goers as it’s pretty challenging.

It’s a fantastic upper abdominal exercise as placing your legs in the air increases the amount of work your core needs to do to keep your body under control. Even though it targets your rectus abdominis, it also works your hip flexors.


  • Requires no equipment and can be performed anywhere.
  • Strengthens the lower back.
  • Great for building muscular endurance. 

How to do a 90/90 crunch: 

  1. Lie on the floor and place your legs in the air with your knees bent to 90-degrees. 
  2. Tighten your abs and flatten your back into the floor. 
  3. Bring your shoulders off the floor up towards your knees. But, keep your lower back on the floor. 
  4. Reverse the movement to the starting position, keeping tension in your abs. 
  5. Repeat until you’ve completed your set.

Tips From A Trainer!

You can modify this slightly to target more obliques by twisting to each side as you reach.  

10. Exercise Ball Crunch 

Man Doing Exercise Ball Crunch Exercise At the Gym

Stability ball crunches are brilliant as they increase your range of motion compared to the standard floor crunch. This works your abdominal muscles even harder, helping you develop a six-pack.

During this cable crunch alternative, the ball moves slightly, so your core works extra hard to stabilize your spine, further increasing ab activation.


  • It's suitable for all ability levels and is more comfortable than doing a crunch on the floor.
  • The stability ball works all the small stabalizer muscles. 
  • Great variation for beginners or those with injury.

How to do an exercise ball crunch: 

  1. Sit on a stability ball and lean back slightly while walking your feet outwards away from your body but keep your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. 
  2. Once the ball supports your lower back, hold the position and place your hands on your temple. 
  3. Lie backwards, stretching the abs. 
  4. Contract the abs and crunch your shoulders toward your hips. 
  5. Reverse the movement to the starting position and repeat.

Tips From A Trainer!

You can reach to the floor behind you to really stretch out the core muscles before contracting them and pulling up into the next rep. 

11. Kneeling Resistance Band Crunch 

Woman Doing Kneeling Resistance Band Crunch

Don’t have a cable machine? No problem. The same movement can be replicated by replacing the cable machine with a resistance band.  

By using a band, you’ll notice the abs working their hardest at the bottom of the movement when the band is fully stretched.  


  • This is a fantastic option for cable crunches at home if you don't have a cable machine. 
  • Develops strong abs.
  • Using a band creates time under tension and improves muscular endurance.

How to do a Kneeling Resistance Band Crunch:

  1. Anchor your resistance band to a high point. 
  2. Kneel while holding the band. 
  3. Flex your back and draw your shoulders toward your hips. 
  4. Hold at the bottom and return to the start. 
  5. Repeat.

Tips From A Trainer!

Don't let the resistance band become loose between reps, keep tension in the band the entire time.  

12. Single-Arm Farmer’s Walk 

Man Doing Single-Arm Farmer’s Walk At The Gym

Even though this cable crunch alternative looks nothing like a cable crunch, it works similar muscle groups.  

During the single-arm farmer’s walk, your rectus abdominis engages to keep your body upright while you’re walking with the offset weight.  


  • Very effective exercise for all fitness levels and abilities.
  • Teaches how to resist twisting, or anti-rotation of the core.
  • Creates better core stability and transfers to compound lifts like squats and deadlifts. 

How to do a single-arm farmer's walk: 

  1. Hold a weight in one hand and stand up tall. 
  2. Brace your core and walk slowly in a controlled manner to the desired point in your gym. 
  3. Swap arms and repeat.

Tips From A Trainer!

Try to limit any movement in your upper body. The whole exercise is controlled, keeping the abs tight while resisting the offset weight.  

13. Cable Double Crunch 

Man Doing Cable Double Crunch Exercise

This cable crunch substitute is brilliant if you’re looking for something more demanding than the regular cable crunch.

It’s one of those exercises that leave you feeling like you’ve gone ten rounds with Mike Tyson; it massively works your core muscles. Your lower and upper abs take a beating during this one. 


  • Works the upper and lower abs making it a time-efficient exercise.
  • Hits the smaller stabalizer muscles. 
  • Helps reduce risk of injuries and low back pain. 

How to do a cable double crunch: 

  1. Attach two-foot straps to the lowest setting to one side of a cable cross over machine. 
  2. Attach a rope handle to the opposite side. 
  3. Lie on the floor with your head toward the rope handle.
  4. Place your feet inside the foot straps and hold the rope handle. 
  5. Perform a crunch, drawing your elbows and knees together, and slowly return to the start stretching your abs. 
  6. Repeat.

Tips From A Trainer!

It requires a cable machine, so if you don’t have one available, review our complete guide to the best cable crossover machines to get yours!

Benefits Of Substitute Exercises Over Cable Crunches

The substitute exercises mentioned above have many benefits over cable crunch. Some require hardly any gym equipment, such as the 90/90 crunch, and others work the abs harder like the cable double crunch.

When working your abs and core muscles, you want to have a wide variety, so you’re working through multiple plains of movement and using various ranges of motion.

By pairing several of these cable crunch alternative exercises, you’ll increase your core strength and stability.

What Ab Muscles Do Cable Crunch Alternatives Work?

  • Rectus Abdominis
    The upper layer of muscle forming the coveted six-pack everyone dreams of having for summer. The cable crunch helps develop this muscle in its entirety [1].
  • Transverse Abdominis
    This is the deepest layer of the abs and helps to protect your vital organs, holding them in place; it’s pretty essential [2].
  • Obliques
    These form the outer edges of the "six-pack," running from your ribs to your hips, and they form an important part of your core.

Frequently Asked Cable Crunch Questions

Are cable crunches bad for your back? 

Cable crunches aren’t bad for your back unless you’re injured or aren’t performing them correctly. Almost any exercise you do poorly is bad for your body, and I’ve found if you sit back on your thighs too much during the cable crunch, it can aggravate your back over time.

Are crunches better than planks? 

It depends on what your goal is. Performing crunches will give you increased ab endurance, and if combined with the correct nutrition, it helps you develop a six-pack.

On the other hand, planks help develop your entire core, from glutes to shoulders.

Is a kneeling or standing cable crunch safer? 

So long as you use good form, both exercises are safe to perform. However, the main difference is the effectiveness. While the kneeling crunch has a shorter range of motion, it does target the abs more than the standing cable crunch.

Standing cable crunches use your body’s weight to help you move, placing less resistance on your abdominals.


The cable crunch is a brilliant ab exercise performed by gym-goers of all levels.

However, if you don’t have the equipment or space to do the movement, my top 13 cable crunch alternatives gives your abs enough stimulation to grow. 

Try putting a few of these alternatives into your workout program to develop a strong core.




Jo Taylor

Jo Taylor

Hi, I’m Jo. I love sunrise swims, cold water immersion and cats. I have been dedicated to strength training for the past 14 years. I became a qualified Personal Trainer in 2020, and am passionate about helping my clients get stronger. Visit Jo Taylors Website