13 Cable Crunch Alternatives (Substitutes For Stronger Abs)

If you’re looking to develop a god-like six-pack, then the cable crunch is an effective exercise to work the abs. However, if you don’t have access to a cable machine in your home gym, then you’ll need to find some alternatives.  

In this guide, you’ll discover the 13 best cable crunch alternative exercises and how to perform each one.

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 mentioned in the list below.

1. Weighted Crunch

The weighted crunch is a brilliant 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.

This is one of my favorite ab exercises you can do anywhere. If you don't yet have a full home gym, read our guide to learn more about no-equipment core exercises. 

How to do it: 

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

2. Simulation with Dumbbells 

This cable rope crunch alternative simulates the cable crunch movement, primarily working your upper abs. It’s slightly more challenging than the cable crunch as the dumbbell is free moving, so you’re required to stabilize your core during the exercise.

Related Article - Best Affordable Adjustable Dumbbells 

How to do it: 

  • Lie on a bench with a dumbbell in each hand.  
  • Raise your arms above your head and place your legs in the air (90-degrees to the body). 
  • Crunch upwards, curling your shoulders toward your knees.  
  • Lower your body and repeat. 
Simulation With Dumbbells

3. Decline Bench Crunch 

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).  

It’s a simple exercise to perform; however, some beginners might find it difficult and should start on regular crunches instead.  

Learn More - How To Use A Sit Up Bench

How to do it: 

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

4. Ab crunch machine 

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.

How to do it: 

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

5. Stability Ball Reverse Crunch 

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.

How to do it: 

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

6. 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).

  • Hanging knee raises 
  • Straight leg raises 
  • Toes to bar 
  • Captain’s chair (static hold with your legs bent or straight). 

It works most of your core muscles, such as your rectus abdominis, hip flexors, and obliques. This cable crunch substitute will most likely be too difficult for beginners; however, if you have decent grip and core strength, you’ll love it.

Also Check Out - Power Tower Workout Routines

How to do it: 

  • Stand under a pull-up bar or frame.  
  • Jump up and hold on to the frame with a shoulder-width overhand grip.  
  • Let your body hang and tighten your abs.  
  • Keep your legs straight and lift your legs bending from your hips. 
  • Stop at 90-degrees, and hold for a second.  
  • Reverse the movement in a slow and controlled manner using no momentum.  
  • Repeat. 
Hanging Leg Raises

7. 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 abdominals 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.  

See Also - Best Ab Rollout Wheels

How to do it: 

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

8. Medicine Ball Sit-Up + Throw 

This cable crunch alternative is a brilliant exercise that works more than just your abs; 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. 

You'll also need a medicine ball, which is easy to store, but isn't suitable if you're traveling around.  

Related Article - Medicine Ball Vs Slam Ball

How to do it: 

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

9. 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.

One of the best things about this exercise is it requires no equipment and can be performed anywhere.

How to do it: 

  • Lie on the floor and place your legs in the air with your knees bent to 90-degrees.  
  • Tighten your abs and flatten your back into the floor.  
  • Bring your shoulders off the floor up towards your knees. But, keep your lower back on the floor.  
  • Reverse the movement and keep tension in your abs.  
  • Repeat until you’ve completed your set. 
90/90 Crunch

10. Exercise Ball Crunch 

Stability ball crunches are brilliant as they increase your range of motion compared to the standard floor crunch. This works your abs 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 often favored by people who find the floor crunch uncomfortable.

How to do it: 

  • Sit on a stability ball and lean back slightly while walking your feet outwards away from your body.  
  • Once the ball supports your lower back, hold the position and place your hands on your temple.  
  • Lie backwards, stretching the abs.  
  • Contract the abs and crunch your shoulders toward your hips.  
  • Reverse the movement and repeat.  
Exercise Ball Crunch

11. 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.  

This is a fantastic option if you’re working out at home and don’t have access to a cable machine. By using a band, you’ll notice the abs working their hardest at the bottom of the movement when the band is fully stretched.  

Read Also - Best Resistance Bands For Home Workouts

How to do it: 

  • Anchor your resistance band to a high point. Make sure it’s stable as a band whipping you mid-workout is never fun.  
  • Kneel while holding the band. 
  • Flex your back and draw your shoulders toward your hips.  
  • Hold at the bottom and return to the start.  
  • Repeat. 
Kneeling Resistance Band Crunch

12. Single-Arm Farmer’s Walk 

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.  

It’s an excellent exercise for all experience levels. 

How to do it: 

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

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

Single-Arm Farmer’s Walk

13. Cable Double Crunch 

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. 

Note: 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!

How to do it: 

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

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.
  • 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.
  • 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.


Conclusion

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, the 13 cable crunch alternatives mentioned above give your abs enough stimulation to grow.

Try putting a few of these alternatives into your workout program and watch your abs develop.

Last Updated on May 4, 2022