I did cable crunches every day for a week — here's what happened to my abs

 A photo of a man doing ab cable crunches.
A photo of a man doing ab cable crunches.

If there’s one exercise that will always get those six-pack muscles firing, it’s ab cable crunches. Essentially a kneeling, weighted crunch, this exercise is great at targeting the muscles in your midsection, especially the ‘six-pack’ muscles, also known as your rectus abdominis.

But what would happen if you did ab cable crunches every day for a week? As a personal trainer, I have a fair bit of core work in my weekly fitness routine already, comprising mostly of Pilates-based exercises, with some kettlebell and stability work thrown in, so I have a fairly strong midsection. That said it’s wise to mix up your ab workouts so that you don’t plateau with your training, especially if you are trying to change your physique and build muscle. For the purpose of this challenge, I went for three sets of 10 ab cable crunches every day. Read on to find out what happened.

How to do ab cable crunches

an illo of a woman doing ab cable crunches
an illo of a woman doing ab cable crunches

Here's how to do the exercise with perfect form:

  • To do an ab cable crunch, you’ll need a cable machine with a rope attachment. Adjust the pulley so it’s as high as it will go.

  • Face the machine and hold one end of the rope attachment in each hand, palms facing inwards towards each other.

  • Kneel on the ground, a little further back from the machine, and hinge at the hips so your hips are slightly behind.

  • Now, make sure that the rope handles are on either side of the top of your head, and tuck your chin in.

  • Squeeze your abs and flex your core, driving your elbows down to your legs. Pause at the bottom, then slowly come back to the start position.

There are several things to remember when doing an ab cable crunch. Firstly it’s important to maintain a rounded spine; don’t be tempted to keep your back flat — this exercise is all about crunching the core muscles, so your back shouldn’t be neutral.

During the move, your hips should also stay still. Remember, it’s your back and core doing the work. As well as this, make sure it’s not just your arms doing the work — your arms should stay relatively still, with the rope on either side of your head.

If you suffer from back pain, you might want to swerve this exercise.  If you’re pregnant, it’s also wise to give ab cable crunches a miss.

What are the benefits of ab cable crunches?

As the name suggests, this is an exercise that targets the abdominal muscles. Although all the core muscles are being worked during this exercise, it’s those six-pack muscles — scientifically known as the rectus abdominis muscles — that will really be working.

That said, the obliques, which run down the side of your midsection, and internal core muscles, are also working during this exercise. Essentially, during ab cable crunches you are always working against the resistance of the cable, so your abs will be constantly fired up and engaged. Time under tension is what builds muscle, so if you want to develop your stomach muscles, then this move will certainly help.

Another benefit to ab cable crunches is that they help with posture, but I should clarify that this is only true when you move with the correct form. Ab cable crunches work your lower back as well as your core, and by strengthening these muscles, your body has more stability.

I did ab cable crunches every day for a week — here’s what happened

My abs were on fire

Although my whole core was working, I absolutely felt this exercise in my six-pack muscles, especially the upper abs. I found the deep-core burn feeling quite addictive. My abs hurt after day one but in a good way.

I didn't go too heavy

As a PT, I’m well aware that lifting heavy weights doesn’t make you bulky. That said, I don’t struggle to build muscle in my core and upper body, so I didn’t want to go too heavy when doing ab cable crunches. I opted for a lighter weight on the cable for the first few days, allowing me to really focus on my form.

I also found I could control the tempo far more with a lighter weight — I decided to crunch down and then slowly release each rep over three seconds, to keep muscles under tension a little longer.

I struggled with back pain

After a few days of doing ab cable crunches every single day, I started to notice a strain in my upper back. This might be down to doing a few reps with poor form, but it was a stark reminder that it’s not wise to do the same exercise and work the same group of muscles, day after day.

It took a few attempts to nail down my form

As I mentioned above, your hips should stay still throughout this exercise, but I found that my first few reps involved a fair bit of hip movement for me. I’m used to hip thrusts and deadlifts, where I’m forever hinging at the hips, but with ab cable crunches, the whole movement is through the back and core.

My abs felt like they popped

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again — abs are made in the kitchen. If you’re not eating a balanced diet, no amount of ab cable crunches will give you the abs you’re craving. To really let those core muscles shine through, you need to lose the fat that lies on top of your abdominals, and this typically means maintaining a calorie deficit. In other words, you need to burn more calories than you consume.

Despite this, as I have a fairly low body fat percentage, I definitely did notice my abs being a little more prominent after a week of cable crunches.

I did ab cable crunches every day for a week — here’s my verdict

Would I continue with this move? Maybe. As mentioned above, I didn’t find these were particularly kind on my back, so I’d definitely need to check in with a trainer to help me nail my form.

I’m not overly fussed about chiseling out a six-pack, but if you are, this move should certainly be part of your ab-building repertoire. It really isolates the six-pack muscles and because you can keep adding resistance, you can easily progress the exercise and keep challenging your muscles.

For me, I’d use this exercise simply to keep my core strong; after all, a strong core is essential for many of the other exercises that I do and it helps with my posture. That said, there are several other ab exercises I prefer that don’t put pressure on my back, and that I can do at home, equipment-free!

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