Cable Crunches are one of my favourite abdominal exercises; however, an eagerness to lift too much weight and having insufficient strength in the muscles stabilising the hips and shoulders are the two inter-related fundamental factors that see many gym-goers perform a Kneeling Cable Crunch with poor form. Excessive movement within these regions will allow you to complete a heavy-lift, but places much less emphasis on your abdominal muscles.
For the seasoned trainer, the quick-answer is to simply decrease the weight being lifted and avoid excessive movement around your hips and shoulders, spreading your knees apart and sitting back slightly may help stabilise your body’s position, as I illustrate in the images below; although regarded as less-orthodox, I personally find that spreading my knees and/or sitting back slightly not only serves to help stabilise my position but also discourages over-using my torso as a counter-weight.
There are also some Cable Crunch variations that work perfectly well and further reduce the demand on stabilising muscles, which can be particularly useful in the case of many novice trainers. First, try the Cable Crunch either seated (on a workout bench) or standing, which then serves to stabilise the hips. To help stabilise the shoulders, you may wish to try facing away from the weight stack (the orthodox method is to face the weight stack), so that you’re pulling the cable rope away and down, rather than toward and down. These alternative methods get an unfair rap, as you cannot lift as much weight; but this is largely due to them being less difficult to “cheat” at. Here’s current Mr. Universe Lee Priest with an example of the Standing Cable Crunch:
In the case of any cable crunch, you should feel your abdominal wall working and in control throughout the entire range-of-motion; at the start-position, slightly flex and “lock-in” your hips and achieve a stretch on the abdominals by allowing the weight to hyperextend the lower back. Flex the waist as you contract the abs so that the elbows travel towards your thighs. Exhale as you perform this portion of the movement and squeeze the full-contraction for a second. Slowly return to the starting position as you inhale.
Cable Crunches can be used to great-effect in combination with Hip Flexion and V-Sit-Ups, such as performing all three in a tri-set. This is a combination that I favour and not too dissimilar to some of the ab workouts that 3 times Mr Olympia Frank Zane followed.
Next up, you should read our popular article Core Blimey: How to get Six-Pack Abs!
For further exercises, visit the Gym Professor 'Exercise Index'.
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All the best,