A cable machine unleashes a wide variety of core exercises because of the adjustable height and the ability to work from all angles. We’re not talking about the beloved kneeling cable crunch. Rather, these 10 standing, kneeling, twisting, and bending core exercises place your body in every plane of motion to target your obliques and lower abs. Build core strength with these 10 ab-carving cable exercises.
1. Stiff-Arm Pulldown
Set a cable-pulldown bar to the highest setting or use a lat-pulldown machine. Stand facing the cable and grab the bar with your arms fully extended. Keep your arms locked and pull the bar to your hips without rounding forward. Repeat.
Anthony says: This exercise blasts your core while targeting your arms and lats.
2. Kneeling Pallof Press
Get on both knees and set a cable handle to chest height. While facing perpendicular to the cable, bring the handle to your chest. Brace your core, squeeze your glutes, and keep your shoulders and hips directly over your knees. Push the handle straight forward and hold for three seconds. Bring it back to your chest and repeat for desired amount of reps. Switch sides and repeat.
Anthony says: This move forces the core to brace against twisting and turning, which strengthens your abs and keeps your lower back safe.
3. Cable Push-Pull
On a cable-crossover machine, set the cable handles to chest height, grab both handles and stand so you’re facing one weight stack and your back is facing the other stack. The front arm should be extended forward and the back hand at your side. Simultaneously punch forward with the back hand and pull front hand to side. Keep your shoulders and torso still.
Anthony says: Your spine stays neutral throughout while your abs and obliques work hard to stabilize your body and move your arms.
4. Horizontal Wood Chop
Set the cable machine to chest-height. Grab the D-handle with both hands, arms extended, and stand in a split-stance perpendicular to the machine. Turn your shoulders and hips at the same time, while keeping your arms straight throughout. Pivot your feet and twist your hips as your move the cable to the side.
Anthony says: The wood chop is a great, dynamic core exercise that builds rotational power while keeping your lower back safe.
5. Kneeling Anti-Rotational Chop with Rope
Get on both knees and set a rope attachment above your head. While facing perpendicular to the cable, grab the rope at both ends (so one arm is at the base and the other at the top). Diagonally drag the bar or rope downward across your body. Lock out the arm farthest away and push forward with the arm closest to the machine. Finish your reps on one side and switch sides.
Anthony says: Exercises that move diagonally like cable chops strengthen the abdominal “slings” that stretch from your right chest to your left hip and vice versa, which are critical when throwing, running, or swinging a club.
6. Plank with Cable Row
Start in a plank position with core tight and glutes squeezed facing a cable handle set to the lowest height. Keep your lower back flat. Reach forward with one arm, grab the handle, and row it to your rib cage while keeping your body rigid.
Anthony says: Rather than using the plank as a boring isometric exercise, add a cable row to engage more muscles—now, you’ll have a smaller base of support for more ab work while building strong, healthy shoulders.
7. Anti-Rotational Lift
Get on both knees and set a cable bar or rope attachment at the lowest height. While facing perpendicular to the cable, grab the bar or rope at both ends. Diagonally drag the bar or rope upward across your body. Lock out the arm farthest away and push forward with the arm closest to the machine. Finish your reps on one side and switch sides.
Anthony says: Stay as stable as you can by imagining you’re balancing a water bottle on your head.
8. Low-to-High Cable Wood Chop
Set the cable machine to the lowest height. While standing in a split-stance and perpendicular to the machine, turn your shoulders and hips at the same time, while keeping your arms straight throughout, and finish with your hands above your head. Make sure to keep the cable handle in front of your chest while turning. Just like with the horizontal chop, pivot your feet and twist your hips so that your lower spine stays stable.
Anthony says: To make the wood chop harder, change the direction to an upward movement.
9. Cable Pallof Press with Overhead Reach
Once your arms are fully extended during a Pallof press, reach directly overhead while keeping your arms straight. Don’t let your body lean or bend.
Anthony says: The Pallof press builds rotational strength and power. By adding an overhead reach, however, you’ll also light up your obliques as your core fights to resist bending.
10. Side Plank with Cable Row
Get in a side plank position so there’s a D-handle on the cable stack in front you perpendicular to your body. With your free arm, grab the cable handle and row it toward your ribcage, as if forming a “T” with the cable and your body.
Anthony says: By adding a dynamic element with the cable machine, you’ll take your core activation to the next level for more strength and faster results.