The cable side crunch is an exercise variation utilized to build the oblique muscles of the core. These muscles are located on the outer sides of the torso on both sides of the rectus abdominis, also known as the “6-pack”. The obliques don’t just contribute to the attractiveness of the midsection, they also help to prevent injury, support posture, promote spine mobility, and help to improve resilience and physical/athletic performance.
In this article, we’ll show you how to do the cable side crunch, offer some tips, provide a few variations, and explain how you can incorporate this exercise into your training routine.
Here’s a guide to the cable side crunch…
In This Exercise:
- Target Muscle Group: Obliques
- Type: Hypertrophy/strength
- Mechanics: Isolation
- Equipment: Cables
- Difficulty: Beginner
The target muscle of this exercise is the oblique muscles.
The obliques (external and internal) are core muscles located on both sides of the rectus abdominis or “six-pack” muscles. They facilitate trunk rotation and contralateral rotation, and with the erector spinae and rectus abdominis, the obliques help with lateral flexion of the trunk.
While the rectus abdominis isn’t the target muscle group in this exercise, it’s still involved to a degree. This muscle is located on the anterior part of the trunk and functions to flex the trunk or curl it up (e.g., crunches). It also plays a role in lateral trunk flexion.
How To Do The Cable Side Crunch
Here are step-by-step instructions for the cable side crunch.
- Adjust the cable pulley to a high point on the machine and attach a single-grip handle to it.
- Stand sideways to the pulley at an angle (turned slightly inward toward the pulley) with feet hip-width apart, and grip the handle using an underhand grip.
- Engage your core and contract your obliques to perform the side crunch while keeping your elbow at a 45-degree angle to your body.
- Come back up until your torso is straight and repeat, then switch sides.
Here’s a video example…
Cable Side Crunch Tips
- You can either place the non-working hand behind your head or hold the same arm by your side so that it slides up and down your leg during the exercise.
- Don’t lean back while performing the side crunch. Standing at an angle to the pulley will ensure that you crunch down into the obliques for maximum muscle contraction.
- Don’t bend too far down during the crunch as this could cause injury, and it isn’t necessary for the exercise to be effective. Go far enough down to feel a strong contraction and come back up.
- The crunch should occur through the movement of the obliques and not by pulling the weight down.
- We recommend avoiding using maximal resistance loads with this exercise. Instead, use moderate loads as it’s safer and due to the cable side crunch being an isolation exercise, you’ll get better results this way.
The standing cable side crunch is almost as good as it gets for training the oblique muscles. But here are four exercise variations or alternatives that are just as good.
Kneeling side crunch
The kneeling side crunch is essentially the same exercise as the standing side crunch.
- Adjust the pulley to a high notch on the machine and attach either a single-grip or rope handle.
- Kneel down facing the cable machine and gran the handle, keeping your elbow bent. You can place the other hand on your waist.
- Contract your core and crunch your elbow towards your opposite knee, while breath out all the air as you pull your abs inwards.
- Slowly return back to the starting position while keeping your core tight.
- Repeat all the reps on one side, then switch sides and repeat.
Here’s a video example…
Lying side hip raise
The lying side hip raise is a great bodyweight exercise that targets the oblique muscles. It’s done by getting into a side plank position and moving the hips up and down which engages the target muscles.
For a more challenging variation of this exercise and to get more range of motion, do this exercise with your feet elevated on a bench and you’ll hit these core muscles even better.
Cable wood chop
The cable wood chop is a very popular exercise for working the obliques. But it also has functional carryover as it simulates a real-life movement. Therefore, you can use different tempos such as slower and faster-paced reps to develop more core functionality.
Hanging windshield wiper
The hanging windshield wiper is a more advanced variation that requires grip strength to hold yourself up. You also need core strength, hip mobility, and flexibility to do it safely and effectively. If this variation is too difficult for you, then you can perform a lying variation that makes for a good progression too.
How To Incorporate The Cable Side Crunch Into Your Training Regime
The cable side crunch is an excellent variation and addition to your regular core training regime. But we’d like to suggest a strategy to not only maximize your performance of this exercise but to maximize your overall core development.
We recommend performing exercises from the bottom up. For example, you’ll start with an exercise that uses the heavy load of the legs as resistance (e.g. hanging leg raises, reverse crunch). You’ll then do an exercise that includes both bottom and top movement together such as the recliner crunch, followed by a basic crunch or sit-up. Finally, you’ll end with a standing exercise such as the cable side crunch.
You should also include a few rotational exercises before moving onto your feet for the cable side crunch but this is a general example of an optimal way to structure your training. Structuring your training this way will allow you to maximize your efforts because starting with the most difficult exercise/s first that require the most energy and strength are going to accelerate your strength and development.
Related article: Try This Beastly 30-Day Core Workout To Get Jacked and Strong
Regarding the ideal sets and reps for the cable side crunch, 3 sets x rep range of 8-25 is going to ensure that you get results. In fact, this also applies to any muscle group. We recommend utilizing various reps depending on how much weight you use for each session, but, in general, this is an optimal range.
For this exercise, in particular, it’s best to stick with a weight that will allow you to perform eight repetitions with perfect form. The same applies when doing high reps as you won’t benefit much from using too light of weight and performing too many reps. But you want to make sure to take your sets to failure when performing higher reps for best results.
The cable side crunch is one of the best exercises for building the oblique muscles. It’s simple so anyone can do it, and there’s less risk of hurting yourself as it’s an isolation exercise that doesn’t use a lot of weight. You’ll progress with it like you would any exercise and it makes for a good addition to any core training routine.