If ever there was an exercise where the saying, “feel the muscle, not the weight” rang true, it’s this one.
You can get SO much out of this exercise if it’s performed in the manner prescribed here. Not least of which is rock-hard abs from top to bottom.
There are some tweaks that I use to maximize the effectiveness of kneeling cable crunches. But first we’ll check out the video I made, then look at the notes on form below.
Kneeling Cable Cruches (With Rope)
First of all – go lighter on the weight. As you’ll note from the free THT book, my experience has been that movements with small ranges of motion always work best with higher rep ranges and lighter weights (another example is calf raises).
A weight that is too heavy here will not allow for a full range of motion, nor the correct cadence to be employed.
Kneel below a high pulley and face inward towards the equipment. You should be below and a step back from the pulley. A lot of people kneel too far back, which actually works against them.
Grasp the cable rope attachment with both hands. Hold it where it feels most stable. Personally, I like to pass the rope past my neck and hold it just in front of my chin.
Make sure your butt is off the ground, not making contact with your feet.
Keep your feet planted on the floor throughout the whole movement.
Flex at the waist so that your head comes down and inward towards your knees. Ensure that your hips remain stationary throughout.
Visualization Tip – To get the movement correct, visualize CURLING INTO yourself on the downward portion of the rep. By doing so you involve the lower abs a little more and allow for a MUCH better contraction of the abs. Many people doing this exercise push their head straight down in front of them; this will not be maximally effective. I found that when helping friends train they would perform the movement much better when I asked them to imagine they were trying to curl into themselves, try it!
Use a slow, smooth cadence with a short pause at the peak contraction point of the movement. By curling into yourself, you will achieve a maximal contraction of the abs. Pause for a second in this position before returning slowly to the top.
Many tutorials on this exercise will tell you to hyperextend the spine at the top. I disagree with this. This takes the tension off the abs. The top of the movement is where I am in the pic to the right. Don’t come up past the point where the abs are still contracting against the weight. You’ll be able to feel this spot for yourself when you do this. Again, don’t hyperextend the spine at the top.
I also like to keep my knees together for this exercise. Test this for yourself. It’s about what feels most comfortable to you. If you’re comfortable and stable, you’ll be able to generate more force. Some people like a gap of a few inches between their knees, I don’t.
When you get the hang of the correct form, you’ll never want to leave this movement out of your ab routine again.
If your gym happens to be particularly busy and you can’t access the cable equipment, you can substitute this exercise for a crunch machine like this one. Just ensure that you use the same cadence I described above.
NOTE: For newcomers to MuscleHack, there is no such thing as “spot-reduction”. This exercise, or any ab exercise, is not going to burn the fat away from your midsection. You will BUILD your abdominal muscles with movements like this one, but in order to get a six-pack, you need a very low body fat percentage. To take care of this for you in the quickest way possible, see my book “Total Six Pack Abs“.
Train With Intensity!
P.S. Myra Marshall posted a short article on what she is eating over at MuscleHacker here.
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Mark, I have never even tried this exercise. But tomorrow is Abs night and I will be practicing this from now on. It looks good. Thanks
I’m a big fan of the ab crunch machine which I do on my workout day and hit the ab roller every other day. Looks like it’s working 🙂 I can definitely say that Mark’s 6 Pack Abs program works like a charm, as well, having used it myself.
Mark, do you think you’ll do an e-book on the program you made a year or so ago? It’s the once every 4-6 day workout program (depending on the person’s healing time) that me and 100 or so others tried for a month. I’m still doing it and love it! No big plateaus yet, either, which is surprising. I’d love to recommend it to friends who don’t have the patience or motivation to hit the gym 3 or 4 times a week. I’m betting people would even pay for that info.
I’m a huge fan of this exact exercise for abs, and I rotate it through my cycles as one of a few that I use. A great, great article Mark. Well done. The video’s great too – it’s clear and it shows exactly what everyone needs to see.
Glad you made this video! I could never figure this exercise out. Usually the cables are pretty open in my gym, but is it more effective than an ab machine?
Also what sort of rep range? 12-16? And are we failing?
So now I now the rest of the story.
i was batteling with this one for awhile even going through the THT cycles, not realizing that i was doing this wrong, infact, my weight was progressing but my back was killing me, then a personal trainer came up to me and asked if i was training back or abs, i told him abs and he showed me the correct way to do it. it takes some getting used to after getting in the bad habbit of doing it wrong for so long but now im feeling my abs working and not my back, i also had to reset and drop down ateast half the weight as my back was helping in doing all the work, i also try and keep my ass on my heals throught out the movement but watching you vid, im comming up to far, must just remember its a short movement and to exhale all the way down and really contract those abs…practice makes perfect.
I’ve been having problems finding an abs exercise that works for me, they all feel very awkward. Its gotten to the point where I just skip abs every other week because whatever I try is just a waste of time. This exercise looks really funny and I’m sure everybody will turn around and stare haha but just by watching the video it might be what I’m looking for; its definitely something I haven’t tried before.
Great excercise Mark. Appreciate theses vids alot. Currently i’m on THT4 Volume 2. Ab excercises include 2 incline bench, 2 kneeling crunches (which i will now be able to do with better form!), and 2 hanging raises. Does this workout hit the lower abdominals much or are my upper abs getting most of the workout? Cheers Mark
Thanks for the vid Mark.
I tried these a while back and had trouble feeling the exercise. I’m gonna give it another go!
Before I was coming up too far and taking the tension off the abs. This caused me to loose the affect and so I added more weight, which tended to make me come up higher again and then put on even more weight in an attemept to try and feel it until I got to the point where I couldn’t do them for the weight.
I think the key to this exercise is range of movement and focus, not weight!
Great vid Mark I was told to hyperextend the back but always gave me a sore back not abs, might lightened my load and go for a much slower controlled movement with 12-15 rep range thanks again for an indepth tutorial 🙂
I’m 15 and I read your articles on creatine since I haven’t been growing much muscle since 2 months of working out
I feel that creatine is safe ( concluding completely upon your words) 🙂
But can u please tell me what you think about optimum nutrition hydrobuilder (as main source) and OP creatine powder(loading cycle)?
And is it safe for me to go on the 0.3G/KG/D loading cycle? And how about that 3G/d for the rest of the time?? Are those cycles safe for my age? Thank you for your help
Gonna give it a try. Getting kind of burned out with weighted incline sit ups and hanging leg lifts. A Good Article at the Right Time!! Thank You Mark!!