5 Cable Exercises and WODs to Build a Powerful Core

A stable and strong core is an absolute necessity for effective athletic performance. It helps to stabilise your spine, control the force that your body creates and act as a foundation for all functional movements and good posture.

WHAT IS YOUR CORE AND WHY IS IT SO IMPORTANT?

To put it simply, without a strong core, you will suffer in all areas of your athletic performances.

Your core is comprised of the rectus abdominis, obliques (external abdominal, internal abdominal, and transverse) intercostals and serratus muscles. These work together as an interconnected system.

  • The Rectus Abdominis stretches from your sternum down to your pelvic bone. Its purpose is to pull your upper torso towards your hips.
  • Your Obliques are located either side of your waist. They are essential for you to be able to tilt and twist your upper body.
  • Intercostals are located to the side of your rib cage. They function to elevate and depress the ribs.
  • The Serratus is located between your abs and lats. Its function is to pull the scapula forward.
Core strength from cable exercises
Your core is the foundation that allows you to move and perform many different functional exercises

5 CABLE EXERCISES TO BUILD A POWERFUL CORE

The following 5 exercises each work your core in a slightly different way.

1. STANDING CABLE WOODCHOPS

This exercise with a FINNLO MAXIMUM by Hammer Multi Gym M1 will tax your obliques, and the diagonal and far reaching range of motion forces your core to work under stress throughout the entire movement.

cable exercises by male crossfitter
Conditioning for the core

Technique:

  • Stand side on with the cable, which needs to be positioned in the highest position possible. Take the handle with one hand and take a full step away. Keep tension on the cable.
  • Make sure to stand with your feet shoulder width apart.
  • Now grip the handle with both hands.
  • Pull the cable in one fluid motion across your body in front of you to end just past your knees.
  • Make sure to rotate your torso, keep your arms straight and your core tight throughout the entire movement.
  • Slowly reverse the movement to return the cable back to its starting position.

2. STANDING CABLE LIFT

Standing Cable Lifts work in much the same way as Standing Cable Woodchops. Except that where Woodchops work from top to bottom in a diagonal movement, Cable lifts simply go the other way, from bottom to top.

Technique:

  • Repeat the steps above, instead start with the cable in the lowest position.
  • Keep your core tight and bend your knees at the starting position.
  • Pull the cable diagonally in front of you: from low to high.

3. SEATED CABLE CRUNCH

A different take on a classic exercise. The Kneeling Cable Crunch enables you to load as much weight as you like, and target your rectus abdominis directly as well as your core with the FINNLO MAXIMUM by Hammer Multi Gym M1.

Technique:

  • Allow enough room for your entire torso to bend forwards as if you were praying.
  • Grip the handle with both hands above your head.
  • Breathe in, tighten your core, then use your entire midline to pull the weight downwards in one fluid motion.
  • Don’t use your hands or arms to gain any additional pull on the cable.
  • Once you have reached full depth at the bottom of the movement slowly return to the starting position.
seated crunch cable exercise
Build a strong core

4. KNEELING CABLE CRUNCH WITH OBLIQUE TWISTS

Same as above, but the twist will also engage your obliques, and stress your core in a new way.

cable exercises for the coreStrengthening the obliques

Technique:

  • Adopt the same starting position as a Kneeling Cable Crunch in front of the FINNLO MAXIMUM by Hammer Multi Gym M1
  • Begin the movement in the same way.
  • During the pull, twist your torso, and bring one elbow down towards the opposite knee.
  • Return to the starting position, and with the next rep twist in the other direction. Alternate throughout each set.

5. RUSSIAN TWISTS WITH CABLE

Russian twists in all their variations are a great way to destroy your core and strengthen it significantly.

Technique:

  • Stand facing the Cable pulley.
  • Set the cable at the height of your belly button.
  • Grip the handle with both hands.
  • Keeping your arms outstretched in front of you, twist your core and pull to the left hand side. Only use your arms to hold the handle, generate all the force by tightening your core.
  • Stay tight and return to the starting position. Now repeat to the right side. With each movement, twist to 90 degrees.

PLANES OF MOTION

To further understand just how important your core is, and to contextualize these cable exercises, it’s important to understand the different ways in which we move.

Human movement is divided into 3 planes of motion. Specific exercises may move through one or two planes of motion, but the core is a complex group of interconnected muscles that often requires movement and control throughout a variety of exercises and basic, everyday tasks.

cable exercises for the 3 planes of motion
The 3 planes of motion

THE CORONAL PLANE

This plane divides the body into front and back and involve sideways movements, think of lateral lunges as an example of this.

THE SAGITTAL PLANE 

Think about the exercises you do. Squats, thrusters, deadlifts, clean and jerks, pull-ups, handstand push-ups. In all these movements the weight is transferred up and down along a straight line. All these movements occur along the sagittal plane. The sagittal plane divides the body into two symmetrical halves – left and right.

THE TRANSVERSE PLANE

The final plane is the transverse plane, which divides the body into top and bottom halves. We move along this plane when we twist and turn our bodies, like when we look around before crossing the street.

Many of the exercises in Crossfit happen along the sagittal plane, and the transverse plane is a movement that does not occur as frequently as in other sports such as swimming or rugby. Whether your goal is general fitness, functional strength, or athletic achievement, you should always train along all planes.

The Core Cable exercises from above that involve twisting (such as the Woodchops) all train the Transverse Plain.

Ignoring the transverse plane means muscles like the abdominis obliques are neglected. These muscles are part of the core and provide stability, which in turn allows you to generate greater power and forceful movement. Strong oblique muscles also decrease the chance of injury, as they stop the trunk from over rotating or weakening.

cable exercises on hammer machine
Core strength is essential for great athletic ability

WODS TO ATTACK YOUR CORE

So now it’s time to put the theory into practice. Try these following WODs and post your times to let us know how you did.

3 Rounds for time

  • 400 m run
  • 50 x Standing Cable Woodchops (25 each side)
  • 20 x Toes to Bar
  • 25 x Kneeling Cable Crunch
  • 30 seconds L Sit Hold

15 Minute AMRAP

  • 50 Wall Balls
  • 30 Kneeling Cable Crunches
  • 15 Kettlebell Swings 24 / 18 kg

12 Minute AMRAP

  • 10 Deadlifts (70% 1RM)
  • 20 Toes to Bar
  • 30 Kneeling Cable Crunches with Oblique Twists
  • 40 Woodchops
  • 50 GHD Back Extensions
cable exercises by male crossfit athlete
Smash your core

Core strength from cable exercises © RX'd Photography

cable exercises by male crossfitter © Hammer

seated crunch cable exercise © Hammer

cable exercises for the core © Hammer

cable exercises for the 3 planes of motion © Machine Design

cable exercises on hammer machine © Hammer

cable exercises by male crossfit athlete © Hammer

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About The Author

Editor-In-Chief at BOXROX. I come from a background of rugby and weightlifting. Growing up in the English Lake District, I spent a great deal of time swimming in its stunning lakes and rivers. In 2015 my brothers and I became the first people to swim the 145km length of the River Eden, from source to mouth, in 9 days. We also swam the Corryvreckan whirlpool, the third largest in the world, and Crossfit is a huge part of my training for these events.

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