Can You Simulate Cable Crunches With Dumbbells?

Cable crunches are safe and effective, making them a mainstay exercise at the gym. The advantage of using cables is that they are constantly providing tension because they can pull in different directions than free weights, which can only pull down. But dumbbells are more accessible.

Dumbbell crunches are a great alternative for cable crunches. Credit: jeffbergen/E+/GettyImages


Cable crunches are effective for toning your midsection, but require access to specialized equipment. Perform a similar exercise as a cable crunch alternative using dumbbells, without leaving the comfort of your home.

Compare the Two

Cables also allow you to add weight safely to your exercise. But because the cable is fixed along a certain path, it is less predictable than a free weight. If you don't have access to a cable machine, however, you can still reap the benefits of the cable crunch with a weighted crunch, using a pair of dumbbells. With proper form, you can recreate the constant resistance on your abs that a cable machine provides for an equally challenging ab workout with this cable crunch alternative.

Read more: The Proper Form for an Abdominal Crunch

How to Do It

Perform dumbbell crunches on a weight bench. Practice the movement with light dumbbells first, until you have safely mastered the technique. Perform 10 repetitions, working up to three sets in a row before increasing your dumbbell weight.

  1. Lie on your back on a bench and a dumbbell in each hand. Use a raised surface, like a bench, because your arms will need to go lower than the rest of your body.
  2. Raise your legs up, with your knees bent, so that your thighs are perpendicular to the floor and your knees are bent at a 90-degree angle.
  3. Reach your arms over your head so that your biceps are next to your ears. Allow your elbows to bend slightly so that the dumbbell is below the bench.
  4. Perform a crunch from this position, curling your head, shoulders, and neck off of the bench and rolling up towards your knees. Curl up until your head and upper back are raised off of the bench.
  5. As you curl up, keep your arms in the same overhead position as step three. They should move in sync with your head, neck and body during this exercise.

Read more: Which Weight Machines Can Help Tighten My Lower Abs?

How Much Weight?

Aim for a weight that you can do three sets of 10 repetitions with. There is nothing particularly special about that number; it simply means that you are using enough weight for the exercise to be challenging but the weight is light enough that you can concentrate on form. Over time, you can decrease the weight if you want to do more sets and repetitions or increase the weight to make the exercise more challenging.

Thing to Consider

During this cable crunch alternative exercise, your shoulders will be in a vulnerable position while you are holding weight. When your shoulders are extended it increases your risk of injury, according to the Orthopaedic Research Institute of the University of New South Wales. Therefore, if you have a shoulder injury, use lighter weight or no weight at all. Crunches can also be harmful to your lower back, so if you have lower back problems you may want to avoid this exercise.

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