The core is your body’s powerhouse. It’s responsible for protecting your inner organs, central nervous system, and even helps you maintain proper posture.
Your core has a wide variety of jobs to do, so it’s going to take more than a few crunches to develop a strong one. But if you build your core strength from the deeper, inner muscles out, you’ll improve your overall fitness level. You’ll also be less prone to injuries.
These five exercises use a high cable pulley machine. It will really challenge your core’s stability, helping to improve both your core strength and ability to maintain correct posture.
1. Weighted Crunch
Crunches are fairly easy to perform properly. But in this exercise, adding resistance and weight makes them more challenging.
Equipment needed: high cable pulley machine, rope attachment, and a stability ball
Muscles worked: abdominals, hips, and glutes
- Attach a rope to a high cable pulley machine. Lower the cable down to the last notch. Select an appropriate amount of weight and hold onto the rope with both palms above the knots in a neutral grip. Keep your palms facing in toward each other.
- Have a seat on a stability ball and take 2 steps out so your back is supported on the ball. Your glutes, hips, and knees should form a straight line. Your elbows should be slightly bent and kept in this position with a strong hold on the rope. This is your starting position.
- Exhale, contract your abs, and crunch up on the ball using your core muscles only. A crunch should only be a 30-degree motion (think ribs into hips). Don’t perform a full situp — the smaller the motion, the more effective this exercise will be. Your arms shouldn’t be yanking on the rope. Instead, they should only be applying a weighted resistance to your core. Hold this contracted position for 1 count.
- Inhale and in a slow, controlled manner, lean back to your starting position, releasing slight tension on the cable.
- Perform 15 to 20 repetitions for 3 to 4 sets.
2. Mountain Climbers
This move is a little twist on the old fashioned mountain climber, which is a great core and endurance exercise. This exercise will be performed a lot slower so you concentrate on the weight being pulled by your obliques.
Equipment needed: high cable pulley machine, one handle attachment, or ankle strap attachment
Muscles worked: obliques, chest, hamstrings, glutes, and shoulders
- Attach a single handle to a high cable pulley machine and select an appropriate amount of weight. Lower the cable down to the last notch. Come down to the floor into a plank position with your weight supported on your wrists and tippy toes. Your shoulders, elbows, and wrists should form a straight line.
- Place your right foot into the handle attachment so it is securely around your shoelaces. Flex your right toes up so the handle can’t slip off. If there’s an ankle strap attachment available, you can Velcro it around your right ankle instead of using the handle.
- Lift up your right foot about 2 to 3 inches off the floor for the duration of this exercise. Squeeze your core so your hips stay parallel to the floor. Your right hip is going to want to tilt up to the ceiling, but don’t let it. This is your starting position.
- Exhale and bring your right knee into your left elbow, like an oblique mountain climber. Hold this position for 1 count.
- Inhale, release tension on the cable, and bring your right foot back to the starting position. Remember to keep it off the floor the entire time.
- Perform 15 repetitions. Then place the handle on your left foot and bring your left knee into your right elbow. Do 3 to 4 sets on each side.
3. Wood Chop
This is probably not the wood chop you’re thinking of. There’s no need to bring an ax to the gym.
Equipment needed: high cable pulley machine and rope attachment
Muscles worked: obliques, shoulders, and triceps
- Attach a rope to the high cable pulley machine and select an appropriate amount of weight. Lower the cable down to the last notch, and hold the rope in a neutral grip with your thumbs pointing up toward you. Stand in a shoulder-width stance with your knees slightly bent and your core engaged. This is your starting position.
- Exhale and twist your torso as you pull the rope up to your right in a diagonal motion. Do this until your arms are fully extended. Try to get your tricep in line with your ears. Only your arms, eyes, and obliques should move. Keep your hips, knees, and feet planted and facing forward. If you feel pressure in your knee opposite from the direction you’re twisting, roll your foot up on to the toes. Watch as you pull the rope up to your right. Wherever your eyes go, your body will follow.
- Inhale and slowly release the tension in the rope. Come back down to your starting position with the rope centered in front of you.
- Exhale and this time, twist the rope up to your left side. That’s 1 rep.
- Perform a total of 20 repetitions, 10 on each side. Work up to 3 to 4 sets.
4. Side Plank Into Rear Delt Fly
Switch up the old static side plank with a little resistance. This move will really challenge your core’s stability.
Equipment used: high cable pulley machine and single handle attachment
Muscles worked: middle back, shoulders, obliques, and triceps
- Attach a single handle to the high cable pulley machine and select an appropriate amount of weight. Come down to the floor about 2 to 3 feet away from the cable pulley machine and into a side plank position.
Note: Only your right elbow and right foot should be touching the ground. Your right elbow and shoulder should be in 1 line, and your left foot should be directly on top of your right foot, all supporting your body weight. Your feet, hips, and head should form a diagonal line. You want the cable to be directly in line with your left shoulder while you're planking, so adjust the height of the cable accordingly for your height.
Grab the handle with your left hand in a neutral grip position (palm facing the floor). This is your starting position.
- Exhale, squeeze your core, and swing your left palm and arm up toward the ceiling performing a rear delt fly. Keep your wrist straight at all times, but you may keep a slight bend in your left elbow if you need. End the fly when both of your shoulders are in one line and your body forms a “T” position. As you reach this “T” position, retract your shoulder blades down and back. Hold this position for 1 count.
- Inhale. Lower your left arm back down to your starting position, releasing some tension in the cable.
- Perform 15 repetitions, and then repeat this exercise on your left side with the cable in your right hand. Work up to 3 to 4 sets.
5. Russian Twist on Stability Ball
Russian twists are pretty hard to perform without adding a stability ball to the mix. But this gives your core an extra challenge.
Equipment needed: high cable pulley machine, single handle attachment, and stability ball
Muscles worked: shoulders, triceps, obliques, and glutes
- Attach a single handle to the cable pulley machine. Lower the cable down to about the middle notch. Place the stability ball about 3 feet away and lie on your back on the ball perpendicular to the machine. You want your shoulder blades, upper back, and neck supported on the ball. Your glutes and hips will be hanging off, so it’s important to squeeze your glutes into a high bridge so you can support your lower back.
- Grasp the handle with one hand over another and pull the handle toward you so it lines up in the middle of your chest. Engage your core and lock out your arms above you, still keeping the handle in line with your chest. Your feet should be shoulder-width apart or a little wider for a strong stance. Your knees should form a 90-degree angle. This is your starting position.
- Exhale. Rotate your torso away from the pulley machine toward your left side for a full-quarter rotation (think 9 o’clock), and keep your arms are fully extended. Only your arms, obliques, and eyes should be moving during this exercise. Hold this position for 1 count. Make sure your hips stay stationary and your glutes are still squeezed into a high bridge, even when you rotate.
- Inhale, and in a slow, controlled manner, twist your torso and arms back to the starting position.
- Perform 15 repetitions, then reposition yourself and perform the twist on your right side for 3 to 4 sets.
Your core is responsible for your everyday movements. It also protects your inner organs and central nervous system. It’s important to maintain a strong core for these reasons. Using a cable machine will challenge core stability by adding resistance.