As the saying goes, “abs are built in the kitchen” though it never hurts to have a solid repertoire of core exercises to not only get stronger but also complement those six pack, nutritional efforts. As we get closer and closer to the midriff baring months, here are 10 of my commonly used core exercises for both myself and clients.
Note: You won’t find a traditional crunch on this list. While many (ladies especially) associate the “burn” from crunches as an effective way to train the abs, the jury is out on whether crunches could hinder the integrity of our spine / disks with high volume, repetitive flexion. Because of this, you’ll find many coaches and trainers who utilize other methods to train strength, stability and overall performance through the core.
Simply click the name of the exercise to see a video of how it’s performed. Without further ado, in no particular order:
1. Pallof Press – It’s always great to train on our feet as we’re usually operating/performing from a standing position. This is a great exercise for anti-rotation and sometimes I will utilize these in place of a side plank for clients as well.
2. Turkish Get Up – You’ve heard Molly and Neghar preach over TGUs enough. Tons of bang for your buck, as this full-body exercise trains anti-extension (resisting arching), anti-lateral flexion (resisting side-bending), and hip flexion with a neutral spine, which are all major functions of the core.
3. Body Saw – Don’t be fooled, a small movement yet a big challenge. Remember to only use the range of motion with which you can maintain proper form.
4. Rollouts – Different variations for rollouts whether using a stability ball, an ab wheel, a barbell or a heavy chain. Keep in mind that Rollouts are not a good exercises for beginners, unless it’s a Stability Ball Rollout with a limited range of motion, and even then, it’s questionable. These should be utilized by intermediate or advanced lifters with a strong foundation of strength, especially the Rollouts with a chain.
5. Stability Ball Knee Tucks – a challenging exercise that teaches you to flex your hips, while maintaining a neutral spine. Chad Waterbury includes the push up in this example… go for it if you’re feeling up for the challenge.
6. Mountain Climbers – Again different variations whether choosing to use val slides under your feet and hands on the floor. I sometimes like to place my hands on a dynamax ball and drive my knees which can also include knee taps to the outside of your elbows and or across your body. In the video, provided by Coach Dos you’ll find the val slide variation within a complex at 0:27 seconds.
7. Alligator Crawl – These are tough enough without the sled! Master just your body weight first, and then feel free to add load. 25 yards up and back, and your abs will be sizzling!
8. Half Kneeling Cable Rotations – Again, many choices for rotation from medicine ball wall toss, cable or band horizontal rotations, diagonal chops, but for the sake of selection, here is a great video by Bret Contreras which gives a slightly different variation that will also engage your glutes.
9. Dead Bug Variations – These look tame but again, don’t be fooled. Many who can muscle through various “strength” exercises have trouble with the small control / stability exercises such as dead bugs. The most important thing to focus on here is to keep your lower back “pinned” to the floor throughout the movement.
10. Hanging Leg Raise – Great for building strength in both abs and your grip.
Thank you to Tony Gentilcore, Neghar Fonooni, Chris Frankel, Joe Hashey, Chad Waterbury, Coach Dos, Ben Bruno, Bret Contreras, Brendon Rearick and Precision Nutrition for providing quality demonstrations via youtube