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What follows is the sequel of the original A Giant List of Effective Core Exercises| Part I
Feast your eyes on exercises 16-30.
16. Sandbag Training
Sandbags are a shape-changing piece of fitness equipment capable of building raw strength and conditioning.
*** Exercising with objects of varying textures is a subtle detail that can really take the functionality of your workouts to another level.
Sandbags do not have a great texture. They naturally want to slip through your fingertips and slither out of the bear hug.
This is part of the value of training with sandbag… the fight!
Every repetition with a sandbag is a fight.
The clean-squat-press exercise is a classic sandbag combination.
* Tip: Do not overstuff the sandbag. Over-stuffing the outer shell with filler bags reduces the instability component. More space inside the outer shell means greater instability and shape-changing during exercises.
To build raw strength, load up the sandbag and grind through squats, presses, carrying and pulling exercise just as you would with a barbell or any other strength-based tool.
17. Slow Mountain Climber Variations
Yoga often refers to this exercise as “knee to nose”.
The prone position (chest down) is a disadvantaged position for the body to make this happen.
Arch the back and hollow out, push the shoulder blade out and back (protract) and slowly bring one knee up as far as you possibly can.
18. Weighted Plank Variations
If you can successfully dominate bodyweight-only planks, add weight and try the same variation. It will be harder. If you’re a go-getter, figure out how to put the weight on your back by yourself. At the present moment, I don’t yet own a weight vest. I am not sure why, but I don’t. So, I shimmy a heavy sandbag onto my back and hold planks while balancing the sandbag. The process of getting the sandbag onto my back is a workout in itself.
19. Tuck Planche
Tucking the thighs tight to the stomach while supporting bodyweight using only the arms. It’s a difficult task with many regressions to make the task more palatable.
The tuck planche requires core compressional strength and eventually endurance as the duration of the hold increases.
20. Stand Up Paddle Boarding
Core training in a standing position on a body of water in the sunshine? Yes, please.
The first couple of strokes on a stand-up paddleboard is all of the proof you’ll need to understand how active the core is while exerting on a SUP
Core strength is essential for moving the board through the water.
The benefits of 7-8+ hours of quality sleep are very important for body composition, daily function, mental clarity as well as recovery and regeneration from the stresses of exercise.
Yet, the value of sleep remains largely unknown and underemphasized.
We also live in a world where sleep deprivation is worn like a badge of honor.
In my dreams, the world corrects and we revert back to celebrating the power of sleep.
I won’t pretend to be a sleep expert, but I have an understanding of how “off” my body and mind feel when I don’t get an adequate amount of sleep.
If you’d like to learn more about sleep in a super entertaining, yet informative interview, check out Joe Rogan’s interview with guest Dr. Matthew Walker. The link to this episode of the Joe Rogan Podcast can be found here.
Dr. Walker has also written a fantastic book on all things related to sleep, “Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams”.
22. Kettlebell Swings (variations)
All movements are core movements.
Kettlebell swings, while not a direct core exercise, work primarily the trunk, hip and hamstring muscles.
Entire books and training programs have been designed to teach the value of kettlebell swings and how swings can improve power, cardio conditioning, strength, and body composition.
Nutrition is king for fat loss and body composition, but if I were forced to hand-select a few exercises to simultaneously burn fat and build muscle, I’d got with a steady practice of kettlebell swings and Turkish Get Ups.
23. Dead Bugs
Ly on your back with chest facing the ceiling, actively press your low back into the floor (curling your pelvis back neutral/posterior), lock arms and legs in the extension point them toward the ceiling.
Slowly lower opposite arm/ opposite leg to the floor to start the movement.
Ideally, you’ll make soft contacts with the floor or stop 1-3 inches above, and come back to the start position. However, use an abbreviated range of motion if you feel your pelvis shifting to make up for lack of control.
Imagine a full glass of water in a skinny tall glass balancing at the navel region (or just above) while you move the extremities, yet keep the torso “quiet” and still.
A lot of the exercises in this article have some room for technique deviation. But in my opinion, strict technique is only way to practice dead bugs.
Alternate each side for repetitions. 3-5 sets x 8-20 repetitions.
24. “Twisted Tea” from the #OMU (Instagram)
This is my new favorite “core” obsession because it lacks the dull robotic range of motion that many gym exercises have.
I have to give credit to the “#OMU” crew on Instagram for introducing me to this multi-planar core drill.
Assume a high plank position with arm extended out in front of the body.
“Draw” the largest circle possible, spiraling down to the floor, reaching in and out of the legs, etc.
When you reach the endpoint, reverse the motion and take it back to the start position.
Each rep is extremely long, challenging and very interesting.
So far, I have only used a 2.5lb and 5lb weight plate on this drill, and my obliques were sore for days after.
25. Overhead Loaded Squats
Basic exercises become increasingly difficult when weight is overhead, which raises the center of gravity and requires more joints to contribute to the activity.
The overhead position is challenging for a lot of people, often due to having stiff upper backs (thoracic spines) and stiff/unstable shoulders.
Again, positioning weight overhead raises the center of gravity causing the torso to lengthen. The core muscles make the adjustment and work overtime to stabilize the body.
The overhead position is very challenging for the joints, moving from the shoulders to mid-back, to hips, to knees and finally down to the ankles. Each joint must have adequate mobility and stability to control the weight overhead.
Overhead squats are a fantastic exercise and therefore worth mentioning on this list, but they are also the exercise with the most pre-requisites. Make sure you’ve done your mobility and stability work before slinging weight overhead.
One way to observe your readiness is to practice overhead squats with a wooden dowel… and film your technique.
This is a classic, often forgotten kettlebell drill.
The weight is supported overhead with elbow locked (but soft). Hips are pushed to the side while the upper body lowers to the floor. Softly touch the free hand to the floor and return to the starting position.
Windmills are one of those movements I program infrequently, but I really see value in establishing motor control and know-how.
In a real-world setting, we won’t always be perfectly vertical while supporting objects overhead. Sometimes, we have to bend, twist and hinge while maintaining control from shoulder to elbow to hand.
27. Janda Sit Ups
I do not program sit-ups in my own training regimen and also do not prescribe for others.
I feel there are FAR better uses of gym time.
However… Janda Sit Ups will numb your soul. You’ll hear angels singing and see the face of God during every set of Janda Sit-Ups.
Janda Sit Ups help to further isolate the rectus abdominals by reducing hip flexor contribution during each sit up. This means the abdominals are responsible for doing more work.
The effectiveness of the Janda Sit Up is all in the setup and technique. While a training partner is good to have for these, I do think Janda Sit Ups are possible to execute alone using a well-placed stretch resistance band.
With the knees at roughly 90 degrees and heels on the floor, anchor a resistance band (at knee height or slightly above) around squat rack, door, piece of furniture or anything else sturdy.
Stretch the band out and wrap it around your calves, 3-4 inches above your ankles. The band should have some stretch loaded into it, which will require your glutes and hamstrings to actively pull against the band during the sit-ups.
You’ll have to play around with the band height and tension until you find a sweet spot.
Before and during the sit-up action, contract the glutes and hamstrings to initiate reciprocal inhibition of the hip flexors.
My first couple of experiences with Janda Sit Ups resulted in a level of muscle soreness that humbled me to my core (no pun intended).
The first couple of reps it’s hard to know if you’re doing it correctly, but in general, if you have the sensation of not being able to peel your back off the floor to sit up, you’re on the right track.
28. Hanging Knee Tucks
Hanging Knee Tucks kill a few birds with one stone.
First, hanging for extended periods of time builds grip strength/endurance, provides traction for the spine, stability for the shoulders.
Second, the motion of raising the knees up to parallel with the waistline (or ideally above) is a challenging exercise for the core, particularly the lower abdominals.
I prefer to do fewer repetitions, opting for longer duration holds with the knees tucked. Aim for 5-10 seconds per hold, with 5-8 reps of a longer duration holds will have your abdominals and grip burning.
Looking for a burn out session? Simply hang from the bar with knees tucked until something about the exercise fails (grip, core, etc)
29. Zercher Sandbag Squats
Hooking the arms under a sandbag is both a bicep scorcher and a worthy challenge for the core as it battles to maintain body position, even in a non-moving static position.
Add a squat and the difficulty is increased.
30. Explosive Flexion Slams
Slamming a weighted ball on the ground is essentially explosive Olympic Lifting for your core. The lats also get a nice stimulus during flexion slams.
Power development in all planes of movement is a great thing.
If you’re going to do flexion slams, consider using a no rebound ball, versus slamming a ball that re-arranges your face.
This concludes Part II of the giant list of core exercises.
✅ Check out the finale 👉 A Giant List of Effective Core Exercises| Part III