A Giant List of Effective Core Exercises| Part III

Motion

Need water?  A cigarette 🚬 ?  Struggling to stay awake 😴 ?

Yeah, me too.  

If you made it this far, you’ve read through 30 different core exercises. 

Congrats, you’re in an elite group, primed with knowledge.

Brace yourself for exercises 31-48.  

Here. We. Go.

31.  Rotational Throws

The human body must be able to produce force and resist forces acting on it.  Rotation is a missing component of a lot of workout programs. 

Our bodies move through a ton of rotational patterns in sport and daily living. 

Don’t necessarily reach for the heaviest weighted ball. 

10lb, 12lb a 15lb medicine ball is plenty heavy. 

I like this style of medicine ball.

3-5 sets of 5-8 throws per side (ideally early in the workout the body is fresh).

32.  Chops and Lifts

Chops and Lifts are two simple (not easy) exercises that most people will find they: 

a) struggle to execute on either side (even with lightweight).

b) can only successfully do on one side, not the other (even with lightweight)

There are many different positions to perform Chops and Lifts in, but the inline position is one of the most humbling. 

Assume a half-kneeling position (one knee down, one knee up). 

Place the down knee directly behind the heel of the up leg.  So, make a straight line with your up and down legs. 

Chopping or Lifting once in this position is dramatically more difficult. 

33.  Anti-Rotation Press Outs

Training rotation is often forgotten yet a HUGE part of everyday movement.  One of the core’s important functions is to brace against forces acting upon it. 

Stretching a resistance band under tension, pressing the hands out away from the body, you’re calibrating the core to resist rotational forces. 

3-5 sets of 8-12 repetitions.  

Hold each rep (elbows extended)  for 2-3 seconds.  Add time as needed. 

34.  Single-Arm Push-Ups

Everyone is fanatical about something, and I am fanatical about the value of single-arm push-ups.

To get started here, allow me to say that single-arm push-ups are not a circus exercise only for the flashy calisthenics athlete.  They are for EVERYONE.  Follow the progressions and you can make great gains with upper body pressing strength, stability, and range of motion. 

Single-arm push-ups are a fully scalable movement for a beginner.  A beginner can make single arm push ups more approachable by executing from a kneeling position, hands elevated on stairs/bench/plyo box or by wrapping a resistance band around the chest to reduce the loading. 

All of these regressions will build strength while moving you closer to a full single arm push up. 

I have found single arm push-ups to be one of the best upper body pressing exercises available.

35.  Atomic Push-Ups

There is a time and place for isolated core work, and at some point, you realize that all exercises are “core work” on some level.  So if you can add a push up to a knee tuck, do it. 

The key to the knee tuck in this exercise is lifting the butt/hips to the ceiling, as high as possible, to make room for the knees tucking in toward the elbows. 

3-5 sets of 6-15 reps

36.  Core Smash

Core smash = intense core flexion contraction. 

Lay face-up on the floor. 

Place hands on the side of the head (fingertips just behind the ears), slowly bring your knees to meet your elbows, pressing elbow into the knees as hard as you can. 

Hold it there, think of something other than the cramp brewing in your mid-section.

The set ends when the elbows lose contact with the knees. 

Aim for brief holds at first, extending the duration as you gain strength. 

37.  Arch Body

The core is not only on the front of the body, easily seen in the mirror.  It wraps around your body like a weight belt.  Hard to see in the mirror, the glutes and spinal erectors are crucial for human performance, body health, and injury mitigation. 

Arch body exercise is the opposite of the Hollow Body exercise.  Chest down on the floor, you’re going to create a pronounced U-Shape by lifting the arms/back/hamstrings and heels. 

Many will feel weak during the arch body, cramping, etc.  It’s ok.  Hold as long as you can, rest and repeat. 

Hammer the front side, hammer the backside. 

38.  Hollow Body High Plank or Push Ups

Assume a high plank position (aka the top of a push up), roll your pelvis under, arch your spine and protect your shoulder blades to make as pronounced of a “U-Shape” as possible. 

Hold there and embrace the suck, because it’s a highly rewarding position but a sucky position at first.  The hollow body position is fundamental for many more difficult gymnastics based movements.    

Beginner level gymnastics posture here.  Very humbling. 

39.  Stability Ball Stir-the-Pot

Stability balls are naturally unstable.  So, putting the elbows on the stability ball to perform a plank creates a wobbly situation.  Now, add a circular motion with the elbows as if you were stirring a giant pot of soup. 

Why do this exercise?  Because adding more time to a marathon length standard plank is not what most people need.  More time doesn’t mean greater gains.  At some point, especially with planks, make them harder. 

One way to make them harder is to add a dynamic movement to a fundamental stability exercise. 

 

40.  Suspension Trainer Pendulums

Slip your feet into the loops of a suspension train or gymnastics rings, turn over and assume a high plank position (top of a push up).  The feet are now suspended while the upper body is supporting. 

Initiate a side to side motion pendulum motion from the waist on down by activating the hands/arms/torso.  Grip the ground hard and swing the legs without breaking at the low back, hips, knees. 

This is a very non-traditional exercise that will blow up your mid-section.  Expect oblique soreness in the days that follow.

3-5 sets of higher repetitions, maybe 10-20 per side.

41.  Core Compression Pulses

Core compression pulses are a beginner level gymnastics exercise, which in itself is humbling to think about. 

To do them, sit on the floor, upper body erect and legs straight out in front of you. 

Place hands on the outsides of the thighs, pressing into the ground for assistance as you lift each leg entirely off of the ground, pulsing up and down. 

Lift the legs as high as possible without rocking, bending the knees or compensating to do so. 

Core compression pulses are a high repetition exercise, but beginners don’t be surprised if you’re only able to get 3, 4 or maybe 5 before form breaks or cramping commences.

I like to work these early in the workout, before any other lifting or cardio because they are so demanding and isolating the motion is important.  3-5 sets of 4-20+ reps. 

42.  Loaded Carrying Variations

Loaded carries are incredible for core development and total body tension. 

For the functional fanatic in all of us who want every minute of strength work and cardio exercise to translate to real-world scenarios, is there any other mode of exercise more functional than carrying objects of varying weights, texture, shapes and sizes (not to mention carrying in various positions) from Point A to Point B?

Personally, I do not think so.

43.  Lizard Crawl + Push or Pull

Perform a lizard crawl while pushing or pulling an object of weight.  Simple as that. 

I hesitated to include this hybrid exercise but ultimately felt that people who can Lizard Crawl proficiently would enjoy adding a brutal push or pull to the exercise.

A sandbag on carpet or a hard floor surface, a kettlebell, dumbbell or weight plate can all be used as the equipment for the push and pull. 

I’ve used all of these tools with success, but I prefer using a sandbag on carpet or hardwood. 

44.  Spinal Waves

It’s been said, “we are as old as our spines”.

The spine is our life force and if we cannot move it when we need to, it is likely to become a problem down the road. 

Exercise tips:  Soft pump the wall for 100-200 reps most days of the week. 

Sounds like too much?  200 reps of spinal wave take less than 5 minutes and your body will thank you for the movement. 

45.  Standing Spine CAR’s

Lock in the hips, hug yourself and articulate in a circular fashion as if you were trying to dodge pushes from a boxer.  Say hello to controlled articulations and their ability to wake up the obliques.  Brace and breathe. 

46.  Hip CAR’s

Assume a quadruped position with hands, knees, and feet in contact with the floor.  Raise your leg out to the side of your body as high as possible, pretend like you’re a dog about to pee on a fire hydrant.  Be mindful to keep your shin bone parallel with the floor, which means your foot doesn’t move higher or lower than your knee.  

[The guys at MyDailyMobility.com teach controlled articulations and a lot of other effective mobility drills in their daily mobility program.  Give it a look.  Your body will thank you]

Draw a large circle with your knee (articulate) as you slowly move the knee behind the body.  This will look like the finishing position of a donkey kick.  Lower the knee back underneath the body, but don’t set it down.  Reverse the pattern. 

Many of the best “core” movements are not isolated movements, and they shouldn’t be because isolating the “core” is not how humans operate. 

47. Movement 20XX Kick Throughs

Side Kick Through’s are a basic movement element in Movement 20XX, resembling a break dancing type move.

Movement 20XX is a bodyweight focused, ground-based movement system packed with performance and restorative movement patterns. 

Begin in a quadruped position, hands and feet supporting the body (knees hover 1-2 inches off the floor). 

Rotate to one side by pivoting on the ball of the foot, opening up your chest to the side you’re turning toward. 

Slide the trailing leg through and “kick” it through until fully extended. 

While the leg kicks through, pull the opposite arm/hand back as if you were drawing back a bow and arrow. 

48.  Movement 20XX Supine Reach

This exercise is LOADED WITH BENEFITS. 

Posterior chain activation, controlled rotation of the torso, elongation of the often shortened muscles of the core.

This benefits of this exercise are plentiful:

  Opens up the torso and chest in a diagonal pattern (far hip to far shoulder)

  Challenges and improves shoulder stability on the loaded working arm

  Opens up the hips anteriorly

  Activates the posterior chain (gluten/hamstrings) moving into extension.

  Uncommon position (head and eyes get a different look at the world)

The End.  

 

 

A Giant List of Effective Core Exercises| Part 1

Core Training

Direct core training is an essential part of any workout program. 

The fitness industry gets into highschool level fights over whether direct core training necessary, but since I believe in training the entire body…

…. core training is a must.  

Boom. 

In a way, if your core sucks, you suck.

A strong core protects the spine and serves as a conduit for force transmission between the upper and lower body.  

Ground reaction forces travel from the feet, up through the mid-section and out through body tips of the fingers.

Highly controversial fitness trainer Uncle David Weck taught me that.  

If the muscles that wrap around the torso are weak or under-performing, energy leaks and both performance and function can suffer.  

A strong bodies has a strong core.

A balanced, comprehensive approach to core focused training will calbrate the body to properly absorb force and produce force in all planes of movement.

This is a giant list, so let’s not waste any more time.  

Here are 15 different core based exercises worth slipping into your next workout…  

1.  Anti-Extension Roll Outs (Ab Wheel Roll Outs) 

For $15 on Amazon, you can purchase an Ab Wheel Roller.  Ab Wheel Roll Outs are anti-extension core exercise, great for building not only core strength but core endurance.  

In a tall kneeling position, slowly roll out way from the knees. 

During this rollout motion, cue your hips to fall outward at the same pace as the upper body. 

Roll as far out as you can control.  If the lower back caves, you’ve gone to far.  

Pull yourself back in using your mid-section, lats and pec muscles (gripping the handles hard). 

During the most difficult portion of the roll-out,  “hollow” out the mid-section. 

The hollow body position tucks the ribs down while the navel curls toward the ribs.  The result is a curved body shape or the “hollow” body.  

 

2.  Turkish Get-Ups 

As far as productivity and global training effect, Turkish Get Ups (TGUs) are hard to beat. 

Turkish Get Ups are a total body exercise. 

The goal of the Turkish Get Up is to transition from a lying position (supine) to a standing position, reverse the order and return back to the original lying position.

Controlling the weight during the up-down sequence is fatiguing not only for the core but for the loaded shoulder as well. 

Turkish Get Ups are best performed with kettlebells or dumbbells, though nearly any object of weight can be substituted.  I’ve used sandbags, liquid filled milk cartons, barbells, weight vests, shoes, and weight plates to name a few.  

Turkish Get Ups are best learned by isolating and practicing each segment.  

Stabilizing the weight overhead is can be draining for the stabilizing muscles of the shoulder.  However, the time spent in this over-chest/over-head position is fantastic for building shoulder stability, which can help with injury mitigation and performance.  

Standing up and laying back down equals one rep.

Sidenote:  I’ve used Turkish Get Ups as my “workout of the day” for years.  I set a timer (10, 15, 20 minutes) and alternate sides until the timer sounds. 

I use a variety of weights during this time, work several repetitions in a row without putting the weight down or mix up the way I stand up and lay back down for variation (squat, lunge, etc).  I’ve added a simple press at each of the 7 steps, performed kettlebell swings cleans and snatches at the halfway point (standing position).

3.  Dragon Flags

Iconic martial artist and movie star Bruce Lee made Dragon Flags famous.

 

Dragon Flags (and variations) are one of my favorite core exercises. 

Why?  Because they’re hard as hell!  

Dragon Flags require a tremendous amount of effort and total body tension.  

Ly on your back, grab onto a bench, squat rack, heavy sandbag or any other immovable object with the hands positioned above the head. 

Raise the feet up to the ceiling.  Making the body as straight as possible from ankles to shoulders, begin lowering to the floor.

SLOW IT DOWN, resist gravity’s pull.

Working the descent of the dragon flag is known as the “eccentric”.  For beginners, only focusing on quality eccentrics is just fine.  

If you’re feeling strong, Advanced Trainees can reverse the eccentric and ascend back to the top. 

Do not lose the straight line from head to toe.

After listening to Gymnastics Bodies founder Coach Christopher Sommer’s podcasts with Tim Ferriss, I dropped Dragon Flags into my workouts as a mainstay core conditioning exercise.  

You can find smart dragon flag exercise regressions and progressions from Global Bodyweight Training.  

4.  Dynamic Plank Variations 

Planks are a fundamental static core drill and a position worth exploring. 

The video demonstrates rotational side planks.  

I use these (and many other plank variations) frequently. 

Reps, sets and time to hold each plank exercise is a highly debated topic. 

If you can comfortably hold a plank for 90-120 seconds without strain, you’re likely wasting your time and the return on effort has diminished. 

Move on to more challenging core work. 

4. Crawling

Crawling is a critical component for early childhood physical development, but also effective for building strength and conditioning in the gym.   

The more “adult” we become, the more we move away from activities we engaged in as kids.  

This is de-evolution.  It’s not good.  

You either use it, or you lose it.  

And as adults, we tend to move less and less with age, and if we do move, it’s generally isolated to linear walking or machine-based cardio.   

Adults need to revisit moving like they did when they were kids.  

Get on the floor and crawl.  

5.  Lizard Crawl 

The Lizard Crawl is an advanced crawling pattern and probably the king of all ground-based crawling variations.  

Ground-based conditioning is bodyweight training with no equipment needed.  

6.  Offset/Asymmetric Pressing and Holds 

Grab a dowel, barbell or a stronger broomstick. 

Dangle an object (with a handle) like a kettlebell or wrap a resistance band on one end. 

Now, press or hold that dowel without changing body position or allow the object to slip off.  Confused?  Me too.  Watch the video above and it will all make more sense.

Objects we encounter in life are rarely perfectly balanced. 

Weight is often distributed unevenly, which means we have to adapt to awkward loads, recalibrate on the fly and push on.  

7.  One Arm Push Ups 

A lesson in indirect core training, one arm push-ups will challenge the muscles of the midsection better than 95% of core based exercises. 

One-arm push-ups train single arm pressing strength like few other exercises.  

Global Bodyweight Training does a great job laying out exercise progressions leading to the one arm push up.

8.  L-Sits (all variations)

L-Sits are a beginner exercise in the gymnastics training realm. 

Very humbling to think about it with that perspective, since L-Sits are a tough ass exercise.  

Creating an “L” between your upper body and lower body (at the hips) extremely taxing for the hip flexors and lower abdominal muscles.  

Starting out, you’ll have to dial back the duration of your L-Sit efforts to 5-10 seconds of work, with plenty of rest between each effort.   

In time, the duration of the hold will increase as your body adapts to the demands.

Of all of the basic gymnastics postures, I have found L-Sits to be an absolute game-changer for building core strength. 

Including L-Sits in my workouts, 2-3 times per week has increased my hold duration time from a few mediocre sets of 10-15 seconds to 30+ seconds with legs moving above parallel.  

9.  Arch Body Holds 

Lay on the floor face down, arms and legs stretched out straight above/below. 

Lift the upper body and lower body at the same time, arching your back toward your butt.

Hold this Superman-like position for 5-10 seconds and release back to the floor. 

Repeat for repetitions.  

Progress Arch Body Holds by increasing the time of the hold.  

10.  Hollow Body Variations (rocking and static holds) 

Hollow body holds (progressing into rocking) conditioning the entire front side of the body, from fingertips to toe tips.

The quads, diaphragm, abdominals, hip flexors all get some love during hollow body training.

11.  Toes to Bar

Toes to Bar improves core strength, midline endurance while improving grip, shoulder health and back performance. 

Prolonged hanging from a bar, branch or anything overhead is therapeutic for the upper body.  

There are few different variations of the Toes to Bar exercise, kipping (ballistic) or strict.  

12.  Bridging 

Bridging is can help offset the modern-day desk warrior posture.  

Following the lead-up bridge positions and working shoulder and mid-back mobility, hip flexor flexibility and glute strength can inch you closer to a full bridge.

I’d also suggest training active mobility.  

MyDailyMobility is a follow-along mobility program with updated workouts every week.  Taking the time to train mobility will bulletproof joints against injury and increase performance. 

Once you’re able to hold a static high bridge for 45-60 seconds, start exploring adding the rotational piece into the bridge movement.  

13.  Dynamic High Plank Exercises (pull-throughs, push-pull) 

14.  Landmine Grapplers

The landmine trainer provides the opportunity to train many angled exercises and rotational exercises not possible without the pivoting sleeve.  

If you’ve got access to a barbell and a few weight plates, you can start training landmine exercises right away.  

Wrapping an old towel around one end of the barbell can protect your walls from damage.  Or, several fitness companies have manufactured inexpensive landmine trainers well worth the money in my opinion.

👇 How to perform a landmine grappler 👇

Arc (ascend) the barbell up and through the midline of the body.  

Once the barbell passes through the midline, it will begin to arc (descend) down to the same start position on the opposite side of the body.  

The challenge at this point in the movement is decelerating the barbell quickly.  

Landmine grapplers are fantastic for training rotational force production and absorption.  

During a work set, you quickly toggling the switch between creating force and absorbing it.  

Landmine grapplers have great carryover to athletics and daily living.  

Plus most workout programs are deficient when it comes to rotational training.

Landmine grapplers check ✔️  the box. 

Use moderate weight to start.

The weight of the barbell may be enough to elicit a training effect to start.  Add weight slowly as you gain efficiency and strength.

Sets and reps will vary, but 3-5 sets of 6-10 reps per side is a good start.  

It really depends on the weight you’re using.  

Lighter weight = explosive movement and more reps.

Heavier weight = grinding movement and fewer reps.

15.  Slosh Pipe Exercises

The water inside of the pipe is unpredictable and free moving. 

Tilt the slosh pipe an inch below level, the water begins to run, the balance of the pipe changes and your body must react to this change. 

There’s very little relaxation time during a set of slosh pipe exercises since the water is never completely balanced inside the pipe. 

The big issue with slosh pipe training is the size of the slosh pipe.  It needs to be quite long, which isn’t always feasible while training indoors.  

For the home gym, a water-filled slosh training bag is a great alternative.

Whewwwww!

Want to see more core exercises?  

Check out Part II and Part III of this series: