A Giant List of Effective Core Exercises| Part III

Motion

Need water? ¬†A cigarette ūüö¨¬†? ¬†Struggling to stay awake ūüėī¬†?

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 ‚Äúcore work‚ÄĚ 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 ‚ÄúU-Shape‚ÄĚ 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‚Äôs 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 ‚Äúcore‚ÄĚ movements are not isolated movements, and they shouldn‚Äôt be because isolating the ‚Äúcore‚ÄĚ 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 ‚Äúkick‚ÄĚ 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 II

Core Training

You made it!  

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 ‚Äúknee to nose‚ÄĚ.¬†

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. 

21.  Sleep

Zzzzzzzzzz. 

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 ‚Äúoff‚ÄĚ my body and mind feel when I don‚Äôt 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, ‚ÄúWhy We Sleep:¬† Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams‚ÄĚ.

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.¬†

Listen to Pavel Psatsouline (the godfather of kettlebells) talk about kettlebell training extensively on The Joe Rogan Experience.

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 ‚Äúquiet‚ÄĚ 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.¬† ‚ÄúTwisted Tea‚ÄĚ from the #OMU (Instagram)

This is my new favorite ‚Äúcore‚ÄĚ obsession because it lacks the dull robotic range of motion that many gym exercises have. ¬†

I have to give credit to the ‚Äú#OMU‚ÄĚ 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. 

26.  Windmills 

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‚Ķ 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. 

Done.

This concludes Part II of the giant list of core exercises. 

‚úÖ Check out the finale ūüĎČ A Giant List of Effective Core Exercises| Part III

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, ¬†‚Äúhollow‚ÄĚ 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‚Äôve used Turkish Get Ups as my ‚Äúworkout of the day‚ÄĚ 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 ‚Äúadult‚ÄĚ 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.

ūüĎá How to perform a landmine grappler ūüĎá

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 ‚úĒÔłŹ¬† 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:

Turkish Get-Ups: “Press at Every Step” Variation

Kettlebell Training

Turkish Get-Ups (TGU’s) are one of the great kettlebell exercises. ¬† Nevermind kettlebell exercises, they are one of the great movement training drills we’ve got.

When I am asked, “What are the best exercises I should be doing?”

Turkish Get-Ups are always a part of my answer.

This is a heavy question to ask and even heavier to answer. ¬†Responses will differ depending who you’re asking but generally speaking, there is too much movement value, low risk and high reward with Turkish Get-Ups to leave it out.

Few other exercises provide the total body training effect of Turkish Get-Ups.  

Like any exercise, TGU’s have an infinite amount of variations, add-ons, and programming option (sets, reps, time, weight, etc). ¬†Practicing variations is a nice way to introduce a movement challenge and avoid the onset of boredom.

Make no mistake, keeping training fresh is important across the long-term.

One of those variations is the “press at every step”.

This TGU variation involves performing five presses in the following positions:

  1.  Lying position.
  2.  Elbow support.
  3.  Hand support.
  4.  Half-keeling.
  5.  Standing.

Press #1:  Lying Position

FullSizeRender 3

This is the only true horizontal press of the five listed. ¬†“Horizontal”, meaning you’re pressing from the back of the body to the front of the body (anterior to posterior then back to anterior again), similar to the mechanics of a traditional bench press. ¬†Lower the weight down until the elbow makes light contact with the ground, pause, press back up.

Press #2: Elbow Support

FullSizeRenderPressing from the elbow support position will be a new experience for a lot of people.  Expect this to feel unnatural and use cautionary judgment with weight here.  The trajectory of the kettlebell is slightly different than any traditional pressing exercise. 

Press #3:  Hand Support

FullSizeRender

This body position will likely be the most awkward press of them all.  Remain rigid from waist to shoulder.  Naturally, your body is going to want to crease or your ribs are going to flail.  Avoid letting either happen.  Stay rigid and press! 

Press #4:  Half-kneeling

FullSizeRender 2

Training in the half-kneeling narrow stance position is a natural core blaster and can reveal side-to-side differences in symmetry.  You might be steady with the left knee up, but hardly maintain the position with the right knee up.

Turkish Get-Ups aside, half-kneeling pressing is a natural overhead pressing progression into the standing press.

Press #5:  Standing

FullSizeRender 5

Finally, standing at last. ¬†In the world of “functional training”, this is as functional as it gets. ¬†Pressing objects overhead is a common task in life. ¬†Unfortunately, most of the objects pressed overhead in life aren’t evenly weighted with nice handles.

Here is a video of a full “Press at Every Step” Turkish Get-Up…

 

Whether you’re craving a movement challenge or simply a new variation of a timeless exercise, give this one a shot. ¬†Be prepared for sore shoulders and core in the days that follow. ¬†Five presses inside of each TGU repetition accumulates a lot of work for the upper extremities. ¬†

For more great kettlebell exercise variations, I recommend two resources. ¬†The first is a landmark book from the modern day Godfather of kettlebell training, Pavel Psatsouline. ¬†There isn’t a kettlebell professional who hasn’t read Pavel’s ongoing work with kettlebell training. ¬†

The second resource is a full training system from Chris Lopez designed to improve body composition using kettlebells, more specifically fat loss. ¬†Kettlebells are unique in their ability to burn fat when used systematically. ¬†Chris has published a number of kettlebell training programs focused on how to ¬†“lean out” using kettlebells for quite some time. ¬†¬†

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Most importantly, let me know how you made out with this TGU variation…

 

Cheers, 

Kyle

Carpet Slide Push-Ups (with reach)

How-To, Motion

A pair of carpet slides is an essential tool for every home gym.

Carpet slides add a new training dimension to a boat load of exercises. Slides can be used with exercises like reverse lunges, lateral lunges, crawling drills, hamstring curls, core work, and in this particular case, push-ups.

Probably best¬†of all, they’re incredibly economical at¬†$2-$7 for a pack of 3-4 sliders. ¬†How? ¬†The carpet slides marketed for fitness purposes are dangerously close in design and functionality to the furniture sliders available at your local home improvement store.

In the past, carpet slides have received the most attention when incorporated with lower body training.  Think hamstring curls and reverse lunges.

But carpet slides are extremely useful for upper body training also.  Using slides to introduce new variations of push-ups can be refreshing, and brutally challenging.

Carpet slide push-up variations are amazingly challenging. ¬†Not everyone is ready for the coveted single arm push-up, and for those of you that are, maybe you’re looking for a new variation. ¬†Something you can integrate into a work capacity circuit or load up with a weight vest and grind it out.

This is it.

Progression-wise, the carpet slide push-up w/ reach exists somewhere between a traditional two-arm push-up and full-blown single arm push-ups.

Some (not all) of the load is from the moving hand does take on some loading during the exercise, although this can be limited by the exercisee.

Exercise Technique…

 

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  • ¬†Begin in the top position of a push-up, hands centered on¬†top of the sliders.
  • ¬†Slowly lower yourself to the floor, hugging sliding the non-working arm out in front of your body.
  • ¬†Keep¬†the elbow of the working arm pulled into¬†side body
  • ¬†Pause briefly at the bottom, working elbow at 90 degrees.
  • ¬†Press up and repeat on the other side, alternate for scheduled reps.

Workout Integration…

  • ¬†Rep range: ¬†6-12 reps per side with bodyweight,¬†beyond than add more weight.
  • ¬†Load: ¬†Bodyweight until 12 reps are achieved, then add weight.
  • ¬†Sets: ¬†This depends on goals, 3-5 sets is plenty.
  • ¬†Tempo: ¬†Slow it down on the descent to the bottom, 3-5 seconds on the way down.
  • ¬†Technique break down = rest

Where does this exercise belong?

The strategy of building fitness progressively from the ground up is awesome.  Your current fitness level and past training experience will determine how and where you place this exercise into a workout.

For some, this will be a strength training drill, you’ll need adequate rest after the set. ¬†3 simple sets of 6-8 reps will leave you drained. ¬†That is fine. ¬†Beat on it for a few weeks, aim for improvement. ¬†Expect to be sore through the chest and tender¬†around the obliques in the coming days.

For others, the¬†carpet slide push-up will provide a delightfully¬†saucy¬†challenge¬†in a short burst metabolic training session. ¬†I’ve worked it into a long circuit or kept it simple as part of a 3-exercise burner.

Here’s an example of where this exercise could live within a total body workout:

Alternating Split Squat Jumps x 8 each side

***Carpet Slide Push-Up (with forward reach) x 8 each side***

Airsquats x20 or Goblet Squats x8 (load up here)

Suspension Trainer Inverted Row x10 or 1-Arm Bent Rows x 8 each side

Own the exercise from top to bottom to top…

I have to admit I’ve seen several YouTube videos of carpet slide push-ups. ¬†85-90% of the people in the videos are¬†dropping into the bottom of the push-up too quickly. ¬†More like falling into it.

Address the concept of OWNING the eccentric descent in this exercise.  Pause at the bottom, stay tighter than a pair of skinny jeans, contract and push up and out of it.

Again, slooooooowwww down, spend more time under tension and focus on remaining as rigid as possible.

At most, the descent into the bottom of the push-up should take 1-2 seconds, with NO bounce out of the bottom.  Pause at the bottom, hang out there.  Press out.  Strict.

Core training? ¬†This is core training…

Without sounding like a physique zealot, because I’m not, this exercise provides an unbelievable stimulus to the core. ¬†All without any bells and whistles, just basic rigid body position, technique, and gravity.

You won’t be able to execute as full extension carpet slide push-up without activating the torso aggressively. ¬†It’s self-limiting.

To help make my point on how much core is involved with an exercise like this, drop down into a push-up position, raise one arm forward in full extension, while the other supports the body.

Stay in this position for time.  Just remain in that position without changing posture.

Too easy?  Inch the feet closer to together, narrow the base of support.  Any exercise can be made harder.

The challenge to the core during the carpet slide push-up with reach will be intense, felt from the hip flexors, through the torso, up to the collar-bone.

There will be a tremendous anti-rotation stimulus while supporting the body with one arm. Think about it for a second… the other half of the body wants to sag toward the floor (damn you gravity). Even with the sliding arm providing some assistance, your core will be lit up.

Maintaining a rigid body from head-to-heel is a must. Stay straight. Creating rigidity will require adequate tension through the mid-section.

Progression: Make it harder…

To increase the challenge, gradually lighten the hand contact of the sliding arm, which will lessen the amount of assistance from the sliding arm while increasing the load of the working arm.  Removing assistance from the sliding arm also drastically increases the amount anti-rotation stress as the exercise inches closer to a true single arm push-up.

Increasing the difficulty¬†can be accomplished¬†several ways, but the most honest approach would be to lessen the contact to just the fingertips. ¬†Start with all five fingertips, progress to three fingers, two-fingers (thumb and pointer)… etc.

Before you know it, you’ll need a weight vest, at which point you’ll begin from the bottom rung of the progression once again, with palm firmly on the carpet slide.

Regression: ¬†Make it easier…

To decrease the challenge, wrap a band around your torso and anchor the band to a point directly overhead. ¬†The band will assist you during¬†the hardest point¬†of the exercise when you’ll need help¬†the most. ¬†For most, the hardest point¬†will be the bottom of the push-up.

No carpet?  

Carpet slides work on hard surfaces also. ¬†I’ve used them on hardwood and cement floors with great success. ¬†Of course, this will limit the lifespan of the carpet slides, so if you’re going this route, purchase cheap slides at your local home improvement store. ¬†A pack of carpet slides at Menard’s near me costs $2.99. ¬†Cheap.

A suspension training set to the lowest possible height (without making contact with the floor) will also work.

The other option tools like the Ab Dolly,¬†HAVYK Sliders, or a more budget friendly option like Core Coasters. ¬†All¬†have wheels which make them ideal tools for hard surfaces. ¬†These options cost significantly more than the carpet slides, but you’ll find a plethora of uses for each, making them a worthy investment.

Early in the article, I suggestioned using furniture slides as a viable alternative to carpet slides designed for fitness.  There is a slight difference in my experience, being that fitness specific carpet slides typically have a much better integrity.  The manufacturers know that these are going to be used frequently, the design is more durable.

Here are some fitness carpet slides on Amazon.

No equipment at all?

Worst case scenario, I’ve done these push-ups without any tools period. ¬†Doing so requires minimal weight on the sliding hand, but it works just the same.

User beware, going this route is intense. ¬†There’s going to be way more friction on the floor ¬†without a slide. ¬†This is ok, just be aware that it might be too aggressive.

The end…

That’s all folks. ¬†I’ve written too much already, way too much.

Give this baby a try.  Mix it in wherever you see fit.  Ask questions as you have them.

 

 

Kyle

 

 

 

Great Alternatives to Abdominal Crunches: Anti-Extension Roll Outs (aka: Ab Wheel Roll Outs)

Quick Tips

Crunches are dead?

It’s been said that traditional abdominal crunches are a dead exercise, and I mostly agree with this position.

Actually, I don’t think crunches are as bad as most people claim they are.

The micro-trauma to the lower back is definitely there and further shortening the abdominal muscles even more than they already are in people who sit a lot can be disastrous.

But the biggest issue that I have with crunches is that I have no idea what they are good for?

There is one of the most non-functional exercises I have ever seen.

Laying flat on your back, performing hundreds of tiny little crunches to make your belly burn is ridiculous to think about.  Flex, extend, flex extend, flex, extend.

My personal belief is if I cannot justify why I am including something in a workout then it should be discarded immediately.

I cannot justify crunching.

I’ve transitioned my stance on crunches to the following statement: ¬†“I don’t hate crunches, but I do think there are much better alternatives to the traditional crunch that deserve exploring”.

Websites and magazines that are bashing crunches rarely provide any alternatives in their articles. ¬†If you’re going to tell the world how shitty an exercise is, tell us what to do instead. ¬†Ranting about how shitty crunches are isn’t doing anything for anyone. ¬†Sure, maybe you’ll raise some awareness to the cause, but help us find a better solution to the problem. ¬†

Building on that point, simply naming an alternative isn’t enough. ¬†You have to not only identify a better alternative but then teach people how to properly execute that alternative.

This is a value that I really want to provide on this blog moving forward.  No secrets or Jedi mind tricks, just good information that you can apply immediately.

Video: Anti-extension rollouts look like this:

What it is: Anti-extension rollouts are a core exercise variation for the anterior (front) of your torso, which as the name implies, are designed to reinforce your body’s ability to resist falling into extension. ¬†If you watch the video above, you can see how gravity wants to pull my body towards the floor as I roll out further into extension.

How to do it: The cues for an exercise like this are rather simple.  Actively pressurize and brace your core prior to initiating any movement.  As you begin to roll out, consciously avoid breaking at the lower back while maintaining a straight line from knees to the top of my head.  Doing this makes this exercise very challenging, especially as you increase the distance that the hands travel away from your knees, which increases the range of motion.

Regressions: How to make ab rollouts easier: ¬†If you’re a beginner or simply lack the strength and the stability to execute a full roll-out, fear not because there are several options to acclimate yourself to this exercise. ¬†The first option would be to roll out on an incline, which would ease you into extension and also give you momentum as your return back to the start position. ¬†The second option would be to roll out toward a wall, having the wall provide a contact stopping point when the wheel hits the wall. ¬†This is a great option because you can be extremely precise with the distance the wheel travels, progressing each week as you gain strength and stability.

Progressions: How to make ab rollouts harder:¬†If you’re strong, there are several progressions to make this exercise killer. ¬†The first option is to roll out on a decline. ¬†The decline will cause the wheel (and your body) to gain momentum and travel faster away from the knees, and also make it more difficult to return to the start position. ¬†In other words, the extension part of the exercise and the contraction back to start part of the exercise both become more challenging. ¬†The second option is to anchor one end of a resistance band to an immovable object- like a bench, squat rack or door- and loop the other end around the handles of the ab wheel. ¬†The band provides forces that act to pull you into extension sooner, and also gives added resistance on the return to the start position. ¬†This is a flat ground variation of the decline roll out.

If you’re really a stud, forget about rolling out on your knees. ¬†Stand up and roll out from there. ¬†Yup, that’s correct, you’re going to start bent over with your hands on the wheel, rolling out slowly until you reach full extension- arms extended above the head and chest facing the floor- and then return without any break of the lower back. ¬†I would say that 1-2% of the population will be able to execute a technically acceptable standing roll out. ¬†But hey, it’s something to work toward.

When and where to do it: ¬†Core training can happen wherever you want it to in a workout. ¬†Beginning, middle or end, it doesn’t matter much in my mind. ¬†If you’re especially weak in the mid-section, you might want to save your ab rollouts for the end of the workout so that it doesn’t adversely effect any of your other lifts. ¬†Adding rollouts to a tri-set is very time effective and keeps the pace of the workout high. ¬†It would look something like this:

1a)  Squat

2a)  Chin Up

3a)  Anti-Extension Rollouts

You’d work from 1a to 2a to 3a, then after finishing 3a, you repeat the process until you finish the sets you’ve got planned for the workout.

As for sets and reps, it’s dependent on your current fitness level. ¬†However, ideally you can get 2-4 sets of 8-10 reps for each set, using a 30X0 tempo on the movement itself. ¬†What does 30X0 mean?

3 – The number of seconds that it takes to go from the start position into full extension (end range of motion).

0- The number of seconds spent at end range of motion.

X- The speed with which you return, which in this case “X” means explode.

0- The seconds spent at the starting position of the exercise

Exercise tempo has great influence on the training effect of an exercise.  Time spent under tension is important to exhibit body control in space and also to develop useful lean muscle.  Increasing the time that your core musculature are aggressively contracted will work wonders in your quest to achieve elusive six-pack abs.

My personal take on six-pack abs:  They should be a reward for smart training, never the sole goal of working out in the first place.  If you are doing the right things- eating smart and training smarter- anyone can have a six-pack without putting much thought into it.

Some professionals have included roll outs into circuits, but I am not a fan. ¬†Core training is extremely detailed training. ¬†You should be nearly fully recovered before starting each set. ¬†Fatigue is an exercise technique killer, so I haven’t found intra-circuit ab roll outs to be very smart. ¬†I’d rather save my core work for the end of the training session, when all of my energy and attention can be directed to executing each rep with perfect, or near perfect form. ¬†This is just a personal preference based on my experiences.

—> Other variations I have played with:

Half/quarter reps:  These are more challenging than you might think because your core gets no relief from contraction by going half-way out.  It is tough to stop the movement short and bring it back in.  Sometimes I will execute a full rep roll out, come back in  half way, then go back out to full extension in an alternating fashion.  Your abdominals will be on fire in short time by doing this.

Right/Left roll outs:  Instead of going dead center, roll slightly left and right of your body, alternating every rep.

Decreased base of support:  Instead of supporting on two knees, remove one from the ground surface.  As you roll out, hover one knee above the ground as the other knee supports.  This is extremely challenging.

Slow reps: ¬†Instead of 3 seconds on the way out, make it last 10+ seconds. ¬†This is tough. ¬†Or, make the roll out last 5 seconds, hold extension for 5 seconds, roll back for 5 seconds. ¬†That’s 15 seconds of TUT (time under tension). ¬†1-3 reps of this will make your muscles tremble.

Equipment Substitutions: ¬†While the anti-extension roll out is most commonly executed using an ab wheel, it doesn’t have to be. ¬†Suspension trainers, carpet slides, physic-balls, barbells, ab dollys, power wheels, etc. ¬†I won’t go into detail here because I could write 4 more posts about awesome exercise variations. ¬†I’ll get this done for you.

Here is a clip of what suspension trainer variation:

Anti-extension roll outs are an effective exercise for building the core aesthetically and reinforcing important functional features of the torso muscles. ¬†It’s important to be able to resist forces (known or unknown) that act on the body. ¬†The core is the conduit that connects the upper and lower halves of the body. ¬†It’s important to be mindful of building the core to preserve body health and also to take your performance to another level. ¬†As we age, it is also important to keep the core functioning as it should to reduce the likelihood of unnecessary injuries.

Cheers to more effective core training!

KG

Want to Train Your Core?

Core Training

The Summer months provide an incredible time to get outside and move around.

Whether you are going for an after dinner walk, a 30 mile bike ride, or throwing your suspension trainer around branch and working through a bodyweight circuit, the weather is perfect for exercise and building a lean body.

Core training will always be a popular topic.  I have come to grips with that.

When people think of individuals that are fit, they often picture a lean muscular body and …

… abdominals.

Right?!

It’s true though. ¬†I have to say that I don’t think that core training is bad, I just think that we need to bring some clarity to what constitutes safe and effective core training and also how to unveil your hidden six-pack.

What is safe?

Well, safe core training today is heavily based on the landmark research coming from Stuart McGill and others.  Their recommendations is this… spare your spine!  By spine sparing, we need to train the  torso musculature to stabilize the spine, protect it, and serve as the transfer zone between the upper and lower body.

The abdominals are mainly built to STOP motion, not create motion.

Safe core training IS NOT CRUNCHES.

Safe core training IS NOT partner leg throws.

Safe core training is not cable crunches, or whatever this guy is doing below…

Enter:  The Slosh Pipe

The picture above is a 9ft PVC slosh pipe will 2/3 full with water. ¬†The PVC is 3″ in circumference and the pipe weighs around 30-32lbs.

You might be saying, “That’s not a lot of weight”.

That is what I thought.  Until I picked it up and nearly face planted from the instability of the water thrashes left/right inside of the pipe.

For around $20 and 5 minutes of assembly, anyone can build a slosh pipe. ¬†Yes, it is 9ft tall so it may not be realistic for everyone if you don’t have somewhere to store it. ¬†Consider that before purchasing.

I first met the slosh pipe 5 years ago.  It was one of the toughest workouts I had ever engaged in.  The worst part was how simple the workout was…

  • Pick up the slosh pipe and walk as far as possible.
  • Put the slosh pipe down and recover.

It kicked my ass. ¬†My body was on fire from reacting and correcting instability of the pipe. ¬†I walked Zercher style, across my shoulders and finally with arms extending overhead. ¬†I loved it. ¬†Reactive core training at it’s best.

Just another simple example of a piece of home equipment that can be made in a matter of minutes for a minimal monetary investment.

*** ¬†If you are worried about what people think when they see you walking around with it‚Ķ don’t worry‚Ķ most people don’t think much anyways. ¬†At least you took the initiative to get off your ass ūüôā