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:

Alternatives to Ido Portal Method

Ido Portal
Screen Shot 2017-07-02 at 10.34.09 AM.png

“Coming soon” since 2013…

I’ve been checking the Ido Portal Method website for 7 years hoping the “store” page would populate with a few online products.  

Take my money Ido Portal, take my money.

7 straight years of, “Coming Soon”.

I’m confident saying Ido Portal is not going to write a book or create a digital product.

Ido has mentioned in interviews he doesn’t want to chain his work to the “foreverness” of a book.  

Plus Ido Portal Method training philosophy is constantly evolving and expanding, so he’d likely have to compose a 10,000-page book on movement training, which would receive weekly edits for all eternity. 

Like others who wanted to know more about The Ido Portal Method, I started to compile notes from his old blogs, YouTube videos, and interviews.  The idea was to collect enough information, sort it out and begin piecing together a program for myself.

But at some point, I’d burned out.  

I started researching alternatives.  Something that could bring me close to the Ido Portal Method style of training, without wrecking my bank account (more on that below).

While the Ido Portal Method has brand name recognition (with movement training), I knew there had to be other training systems comparable to, possibly even better.

Initial search results confirmed that there were some amazing alternatives.  

The Bones of Ido Portal Method

Weeks of sorting through older content on Ido’s first blog, YouTube videos, and other media was time-consuming and painful.  

But, it gave me valuable insight into his movement philosophy.  

Deconstructing his training methods, it becomes clear Ido Portal Method is a carefully organized hybrid system.

A collection of many different disciplines and methods:

  •  Ground-Based Conditioning  
  •  Gymnastics
  •  Traditional Resistance Training
  •  Mobility 

Categorizing the main elements provided clarity on what to look for during my alternative program search.

Again, looking through the magnifying glass, one will find elements of gymnastics, locomotion, Yoga, traditional resistance training, dance, Capoeira along with mobility training from Functional Range Conditioning (FRC).

Most of these methods are bodyweight-based.  However, Ido does utilize barbells, dumbbells and other tools to train strength or loaded stretching.

“Expensive Machines, Cheap Bodies”, is a classic theme inside Ido’s camp.

While I disagree with going cold turkey on all gym gadgets, I do understand Ido’s point of view.  People get lured into thinking they need fancy fitness machines to get into shape, build strength, etc.

You don’t.

Equipment manufacturers do not care if you buy their products only to love it when a customer buys a product, only to use it for drying wet laundry.  They have your money, you have clutter.

The potency and power of a simple gym set up can be humbling.  A pair of gymnastics rings, an overhead pull up bar, a space to crawl/roll and a willingness to train hard more than enough to make huge gains.

The Rise of Locomotion

Ido Portal did not invent locomotion, crawling and floor flow sequences.

I know this will be difficult for some people to read, but humans crawl as babies during early development and flow-oriented training has been around for generations.

He can be credited with being one of the first to post locomotion work on YouTube.

Crawling/locomotion, bridging and various “Floreio” elements is a great way to expand workouts away from linear exercises.  It’s easy to see the Capoeira influence.

Locomotion exercises can be progressed similarly to traditional exercises, giving beginners an opportunity to practice regressions while offering advanced trainees some really difficult patterns.

Along the way, isolated locomotion work is fused with other movements to create sequences.

Movement 20XX (a digital program from Vahva Fitness described below) was one of the first programs I found to be teaching a similar ground-based conditioning/locomotion curriculum at a FRACTION OF THE COST.

Newsflash:  Online coaching with Ido Portal Method is expensive as shit.

How do you quantify “expensive as shit”?

Expensive as shit = $1,000-$2,000 for 3 months (3-4 hrs per day, 6 days per week)

2BD9B891-B5DF-4E46-92BA-620C81CE406F

Price tag 6 years ago, best believe it’s higher now. 

It’s unlikely you’ll be coached by Ido Portal himself, but rather one of his students.  Plus, they reserve the right to fire you with zero refund.

People can justify and afford to spend $150 on a program.  Especially one with zero compromises in content and coaching, and likely a superior delivery with stream quality and support.

Across 12 months, that’s $15 per month.  Very doable.  

Spotlighted below are a few training systems worth exploring:

Movement 20XX

Movement 20XX

Movement 20XX is a bodyweight based training system that uses ground-based conditioning exercises and combinations to create pre-planned flows and movement sequences.  

Natural movement training.

Students start out by training movements in isolation, gaining strength, stability and fluidity prior to transitioning into movement sequences, and eventually improvised flow work. 

Movement 20XX blends many different movement disciplines, cherry-picking the best elements from Parkour, Yoga, bodyweight training, etc.

I started working on beginner locomotion years ago.  Doing so changed everything about my movement quality, capacity and confidence.  

It also started a shift in how I viewed the “working out” and fitness.   

The first few weeks of crawling was no joke.  It was humbling and I sucked.  But in time, my body adapted to the demands, graduating from stiff and immobile… to pliable, dynamic and strong.

My early attempts at the lizard crawl were ugly.

It’s a tough pattern.  The body position and range of motion were foreign, and the timing of the hand/foot movements was a challenge to manage.  Getting into the low position was challenging (trademark of the lizard crawl), much less moving anywhere.

I reluctantly swallowed my pride and started training as a true beginner.  The basics of crawling became my daily practice.

With practice, progression and adaptation, the Lizard Crawl became one of my favorite locomotion patterns, and still is to this day.

I experiment with a lot of hybrid variations of the lizard crawl now, along with integrating it into conditioning circuits.  Nothing like sucking wind while crawling 1 inch off the floor.  Whew.

Locomotion exercises are primarily quadrupedal (4 points of contact with arms and legs) and move the body through a natural (yet uncommon) range of motion, reconnecting the upper and lower extremities, challenge the torso muscles, timing, etc.  

I include a variety of crawling patterns in nearly all of my workouts.  

Currently, I use crawling patterns inside of pre-workout warm-ups (daily tune-up) on strength-focused days, as part of work capacity circuits or with bodyweight based flow sessions.  

The bodyweight based flow sessions are fun and equally challenging for the body and mind.  The premise is simple.  I move around a room without a plan for 10, 15, 20+  minutes.  

Here’s an example flow…

 

A lot of crawling and locomotion patterns I integrated from Ido Portal Method (skimming the blogs and social media) are being taught by Eero Westerberg in Movement20XX, which is why the program made the list as a valid alternative to Ido Portal online coaching.

Movement 20XX was designed to be effective when used remotely, which makes it great for training at home or while traveling.  The program design is progressive and structurally sound.  

 

Global Bodyweight Training

Screen Shot 2017-12-11 at 6.12.15 AM

Strength is a critical component of becoming a better mover.  

Dare I say… strength might be the most important of them all.

Strength comes in many forms.  Strength doesn’t always have to be associated with bench pressing 3x your bodyweight, deadlifting a truck or heaving a 300lb atlas stone onto a platform.

A full range of motion single arm push up is a demonstration of pure strength.

As I get older, I care less and less about quantifying my performance with numbers (weight on the barbell, etc).

What I do care about, is how my body feels the other 23 hours a day (when I’m not training) and also what I’m able to with my body in both known and unknown situations where I need to be able to perform.

There’s some truth to the old saying, “Nice body, what can you do with it?”

Bodyweight Athlete curriculum introduces and educates people on the power of leveraging bodyweight based strength training.  

When I found Global Bodyweight Training, the first thing I noticed was how closely the curriculum matched what I had designed for myself.  It was nearly a carbon copy.

I’d recently decided to trim the fat with regard to exercise selection and variation, choosing to pursue higher-level bodyweight patterns like single-arm push-ups, single-leg squat variations, handstand positioned pressing, L-Sits, etc.

Progressive bodyweight training requires plenty of body tension, attention to detail and refinement of technique.

Bodyweight Athlete is a structurally sound training program for anyone interested in experiencing the potency of bodyweight training.  

The best part about bodyweight training is it can be taken ANYWHERE.  

You’re never without an opportunity to workout.

Bodyweight-based patterns included in the curriculum:

  • Muscle Ups
  • Handstand Push-Ups
  • Single Arm Push-Ups
  • Single Arm Body Rows
  • Pistol Squats
  • Handstands
  • L-Sits
  • Human Flag 
  • Back Levers

The exercise progressions listed can be scaled for any level fitness, from beginner or elite level movers.

 

Carefully selected exercises and well-timed progression of those exercises are extremely powerful.

The human body is an adaptation machine.  In order to continue making progress, you’ve got to increase the challenge somewhere.  Increasing the challenge can mean adding load, complexity, volume, time under tension, etc.

Quality programs are designed to condition the body progressively and safely.  You want to boost performance while limiting the chance of injury during training.

Regarding injuries, always remember there is life outside of the gym.  If you’re destroying your body while working out, life is going suck.  Dealing with daily aches and pains, dysfunction and injury is no way to live.

Keep the needle moving… safely.  Your gym work should enhance your life, not take away from it.

Bodyweight Athlete emphasizes joint mobility work, core conditioning, self-myofascial release, and breathwork.  These are lesser-known elements (yet important) of a comprehensive approach to building a body.  

It’s easy to become fixated on the sexy part of the program… the exercises.

Building a high performing body is a multi-faceted approach.

Mobility, establishing and expanding your useable range of motion, is CRITICAL.

I’ll go ahead and say mobility training IS strength training.

Keeping joints buttery and strong contributes to adding useable strength to your frame and also avoiding doctor’s visits for preventable joint conditions later in life.  

Core training.  Lots of people have gone deaf to the importance of training the core.  It’s hard to pinpoint exactly why, but I think it could be because people are wasting their time with most core-focused exercises.  

In fitness, the pendulum always seems to swing too far in one direction (with concepts, machines, techniques, etc) and people get hyper-focused on things for a little while before the novelty eventually fades.

I think this is sort of what happened with core training.

Just like low load/high volume bodyweight exercises (1000 bodyweight squat workouts) do very little for increasing raw strength, limited range of motion crunches and sloppy toe-to-bar work also do little to contribute to developing a functional core.  

(Oh. My. God.  He said “functional”.  Send me a better word and I’ll edit it out)

Take a single arm push up.  If your mid-section is weak, you’ll know within the first 6 inches of the descent.  Low back with fold, ribs will flare, compensatory movement becomes the default operating system.

Approach your core training like you’d approach building other patterns (squat, deadlift, pulling, pushing, etc) and you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

Core conditioning still matters.

Check out Global Bodyweight Training

Strength and Movement Training

Everyone will read and digest this article differently (seeing value or maybe not seeing as much value) and I understand that we all have different financial budgets for investing in programs.  

That being said, I do believe that combining the strength work from The Bodyweight Athlete with the ground-based conditioning elements (crawling, locomotion, etc) taught in Movement20XX is an extremely powerful approach to take.  

You’re getting the best of both worlds.  Strength and natural movement training.

Train elements from each in the same workout, or, alternate every workout.

I’ve used both approaches and found each to be equally effective and enjoyable.

Either way, you’re going to make great progress.

Follow a system

Find a training system and follow it.

I’ve provided a few options for you to look into, please do.

Skipping around from program to program, using bits and pieces of various techniques doesn’t deliver the same results when compared to digging in and following every detail from a full training system.  

Building fitness and movement capacity is a multi-faceted endeavor.  

There’s plenty to consider and monitor. 

Strength, mobility, movement training, traditional resistance training all play a significant role in creating a strong, well-conditioned, injury resistant, dynamic body.

It’s a lot to think about, it’s not easy, but in time you’ll begin to gain an understanding of how to building a body.  The path to improvement should be simple, not complex.

Avoid the minutiae of complex training systems.  Both of the programs above are structured with clear communication, free of B.S. and straight to the point.

Keep it simple.  Work hard, stay consistent, bust your ass when you’re training and remember to give your body rest when necessary.

The best advice I can offer is to limit the “paralysis by analysis” and exhaustive research.

Yes, do your own homework and self-educate, observe which programs are worth trying out, but ultimately remember to settle on 1 or 2 get into the gym to do the work.

Nobody ever  “thought” themselves into a better moving body with less body fat.

At some point, you must get your hands dirty and move, even if you’re god awful.  If you’re new to this stuff, lord knows, you might be god awful.

Keep at it and your body will begin to adapt.  You’ll move with improved grace, balance, strength, and confidence.

In the beginning, nobody knows what the hell they are doing.  Not Ido Portal, not me, no one.

096DE450-8242-4982-AF49-20013929D2D0

If you’d like to see what I’m up to, check the Meauxtion YouTube channel or Instagram to see what my daily training looks like from a home gym. 

 

Cheers to your success,

Kyle