Non-Traditional Core Exercises


by Becca Egan, BS, NASM-CPT

Everyone has their “go-to” ab or core exercises. And when most people think of ab exercises the first few that pop into their head are probably: sits ups, crunches, or plank (and plank variations). However, recent research has concluded that these probably aren’t the best and definitely not the most effective for building a solid core foundation. Read on to learn how to challenge your core (and many other muscles) in new ways!

Suspended Pushup - Set up rings, a Jungle Gym XT, or TRX straps so that the handles are a foot off the ground. Get into pushup position with your feet on a box or platform of equal height. This is basically a plank taken to the next level. Be sure to contract your glutes forcefully and brace your abs like you were going to take a punch, along with simultaneously working the upper body! No A-framing (tenting the butt up) or sagging hips allowed!

Farmers Walk - Choose a moderately heavy pair of dumbbells, kettlebells, or dedicated farmers walk implements and walk anywhere from 20-50 yards while keeping your chest up and shoulders back. This will strength your grip strength as well!

Deadlift - Powerlifting coaches have repeatedly talked about the importance of strong obliques in locking out a deadlift. That’s of course, because these muscles, along with several others in the midsection, are called upon greatly when picking up heavy weights off the floor. Works almost every muscle in your posterior chain as well!

One Arm Flat Dumbbell Press - To perform this properly, lie down so that your hips are hanging off the end of a flat bench with a dumbbell or kettlebell in one hand. The non-working arm should be out to the side or on your stomach. Before starting make sure that you really corkscrew your feet into the ground and press down hard. Do a few heavy sets of these and tell me if you don’t feel your midsection working!

One Arm Overhead Press - Grab a dumbbell or kettlebell and press it straight overhead. Be sure to hold it at the lockout for a second or two while all of the muscles of the midsection contract forcefully. Offsetting the load by doing this with one arm dramatically increases the stress on the obliques.

L-Sit - If you’ve seen the abs of a male gymnast then you already know how effective this exercise is. If you’re not strong enough to do this on rings you can use dip bars or even two benches or stools of equal height. Support yourself in the top position of a dip and bend both knees 90 degrees. Now raise your thighs until they are parallel with the floor. As this gets easier work your way toward extending your legs. Hold this position for 10-30 seconds per set.

Standing Leg Lifts - The muscles in the abdomen include the transversus abdominis, rectus abdominis muscles, and the pyramidalis muscle. Though these muscles usually work in tandem, standing leg lifts strengthen mostly the lower abdominal muscles. To do a forward leg lift, stand with your weight on the right leg with the right knee slightly bent. While keeping the back straight, slowly raise the left leg out in front of you, keeping the left leg as straight as you can without locking the knee. Hold for 10 seconds, lower the leg and switch to the other side. Repeat the exercise doing three sets of six repetitions on each leg.