These six movements are especially effective in targeting the midsection.
What is the "Core"1 of 8
When most people say "core," they mean the abdominal muscles, but the full core actually includes any muscles and structures that support and stabilize the pelvis, spine and shoulders.
With this definition in mind, exercises that control movement, specifically extension, flexion and rotation are solid options.
So while we train most muscles to move and accelerate, we should train our core musculature to decelerate, control and transfer movements—that means lying down and pulling on the back of your head to facilitate cervical and thoracic flexion (i.e. sit-ups) may not be the best option.
Controlling for factors like a healthy diet and genes, these exercises give you the best shot at developing a stronger core.
Stability Ball Stir the Pots2 of 8
This is a great progression from the traditional plank. By adding an unstable tool, such as the stability ball, we increase the stability challenge. Also, by elevating the feet and incorporating small movements such as circles, or spelling the alphabet, we can really challenge the core muscles on both the front and backside of the body.
Be sure to maintain a neutral spine throughout.
Anti-Extension (ab wheel, barbell rollouts)3 of 8
Start on your knees and slowly roll straight out in front of you. Be sure to "bring your hips along" and don't just extend your arms. Extend far enough to engage the abs and really brace the core as you think about using your abs and rounding your spine to pull yourself back to the starting position.
It's important to not go too far out on this movement and drop into an excessive lumbar extension.
Pallof Press4 of 8
Start by standing perpendicular to the anchor point and with the tubing in your hands. Keeping a shoulder-width stance and your abs braced, create a triangle shape with your body and your arms by extending your arms straight out in front of you. Slowly bring the hands in to the chest and then extend them back out.
Maintain your triangle and do not allow the band to pull your hands off center.
Seal Walks5 of 8
This is a great "anti-rotation" movement because our goal is to minimize the rotation of the pelvis as we move. Keep your legs straight, abdominals braced and be sure to not lock out your elbows as you move.
Dragonflag6 of 8
Made popular by Bruce Lee, this exercise requires a great deal of core strength. When at the "top" of the movement, make sure you're supporting your weight with your upper back and not your neck. You also want to apply constant tension by gripping hard into the bench.
Upon lowering the legs, use a slow and controlled movement, maintain a neutral spine and try not to excessively arch the back.
Hanging Windshield Wipers (Advanced Move)7 of 8
Perform this in a controlled manner and don't feel like you need to go too far from side to side. You need a certain amount of core control and grip strength to get into this exercise, so this may not best for beginners.
Once you are you hanging from the bar, swing your legs up so you are inverted with your ankles, knees and hips in a straight line, perpendicular to the ground. From here, let the legs fall from side to side controlling the speed and movement from your obliques, erectors, lats and abs.