?? 8 Core Exercises You Don’t Know (Probably)



Table of Contents

  1. What can you do with a stronger core?
  2. Stabilizers vs Movers
  3. Why you should read on
  4. Unilateral Deadlifts
  5. Unilateral Step Ups
  6. Single Arm Bottoms Up Kettlebell Squat
  7. Seated Pallof Press
  8. Gymnastic Push Ups
  9. Plank- Hip Taps
  10. Plank- Row Iso Hold
  11. Ring Dip Holds
  12. Practice quality over quantity
  13. The Workouts



??Feel free to skip around as you please!








What can you do with a stronger core?


Having a stronger core enables you to move better in and outside of the gym. It can help prevent injuries, improve your posture and enhance your overall fitness.


It doesn’t matter if you are a weekend warrior, a golfer, a grandfather or a computer programmer that sits all day writing code. Having a stronger core will improve the quality of your life.


Before we dive into the exercises let’s first briefly define what is the core?


core exercises



The core is much more than just your abdominals. It is composed of a group of muscles that surround the stomach area as well as the hips, back and shoulders. These muscles protect, stabilize and move our trunk. They allow our trunk to bend forward (flexion), bend backwards (extension) and bend side ways (lateral flexion), as well as to remain upright. 




Stabilizers vs Movers


Some muscles have the responsibility or task of purposely creating movement. These are usually big muscles such as the lats (back), pecs (chest) quads and hamstrings (legs). These muscles are called movers or prime movers.


There are other muscles that have more of a stabilizing role. These muscle are smaller and usually hidden, underneath the bigger muscles. These stabilizers help keep the joints and bones nicely aligned during exercises that require movement (push ups), as well as exercises that require us to be static (plank).


The core exercises on this list will target both of these types of muscles. Though most people are concerned about how their core looks, these exercises will also improve how the core functions.


Why you should read on:


  • Learn total-body core exercises. Exercises that will target not just your abs, but your back, chest or legs as well.
  • Burn more calories by engaging more muscles.
  • Let’s get real, sit ups can be boring. These exercises are not only more effective, but some of these are even fun to do.



Unilateral Deadlifts


Unilateral Deadlift


There are three core exercises on this list that will require you to perform them unilaterally. Unilateral exercises are movements that are done using only one limb. A single arm dumbbell row is an example, and so is a single arm kettlebell press. A bilateral exercise is a movement that is done with two limbs. A goblet squat or a close-grip bench press are examples of bilateral movements.


Unilateral exercises will require your stabilizing muscles to come into play. However, incorporating bilateral exercises will get you stronger, simply because you can move more weight with two limbs as opposed to only one.


The unilateral deadlift will target your quads, hamstrings, back, obliques, traps and glutes. To feel your obliques really work you will have to select a weight that is somewhat heavy, but not too heavy where you can’t perform the movement correctly.


· Place a kettlebell or a dumbbell on the floor towards the outer corner of one foot.

· Then hinge at your hips to pick up the kettlebell or dumbbell. Don’t simply bend at your spine. I covered how to do a hinge on a previous post. Read it here.

· Then using your hamstrings, glutes and lower back, pick up the kettlebell and stand straight up.

· Your objective is to resist the weight of the kettlebell/dumbbell from bending your torso sideways. This resistance will greatly challenge your core stabilizers.

· Don’t let your arm come out of its socket.


Perform 8-10 reps per side.



Unilateral Step Ups


Unilateral Step Ups


Unilateral Step Ups- Side View


The unilateral step up is another unilateral exercise. It targets your quads, glutes, hips, obliques and traps.


· Stand in front of a box or bench.

· Hold a kettlebell or dumbbell at your sides. If you’re holding it with your right hand then step up on to the platform with your right leg.

· Fully extend your leg at the top.

· You want to resist your torso from bending side ways (towards the right). This is often called a anti-lateral flexion exercise.

· Just like in the previous example, your obliques and quadrutus lumborom muscles will work extra hard.

· Don’t let your arm come out of its socket either.


Perform 8-10 reps per side.


Single Arm Bottoms Up Kettlebell Squat


Single Arm Bottoms Up Kettlebell Squat



The single arm bottoms up kettlebell squat is the third core/lower body exercise.


· Grab a kettlebell and turn it upside down.

· Slightly push the kettlebell away from your body. Your elbow should be just underneath your arm pit.

· Then under control, shoot your hips back on to a deep squat. Inhale as you go down.

· Then stand up (exhale) as you go back up to starting position.


Perform 10-12 reps per side.


Seated Pallof Press


Seated Pallof Press


The seated pallof press is an anti-rotation exercise. Anti-rotation, like the name implies, are exercises that resist rotation. 


This exercise is quite simple to learn. You can use a resistance band as I am doing in the picture above, or you can use a cable machine. I personally like the tension of the resistance band better.


· Sit next to the anchor point. Place your feet about shoulder with apart.

· You can either clasp your hand through the band or you can grab it over hand with both hands.

· Position your hands about chest height at the midline of the body.

· Remain upright. Push your arms out and keep them straight.

· Don’t let the band’s resistance rotate towards the anchor point.

· Breathe throughout the hold.


Hold this position for 20-30 seconds per side.


Gymnastic Push Ups


Gymnastic Push Ups


The gymanstic push up is push variation that will greatly challenge the abdominals, triceps, shoulders and chest.


· Start in a push up position, then lean forward with straight arms. You want to have a protracted scapula (rounded upper back).


Image credit – http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/f/f9/Protraction_Retraction.png


· Your shoulders should be in front of  your wrists. Most of your body should be shifted forward.

· Tuck your pelvis underneath you and squeeze your butt.

· Stay on the balls of your feet through out the entire exercise.

· Once you’re in a good hollow position, perform push ups with your elbows tucked towards your rib cage.


Perform 10-15 reps.



Plank- Hip Taps


Plank- Hip Taps


Plank- Hip Taps


You may have heard of shoulder taps, these are a bit similar. I got this exercise from attending Carley Siedlecki’s yoga class at Exhale Spa at the Epic in Downtown Miami. To be honest, i’m not sure what’s the name of this exercise.  This exercise will target your abdominals and lower back while challenging shoulder and hip stability.


· Get in a plank position with your feet and shoulders about shoulders width apart.

· Without leaning or rotating towards one side, extend one arm to reach the opposite hip.

· Then slowly return that hand back to the ground.


Plank- Row Iso Hold


Plank- Row Iso Hold


Plank- Row Iso Hold


The most common way to progress a plank is to simply hold the plank for a longer period, but there’s so many ways to make it difficult. We can play around with the angle of the plank, our hand/feet position, we can wear a weighted a vest or we can use 3 limbs to support our body instead of 4 like in the example above. I got this example from the talented and creative trainer Ben Bruno.


This exercise will target your abdominals, lower/mid back and biceps while challenging shoulder and hip stability.


· Get in a plank position with your feet and shoulders about shoulders width apart.

· Grab a dumbbell and row it towards the middle of your chest. You won’t return the dumbbell back to the starting position yet. This type of muscle contraction is called an isometric contraction. Iso or Isometric exercises are movements where the muscle length does not change while contracting.

· Since this plank variation requires only one arm, it will demand a greater stability on the shoulder of the arm that remains on the ground.


Hold this plank for 20-40 seconds per side.


Ring Dip Holds


Ring Dip Holds


Ring dip holds is the most advanced exercise on this list. Working with rings will require different stabilizers in your core and shoulders to work extra hard to keep your trunk tight and under control. If you don’t have access to a pair of gymnastic rings, or if this exercise is too challenging for you then use a standard dip bar. The dip bar can still be challenging.


The exercise will target your abs, triceps, chest, lats and shoulders.


· Get on top of a pair of gymnastic rings with your elbows locked out.

· Push yourself away from the rings where you will create a hollow body.

· Keep your arms close to your torso for better control.

· Don’t let your head sag like this here.


Hold this position for 20-40 seconds per side.


The Workouts


two core workouts






Practice quality over quantity.


There’s many ways to work on your core that doesn’t include an endless amount of sit ups or crunches. Core exercises can be dynamic and engage more muscles than just our abdominals. We don’t need to be on our backs to train our core. In life and in sport, using our core requires us to move. I’ve seen people bouncing on a bosu or swiss ball and calling that crunches. Make your body work harder and efficiently by practicing these exercises with control and good form.


Which movements will you be incorporating into your routines? Let me know in the comments below.