Many men want a six-pack (and some women), and other women want a slim midsection. Yep, I’m talking about the core, abs, mid-section, torso, or whatever you call it. Before going any further, my definition of ‘the core’ is every muscle between your ribs and your glutes—got it? Good, because contrary to popular belief, the core is more than just the six-pack.

But when you scroll through your social media feeds, you’ll see rippling six-packs and weird and wonderful exercises that ‘crush your core.’ Who wants to crush their core anyway? Crushing is for empty cans and for opponents you don’t like. But the core…..please.

You think those exercises are so excellent and effective that you’ll try them. And then you think to yourself, ouch, how did they make this look so easy? Here are three reasons why.

1. They do this for a living.

2. Practice makes perfect.

3. Either good genetics, good coaching, or both.

This is not to say they are not good exercises, but they can’t be effective if you cannot do them. Here, I’ll cut through the B.S. and give you four core exercises that work for me and my clients. Plus, you can do them without tying yourself up in knots. Let’s dive in.

Core Anatomy

The most well-known core muscle is the rectus abdominis or the six-pack muscle. But there are two other core muscles you don’t get as much love and attention, and here they are. 

Rectus Abdominis (Abs)

The rectus abs runs vertically up the front of the torso, and its primary functions are spinal flexion (crunches) and anti-extension (planks). This muscle originates from the pubic symphysis, pubic crest, and pubic tubercle and inserts on the xiphoid process and costal cartilages of the 5th to 7th ribs.


The obliques comprise internal and external muscles beside the rectus abs and run from the hips to the rib cage. The external oblique originates at the outer surfaces of the ribs five through 12 and inserts the Linea alba, pubic tubercle, and anterior half of the iliac crest around the pelvis.

The internal obliques are under the external obliques, and the inner oblique muscle fibers travel perpendicular to each other. These muscles start from the Inguinal ligament, Iliac crest, and the back fascia and are inserted on the Linea alba, Pectineal Line of Pubis, and ribs 10 through 12.

Transverse Abdominals (TA)

Think of the TA as the belt you tighten your loose pants. This core muscle sits under your rectus abs and wraps around your spine. It originates from the Internal surfaces of costal cartilages of ribs 7 through 12, thoracolumbar fascia, and the anterior 2/3 of the iliac crest. The TA inserts on the Linea alba, aponeurosis of internal oblique muscle, pubic crest, and pectineal line of the pubis (pelvis).

Don’t you feel smarter after reading this? Now that the geeky stuff is out of the way let’s get into the fun stuff.

4 Effective Core Exercises

I like to program core exercises in a variety of ways. First, warm-ups are always great because they prime the muscles needed for more significant, heavily loaded exercises. Second, pairing them in a superset or a tri-set for a couple of reasons. When the core exercise benefits the exercise after it, it leads to better performances and reduced injury risk.

Plus, training core strength when slightly tired mimics life outside the gym. For instance, you are carrying in all the groceries at the end of the day. Now you see the reasoning behind the madness, let’s dive in.

Push-Up Plus With Tension

The push-up plus with tension has been rocking my chest, triceps, and core recently. This push-up is the jam when you’re looking at going to the next level with your push-ups and not knocking out mindless reps. The trick is to create and maintain muscular tension by squeezing your glutes, quads and screwing your hands in the ground, demoed in the video.

That will have you feeling your abs like never before. The plus part trains your serratus anterior and gives you a more muscle-building range of motion. It could be the push-up with the lot.

Muscles trained: Triceps, shoulders, chest,  Serratus Anterior, core, quads, and glutes.

How to do It:

Get on your hands and knees and turn the right hand clockwise and left hand anti-clockwise to screw them into the ground.

Extend your legs and feet together and squeeze your glutes and quads hard.

Lower yourself to the floor slowly until your chest hovers over it.

Push up and then push your hands through the floor to shrug your shoulder blades apart.

Reset and repeat for desired reps.

Programming suggestions: The trick is maintaining full tension and control, so lower reps between 10 and 20 work well here. If you get to 20, you could be a superhero.

Chaos Suitcase Carry

Suitcase carries are an excellent exercise for strengthening grip imbalances between sides, improving lateral stability, and getting sexier love handles. The chaos suitcase carry takes it to the next level because the band is harder to grip, and the bouncing up and down of the kettlebell while walking forces your obliques to double down to prevent tipping to one side.  

Muscles trained: Forearms, obliques, lower back, deltoids, upper back, and glutes.

How to do it:

Wrap a looped band around the kettlebell horn and ensure both sides are even.

Grip the band close to the horn to make it easier or further away to make it more difficult.

Ensure that your shoulders are down, your chest up, and you’re not tilting one way or the other.

Walk for the required distance and switch sides.

Programming suggestions: All carries are great exercises for building grip strength and strengthening your core, and variation is no different. Try three sets on each side for 40-50 yards.

Ab Rollout

I will let you in on a not-so-secret about your lower back: it doesn’t like to move much and doesn’t bend forward or backward. The ab rollout trains anti-extension, which is probably the core’s most important function. This keeps your lower back healthy and improves your performance in and outside the gym. Did I mention it’s hard, and you will feel it for days? Now I have.

Muscles trained: Serratus Anterior, shoulders, lats, upper back, core, and glutes.

How to do it:

Get on your knees on a padded surface and grip the ab wheel with your hands under your shoulders.

Push your hands through the handles to round your upper back.

Tuck your hips under to get a neutral spine.

Extend your hips to the floor while rolling out, letting your chest fall toward the floor.

Keep your spine neutral, and don’t overarch your lower back.

Once you reach your limit, squeeze the lat muscles and pull yourself back to the starting position.

Programming suggestion: The ab rollout is definitely an exercise you want to do early in your warm-up. Anywhere between six to 12 reps for one to three sets.

Rotational Med Ball Throw

The exercises mentioned so far work on strength, but the rotational med ball throws train power, too. Your core needs to react quickly to environmental changes, and moving your core quickly and powerfully helps. This med ball exercise does it in spades. Rotational med ball throw trains the core powerfully while strengthening your obliques and hips, which means a more injury-proof core and spine.

Muscles trained: Internal and external hip rotators and obliques.

How to do it:

Stand two to four feet side on from a wall, feet a little wider than hip-width apart.

Grip a light med ball in both hands and take the ball to your back hip.

Transfer your weight from the rear hip to the front hip while throwing the ball explosively against the wall.

The power comes from your hips and not the arms.

Catch the ball with both hands, reset, and repeat for desired reps.

Programming suggestions: Power exercises like this are best performed after your warm-up and before lifting weights. Keeping the reps low, between five to eight for one to three sets works best.

Core Wrap Up

Exercises must not be fancy, cool, or complicated; they must work for you and your goals. These four exercises are simple to perform but not easy because getting stronger isn’t meant to tickle.

Are you ticklish? I am. 😊


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