Whether your goal is a flat stomach or a chiseled 6-pack, core exercises should always be part of your training plan.
Training your core goes beyond the aesthetic value of how your midsection looks.
A strong core provides support during your training sessions, improves your posture, and helps prevent injuries.
While basic sit-ups, crunches, and planks can be a great place to start, you will eventually need more advanced exercises to overcome plateaus.
Here are seven abs and core exercises most people have never heard of – the perfect challenge your core will need.
If you’re looking to step up your core training, incorporate them into your training plan and start feeling the burn.
1. Suspension Trainer Pike
The suspension trainer pike challenges the abs and core in two ways - first by placing you in a plank position which activates the core, and secondly, adding unstable movement due to the suspension trainer.
Position yourself with your feet in the suspension trainer in a straight-arm plank (like the top position of a push-up). From here, raise your hips and bum into the air while bringing your feet towards your body to form a triangle position at the top.
Finish by lowering back down to the plank position in a slow and controlled motion. Repeat this for as many reps as possible.
2. Exercise Ball V Pass
This exercise taxes both the upper and lower abdominals, while further challenging you with the addition of an exercise ball. To perform this exercise, lay face up on the floor with your arms over your head and the exercise ball squeezed between your feet.
Using your abdominals, raise your legs and upper body up to meet in the middle, creating a V-shape. At the top of the movement, pass the ball over to your hands and slowly lower your upper body and legs back down, stopping when your hands and feet are one inch from the floor. Raise back up, returning the ball back to your feet. Continue this until you reach failure.
3. Hanging Windshield Wipers
Hanging windshield wipers are an intense upper body and core routine that is only suitable for advanced trainees. To perform this correctly, you will need to hold yourself in a pull up position throughout the duration of the movement.
Once in the top of a pull up position, raise your feet up so they are in line with your head, keeping your legs as straight as possible. Slowly rotate your legs down to one side, drawing a quarter circle, then return them back to the center before rotating to the other side, mimicking a windshield wiper movement. Perform until failure, aiming for 10-15 reps each side.
4. Decline Dumbbell Sit-Up/Crunch
This exercise is an advanced variation of the typical sit-up or crunch. By performing this on a decline bench with added resistance from a dumbbell, you can overload your abdominals to a whole new level.
While it’s challenging for your core, it’s very simple to perform. Once in position on a decline bench, hold one dumbbell in both hands over your head and focus on your top abdominals to produce the movement.
You only need to raise your upper body around 50% of the way up, which keeps the focus on the abdominals and out of the hip flexors. When lowering down, try to keep your back from touching the bench, so only lower 90% of the way down before repeating again.
If you’re just starting out with intense core training, you can perform this exercise without the dumbbell. Add the extra resistance as the exercise becomes easier.
5. Lying Side Twists
This is a slightly easier version of the hanging windshield wipers, a good way to work your way up to the full, hanging variation explained above. Position yourself lying on the floor face up. From here, place your arms by your side and raise your legs straight up above your hips.
Slowly lower your legs to one side, stopping when you are 1-2 inches from the floor, then rotate them back up to the starting position.
You can either perform all your reps on the same side before switching, or take the legs through the full range of movement as a complete set for 15 – 20 reps.
6. Suspension Single Leg Twist
This is another advanced exercise that requires both core stability and intense abdominal work. Similar to the suspension trainer pike exercise, set yourself up in a plank position, but with one foot in both straps, leaving the other foot hanging next to it.
From here, rotate through the core and hips, passing the free leg under the body as far as possible to work the core and obliques. Return to the starting position and repeat for 10-15 reps before swapping legs.
7. Exercise Ball Plank to Push-Up
This is another advanced exercise that will test your core strength. It uses an unstable surface with the exercise ball, and single-arm movements recruit the small, stabilizing muscles of the core.
To perform this exercise, set up in a normal push-up position, with legs extended and toes resting on an exercise ball. Bend your arms slowly, lowering toward the floor until your elbows and forearms are resting flat on the floor. This is your starting position (a plank position).
From here, begin the movement by pressing your upper body upward into a push-up position, hands at a 90-degree angle under your shoulders. Now, perform a full push-up. Once back at the top of the push-up position, lower back down to the starting plank position, making one complete rep.
Perform as many reps as possible before your core and upper body fatigue. At this point, hold the normal plank position and pull your abdominals in tight as a final burn out.
Abdominal work should be completed at the end of your training session to ensure your core isn’t fatigued prior to your big lifts.
Incorporate these exercises into your training plan gradually.
Try two or three different exercises each week, and focus on performing more reps each time for progression.