5 High level core exercises for abs and obliques that can be challenging but not extreme in difficulty!
ot everyone believes in isolative core training. There are lifters and trainees who never train their core because it gets stimulated during full body exercises and movements.
This is true and you can develop a good core with full body exercises and movements alone, but it's very improbable that you will develop a great core without specifically targeting the core muscles.
Pull ups, deadlifts, push ups and especially movement training will increase your core strength but the problem is that people have a natural tendency to do what they are good at and avoid movement patterns where they are weak at.
Core training is like insurance - you make sure you aren't making a mistake.
Moreover, when it comes to athletic ability and functional strength, your core is the main pillar behind everything you can do:
The reason why a strong bench press doesn't transfer that well to functional strength is that in real life you are rarely pressing anything off your back unless you are under a car or a rock.
The traditional bench press is a skill strength movement where you learn how to exert the maximum amount of horizontal pushing force... against a bench.
If you want to exert the maximum amount of force standing up, you need to find a different way to provide support and stability because you can't just do everything with a bench behind your back.
This is where core training and stability training in general steps in. It unleashes the power to produce power without needing external support like a bench, a wall or a floor!
We are evangelical about stability training and why we devoted an entire phase of Athlete 20XX to mostly stability training. It's because we acquired heavy numbers in many lifts only to find out that the transfer to other activities wasn't good at all.
Here we have demonstrated 5 high level exercises you can do for your core. They are high level due to the principles and effectiveness - not because they are the most difficult.
The hardest exercise rarely is the best. Just like a flashy kick is never better than a compact polished kick that actually works!
1: Standing Obliques Crunch
In the standing obliques crunch you are balancing on one leg while crunching with the obliques. You do this by bringing the armpit and upper hip closer together.
This exercise is fantastic for the lower obliques (although the upper obliques will also get trained) and can increase your lower body mobility very nicely.
The hardest part is probably balancing on your leg but it's fine to take support for this exercise. The common mistake is to primarily raise the leg by abducting the hip when in reality the leg should only raise because you are bending the core.
What makes this exercise high level is the level of contraction in your obliques and how much focus and novelty this exercise takes to do correctly.
2: Distraction Plank
In the distraction plank you are doing a one arm plank while creating quick horizontal pulses with your free arm.
The sole purpose of the pulses is to create distraction (movement) to your core and as a result challenge the stability of your core.
This distraction will make the exercise significantly more challenging as long as you are fully devoted to keeping a tight and stable core.
Distraction plank is a great exercise to develop core stability. The most important function of the core is to provide stability - not necessarily to bend or twist.
3: V-Sit Up
In the v-sit up you are crunching from all the way down to up until you are in a V-sit pose.
You should be doing the exercise with control and no momentum - if you need to use momentum or jerk to get up, this exercise is too advanced. Sit ups and other exercises will help.
What makes the v-sit up challenging is the fact that your legs aren't anchored to anything which means you cannot use your hip flexors to get up as in an exercise such as sit up.
To get up, you have to use all of your crunching abdominal strength. The range of motion and purity of this movement is fantastic for the abs.
4: Side Plank Bend
Side plank bend is one of our favorite exercises for obliques. The hardest variation is to do this exercise with a straight arm but you can also do this on your elbow to make it easier.
The contraction, resistance and range of motion for your obliques is very good in this exercise.
The hardest part is doing the exercise right. Keep the body straight and focus on solely bending from the obliques. It's common to use your arm to help yourself up which we don't want to do.
Side plank bend is one of the many core exercises of Athlete 20XX which takes core training to a level not many have seen before.
5: Air Bike
In the air bike you are holding a v-pose while either moving your legs, arms or both.
Just holding the position should force your abdominals to contract to prevent you from falling but you create further stimulation to your abdominals by generating distraction with your limbs.
Doing fast knee raises is a fantastic way to challenge the core stability but rapidly moving your arms up and down works as well.
The important cue about training the core is that your core shouldn't flow with the movement of your limbs, rather your core should try to negate all the force that is generated.
How long and how much should you do these exercises? 3 sets per exercise and finish the set when your form starts to suffer and you feel a strong burning sensation in the targeted muscles.
I hope you liked the video and article. These core exercises aren't super easy but they aren't too difficult either.
As you can see, to train the core (or any part of the body) at a high level doesn't require you to do insane stunts and extremely hard exercises.
Flashy stunts are actually often less effective than easier exercises when the high level principles and techniques are applied.
Train hard, stay safe.