6 Athletic Core Exercises for Abs and Obliques

October 10, 2017 by VAHVA Fitness

Athletic core exercises to develop strength and stability in the core muscles. Both abs and obliques are covered!

Athletic training focuses a lot on core training because it is the core stability that will allow you to control your movement in many athletic endeavours. 

Even when the going gets tough and you need to be fast, agile and explosive, a great core stability will allow you to keep your composure and have control over your rapid movements.

Core also plays a major role in almost all movements that you do. Especially the obliques produce a great deal of rotational power that you need in twisting and bending movements like throwing, hitting and punching.

This control and ability to keep your composure is what makes you agile, fast and functional in general.

You can be healthy and strong without focusing on stability training, but it's hard to be truly athletic and functional without also having good levels of stability in your scapula, core and hips. Mobility and stability are the two forces that balance each other.

Here we have demonstrated 6 excellent exercises to train the core for strength, stability and movement. The plank movements focus mostly on core stability, whereas the crunching movements focus more on mobility of the core.

With the core stability planks you need to focus on keeping the core still. The purpose of the leg movements is to solely create instability and thus make stabilizing more difficult.

All of these exercises can be done in one workout. 3 sets per exercise until your muscles get tired should be enough.

For more complete, versatile and effective core training routines, check out our Abs 20XX guide - it is high level core training.

Reverse Plank Leg Raise

reverse plank leg raise for six pack abs athletic abs

Reverse plank leg raise is an effective mobility exercise and core strengthening movement all in one.

You first take a straight reverse plank position by extending the hips (this will work the hamstrings the most, then glutes and the lower back) and retracting the scapula. 

Retracting the scapula will strengthen the upper back muscles like trapezius while your chest and shoulders are being stretched.

Once you are in the perfect reverse plank position, you start slowly moving the leg up and down. Your leg can be straight or bent.

The most important cue is to keep the body stable and as straight as possible. Focus on core stability and you should feel the abdominals and obliques work.

Side Plank Kick

side plank kick for obliques

Side plank kick is a fantastic exercise to target the lower obliques. The leg kick will make stabilizing a lot harder. You don't need to straighten the leg completely.

You will be also working the adductors (inner thighs) of the supporting leg and the hip flexors of the free leg. You should feel the greatest effect on your obliques as long as the legs are strong and balanced.

When it comes to athleticism and martial prowess, obliques are massively important for power production and smooth movement.

If you are interested in more detailed obliques training, Abs 20XX program has numerous progressions to target both lower and upper obliques, and a lot more. 

Plank Leg Extension

plank extension for abs and lower back

Plank leg extension is a regular plank but here you are balancing on just one leg while the other leg is extending in air.

The purpose of the free leg is to create instability and make stabilizing with the core a lot harder. You will also be working the glutes due to the hip extension.

Your obliques are also working hard to prevent your core from rotating (anti rotation).

The plank leg extension can be done fast or slow (depends on your preference and level of fitness), but remember to focus on control and smooth execution.


best crunch for abdominals

Crunch is a classical abdominal exercise that has been utilized forever but there are people who say you should NOT do them.

The reality is that the crunch done right is nothing but a spine flexion movement - completely natural and a good way to strengthen the abdominals.

For the best results, focus on controlled execution and mind-muscle connection. The crunch done right should feel very strongly in the upper abdominals.

Also make sure you raise yourself by flexing the abdominals. Don't raise yourself by flexing the neck, the neck will naturally follow when you crunch with the abdominals. Keep your hands on your chest or next to your head. 

Reverse Crunch

reverse crunch for lower abs

Reverse crunch is the spine flexion from the opposite side. In comparison to the traditional crunch, the reverse crunch will emphasize the other side of the abdominals: the lower abs. 

The biggest mistake is to use the momentum of your legs to raise your hips up. You should raise the butt off the floor by crunching with the abdominals!

Raise the butt until you feel the abdominals cannot flex any further. Then slowly lower yourself down. This eccentric part of the repetition is as important as the concentric part and will emphasize the stability of your lower abs.

Side to Side Crunch

side to side crunch for abs and obliques six pack

Side to side crunch is an isometric crunch exercise where you crunch around half way up, stay there and then start crunching from side to side with your obliques.

Side to side crunch is a popular movement among fitness chicks, but it's effective and beneficial for everyone to do. The side to side crunch will hit the abdominals in a very different fashion.

Although you are crunching from one side to another, your obliques may not work as much as the upper abdominals.

The common mistake is to reach with your arms and shoulders when you should mostly keep the shoulders intact and focus on bending from the core.

Slow execution and mind-muscle connection are particularly important in this exercise which makes it a quite high level movement.


samuli jyrkinen

About the author 

Samuli Jyrkinen

Samuli is the ninja behind the scenes (photography, videography, websites, program platforms and more). He has been training religiously for over a decade and has a firm grasp of physical and mental fitness. You will find our story here.

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