The core is the most important part of the body to maintain strength. It’s the link between the upper and lower limbs. The core initiates most movements and stabilizes the body in all of them. In functional fitness, this cannot be understated. There are literally no functional movements that are not affected by a weak core.

Let’s go beyond the classics and look at effective core exercises that work the deep transverse abs (which act as a belt), the obliques (which stabilize the trunk laterally), and the rectus abdominis (which supports in flexion and extension movements). We have put together our favourite advanced core exercises to keep up with heavy lifting and long WODs.

5 Challenging Core Exercises for Stronger Abs

1. Dumbbell Side Plank Rotation

This exercise loads the internal and external abdominal obliques. They criss-cross from the ribs down to the pelvis and are activated in twisting type movements. As you roll the dumbbell off the floor, the load immediately demands serious core activation, also hitting the stabilizers of the shoulder.

Start in a side plank, propped up on your forearm, dumbbell resting in front of you. Grab hold of it, raise it overhead so your arm is straight above you and then curl it down underneath you.

2. Contralateral Glute Bridge Hold

These holds are the advanced version of a classic glute bridge, engaging the whole core. You’ll activate all the abdominal muscles at all levels in a cross-chain starting from the glutes. Holding the position for several seconds is challenging enough. You will likely also find out which side of your core is weaker than the other because it isolates each one.

Get in a standard glute bride position and then lift one leg into the air. Hold this position. You might find you lean slightly toward the leg that’s off the ground. Repeat on the other side and do multiple rounds.

3. L-Hang Flutter Kicks

Just getting into a stable L-hang position is challenging enough for most. Adding in flutter kicks takes the challenge to the next level, working on hanging skills, stabilizing the shoulders, and working the hip flexors all at the same time.

Hang from the bar and be sure your shoulders are engaged. Lift your legs until you’re in an L-hold and “flutter” your feet.

4. Two-Arm Turkish Sit-Ups

We love two-arm Turkish sit-ups because they crush the entire anterior chain. Even better, they work shoulder stability and mobility as you bring your body into a sit-up position. This exercise improves the control of the hollow body position that we know is so beneficial to gymnastics movements.

Holding two kettlebells (or dumbbells, but you’ll likely find KBs are easier) overhead, and perform a sit-up with legs straight out in front of you.

5. Rope L-Sit Pull-Ups

We put this advanced exercise last as a final challenge. The coveted L-sit rope climb is a classic gymnastics movement. You need the upper body strength in your shoulders, back and arms to perform a pull-up, plus the strength of the anterior chain to stabilize the lower body in place.

Hanging from the rope and in an L-hold, perform a pull-up, as shown below.

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