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The 10 Best Ab Exercises You Should Be Doing

Let me start by saying I don’t like the phase “training abs.” It is not training abdominals. You train your core. That is a more accurate representation when discussing abdominal training.

My definition of the core includes the hip muscles, abdominal muscles, low back and shoulder muscles. Very rarely in sports or in life do you isolate you abdominal muscles. So I never train them that way or have my clients perform them either.

Before I move any further. Let me state this. The following exercises will strengthen your core muscles. If you are looking for that six-pack, you still came to the right place. However, you must make sure that your nutrition and hydration is on point. Performing core exercises alone will not help you get a six-pack. Combining proper core training with nutrition is the winning combo for those six-pack abs.

So here we go. What exercises should I do to strengthen my core…

  1. Side Planks

  2. Bird Dogs

  3. Curl Up

  4. Front Planks

  5. Rollouts

  6. Deadbugs

  7. Med Ball Slams

  8. Paloff Press

  9. Med Ball Side Toss

  10. Body Saws

(The first 3 exercises listed are Dr. Stuart McGill’s Big 3 exercises, Planks, Bird Dogs and Curl Ups. For more information on those, check out his website,

Why should I be perform these exercises?

There are 4 goals of core training.

  • Rotational

  • Anti-Rotation

  • Anti-Flexion (Including Lateral)

  • Anti-Extension (Including Lateral)

Anti anything primary means to stop motion. Another way to say this is to provide stability. A word I often like to use in place of stability is stiffness. While they may not be the exact same thing, while discussing the function of the core muscles, creating stiffness is optimal.

Stiffness is key to core function and health along with spine function and health.

Rotational exercises are a bit different. For these core exercises your goal is to create movement. However the movement is not created from abdominal muscles alone. During rotational movements, the movement needs to originate in the hips (primarily your glutes) along with your shoulder muscles. Do not perform isolated core exercises such as (ex: Russian Twists). Locking your pelvis in place (on the floor) can cause an excess of sheer force on your lumbar spine.

Remember this, the muscles of the limbs are designed to create motion. The muscles of the CORE are (primarily) designed to stop motion.

To summarize why you should being doing these exercises, health and performance. If executed correctly, these exercises should help protect your spine and low back along with maximizing performance ability on the court, on the field or playing with your kids in the back yard. Where ever you need to perform, these exercises will help you perform at a high level and keep you safe.

Now there are some exercises you should avoid. Sadly these exercises are still popular for a lot of people. Just because they are popular, doesn’t mean they are effective.

Core exercises you should avoid..

  1. Crunches

  2. Bicycles

  3. Sit Ups

  4. Mountain Climbers

  5. Russian Twists

  6. Leg Lifts

  7. Side Bends

Why should I avoid these?

Simple answer, excess spinal shear and compression forces. If you have had previous back issues, stay away from these exercises. If you have a healthy back, I still recommend avoiding these exercises as they can possibly cause you back pain later in your training career.

Want help strengthening your core? Reach out to me today. I am ready to help you reach your goals.



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