Bin The Boring Crunches - Top 6 Indirect Core Exercises

By Jamie Lloyd

Jamie Lloyd is an award winning Fit Pro, international best-selling author and fitness writer based in SW London…
Read more.

Plenty of us gym-bunnies know we have to work our abs for a number of reasons – better sports performance, posture and, of course, to get the all-important ripped look for the beach.

While it’s paramount to work your core muscles, you aren't getting a six pack just by doing bog standard crunches… You'll create muscle imbalances and eventually have back pain! 

So you need to train a bit smarter, do functional exercises and work through the frontal, transverse and Saggital plane to get that superhero look-a-like core.

Personal trainer Jamie Lloyd suggests some compound moves that hit other major muscles as well as the core, for an all-around workout that will get you leaner, stronger and on track for a six pack! 

the weight you're not using: the kettlebell

Kettlebell Windmill

Kettlebell Windmill

The Windmill when done correctly – presents a tremendous challenge to the anterior core, hamstrings and glenohumeral joint, because when performing this move with a heavy weight, you have to brace yourself to lift the damn thing in the first place.

For experienced lifters use a 16kg and build up. But you must have great flexibility through the hamstrings and also through the shoulder joint.

This exercise is similar to the warrior in yoga and quickly works out your missing link - and boy if you can't feel your core working I suggest going up a weight! Remember this is a complexed exercise so always get a spotter.

For another variation try using a barbell… This is one of my top indirect core exercises, as it works unilaterally - it becomes a rotational and lateral core challenge.

Zercher Squats

Zercher Squats

The Zercher squat is an outstanding exercise for developing greater core, back, and leg strength. This is one exercise that should definitely be incorporated into your training regimen, even though many people underestimate it.

To do the Zercher deadlift, you'd get the bar in the crook of your elbows when it's on the "floor" and bring it up like a deadlift. But not many people can do this from the actual floor because of mobility and leverage limitations, but you can either start it in the rack or on blocks so that the bar is under the knees.

Again get a decent spotter and start off light. Do 3-5 sets of 5-8 reps to begin with, and then make sure you have good form like with all exercises!
While you will get a deeper squat, better glute and quad activation, you'll also get a better core contraction too when done correctly. So the next time you think about doing a squat session, why not add a few Zerchers in? You'll have a phenomenal core!

Overhead Triceps Extension With A Towel

Tricep Extension

This one is brutal and I love it for an arm and core burn. Don't just think of working your guns as it will hit your core too! Wrap a towel through a heavy Kettlebell and hold towel at the ends so you lengthen the levers.

With the lever arm so far away from the lower back, even a small amount of weight can make it seriously difficult to keep the core braced. Slow the tempo down and do 3-5 sets of 5-10 reps.

Control the load and lower slowly… Watch the expression on your training buddy's face, as you will look like you are going to the toilet!

Keep control of your posture and form throughout, and you will be left with a great after burn in your arms and core.  

Renegade Row

Weights in the gym

Fed up of doing regular rows or push-ups? Grab a set of heavy Dumbbells and start off in a push-up position. Keep your back straight, core braced and push up off the Dumbbells. After this, pull one dumbbell to your waist and row.

Alternate each side and do 5-10 reps each side. Rest 45 secs and do 4-5 sets. 

You will definitely feel your core working - especially if you can't increase the weight. You will have to engage your core so much to stabilise your body and keep perfect form on this exercise. I love this one, as it challenges your core big time!

For a variation do them off a set of light Kettlebells with narrow handles to throw you off centre - again challenging your core!

Bottoms Up Press

Bottom up Press

The ultimate challenge in strengthening your grip, your upper body and your core at the same time! It requires some practice, patience and persistence but this great unilateral push exercise is worth all the hassle.

Start off with a light Kettlebell - 8kgs for ladies and 12/16kg for guys. Do 3-5 reps. Turn the bell upside down so bottom is facing up. Grip the bell tight - brace your abs and press overhead. Lower slowly.

Unlike many off-centre push exercises, you don’t get the chance to brace yourself on one side of your body and focus your attention mainly on the moving side. Instead, both sides are actively going through concentric and eccentric motions, while you brace your abs and engage your glutes & quads. 

Prowler Push-Pull

Prowler push pull

This isn’t just a great indirect core exercise… It’s an awesome all round conditioner.

Try pushing a heavy load on the prowler. You'll soon realise you need a strong mid-section to push the thing. Then try pulling it back over the same distance. Feel the burn!

Do 4 sets with no rest. For experienced lifters, try pushing 100kg plus over 10 metres and back again. Take a short rest for 45 secs, and then continue to do 4-5 sets.

So long as you stay low, drive and brace those abs, this is a great metabolic conditioner. You'll be looking ripped in no time!

Jamie Lloyd

About Jamie

Jamie Lloyd is an award winning Fit Pro, international best-selling author and fitness writer based in SW London.

He can be contacted on [email protected] for personal training, group fitness training and nutrition coaching

Alternatively, you can connect with Jamie via his Social Media Channels – FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

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