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3 Exercises For Unbreakable Core Strength

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If you want to lift heavy and build a noteworthy physique you need to build core strength.
It would be foolish to build a mansion on unstable ground, it may go up in the beginning but one day it will come crashing down because the prep work wasn’t done – the foundation, when neglected will be the downfall of the masterpiece.
Your core is your foundation, without a stable core you wouldn’t be able to support your body whatsoever, let alone when racking up hundreds of pounds on the barbell for squats, deadlifts and overhead presses.

A weak core will be your sticking point as you progress on your heavy compound exercises if you don’t train it along the way.

3 Functional Exercises For Unmatched Core Strength

 

Bruce Lee Dragon Flag

These abdominal exercises aren’t the ones you’ll find hyped over and over again in a mens bodybuilding or fitness magazine. Sit-ups, oblique twists and the plethora of other basic exercises they publish time and time again for ‘insane core strength’ and a ‘shredded six pack’ are inferior to the following 3 exercises…

Although a couple of the exercises below are relatively advanced there are basic progressions that’re effective, challenging and will build up your core strength until you’re able to perform the advanced level exercise with strict form (this is important! Don’t go straight for the advanced variation with bad form when you’ve glossed over the basic variations).

Hanging Leg Raise

Hanging Leg Raise Form

Keep your legs dead straight while hanging from your horizontal bar while ensuring your core is tight and your elbows remain straight (there is to be no bending of the elbows) lift your legs up and continue past the 90 degree L variation until your feet touch the pull-up bar, if you look at the shape of your body in the fully contracted position of a complete range of motion hanging straight leg raise it would resemble that of the letter ‘V’.

Beginner Hanging Leg Raise Variations

Floor straight leg raise (beginner variation #1)

Lay down on your back with your legs extended out in front of you.
Tense your core and keep your legs completely straight as you bring your legs up towards your chest – hold and squeeze for a second to feel the contraction before returning your legs to their extended position, do not let your legs touch the ground between reps.

Hanging bent knee raise (beginner variation #2)

Hold onto a horizontal bar (a pull-up bar, tree branch or piece of playground equipment) I think you’ll find a slightly wider grip to be easier as a beginner.
While keeping your core tight bend your knees and lift them up as high as possible.
Slowly lower your legs back down – the key to avoid swinging on the negative (downwards) portion of each rep is to consciously think about keeping your abs tight for the entire duration.

Tip: you want to form at minimum an L shape with your body, the higher up you can get your knees the better, but aim for at least 90 degrees.

Check out my comprehensive guide to hanging leg raises (including more beginner friendly variations!) here.

Dragon Flag (Bruce Lee’s Ab Exercise of Choice!)

Made famous by Bruce Lee and Sylvester Stallone in Rocky IV, the dragon flag is a killer abdominal exercise that builds immense functional strength in the entire abdominal region.

The movement involves lowering your body as one unit and holding it horizontal to the floor with only your shoulders and upper back supporting your weight – almost resembling a draw bridge.

This exercise is far harder than it looks, give it a try it’s humbling!

Start With The Negative

Find a suitable spot that has a pole, column or anchor of some kind that you can wrap your arms around.
Form a straight line with your torso and your legs, don’t hinge your hips at all.
Lower your body slightly below vertical while maintaining control of your torso.
Continue to practise the negative portion of the dragon flag until you’re able to lower yourself in a controlled fashion for the entirety of several reps.

 Putting It All Together…

The upwards (or concentric) portion of the dragon flag is a step-up in terms of difficulty…
Start from a position where your body is already slightly raised, and utilizing your core strength raise your body the remainder of the way until vertical.
Once you’ve practised both portions of the dragon flag enough to confidently perform each individually it’s time to throw them together into one fluid movement.

The Plank!

A fantastic isometric hold that doesn’t require much space at all.
The plank has literally an endless array of variations – from one arm, one leg planks to stability ball planks, planks with additional resistance… you name it there’s always a challenging, engaging spin to throw in the works to make your planks that much harder.

 Basic Plank Form

Lay down facing the floor.
Place your palms under your shoulders and place your forearms on the ground.
Lift your hips and support your body via your forearms.
Your head, back and feet should all form a straight line (look down or slightly in front to ensure your neck remains in a neutral position).
Hold the plank for upwards of 1 minute per rep.
Plank Guidelines 
  • Squeeze your glutes to stabilize the bottom half of your body.
  • Avoid locking your knees by keeping them slightly bent.
  • Actively contract your shoulder blades to pack the shoulders down in relation to your torso.
  • Tighten your abdominals by drawing your belly button toward your spine.

Creating Your Core Workout

“I’ve got 3 exercises… now what do I do?”

There’s many different ways to structure an abdominal workout, variations I often perform include:

Reps For Time

Pick an exercise and set a time limit.

15 minutes
200 hanging leg raises

Start a timer and attempt to at least meet (ideally beat) 200 reps of the hanging leg raise in 15 minutes.
Your timeframes and rep choice for these workouts should be tough, however not unreachable.

Rounds For Time

Pick a couple of exercises, a number of rounds and a rep range, such as:

5 rounds of:

10 hanging leg raises
5 dragon flags

Perform 5 rounds of the above as fast as possible, use a timer to record your score.

Tabata!

Choose an abdominal exercise and perform a Tabata block or two.

1 Tabata ‘block’ consists of 8 rounds of 20 seconds work, 10 seconds rest.

Core Cardio

Core cardio will bring you closer to that goal by combining high intensity cardio intervals with lower intensity abdominal exercises.
The intervals you choose to follow for this core cardio depends on your current conditioning. Here’s what I’d recommend:

Beginners:

30 seconds HIIT cardio
1 minute abdominals

Intermediate:

45 seconds HIIT cardio
1 minute abdominals

Advanced:

1 minute HIIT cardio
1 minute abdominals

No rest is to be taken between rounds as the low intensity of your abdominal training will allow you sufficient recovery time to regain your breath prior to your next round of HIIT cardio.
For this cardio, you want to be giving it 100%, therefore, sprints or fast jump roping are my exercises of choice.

Give these 3 core strength building exercises a try and let me know how you go in the comments below!

Scott J.
Scott J.https://ignorelimits.com
I’m SJ. I’m a fitness enthusiast and published author. I transformed my body from a skinny fat 135lbs with 18% body fat to a solid 192lbs at 8% body fat. I became qualified in a field I was passionate about. I founded several online businesses that allow me to pursue ideas and projects in my life that I am passionate about without having to constantly worry about money. I published several eBooks explaining the training and dieting techniques I used to achieve the body I have today. I learnt a plethora of new information on dieting and fitness by reading and applying what I read, to find out what does work and what doesn’t work, because as I’m sure you’ve noticed the health and fitness industry is full of non-sense claims and BS. I found out what was true and what worked for me and applied that knowledge. And you bet I had fun during the whole process.

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