Core Exercises

Top 3 Core Exercises

Your “core” is something many believe to be your stomach and low back area. Your abs, basically.

It’s much more than that. I described the core muscles in another blog as every muscle that is attached to your head, spine and pelvis.

Any muscle that affects optimal spinal and pelvic alignment. That’s a lot of muscles!

I have chosen these 3 exercises for a variety of reasons.

  1. They actively train the core muscles to maintain optimal alignment against outside forces i.e. gravity or a weight/resistance.
  2. They will offer carry-over to other exercises such as squats, bench press and deadlifts improving performance and reducing the risk of injury.
  3. They look easy when done correctly BUT they are NOT EASY! They require a lot of positional awareness and concentration. You can’t just “do” them.
  4. You will look deadly performing them because not everyone in the gym will have seen them, heard of them or be able to perform them right, but you will after reading this and watching the videos.

In no particular order, here they are:


The Pallof Press (named after physical therapist John Pallof) is and anti-rotation exercise. The aim is simple – don’t rotate. You maintain alignment against an outside force, in this instance, a strength band or cable and weight.

Set yourself up with an athletic stance. Knees bent and feet about shoulder width apart. Shoulders down and back with arms extended.

Tip: don’t reach forward with the arms allowing the shoulders to round forward.

Slowly bring the hands toward the body, somewhere between the bellybutton and bottom of the breast  one is good.

Pause with the arms fully extended for anywhere from 1-5 seconds. Try 2 sets of 15 each side to get started. Here’s a short Technique Tuesday video I posted on Spirit’s Facebook on the Pallof Press. Enjoy.

Kneeling Ab Roll-Out

I recently added this exercise to a few of my classes at Spirit and over the 2-3 days afterwards members were constantly telling me how much they could feel it across their tummy. I smiled and said: “Good”.

This is an anti-extension exercise where the target is to train the core musculature to resist arching the back and flaring the rib-cage during dynamic movements where the arms and/or legs move but you need the spine to remain in optimal position. Kind of sums up ALL movements right? There’s carry over to the real world too!

Kneel on a mat with the ab-wheel directly under the shoulders and the hips just slightly forward of the knees. Keep the wrists strong at all times and not extended.

Tuck in the pelvis and slowly roll away ensuring that the wheel and knees are moving in unison.

Roll as far out as possible (until you feel a good “pull” in the abdominals) and slowly roll back drawing the wheel slowly as you also roll back onto the knees.

Tip: On the way back, don’t let the hips sit back too quickly and stop just before they are directly over the knees.

Go easy on volume for these if just starting out. 2 sets of 8-10 reps will do just fine. If you want to tell me how sore you are after them I’m working 6am-2pm tomorrow!

Dead Bugs

If you’ve read our blogs before you’ll have come across my Dead Bug blog so I’ll keep this short and sweet.

Just like the Roll-Out the Dead Bug trains you to resist extending the spine (arching the back) but the forces working against you aren’t as challenging as the Roll-Out. This exercise is also easier to coach tucking in of the pelvis as you flatten the back to the mat.

Lie flat on the mat, tucking in the pelvis and flattening the lower back onto the mat. Place the arms directly over the shoulders and bend the legs with knees over the hips and feet in line with the knees.

Slowly lower one leg (straight in line with hip) and the opposite arm (directly overhead) towards the ground. Maintain pressure on the ground under the lower back.

Stop at the point where the strain is greatest. Going beyond that point may result in arching the back and you want to avoid that here.

Check out the video too.

Those are my current Top 3, with an honourable mention to the Plank which just didn’t make the cut this time! For more Technique Tuesday videos, check out our You Tube channel and subscribe to get the latest videos before anyone else.

If you have any questions about any these exercises you can email me at or leave a comment on our Facebook page. Thanks for reading!


PS – This is very accurate…….