The Best Exercises for Complete Core Strength

Complete core strength comes from working on all parts of the core. Check out the best exercises for complete core strength.

Core strength
is an essential part of any athlete's training. A properly trained core results in increased overall strength, power, balance and even speed. Plus, it reduces the risk of injury and improves the quality of your workouts.

The problem is that many athletes are misguided into thinking the traditional Crunch or Sit-Up is all they need to increase core strength. These exercises only engage the rectus abdominus—more commonly known as the abs. Yes, the abs play an important role in the core. However, they are only one piece of the puzzle.

The core comprises all the muscles from the thighs to the chest on the front and back of the body. For the sake of specific core training, we are going to focus on the rectus abdominis, internal and external obliques and the lumbar erectors. Working these muscle groups gives you 360 degrees of core strength, so you will be strong and stable in all athletic movements.

Below you will find exercises for each core muscle group. Select one of each to perform at the end of your workout.

Lower Abs

  • Bodyweight Chin-Up
    Hang off a chin-up bar with reverse grip and arms locked. Perform Chin-Up until chin is slightly over bar. Slowly lower to start position. Repeat for specified reps.
  • Bodyweight Hanging Leg Raise
    Hang off pull-up bar with overhand grip and arms locked. Raise legs until parallel to ground; keep legs together. Slowly lower legs to return to start position. Repeat for specified reps.
  • Physioball Crunches
    Lying with middle of back on physioball and feet planted firmly on ground, hold plate directly in front of chest. Perform Crunch. Repeat for specified reps.
  • Ab Wheel Jackknife
    Assume push-up position with feet on ab wheel or barbell. Bend hips and knees to bring knees to chest. Extend legs to return to start position. Repeat for specified reps.

Internal Obliques

  • Ab Wheel Jackknife
  • Slideboard Body Saw
    Assume plank (or push-up) position with feet on slideboard. Slide feet backward as far as possible, keeping core tight and back flat. Slide forward to return to start position. Repeat for specified reps.
  • Rotational Med Bell Slams
    Place a lightweight med ball inside a bag. Grasping med ball bag, sit on ground with knees bent and heels just off floor. Rotate left and slam med ball on ground outside hip; rotate right and slam med ball outside hip. Repeat continuously for specified reps.

External Obliques

  • Turkish Get Up
    Lie on ground holding dumbbell or kettlebell overhead with right arm, right knee bent and opposite arm extended to side. Slowly sit by shifting weight to left hand and bringing feet toward butt. Drive through left hand and right heel to extend hips. Swing left leg under body and assume kneeling position. Drive though right heel to rise to standing position. Return to start position through same movement pattern with control. Repeat for specified reps; perform set with opposite arm.
  • Bodyweight Hanging Leg Raise
  • Slideboard Body Saw
  • Ab Wheel Jackknife

Lumbar Erectors

  • Half-Kneeling Cable Lift
    Assume half-kneeling position with right knee on ground and cable machine to right. Grasp cable handle with both hands at right hip. Extend arms diagonally up and left. Slowly lower arms diagonally down and to right to return to start position. Repeat for specified reps. Perform set on opposite side.
  • Lumbar Extensions (Hypers)
    Assume position on Back Hyper machine so body forms 90-degree angle. Contract glutes and raise upper body until chest is parallel to floor. Slowly lower to start position. Repeat for specified reps.
  • Landmines
    Assume half-kneeling position with right leg on ground. Grasp end of barbell secured in landmine machine at left shoulder. Press barbell overhead. Lower to right shoulder. Continue in alternating fashion for specified reps.

Check out more exercises for a full core workout.

Co-authored by Bryan McCall and Evan McClintock

Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock