To get better at your sport, you need to work more than just your abs. You need to strengthen the front, back and sides of your core, while hitting the deep muscles that protect your spine.
Below you’ll find 18 of STACK’s favorite core exercises for athletes. Add these to your training to take your core strength—and your performance—to the next level. And as a by-product, your abs will probably look better, too.
No, Crunches and Sit-Ups are not on the list.
You simply need to hold your body in a straight line, which may look easy. But according to Todd Durkin of Fitness Quest 10, you need to be able to hold a Plank for a minimum of 60 seconds. If not, your core isn’t strong enough for more advanced exercises, like Squats, Deadlifts and other core moves.
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The Palloff Press trains your core to resist rotation. “A lot of times when we are working the core, we use things like super bands and do a lot of rotational work,” says Todd Durkin. “Anti-rotation is great for stability of the obliques, core and lower back.”
A corrective exercise, the Lewit engages your deep core muscles, which are difficult to develop with other movements.
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This popular exercise teaches your upper body to maintain its position during rapid leg movements, and can be used as an endurance move.
An advanced variation of the Plank, moving your forearms in a circle on a physioball makes the exercise unstable and your abs seriously burn.
Hanging Leg Raises
According to Brian Nguyen, owner of Brik Fitness and Mark Wahlberg’s personal trainer, simply hanging on the bar is core work for your upper body. “Some of my favorite exercises to do for the core involve static shoulders and dynamic hips,” he says. Add a leg raise, and your entire core works to produce movement while preventing your body from swinging back and forth.
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Strengthen your triceps and shoulders in addition to your core with this variation of the Plank.
Med Ball Rotational Throws
Increase rotational power from your hips and core, which is critical for throwing a ball, swinging a bat or taking a slap shot.
Med Ball Slams
Increase your ability to explosively generate force through your lower body and core to power an upper-body movement.
Once used primarily to increase grip strength, Farmer’s Walks and other loaded carries are simply a moving Plank, where your core must fire to stabilize your trunk and hips while you walk with weight.
TRX Pendulum Swings
“A lot of the time, we focus on the upper-body rotating,” says Durkin. “But now we’re focusing on the lower body rotating.” This helps get the hips—your most powerful muscles—working when you're on the field.
TRX Rip Trainer Pitchfork
Pulling the Rip Trainer up and behind your body activates everything from your hands to your feet, while your core fights to prevent rotation and keep you upright.
Wide-Stance Anti-Rotation Chop
A slow and controlled movement that teaches your core to produce and resist rotation through a full range of motion.
Physioball or TRX Pike to Rollout
According to Nick Tumminello, owner of Performance U, this may be the king of core exercises. It combines flexion and anti-extension moves to isolate the abs with minimal stress on the hip flexor and lower back.
RELATED: Learn how to perform the Physioball Pike to Rollout.
“If you want a strong core that will help you perform athletically on the field, you need to perform integrated core exercises,” says Tumminello. To do this, you need to work your core while engaging your shoulders and glutes.
Ab Wheel Rollout
“[Your abs] don’t bring your shoulders closer to your hips or your hips closer to your shoulders,” explains Mike Boyle, owner of Mike Boyle Strength and Conditioning. “What they actually do is prevent you from going into extension.” So, the Ab Wheel Rollout—which can also be done with a physioball—hits your abs better than any type of Crunch.
It looks weird and is tough to learn, but it’s worth it. According to Boyle, it’s a fundamental movement that everyone should be able to perform. Plus, it builds serious core strength, improves mobility and increases shoulder stability.
Do you have a favorite core exercise we omitted? Tweet at us to let us know.
This article originally appeared on STACK.com: The 18 Best Core Exercises for Athletes