The Serious Guide to Core/Abs Training

Core 7 min Read

Written by

Keith Hansen

So you want to bulletproof your core huh? Then you’ve found the right article. In this article you will find everything you need to make your flabby midsection rock hard, toned, and tight.

Scrap your sit-ups. Can your crunches.

Get ready to build some six-pack abs.

If you want a Seriously Strong core you need to revolutionize your approach.

What is the Core?

Your core is your torso. It’s everything that isn’t our head, legs, or arms.

Sure your abs and obliques are part of your core. So is your low back, chest, traps, and lats. And so are the muscles you probably aren’t as familiar with like the transverse abdominus, the quadratus lumborum, the multifidus, the…I’m not going to turn this into an anatomy lesson.

There are more than 700 muscles in the body with some sources going as high 800. The good news is that you don’t need to know them all to train them effectively.

For our purposes, our core training will focus primarily on the muscles that exist between your hips and your ribs. This is because any well-rounded strength training routine will take care of the rest of the muscles on your torso.

Dynamic Vs. Static

Our core is designed to articulate our spine, and help transmit forces between our upper and lower halves.

With that in mind it is important to train it for each of those functions.

Movements that articulate the spine are defined as dynamic. Movements that focus on an efficient force transfer through the core are static.

You must include both dynamic and static core exercises in your program to maximize your core development.


Because you build strength in two ways: you make the muscle larger, and use the muscle better.

Dynamic movements make the muscle larger. Static movements ensure you use the muscle in that position as effectively as possible.

The Four Core Movements

Your core moves in four ways. You need the strength to move your torso into a position, and you also need the strength to resist external forces that would move you out of that position.

These movements are:

  • Flexion/Anti-Extension
  • Extension/Anti-Flexion
  • Lateral Flexion/Anti-Lateral Flexion
  • Rotation/Anti-Rotation

Most of these movements have a muscle we can point to and say “oh, this muscle is working the hardest”, but there is no movement your body does that only involves one muscle.

Each movement your body performs is a result of multiple muscles working in conjunction, and this is why it’s important to train all movements to maximize your core strength.

Every movement you make will fall into one or more of the categories defined below. They are each listed as the movement you perform (dynamic), and the opposing movement associated with it (static). I will list my favorite exercise for each.


Flexion is the motion of bending over like when you had to do the toe-touch in elementary school or the traditional sit-up.

Our abs (yea, the six pack muscles) are the ones primarily responsible for this motion. Just remember that no movement in your body is a one-muscle show.

Cable crunches ensure you don’t have to spend all day doing sit-ups. Load up the weight, and hit a hard set of 8-12 reps. Just pay attention to the form and isolate the work to your abs.


Extension is the opposite movement of flexion. If you’re familiar with the yoga pose updog, or cobra, both of these movements are putting your spine into extension.

Anti-flexion is when you try to maintain a neutral spine against forces that want to bend you in half.

Jefferson curls (click here for an in-depth article on this exercise) are an amazing exercise not only for dynamic extension, but also for posture. If you’ve never done them before just start with toe touches. You can work your way up to light weights, and then going below the toes by standing on a box.

Anti-flexion is resisting an external force that wants to bend you over (flex your spine). This occurs when you want to keep a neutral spine during a heavy squat, deadlift, or a good morning like in the video below.

Lateral Flexion/Anti-Lateral Flexion

Lateral flexion is like extension or flexion, but instead of bending forward/backward, you are bending to the side.

If you stand tall and pick up a suitcase simple by bending to the side without squatting down you have performed lateral flexion.

Now by standing tall and resisting the downward pull of the suitcase you are performing anti-lateral flexion.

Side bends are the dynamic lateral flexion exercise of choice. It’s super simple.

A word of caution: do not over do it your first time with this exercise. You will feel muscles you have never felt before and for a week deep breaths, laughing, sneezing, or coughing will make you think you’ve dislocated a rib.

Side planks are another static anti-lateral flexion exercise that needs no equipment and is a great beginner exercise.


Rotation is just like it sounds–twisting the torso. You see this in many sports like golf or baseball.

Naturally, anti-rotation would be resisting these forces.

Pallof twists are an incredible dynamic rotation exercise that can be done with a cable machine or a band.

Pallof presses are a staple static anti-rotation in my core training programs. They are absolutely brutal when done for time with heavy weight or a band.

Putting it all together

Now that you know a lot more about the core than you did before it’s time to understand how you should go about training your abs.

Luckily for you this information can be found in our free core training guide.

Download The Serious Guide to Core Training

Keith Hansen

Keith was an All-State wrestler in high school and in 2007 hung up his singlet to attend Florida State University to pursue a B.S. in business management. He wasn't sure what industry he wanted to be involved in at the time, but soon realized after graduating in 2011 that fitness was the ever-constant activity in his life. Keith began studying to become a personal trainer and in 2013 earned the National Strength and Conditioning Association's Personal Trainer certification. After a short stint as a big box gym trainer he realized he wanted to bring something different to Tallahassee. Keith competes in Powerlifting, Olympic Weightlifting, and Crossfit.