Although we know Sir Mix-a-lot says that side bends and sit-ups are okay, there are much better ab exercises to get you the strong and flat core you desire. This is the first post in my anti-core series to improve your core strength and help flatten your stomach.
Anti-Core Exercises are the Ticket to a Rock-Solid Core
Anti-what? Anti-core exercises refer to resisting certain movements. The plank, for example, is resisting your back extending, so anti-extension. When you perform plank dumbbell rows (aka renegade rows), you have to try with all your might to keep your hips from twisting, which is anti-rotation.
Anti-core exercises work to strengthen the entire length of your core, rather than zeroing in on a certain muscle. They help you protect your spine during daily activities, improve your posture, and help you develop a rock-solid (and dare I say sexy?!) core.
Most ab and core exercises will strengthen muscles in a way that actually causes them to stick out farther. Hello, crunches, I’m looking at you. This is fine if your body fat percentage is already low, but for most of us, it just makes our stomachs stick out farther.
I’m not saying your traditional core work is bad, and I believe every exercise serves a purpose. However, by focusing on anti-core exercises you can work to flatten your stomach and make sure your core is doing all it can to keep your spine safe. Basing workouts around these movements or including them in your programming will help get the results that may have eluded you while following Sir Mix-a-lot’s advice.
For today, we’ll focus on exercises that help us resist bending over at our sides, also known as lateral flexion.
7 Anti-lateral Flexion Core Exercises for a Strong and Flat Stomach
Add these exercises to your program to challenge your core in a more effective way!
For a Farmer’s Walk, choose one single dumbbell (or kettlebell) that’s challenging to carry. Inhale and brace your core before picking up the dumbbell off the floor and standing up. Engage your lats by bringing the dumbbell away from your side just slightly so it’s not touching your leg.
Keeping your core braced and not allowing your torso bend to one side, simply walk forward. You can take normal steps, and you don’t need to look quite as awkward as I do here ;) Do an equal amount of time or steps on each side.
An Offset Carry is like the Farmer’s Walk but you hold a dumbbell (or kettlebell) in each hand. To make it “offset” you’ll either hold them in different places like the first part of the video, or you’ll hold different weights in each hand. Either way, you’re fighting the urge for your torso to lean to one side and keeping your core braced for a punch.
For the first position, either curl one dumbbell up to your shoulder, or perform a dumbbell clean to bring both up, and lower one to your side. Carry the one by your side just like you did in the Farmer’s Walk, and hold the other rested on your shoulder, elbow forward. Brace your core as you walk and focus on standing up tall and with good posture, fighting the pull to lean to one side.
For the second position, perform a Farmer’s Walk with dumbbells that are different weights in each hand, fighting the urge to lean or bend.
Overhead Carries make a great warm-up or cool-down exercise, as well as a rockin’ core and shoulder stability movement. Choose a weight that’s challenging to carry overhead, but that you can still keep your shoulder in place and feel sturdy and stable. You want your shoulder “packed” in its socket, not pushing it up or out. Keep your wrist firm, especially if you’re holding a kettlebell- don’t allow it to bend back.
Either curl and press or clean and press the dumbbell over your head and lock your elbow. Brace your core and walk forward, not allowing yourself to lean! Repeat on the other side. You could also do this without weight until you feel ready.
A classic anti-core exercise is the side plank. Line your elbow underneath your shoulder and extend your legs. Press into your forearm to lift your body up into a straight line and hold. Perform on your knees if this is too hard. Repeat on the other side.
Plank twists are a combination anti-core movement, and as you twist onto each hand from a plank position, you engage your core in anti-lateral flexion!
Start in a straight arm plank position. Twist your hands into the floor and squeeze your butt and core. Shift your weight onto one hand while twisting your torso to bring your other hand up until you’re in a T position. Slowly lower down and repeat on the other side. Since we’re focusing on anti-lateral flexion, really squeeze your side as you’re up on one hand!
This ends our core-focused exercises, and the remaining ones are excellent combo moves that focus on another body part but challenge your core in anti-lateral flexion.
Single Arm Shoulder Press
It’s very challenging to perform a dumbbell press with one arm without bending to the opposite side! Get down on one knee with your dumbbell in the hand opposite of your forward leg. Start with your arm bent, palm facing you, dumbbell at your shoulder. Press up overhead while keeping your core tight and resisting bending to the opposite side. You can also perform this standing or kneeling on both knees.
Single Leg Offset Exercises
To finish up this epic list, almost any single leg exercise where you’re holding your weight on only one side OR holding different sized weights in each hand will challenge your body in anti-lateral flexion!
In the video, I demonstrate holding a dumbbell in only one hand while performing a single leg deadlift, reverse lunges, and a squat. You could also perform step-ups, dumbbell deadlifts, single leg squats, etc with either one dumbbell or holding dumbbells of different weights in each hand.
I would encourage you to master good form and bracing before trying these lower body exercises. If you’re new to strength training, check out one of these programs to get you started!
Add These Anti-Core Exercises into Your Routine and See the Difference
Add these exercises into your workouts to strengthen the whole of your core, improve stability, posture, and start your journey to flat abs. In the weeks to come, we’ll add some other exercises to our anti-core lists that will help with flattening your stomach as well. This isn’t an exhaustive list, but will be great for getting you started!
I’d love to hear your feedback or any other anti-lateral flexion exercises you love! And if you need some dumbbells to get you started, check out my store. I’m obsessed with the Powerblocks you see in this post!
**Try at your own risk! Of course, check with your doctor before starting any exercise program- especially if you have a medical condition, injury, or are pregnant. If you have blood pressure issues, don’t get above an 8 on the RPE scale. The Fit Tutor is not responsible for any injuries.