4 MORE Brutal Exercises That Build Extreme Core Strength

Coach Dustin Myers, CSCS
Written By: Coach Dustin Myers, CSCS
September 30th, 2015
Updated: June 13th, 2020
Categories: Articles Training
29.7K Reads
4 MORE Brutal Exercises That Build Extreme Core Strength
Feeling pretty proud of that 6 pack? Prepare to be humbled. Put your core strength to the ultimate test with these 4 brutal core exercises from Coach Myers!

As I addressed in the original "4 Brutal Exercises That Build Extreme Core Strength", poor core strength is a common problem with everyone from beginner lifters to seasoned vets. Even with "core training" being the most overused term in the gym today, many people - personal trainers included - have a fundamental misunderstanding of what it takes to achieve a strong core.

So you can do 1,000 crunches and have a 6 pack?

Good for you, but that doesn't mean your abs or lower back are strong. Maybe you have a strong lower back from deadlifting, but your abs or hip flexors are weak. Most lifters use exercises that train the individual muscles that comprise the core - side bends for the obliques, crunches for the abdominals, etc - but may not do movements that build strength and stability in those muscles as a whole group.

Accessory lifts like cable chest flys may give you a great pump, but is that how you would build a strong chest? If you want powerful pecs you need to do heavy compound movements like bench press or dumbbell chest press. Similarly, bodyweight crunch variations are not going to build a powerful midsection because they do not place a significant load on all of the muscles that stabilize the core, they merely tone the abdominals.

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Another downfall of many "core" regimens is the high volume of reps. If you can do hundreds of reps per set, is that exercise building strength or just giving you a pump? To build strong legs, I don't use an empty olympic bar and perform 100 squats. I use a weight that is challenging enough that the rep range is typically in the single digits.

If you want a strong core, you have to do compound power movements, some of which are so difficult that a max effort set may be 1 repetition. Here are 4 that will put you to the test.

1. Standing Ab Wheels

The Ab Wheel is one of my favorite tools for building a strong core. Doing the movement properly uses your abs, lower back, serratus, and even your lats and triceps. If you are able to do 20+ reps with good form then it's time to test the waters with the standing version.

Like the majority of extreme core movements, the most crucial thing is keeping your abs flexed and hips tilted forward. Most people fail at the bottom of the rep because their abs can't stay contracted and they strain their lower back. If you can do the standing version with ease then grab 2 thick bumper plates and attempt the variation shown at the end of the video.

  • Modified version: Regular Ab Wheel (on knees)
  • Exercises to build required strength: Weighted Planks, Regular Ab Wheel

2. Dragon Flags aka the "Bruce Lee" aka the "Rocky 4"

The Dragon Flag is the first extreme core strength movement I can remember attempting way back in high school. After seeing a picture of Bruce Lee doing a Dragon Flag, I gave it a shot and failed miserably. I was in disbelief. I had a 6-pack, why was this so hard? The answer: a six pack does not necessarily equal strong abs.

This was a turning point in my training as I realized I needed to rethink my abdominal training and also concentrate on building strong spinal erectors.

Start by laying on a bench and grab just over head. Lift your legs up until most of your torso comes off the bench. Keeping your lats engaged, arch your lower back and straighten out your body, slowly lowering it. Try to hold at a low angle for as long as possible.

  • Modified version: Leg bent (see reps 2 and 3 in video)
  • Exercises to build required strength: Toes to Bar Leg Raises (stop at parallel to the floor), Reverse Hyper, DB Pullovers

3. Russian Dips

I'm not really sure if this Dip/L-sit hybrid was invented by the Russians or not, but with their reputation for extreme functional movements I believe it. Not only does this movement test your core strength, but it requires exponentially more tricep strength. To put it in perspective - I have done 100 unbroken parallel dips, but it is a struggle for me to do a set of 10 Russian Dips.

The easiest way to set this up is use two high plyo boxes, or stack bumper plates on low ones, as shown in the video. Place your palms flat, fingers facing forward, and lower yourself into a dip by guiding your elbows back onto the box. Transition into an L-Sit and lean back slightly before tucking your legs and powering back up to starting position.

Although I haven't mastered it yet, a more advanced version is to perform Russian Dips on a set of Parallel Bars (also shown in video).

  • Modified version: Do a knee raise at the bottom rather than an L-Sit
  • Exercises to build required strength: Dips, L-Sit Static Holds, Bodyweight Skull Crushers with Feet Elevated

4. Medicine Ball Wheel Barrows

Ok, those first 3 exercises are tough, but you know I couldn't put the word "Extreme" in the article description without throwing something super human in here. Everyone remembers having Wheel Barrow races at summer camp as a kid, right? Well if you went to summer camp run by Ninja warriors, this is probably the type of races you would have done.

Start with two medicine balls of equal weight on the floor shoulder width apart. Place your feet on a Swiss Ball and "walk" forward as you carefully roll one ball forward, and then the other. I wish I could tell you the secret trick to this one, but I think it comes down to balance, core strength, and concentration. Good luck!

  • Modified version: Try it with just your feet on a Swiss ball and hands on the ground, or with your hands on medicine balls and a partner holding your legs.
  • Exercises to build required strength: Pike Lay Outs, Med Ball Plyo

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Posted on: Mon, 10/26/2015 - 21:09

Looking forward to adding these to my training this week. Thanks.

Posted on: Sun, 10/04/2015 - 12:18

no video ? no fun

Coach Myers
Posted on: Mon, 10/26/2015 - 21:01

Click on the individual exercises to see them in action!

Paul Wilson
Posted on: Mon, 11/02/2015 - 02:09

Great information that is is easy to understand and implement.