Jonathan Ross by Jonathan Ross

We ask a lot of our core, don’t we?

We want these muscles to not only look great but also work well and help prevent back pain. If we want our core to do it all, we have to train these muscles according to their function using all the movements they can potentially do.
The core workout presented here provides a progressively challenging experience by using only flexion/extension or rotation on the first three exercises and then combining flexion/extension with rotation on the next three exercises. The exercises provide a balanced approach by focusing on both stability and mobility challenges.

Combined flexion/extension with rotation is considered by many to be the most challenging way to use the core, but it is essential. After all, life will make us combine flexion/extension with rotation at some point, so it is advisable to prepare for it. Preparing the body for the most challenging movements in a safe, sensible, controlled way is essential for handling the unpredictable movements life throws at us, such as when we drop a cell phone or if a pet runs into the road, for example.

The same is true for the much-maligned “crunch,” which involves flexing the spine—another common movement of daily life (like getting up out of bed). While crunches have been and still can be potentially overused, it is the overuse rather than the nature of the movement itself that can cause problems. A crunch brings the shoulders toward the hips and a reverse crunch brings the hips toward the shoulders—both of these movements are included in this workout.

The Workout

Most of the exercises in this workout use a stability ball because the added inherent instability of doing the exercises on a round air-filled surface adds a balance challenge to the movement and causes less involvement of the thigh muscles and more targeted activation of the abdominal muscles. 


1. Reverse Crunch with Hand Targets – 10 reps

2. Arm Offset Crunch – 20 reps, alternating arms each rep

3. Lateral Rolling Plank – 8 reps each side

4. Rotating Crunch with Lateral Arm Swing – 20 reps, alternating sides with arms each rep

5. Reverse Crunch with Stability Ball – 10 reps

6. Hip Roll with Thread the Needle – 6 reps each side


Week 1

  • Perform two sets of exercises 1?3 as a circuit; rest 30 seconds between sets.
  • 4-5 days with a rest day between workouts

Week 2

  • Complete one set of exercises 1?6 as a circuit; rest 30 seconds between sets.
  • 3-4 days with a rest day between workouts

Week 3 and Beyond

  • Perform two sets of exercises 3?6 as a circuit; rest 20 seconds between sets.
  • 3 days per week
  • Begin each week with a different exercise first. This is a clever way to provide a different challenge for the muscles without needing to learn any new movements (this technique can be used in any circuit workout). For example, start the circuit with exercise 3 (Lateral Rolling Plank). The following week, begin with exercise 4 (Rotating Crunch with Lateral Arm Swing). The week after that begin with exercise 5 and so on.

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