I very rarely incorporate sit-ups in to my programming and sometimes receive feedback that people are genuinely disappointed they haven’t “worked their abs.”

Why do I skip sit-ups?

I skip them because the most effective way to train our abs is to strength train using compound movements. Using our body as a whole in order to push, pull, hinge and squat is quite possibly one of the most useful things we could ever teach our bodies.

Our abs don’t work in isolation, so why would we train them that way? In my mind, hip and core stability create a firm foundation for which to work the core. Our abs work in conjunction with our glutes in order to stabilize our torso as well as move properly. That’s why I consider glutes to be part of our core. In fact, I consider everything other than your limbs to be your core!

Here’s a sneak peak of 4 great core exercises that you will see in Smart Strength (these are especially awesome if you are new to strength training).

Watch the videos to learn HOW to do the exercise and learn more under WHY.


Do you have a very large arch in your lower back when standing?

Banded Deadbugs

Do you have a flat lower back with a small bum?

WHY: Many people cannot stabilize their pelvis while breathing and holding their knees in a 90 degree position. This problem continues to occur all the way to the standing position and leads to massive thoracic extension and crazy anterior tilt (read: BACK ARCH) when they lift their arms overhead. The same is true for people with a flat lower back who cheat and use their hips instead of their core. By taking the faulty pattern back to the beginning (ie lying on the ground) you are able to practice a neutral position (dependent on your individual body) while breathing and engaging the core properly.  Don’t rush it…feel it. You will see quite quickly which version works YOUR core most!

Side Plank Level 1

Side Plank Level 2

Side Plank Level 3

WHY: I see a ton of asymmetry within the side plank hold.  The same holds true in the static standing position. Instead of just loading the poor position, teaching the core to support the body in a side plank can do a lot for individuals with a torso or a hip rotation. Women tend to overuse the shoulders and lower back, as opposed to really feeling the hold in the obliques and supporting glute. Maintaining square hips without dipping or rotating is quite difficult for those new to strength training.

1/2 Kneeling Halo 

WHY: Core stability in a 1/2 kneeling position. Teaching the glute to contract in order to stabilize the hips and connect to the torso, as opposed to leaning into the hip/quad and lower back for support.  I love bang for your buck exercises and the kettlebell 1/2 kneeling halo is definitely one of them. Addressing the core, shoulders and hips in a single exercise.

Bear Crawls 

Lateral Bear Crawls

WHY: This simple, no equipment necessary core exercise is so diverse it can be used as a warm up, finisher or filler! Bear crawl variations work your brain (coordinating opposite arm and leg can be a challenge), core, as well as upper back. Plus it’s just fun to move like an animal!

*Note: I am not saying that isolated core work is bad, it just isn’t the foundation for our success. This is especially true when we have limited time; we want to use our entire body in order to get stronger!