A personal trainer says these 3 exercises are better than sit-ups for a stronger core

Oh and there's not a plank or crunch in sight

Woman doing the plank
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If you’re bored of doing your regular sit-ups then take this as your sign to stop as, according to a personal trainer there are far better exercises out there that you can be doing. “I don’t rate sit-ups at all,” says Cody Lewin, a certified strength and conditioning coach and sports therapist at The Grain Store At Calcot.

“They’re a really advanced exercise because when you’re coming into that spinal flexion to lift your lower back off the floor the amount of force required to do this is immense, and they generally work the superficial six-pack muscles.”

Instead what you should be focusing more on are exercises that work your deep core muscles says Cody. “These will protect the spine, protect the pelvis, and are a lot more beneficial to everyday life.” They also help reduce the likelihood of injury and can aid your heavy compound lifts, like squats and deadlifts. Nost sure which you should be doing? Cody’ shares his three favourites.

1. Supermans

Man performing bird dog exercise

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It's not just Cody who gives these the tick of approval, Dr. Stuart McGill, a Professor of Spine Biomechanics, wrote about three exercises that strengthen the core and prevent lower back pain, and the superman is one of them. It will strengthen your posterior and anterior core muscles, glutes, and lower back. 

Want to spice things up further? Cody says try grabbing a single kettlebell or dumbbell and, instead of placing your arm out in front, row the weight upwards instead. By adding in extra resistance your core muscles will have to work even harder to help your body remain balanced. Plus it will work your back, biceps and shoulders too.

2. Suitcase carries

Man carrying kettlebell

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"Hands down, this is one of the best exercises out there," says Cody, and we agree. The suitcase carry is where you carry a single weight (either kettlebell or single dumbbell) in one hand for a set distance, just as you would a suitcase. It may sound pretty simple, but your core will be working overtime to keep your body upright and to stop it from slumping to one side. Not to mention your arms, legs, and shoulders will also be fired up. 

The key is not to opt for a weight that's too heavy. This exercise isn't about how much weight you can shift, it's about moving with good form and control, as you don't want the weight swinging about bashing your side. Don't own any? Go traditional and use a suitcase instead.

3. Hanging knee raises

woman performing hanging knee raises

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If you want to target your lower abdominal muscles, then hanging knee raises are one of the best exercises out there. They also work your obliques, hip flexors and as you raise your knees you'll also be squeezing your shoulder blades downwards and engaging your lats to stop you from swinging. 

Once you master the knee raise, the natural progression is to then move onto doing it with straight legs. But, if you can't do either of these, go back to basics and start by doing foot taps led down on your back, then move on to straight leg raises, and then onto hanging knee raises.

Bryony Firth-Bernard
Staff Writer, Active

Bryony’s T3’s official ‘gym-bunny’ and Active Staff Writer, covering all things fitness. In her spare time, you will find her in her natural habitat - the gym - where her style of training is a hybrid of bodybuilding and powerlifting. Bryony loves writing about accessible workouts, nutrition and testing innovative fitness products that help you reach your fitness goals and take your training to the next level.