Fitness expert shares five exercises that will help you get ‘usable abs’

AKA superior core strength

Man doing farmer carries
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Abs may look good, but they require time and, most importantly, a low body fat percentage. What’s far more important is having strong core muscles and one person who’s a big advocate for this is Physical Therapist, Dr. Aaron Horschig (Founder of Squat University).

In a recent YouTube video, he shares his favourite exercises that help to enhance spine stability and give you, what he likes to call, “usable abs”— aka superior core strength — which he explains won’t just give you with more power in the gym when it comes to your compound lifts, but will improve your posture, decrease your risk of injury and help you with everyday tasks too.

All you'll need is either a single kettlebell or a pair of dumbbells.

Dr. Horschig's core exercises

The exercises Dr. Horschig shares improve spine stability through three different planes of motion: the frontal plane (movements that occur side to side), the sagittal plane (movements that go forwards and backwards) and the transverse plane (movements that are horizontal or include rotation). In layman terms, this basically means your core is being strengthened from all angles. 

Although Dr. Horschig shares eight exercises in this video (which you can watch above) we've picked five that we think are the most beginner-friendly to getting you a super strong core. Do each exercise below for three to four rounds of 30 to 45 seconds on each side of your body (where applicable). Here they are:

1. Suitcase marches

A simple yet super effective exercise for your core. Hold a kettlebell or single dumbbell in one hand, stiffen your core and march on the spot whilst trying not to keep your body tall and upright. Don't let it fall to the side.

2. Suitcase deadlift

Place a kettlebell by your side. Ensure your knees are soft and hinge your hips backwards to lower yourself down towards the kettlebell. Grab the kettlebell by the handle and stand up straight. Again, your core will be working twice as hard to make sure it doesn't tilt.

3. Mix grip suitcase carry

If the suitcase marches are too easy, then give this exercise a try instead. Hold either your dumbbell and kettlebell in one hand by the side of your body and the other in a front rack position. Walk forwards for 35 to 40 seconds, then swap your hand position over and repeat. 

4. Plank pull throughs

Get into a high plank position, with your hands directly under your shoulders and you legs stretched out behind you. Make sure your kettlebell or dumbbell is just behind your hand. Then, reach your opposite hand through your body to grab your weight and pull it through to the other side. Make sure you don't twist your torso.

5. Kneeling around the worlds

Get onto your knees and grab your kettlebell or dumbbell in one hand. Swing it either anti-clockwise or clockwise around the front of your body. Then, once your arm can't go round you any further, take it in your other hand and continue to swing it behind your body. Again, when your hand can't go any further, take it in your other hand and continue moving it around your body. The key is to keep your body stiff the entire time. If your abs aren't on fire, Dr. Horschig says you probably need to use a heavier weight!

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.