Crunchless CORE

To take a leaf from Michelle Bridges, core is about more than crunches. Superficially, crunches feel like core, but they are little more than a waste of time where you are training in context of functional torso training. How often would you do a crunch-like movement in a day?

In addition, unintelligent “core” training often misses the biggest core muscles! Your butt is the biggest and most important pelvic stabilisor, yet how many of us include butt exercises in our core sessions? Jane Fonda’s fondness for throwing her leg in the air is not what we mean by butt-training either!


This workout is for a already-strong person. It is not a starting point. The session is designed to bring all the torso muscles together in a tight knit and balanced unit. Your back may be sore afterwards, but as long as it is the muscles, that is ok. If you feel any of these exercises in your pelvis or lower back, you need to re-evaluate your technique, and maybe even admit that you are not quite strong enough for that particular exercise yet.

Exercises that you should be proficient at before attempting this session:

  • Pilates leg extension.
  • Pilates sit up.
  • Hover on your toes, and with variations.
  • Deep squat.

You can add cardio between exercises to enhance the intensity, or simply concentrate on each exercise (like a pilates session) to have a quiet but effective session.  Break rep  number into as many sets as necessary to complete each one perfectly. eg. 40 reps can be 1×40, 2×20, or 4×10.

Exercise 1: Freeform roll-out x 40 reps
With your knees on the freeform board, arrange yourself into a perfect hover (elbows on a mat). Use your arms to push your body backwards and forwards. It is very important that you do not move your lower body, as this encourages the hip flexor group to work instead of the abs, and can exacerbate an existing back problem.

Exercise 2: Freeform roll-out for obliques x 20 reps each side
In the same hover position as before, roll your hips over so that one leg is sitting on top of the other leg. Gently roll out and in, keeping the body board-still.

Exercise 3: TRX roll out x 40 reps.
Again, it is important that your arms are doing the moving, and the body is perfectly straight (don’t make a “V” shape cos you will also look silly!!)

Exercise 4: PowerPlate hover with toe push x 1min (30hts)
By pointing and flexing your feet/toes, you increase and decrease the activity in different parts of your abs. Again, it is important to be aware of your hip/back position, and keep the lower back pressed up.

Exercise 5: V-sit (or boat pose) x 20 reps
This exercise is broken down into two steps. First, to balance in the correct position, with the hands and shins horizontal (preferably not holding on). Second step is to mobilise the spine right down the bottom, by rolling it to the floor and squeezing back up again (preferably without the rest of your back touching). This exercise is useful to get the spine moving and increasing abdominal strength, however, it is also high risk of injury if you simply hang off your hip flexors.

Exercise 6: Woodchop (high cable) x 20 reps each side.
It is important to keep your arms locked out in this exercise, to ensure it is your abs performing the movement (not your biceps!)

Exercise 7: Deadlift x 20 reps
This morning we did both bent-knee deadlifts (to emphasis the legs and butt) and straight leg (to emphasis the erector spinae and postural muscles. We performed these very slowly with lots of rest.

Exercise 8: Pelvic bridge pulses with elastic x 50 reps.
Keep the hips up and still, only opening the knees as much as you can whilst holding this position.


We must not mix our emotional need to “feel” a certain muscle group up with our functional need to work that muscle in context with the rest of the body. You will find that the stronger you get, the more you will feel those abs, because you will have better control over them!

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