SERIOUS core training is not about getting "six-pack abs" or a "toned tummy" (I can't believe I just wrote the words "toned tummy").
If you want to develop incredible core strength that boosts your athletic and strength performance, you need core training that is functional, movement-based and utilizes significant resistance.
You need an exercise that is going to challenge your core in ways it has NEVER experienced before.
And that exercise is the Dumbbell Crawl...
I'll be honest...this is one of THE weirdest abdominal exercises you'll ever see...it's also one of the most effective and one of my absolute favorites for developing ridiculous core strength.
You're not going to be doing any crunching or twisting or squeezing. There are no machines involved...heck, there's no need to really even focus on contracting the core muscles.
Because once you start doing this exercise, your body will have NO CHOICE but to fire the abs HARD in order to do it.
For this exercise, all you need is a pair of dumbbells and a floor. That's it!
The first time you do this one, start at a moderate weight - something you'd use for sets of 5 reps on dumbbell curls, perhaps. In the demo, I'm using 65 lb dumbbells and those were a good weight for me. I would recommend starting even lighter, unless you're used to doing cross-tension core training already.
This exercise is going to teach you what core strength and stability are REALLY all about...
How To Do Dumbbell Crawling:
You'll need some open floor space for this exercise - preferably where you have about 10 to 15 feet of unobstructed space to move.
Set the dumbbells on the floor then get down in what looks like the top of a close-grip push-up position. Your hands will be on the handles of the dumbbells and you'll be up on your toes (not kneeling).
Now you're going to CRAWL forward in that position...move the RIGHT dumbbell forward a few inches and step your LEFT foot forward a few inches. When doing these, I like to set the dumbbells at an angle on the floor. This keeps them from rolling to the sides while you're moving, giving you a bit more stability.
It's definitely easier to "get" this one when you see it done on video (posted above).
Basically, you're going to be crawling on the floor with your hands weighted by the dumbbells. Crawl forward about 10 feet like this then stop.
When you've gone as far as you can, crawl BACKWARDS, returning to the start location. This backwards crawling is actually even harder than forwards...you don't have the strong muscles of the lower body pushing you forward.
If you're advanced, you can also add in a pair of ankle weights to REALLY kick things up a notch. I've got a pair of 20 lb ankle weights on in this next set of pictures.
Looks easy, right? Just crawling around on the floor...
Oh yes, it's VERY easy...[insert evil laughter here]...
Why Dumbbell Crawling Is So Effective:
Dumbbell crawling is a VERY effective core exercise because of the cross-tension you get through your core with every step forward you take.
Think of it this way...when you're lifting up your left hand (with the dumbbell) and the right foot, what is supporting your body?
The support is coming from your OTHER hand and foot. Your core is, in an instant, going from 4-point support to 2-point support and all the tension is going diagonally through your core. This fires the internal and external obliques STRONGLY. And if you're below 10% bodyweight, you'll also involve the transverse abdominis muscles (studies have shown it's not active at higher bodyfat levels).
In addition, while crawling, you're also supporting your bodyweight in a pike position, working the entire abdominal area isometrically (which means without movement - just acting to stabilize and brace your body position). It's a two-pronged attack on your core that will pay off BIG.
One of the great things about this exercise is that the strength you develop is EXTREMELY functional. Forget standing on a BOSU ball on one leg and catching a beanbag...THIS exercise will build serious functional power through the core.
The diagonal tension of crawling exactly mimics the natural diagonal tension that goes through the core when walking, running and jumping. Think of it as "force transfer" strength, meaning you'll be better able to transfer force through your core when moving (i.e. running, jumping, etc.).
Increasing strength in this very targeted way will have an IMMEDIATE and powerful carryover to sports performance.
And when you start moving BACKWARDS...you'll be in for a treat...
When you're doing this exercise, start with a light to moderate weight but don't be afraid to increase the weight here. You may not feel it so much in the abs until you move up in weight. THAT is where the real benefits of the exercise will be felt.
Dumbbell Crawling and Sled Pulling
If you have the equipment for it, this combination is absolutely fantastic. In the video below, I'm doing dumbbell crawling with 100 lb dumbbells while pulling 150 lbs.
Dumbbell, Ankle Weight and Band Crawling
This variation is next level insane...in addition to dumbbells, I'm wearing 20 lb ankle weights and I have a band wrapped around my wrists and feet.
If core strength and performance are important goals in your training, DEFINITELY give this exercise a try. As strange as it may look, it's actually extremely effective for working the core. It's going to TRASH your abs.