Bored of crunches? These three movements will immediately upgrade your core workouts

Use these movement patterns to build a strong, well-rounded core

Man exercising at home, wearing blue T-shirt and gray exercise pants. He is in a high plank position, lifting a dumbbell to his torso
(Image credit: damircudic / Getty Images)

Core workouts can feel a little uninspiring at times. And frankly, doing hundreds of sit-ups and crunches can put you off exercising altogether.

Good news, then, that training flexion—which is what crunches and sit-ups do—is only one element of core training.

In an Instagram Reel, James Stirling, known online as the London Fitness Guy, shares three key movement patterns that will help you build a strong core that you should be doing alongside crunches. Each movement targets different parts of the core, not just the abdominal muscles, so your obliques, lower back and hips will be challenged too.

James Stirling's recommended core movements

The goal of each exercise is to resist movement or force in a certain direction. Take a look at Stirling's video for his demonstrations, then read on for our bodyweight alternatives in case you're working out at home and don't own dumbbells or a gym ball.


What does it involve? Resisting arching of the lower back. This type of core strength ensures you can maintain a safe posture while performing heavy compound lifts such as the barbell squat or deadlift.

Stirling recommends: Stir the pot

  • Place your forearms on a gym ball and hold the rest of your body in a straight line from head to heels.
  • Engage your core, glutes and back muscles to resist arching the lower spine.
  • Maintain the plank position of your body while you slowly move your forearms in a small circle.

Bodyweight alternative: Dead bug

Alternating Dead Bug - YouTube Alternating Dead Bug - YouTube
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  • Lie on your back with your legs raised and knees bent to 90° and your arms extended straight up.
  • Engage your core, pressing your lower back into the floor.
  • Slowly extend your right leg away from you while lowering your left arm behind your head.
  • Pause, then return to the start with control. Repeat on the other side.

Having trouble? Our guide to how to do a dead bug will help.

Anti-lateral flexion

What does it involve? The goal is to stop your torso bending to the side.

Stirling recommends: Overhead single-arm farmer carry

  • Hold a dumbbell in one hand overhead.
  • Alternate lifting your knees to hip height, keeping your hips square and torso upright.

Bodyweight alternative: Side plank

Side Plank - YouTube Side Plank - YouTube
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  • Lie on your right side with your right hand and forearm on the floor and one foot on top of the other.
  • Lift your hips until your body forms a straight line from head to heels parallel with the rest of your body.
  • Hold this position, resisting the pull of gravity on your hips.
  • Repeat on the other side.


What does it involve? Your job is to stabilize yourself against a force trying to pull you round.

Stirling recommends: Renegade row

  • Get into a high plank position, holding dumbbells resting on the floor. Your hands should be under your shoulders, and your body should be in a straight line from head to heels. Your feet should be wider than shoulder-width apart.
  • Keeping the rest of your body still, lift the dumbbell to your hips, leading with your elbow.
  • Lifting the dumbbell will pull your hips and torso out of position, resist that rotation to strengthen your core muscles.
  • Lower the dumbbell under control and repeat on the other side.

Bodyweight alternative: Bird dog

2 Point Bird Dog - YouTube 2 Point Bird Dog - YouTube
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  • Begin on your hands and knees, with your hands under your shoulders and your knees under your hips.
  • Raise your right arm in front of you and raise and extend your left leg behind you until both form a straight line with your torso.
  • Pause, then return to the start with control.
  • Repeat on the other side.
Alice Porter
Freelancer Writer

Alice Porter is a freelance journalist covering lifestyle topics including health, fitness and wellness. She is particularly interested in women's health, strength training and fitness trends and writes for publications including Stylist Magazine, Refinery29, The Independent and Glamour Magazine. Like many other people, Alice's personal interest in combining HIIT training with strength work quickly turned into a CrossFit obsession and she trains at a box in south London. When she's not throwing weights around or attempting handstand push-ups, you can probably find her on long walks in nature, buried in a book or hopping on a flight to just about anywhere it will take her.