Five 2-for-1 Core-centric Exercises For Better Arms and Abs

with HAC Master Personal Trainer, Damon Marable

People want to get the most out of their workouts, especially around this time of year. A great way to get the best bang for your buck when training is to try compound movement style work. When you work out your arms and upper body, your core is likely being engaged to some extent, too. Translating that unintended movement to an intentional core workout can be easy! Try these five upper-body exercises that will also integrate your core:

1. Dumbbell Chest Press with Elevated Legs

(Perform 3 sets of 12 reps)

The safest way to practice this is on a mat on the floor. Keeping your le­gs straight and slightly elevated off the ground, press the dumbbells above the chest to contraction, then lower your arms back to a 90-degree angle on the mat. For added intensity, you can do this move on a bench with increased range of motion for your arms to achieve added mobility benefit in the pectoral muscles.

2. Core Roll Backs with Shoulder Press

(Perform 3 sets of 12 reps)

Starting on the knees, put hands knuckles-up on a barbell and roll forward until your core is fully engaged to stabilize. From there pull your core and the bar back using your hips. Pull until the bar reaches your thighs, then bring the bar to shoulder level. While keeping your body aligned and upright, press the bar directly overhead. Bring the bar back to shoulder level and lower back to the floor and repeat the exercise.

3. Side Plank with Cable Back Row

(Perform 3 sets of 12 reps on each side)

Place mat in front of a cable pulley positioned at a low height (about 1 foot off the floor). You should be able to lay on the mat and remain just out of arm’s reach from the pulley. Get into side plank position, then proceed to grab the cable handle. While keeping the core completely engaged in plank position, proceed to pull the cable to your side in a back row motion. Repeat this exercise on both sides.

4. Banded Dead Bug

(Perform 3 sets of 12 reps)

For this exercise, you will need an ankle band as well as a medicine ball, sandbag, or light-weight plate. Place the band around both feet and maintain feet in flexed position. Knees should come up to right above the hips, and ball/sandbag/weight plates are to be held in your hands right above chest level. As you stretch out one leg, the corresponding arm should move down towards the hips; shift the opposite arm up towards the head, twisting the ball/sandbag/weight plates through the motion. Return to starting position and alternate sides.

5. Hollow Hold

(Perform 3 sets, holding for 30-45 seconds per set)

Here’s a bodyweight core exercise that you can do either at the gym or at home. Lay down on your back. Focus on the intent of bracing your core to press your spine into the floor or mat. Lift your legs and arms about a foot off the floor. Keep your breathing controlled yet shallow to maintain the brace of your core.

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