Building Your Core Without Doing Any Sit-Ups

Ben Emanuel II

Most people will agree that doing sit-ups can get boring fast. However, sit-ups are bad not only because it is boring but because it can also cause injuries.

A lot of people think that having a strong core is equivalent to having six-pack abs that you can display on the beach or on your Instagram post. Another misconception about the core is that you have to be doing sit-ups to develop muscles in this area. Most people will agree that doing sit-ups can get boring fast.

However, sit-ups are bad not only because it is boring but because it can also cause injuries. The US army and the navy are even phasing out sit-ups as part of their fitness tests and program by the end of 2020.

What Makes the Core Functional?

Developing a strong core is important especially for athletes because most of the movements will require the activation of the core. But before anything else, what’s the core and why is it so important?

To understand the core’s importance, we first need to understand how the core interplays with the entire body. For starters, the core has a function in breathing. Next, the core is the one that helps keep your spine stable especially when you are carrying something. You have muscles that are attached to the lumbar area that helps provide stability and control. And last, the core can help facilitate energy transfer.

To simplify the functions of the core, it helps a person stay mobile, stable, and generate power from his or her movement.

What Composes the Core?

The six-pack abs that you see on Instagram is just a part of the core. The core is composed of muscles that are found in your spine, stomach, shoulder blades, and lumbar area. Crunches or sit-ups tend to just work on the rectus abdominis. However, it neglects the other muscles that compose your core.

Here are some core exercises that can help you build a strong core without the need to be doing a single situp.


Ever heard your trainer say that you shouldn’t miss leg day? Squat is the gold standard of leg exercises. But apart from training your hamstrings, quads, and hips, this can also help activate your core. Specific core muscle that is activated during this exercise is the erector spinae.

The erector spinae is a group of muscles (plus tendons) that runs through the spine from the sacral part all the way to the base of the skull.

This can also be a good way to train your core how to transfer energy. Squats allow the transfer of energy from your legs to different parts of the body.

There are different squat variations that you can try to challenge your core as well. You can go for goblet squats especially when you don’t have access to a barbell. This works with minimal equipment such as kettlebells, dumbbells, and even just resistance bands. However, be sure to keep your spine straight to activate the core and prevent injuries.

Kettlebell Swings

Kettlebell swings can be considered a basic kettlebell exercise. Though the workout involves your lower body, you will have to engage the core the entire time to be able to get the kettlebell up. This will allow your body to stand upright as you do the movement.

As you develop a proper form in doing kettlebell swings, you can transition towards doing cleans, snatches, and other kettlebell exercises.


The deadlift is a basic strength exercise that should be done regularly. This exercise can be considered a strength builder for both your upper and lower body. Plus, it is also functional since you will most likely be carrying things from the ground up.

Also, it is a great core exercise. It has the ability to strengthen the back and other muscles since you will have to maintain a straight back the entire time when you are doing deadlifts. However, you don’t exactly need to deadlift 300 pounds off the ground whenever you are doing deadlifts. You can always start small.

You can start with minimal equipment if you want to be doing deadlifts. Without a gym, you can still be doing deadlifts. You can start with a dumbbell, kettlebell, or a resistance band.

Kettlebell Rack Carry

Kettlebell rack carry is a simple, yet effective, way of building your shoulders without rotating and putting stress on your joints. However, since you will be walking forward with kettlebells in front, it challenges the core muscles. Doing a few sets of 20-meter walks while carrying kettlebells in front is not exactly complicated. However, it can get difficult fast.

Standing Shoulder Press

If you are going to sit and do your usual shoulder press, you will only be working on your shoulders. However, stand and do shoulder presses and you are already letting the core work to keep your spine upright. You will be recruiting the help of your abdominal muscles and your lower back to keep an upright posture. This simple tweak can activate more muscles plus you will be surprised how tiring this workout could get.


If you are looking for a workout that can engage the entire core, then you have to go with the plank. It also helps strengthen the shoulder and the rhomboids since you hold the position (ideally) for 3 to 5 minutes. However, if it is your first time, you can always start small. Once you have improved your core strength, you can start more challenging plank variations such as one arm plank and side plank.

Final Thoughts

The core is more than just 6 pack abs that you can show off during the summer. The core is a group of muscles that can help improve mobility and balance.

However, if you are really hell-bent on having six-pack abs, do these exercises plus be sure to watch what you eat. It has been proven that exercise alone isn’t enough to see a significant decrease in abdominal subcutaneous fats. To get your six-pack abs, you will need to get rid of visceral fats to make those abdominal muscles visible.