This article was originally written for STACK.
Core strength is essential for all athletes of all sports at all levels. Heck, core strength is essential for all people, period.
An unbreakable core is much more than just six-pack abs (although that's definitely a nice plus).
It is a group of muscles throughout the trunk that stabilize the body. The core is your body's center of gravity, and is the foundation which all other movements rely on. If your core is weak and unstable, it can be become a major energy leak in your movements and sap you of explosiveness. Squats, Deadlifts, Pull-Ups, and even walking are largely dependent on core strength.
So how do you truly develop a strong core?
I'll give you a hint, it doesn't involve any of the following:
Thousands of sloppy crunches
A machine that magically stimulates your abs while you sleep
A bulletproof core, just like any other muscle group, is built by performing difficult movements and creating maximum tension.
There are dozens of exercises that meet this criteria, but two of the best are TRX Fallouts and TRX Pikes. Individually, these are both great exercises that practice anti-extension, an essential function of the core. Pair them together, and you have a brutal two-move superset that will challenge athletes of any level.
To perform a proper TRX Fallout, start in a modified push-up position with your arms fully extended and hands on the straps. Extend your arms all the way out in front of you, briefly pause, then return to the starting position.
A few things to remember as you execute this movement:
Keep your hips quiet and in line with your body—don't let them sink or rise.
Keep your chest up and back flat throughout the exercise.
Actively think about tightening the core and glutes as you move.
To protect your shoulders, don't let your chest and torso sag lower than your hands when you reach full extension.
A great benefit of TRX Fallouts is that they are easily scalable. To make them easier, simply shorten the straps or align your body more vertically. To make them harder, lengthen the straps or align your body more horizontally.
To set up for a TRX Pike, place your feet in the straps and assume a push-up position. While keeping your legs straight, contract your abs and raise your hips to the ceiling, bringing your feet closer to your torso. Briefly pause, then return to the starting position.
A few reminders:
Lengthen the straps until they are close to the floor, about your mid-calf when standing.
Maintain a neutral spine throughout the motion.
Prevent your hips from sagging when returning to the starting position.
Similar to the Fallout, you can make a TRX Pike more difficult by lengthening the straps or moving further away from the anchor point.
The Reverse Ladder Workout
The best way to combine the TRX Fallout and TRX Pike is to superset them in a reverse ladder fashion. Although this can be done at any point in your workout, I highly recommend using it as a finisher after your more traditional strength work.
To do a reverse ladder:
Perform 10 Fallouts.
Without resting (or very minimal rest), immediately jump into 10 Pikes.
Do 9 Fallouts followed by 9 Pikes.
Do 8 of each, so on and so forth.
Continue alternating in this fashion until you reach 1 rep of each.
When it's all said and done, you will have performed 55 reps of each exercise. Brutal! If you cannot perform each rep with proper form due to fatigue, you can cut down on the number of reps you start the reverse ladder with.