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Compound exercises for core or do you need more?

I'll be honest, I've been on both sides of this spectrum. There was a time early in my fitness journey where I was doing ab exercises every day of lifting. I'd do a full leg workout + 2-3 ab exercises, etc. On the other hand, there was a time when I would do minimal, if any, ab exercises because I was knee deep in relying on my compound and accessory lifts for core strength. The truth is neither are wrong. Isolating your core by doing ab specific exercises is a positive thing, and strengthening your core during your compound and accessory lifts is also a positive thing. Both work in your favor. I recommend doing both. Compound and accessory exercises require stabilizing and bracing from your core. Think of your core as more than just your abs. Your core includes your stabilizers and deep stabilizers located in front, on the sides, and on the back. It's a whole 360-degree muscle complex. Lifting exercises engage your core with each rep to maintain form. Ab specific exercises generally focus on your rectus abdominis (outer layer of ab muscles), transverse abdominis (deeper layer of ab muscles), and external obliques (sides). I recommend doing ab specific exercises because it's likely going to assist in your other lifts or other activities that you participate in. If someone is a beginner or has a harder time engaging their core consistently throughout their workout, I recommend doing 1-2 core exercises as part of the warm-up. Likely it includes a dead bug variation and/or a plank variation. If someone is more seasoned with exercise and/or has less trouble keeping their core engaged throughout the workout, consider doing 1-2 ab exercises at the end of the workout. This doesn't need to be done with every workout, but at least a couple times per week. When programming ab specific exercises, keep in mind that you'll want to have a prone exercise (ex: plank), supine exercise (ex: dead bug), rotational exercise (ex: wood chop), and anti-rotational exercise (ex: pallof press). These types of ab exercises will give you a well-rounded plan to strengthen your abs for all your activities. So, you tell me. Will you be adding in a little more core to your workouts or reducing your frequency?


Katharine Moustakes
Hey, friend!

I'm Katharine.

I'm a personal trainer, running coaching, and nutrition coach who's stoked about lifting, the outdoors, summit snacks, and my dog.


I understand that fitness is not your whole life. Fitness is a PART of your life. I approach training in a way that adds value to your life and longevity, so you can enjoy being active whether you're romping around in the mountains, playing with your kids, or signing up for your first 10K race.

I'm here to meet you where you are, so you can train safely and effectively, and gain strength and confidence both in the gym and on the trails.

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