8 Functional Bodybuilding Abs Exercises to Build Powerful Core Strength

These functional bodybuilding Abs exercises from Marcus Filly are an alternative way to train your core and will attack and strengthen your midline in completely unique ways.

Marcus Filly is a multiple time CrossFit Games athlete known for his extensive work in functional bodybuilding and pushing the frontiers of fitness in exciting ways. The functional bodybuilding concept consists of the idea that you can be fit (functional) and look good (bodybuilding) at the same time.

Try adding these functional bodybuilding abs exercises into your training and keep things varied, fresh, fun and effective.

Abs Exercises will help you develop a strong core, which is essential for any athlete. Six pack abs are not – but they are fun and are also a goal for some people.

While the sport of CrossFit puts function first, other sports like bodybuilding generally prioritise aesthetics over fitness. The former can be a healthier approach, because your body becomes defined by what it can do, and not just by its constantly changing looks.

Marcus Filly pioneered functional bodybuilding abs exercises

In the end it all comes down to what you are training for, and what goals you would like to reach.

Whatever your targets, these eight functional bodybuilding abs exercises will help you to forge a strong core and six pack abs. Remember that without the right nutrition, you will not see or experience any meaningful results.

Read More: 9 Ab Exercises to Do At Home

Words by Marcus Filly.

Functional Bodybuilding Abs Exercises


This is an advanced Core Movement. The star plank combines lateral core and hip isometric contractions and is tough to balance.

Add in the ring stability demand and you have the recipe for a full body contraction requirement that will make even the strongest athletes shake. Approach at your own RISK!


Keeping the arms locked throughout the entire movement is critical. When you reach the top of the repetition we want to see that the arms are pointed directly to the ceiling, the biceps are close the the ears, and there is a straight line from KB to shoulder, to hip.

This is perfect movement to use within a conditioning workout or as part of a warm up.


Take an otherwise straightforward core exercise and add in some unilateral stability to it. Suddenly things change quite a lot in how the body has to stabilize and contract.

This anti-rotation core exercise is accessible to most and would be a perfect way to introduce newer trainees to rotational core work, before having them start twisting and turning under load.


The deadbug is one of our favorite hollow body core motor control exercises. The band resisted variation helps to ensure the the athlete learns how to coordinate their upper body with lower body around a hollow body.

Functional Bodybuilding Abs Exercises – ELBOW TO TALL PLANK

Also known as the Plank Walk Up, this drill is a great combination of core strength and single arm pressing strength.

The shifting of load from one shoulder to the other as you press up through the plank positions will help build great shoulder stability and pushing strength for beginner and intermediate athletes.

You will also get some asymmetrical core stimulus therefore leading to some rotational core work.


Hollow rocks can be scaled very easily by shortening the levers.

I love using bent hollow rocks not just for beginner athletes that have not progressed to full hollow rocks yet, but also for intermediate and advanced athletes in settings where they are fatigued and are losing position with a traditional extended hollow positions.

Consider starting with a full hollow position (arms and legs straight) and then as you fatigue shorten the levers as shown here for added reps or time under tension.


This contralateral balanced plank on a kettlebell is a great way to work on your anti rotational strength.

Anti rotational core strength is a stimulus that comes from having balance points or loading patterns that make the body want to rotate with gravity. You must fight that force and maintain balance.

Try this as part of your warm up to get you brain, temp, and rotational muscles to AWAKEN.

More Abs Exercises


six pack abs exercises l sit
L sits will destroy your core. In a good way.

The L-sit hold is a deceptively brutal exercise with benefits that go way beyond the visual. Not only will this exercise help fill out your sleeves and chisel your abs, it will improve the health of your shoulders, help you with your deadlift, and build functional core strength as well.

How do you do it? The L-sit hold is best done on a pair of parallettes. Nearly every gym has dip bars, and you can even do L-sits on a pair of push up bars, on kettlebells, yoga blocks, or even on a pair of benches.

You just need two sturdy and secure platforms of the same height that will lift your butt off the ground when you lock your arms pushing down in between them.


To perform an L-sit, position yourself between the parallettes, set shoulder-width apart. Using a firm, neutral grip, push your body off the ground, locking your elbows as if you’re at the top of a dip exercise.

Make sure to keep your shoulders down as you lock your knees and hold your legs together tightly, forming a 90-degree angle with your torso. Your legs should be parallel to the ground.


This variation will not only challenge your balance and stability, but also target your lower abs and strengthen your entire core. Start seated with your knees bent out in front of you. Lean back slightly so your torso is at a 45-degree angle to the floor and your shins are parallel to the floor. Keep your abs involved as you straighten your legs and simultaneously bring your arms out to the side. Bring your arms and legs back in to the starting position. Continue pulsing like this as you hold your core steady.


The bicycle crunch is an excellent exercise for building core strength and toning the thighs. It can be performed anywhere with no equipment needed.

Lie flat on the floor with the lower back pressed into the ground. Place your hands slightly either side of your head, do not lock your fingers or pull the head up. Lift your knees to a 45 degree angle.

At first slowly go through a bicycle pedal motion with the legs. Alternately touching your elbows to the opposite knee twisting back and forth through the core, keep the elbows back rather than forward to the chest as this could strain the neck.


The running man sit up is a bit like if the bicycle crunch got together with a standard sit-up.

HOW TO DO IT: Lie flat on the floor with your hands behind your head. Exhale as you curl up, twisting your torso and bending your right knee so that you left elbow crosses over your right knee. Drop all the way back down to the start before repeating on the other side.


Begin lying on your back with your legs up in the air, perpendicular to the floor. Keep your arms down along your side with your palms facing down. Squeeze your lower abs and raise your butt and lower back off the floor with quick pulses. Try not to rely on momentum, but focus on only using your lower abs. You can do it either with legs straight up or legs bent at the knees with shins parallel to the floor.


Grab a medicine ball, dumbbell, or weight plate and sit on the floor with your hips and knees bent 90 degrees. Hold the weight straight out in front of you and keep your back straight, your torso should be at about 45 degrees to the floor.

Explosively twist your torso as far as you can to the left, and then reverse the motion, twisting as far as you can to the right. The strength you need to paddle a raft is generated in your core, not your arms or shoulders. This is great for your obliques as well as six pack abs.


Begin lying on the floor with your legs straight and arms out wide to the sides, making a T with your body. In a slow and controlled motion, sit up, lifting your right leg and twisting to the right to bring your left hand to your right toes. Hold this position for a moment, pulling your abs toward your spine. Slowly roll down to return to the starting position to complete one rep. Repeat on the other side.

Read More: More Functional Bodybuilding Abs Exercises

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