The benefits of a strong core cannot be underestimated, pretty much everything you do involves your abs; walk, bend, sit, stand, reach or lift. Strong abs will improve your posture, stabilise your lifts and prevent injuries.
A good way of strengthening your core is using barbells, as an athlete can add as much or little weight to the bar as they want, depending on their sporting ability.
There are many barbell lifts that will increase your core strength, yet many of them require a vast amount of skill and technique – think snatch or overhead squat – and are harder to perform to perfection by athletes of all levels.
Try these fun and unusual barbell abs exercises to increase your core strength, no matter what level athlete you are.
1. Barbell Abs Exercises – Barbell Roll Out
This is a great way to train your core and lower back.
By rolling out on a barbell, you’ll be causing momentum in the direction away from you and then slowly having to stop. The further you extend, the more tension you place on the core. This exercise requires control to overcome the momentum and roll the barbell back.
Having the weights off to the sides instead of near your core – as you would with an ab wheel – heightens the tension needed to perform the exercise.
Grab a barbell and load both ends; smaller plates increase the difficulty as you’ll have to drop lower for a full extension. With your knees on the ground, push your hips forward, keep your arms straight and extend the barbell as far as you can without letting your lower back dip.
This is one of the best exercises to train your core. The beauty of the barbell is that you can chose how much weight to put on it; the more weight, the more momentum you’ll create when pushing out and the harder the exercise will become.
2. Barbell Hip Thruster
An exercise to train your posterior chain (a group of muscles on the back of your body), barbell hip thrusters also work the stabilising muscles on your core, improving your balance and spine stability.
Start lying down with the barbell over your hips. Make sure you push against the bar with your hands to stop it from resting on your hipbones, which can cause pain. Bend your knees and plant your feet firm on the ground, then drive your hips upward.
Hold the weight in this high position for a second and lower down slowly. That’s one rep.
Maintain an engaged core throughout the exercise
3. Barbell Abs Exercises – Barbell Russian Twist
Stick one end of the barbell to the corner of a wall (over a towel for more stability) and load the other end. Standing with your legs hip-width apart, bring the loaded end in front of you with your arms extended.
Lower the bar to one side whilst rotating your hips and shoulders in the direction of the bar. Then bring it back up and repeat in the other direction. Make sure to keep your arms extended throughout the movement.
Starting with lighter weights that are gentle on the spine or no weight at all is a good idea. Only up the weight once you feel you’ve progressed.
4. Barbell Windshield Wiper
Start lying on the ground holding a barbell up as you would for a bench press. Bring your legs up and then lower them to one side of the body – the straighter your legs the harder the move becomes.
An alternative would be to lower your legs down straight and then, as you bring them back up, rotate towards one side of the barbell.
This is a great exercise because it forces your upper body to stabilise against a load while activating your lower half.
The weight you put on the barbell will depend on your level of fitness.
5.Barbell Abs Exercises – Barbell Overhead Carry
This challenging exercise will not only target your abs but also force you to work on your stability and overhead mobility.
To perform this exercise, hold a barbell overhead with your elbows locked, making sure to tense your core and avoiding big lower back arches. Walk forward at whatever pace you feel comfortable with whilst making sure you continue to push up on the barbell the entire time.
The barbell overhead carry is a great exercise to increase core strength and improve your posture and control.
6. Barbell Straight Leg Sit-Up
A “next-level” sit-up, the barbell straight leg sit-up will keep your spine in a healthy position throughout the exercise.
To start, lie on your back with your legs straight holding a barbell overhead, hands shoulder-with apart. Keeping you arms straight and above your head and lift your torso until you’re sitting straight up.
Use the barbell without any weight to start with to ensure you perform the exercise with proper technique. Once you get used to the movement it’s down to you whether you add weight or increase the rep range.