8 Functional Ab Exercises For Building Powerful Core Strength

These functional abs exercises from Marcus Filly are another way to train your core and will attack and strengthen your midline in a very unique way.

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

Try adding these functional bodybuilding abdominal exercises to your workout and keep things varied, fresh, fun and effective.

Abdominal exercises will help you build a strong core, which is essential for any athlete. Six pack abs aren’t – but they’re fun and a goal for some people too.

While the sport of CrossFit prioritizes function, other sports like bodybuilding generally prioritize aesthetics over physical fitness. The former may be a healthier approach, as your body defines itself by what it can do, not just by how it looks, ever-changing.

In the end, it all comes down to what you’re training for and what goals you want to achieve.

Whatever your goals, these eight functional muscle-building abdominal exercises will help you build a strong core and six-pack abs. Remember that without proper nutrition you will not see or experience significant results.

Read more: 9 abdominal exercises to do at home

Words by Marcus Filly.

Bodybuilding functional abdominal exercises


This is an advanced basic movement. The star plank combines isometric lateral core and hip contractions and is difficult to balance.

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


It is essential to keep the arms locked throughout the movement. When you reach the top of the rep, we want to see that the arms are pointed straight up at the ceiling, the biceps are close to the ears, and there’s a straight line from KB to shoulder to hip.

It’s a perfect move to use in a conditioning workout or as part of a warm-up.


Take an otherwise simple basic exercise and add some one-sided stability to it. Suddenly things change a lot in the way the body has to stabilize and contract.

This basic anti-rotation exercise is accessible to most and would be an ideal way to introduce new trainees to basic rotational work, before they begin to twist and turn under load.


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

Bodybuilding Functional Abdominal Exercises – ELBOW TO HIGH PLANK

Also known as the Plank Walk Up, this exercise is a great combination of core strength and one-arm press strength.

Shifting the load from shoulder to shoulder as you press into plank positions will help develop great shoulder stability and pushing strength for beginner and intermediate athletes.

You will also get asymmetrical base stimuli, which will result in rotational base work.


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

I like to use curved hollow rocks not only for beginner athletes who have not yet progressed to full hollow rocks, but also for intermediate and advanced athletes in environments where they get tired and lose position with hollow stances traditional extensions.

Consider starting in a full hollow position (arms and legs straight) then, as you get tired, shorten the levers as shown here to add reps or time under tension.


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

Core anti-rotational force is a stimulus that comes from having balance points or loading patterns that make the body want to rotate with gravity. You have to fight this force and maintain the balance.

Try this as part of your warm-up to get your brain, temperature, and rotating muscles going.

More exercises for the abdominals


Sitting will destroy your heart. In the right direction.

The seated L-grip is a deceptively brutal exercise with benefits that go far beyond the visual. Not only will this exercise help you fill out your sleeves and chisel your abs, but it will improve your shoulder health, help you with your deadlift, and also build your functional strength.

How do you do? The seated L-grip is best done on a pair of parallettes. Almost all gyms have dip bars, and you can even do L-sits on a pair of push up bars, kettlebells, yoga blocks, or even a pair of benches.

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

the L-SIT CAN BE one of the MOST EFFECTIVE AB EXERCISES you CAN do in under 3 MINUTES.

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

Be sure to keep your shoulders down as you lock your knees and keep your legs together, 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 will also target your lower abs and strengthen your entire core. Start seated with your knees bent in front of you. Lean back slightly so that your torso forms a 45 degree angle with 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 to the starting position. Keep beating like this while you hold your heart steady.


The bike crunch is a great exercise for building core strength and toning the thighs. It can be done anywhere with no equipment needed.

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

At first, slowly pedal a bicycle motion with your legs. Alternately touch your elbows to the opposite knee as you twist back and forth through the trunk, keep the elbows back rather than forward towards the chest as this may strain the neck.


The running man sit up is a bit like the crunch bike being accompanied by a standard sit-up.

HOW TO DO: 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 your left elbow crosses your right knee. Go back down to the beginning before repeating on the other side.


Start lying on your back with your legs up, perpendicular to the floor. Keep your arms along your side with your palms down. Tighten your lower abs and lift your butt and back off the floor with quick pulses. Try not to rely on momentum, but just focus on using your lower abs. You can do this with straight legs or legs bent at the knees with the shins parallel to the floor.


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

Explosively twist your torso as far as you can to the left, 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 in your arms or shoulders. This is great for your obliques as well as your six pack abs.


Start lying on the floor with your legs straight and arms out to the sides, forming a T with your body. In a slow, controlled motion, sit up raising your right leg and twisting to your right to bring your left hand over your right toes. Hold this position for a moment, pulling your abs towards your spine. Slowly roll back to the starting position and complete one repetition. Repeat on the other side.

Read more: More functional exercises for strength training abs

Teresa E. Burton