5 Gymnast-Inspired Bodyweight Exercises for a Super Strong Core

Krista Stryker
4 min readJul 26, 2017

If you’ve ever watched a gymnast flip, handstand, and crush their routines, you know they need a really strong core.

But you won’t see most gymnasts doing a ton of crunches or even holding a basic plank for minutes on end. Like the rest of us, gymnasts want to get the most out of their workout in the shortest amount of time.

Note: The original version of this article was published on Mindbodygreen. Check it out!

Here are five exercises inspired by gymnasts that will help you build a super strong core in less time:

Hollow Body Holds

Hollow body holds may appear easy, but they’re tougher than they look and will help you build a rock sold core.

How to do it: Lie down flat on your back and contract your abs, pulling your belly button towards the floor. The arms and legs should be held straight out from the body with hands and toes pointed.

Slowly raise your shoulders and legs from the ground as you keep your lower back in contact with the floor.

The goal is to find the lowest position that you can hold the arms and legs, without them touching the floor and without breaking lower back contact.

For an even greater challenge, rock back and forth while holding the position.

Beginner variation: Make this exercise slightly easier by reaching your arms towards your feet. You can also try bending your knees instead.

Watch a video of hollow body holds here.

V Ups

V ups are a staple in gymnastics training for a reason: they’re a super effective core exercise you can do with zero equipment.

How to do it: Lie on your back, then stretch your arms overhead and keep your legs straight. Slowly raise your shoulders and legs from the ground as you keep your lower back in contact with the floor, then simultaneously raise your arms and legs as high as you can and try and touch your feet to your hands. Lower down and repeat.

Beginner variation: Try tucking your knees towards your chest instead to make this exercise slightly easier.

Watch a video of V ups in action here.

Hanging Leg Raises

You’ll need a pull up bar for this exercise, but it’s one of the best ways to build strong abs in a short amount of time.

How to do it: Grab onto a pull up bar with your palms facing away from you. While keeping your legs as straight as possible, raise them as high as you can, aiming to touch your feet to your hands. Lower back down and repeat.

Beginner variation: You can start by tucking your knees up to your chest rather than keeping your legs straight. Once you build up more strength, start raising your legs up to a 90° angle, then eventually go as high as you can.

Watch the video of leg raises here.


L-sits are an advanced core exercise that may look intimidating at first, but with the right progressions will help your core muscles get incredibly strong.

How to do it: Grip some parallel bars or mini parallettes, then lift yourself off of the floor with straight arms and your legs directly straight in front of you. Make sure to push through your shoulders, keep your chest out, and point your toes as you hold the position as long as you can.

Beginner variation: Tuck your legs towards your chest instead to make this exercise easier. Once you build up more strength, try extending one leg at a time before eventually extending both legs at once.

Watch a short video of l-sits here.

Plank Get Ups

This exercise adds an even greater challenge to the regular plank exercise by working your shoulders one at a time.

How to do it: Get into a plank with your shoulders directly over your elbows. Hold this position, then drop one your right arm down onto your right elbow. Next, drop your left arm down onto your left elbow so that you’re in a forearm plank. Straighten your arm then your right arm until you’re back in the starting plank position. Switch starting arms and repeat, making sure to keep your core tight the entire time.

Watch the video of plank hip dips here.

All of these exercises can be added to a HIIT workout to increase your workout efficiency. Be consistent and work hard!



Krista Stryker

Performance coach, writer, and athlete. I write about how you can experience personal transformation through movement and exercise. www.kristastryker.com