Increase core strength with barbell ab exercises

A strong core is important to well to, well, everything. Strengthening and defining your core, particularly your abs, can be done many ways.

Ab training can be done with barbell ab exercises, bodyweight exercises, machines and cables. You will find that ab workouts can be varied while targeting your entire core.

woman standing doing rainbow barbell abs exercise

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From walking to running to strength training, a strong core can make a world of difference in how you feel during when you work out and in everyday life.

Abdominal muscles

The core is composed of several different muscles with separate functions.

Rectus abdominis

The rectus abdominis is located on the anterior of the midsection which forms the ‘six-pack’. It functions to pull the ribs and pelvis in (curves the back).

Transverse abdominis

This muscle acts as a compressor of core contents. It functions to suck in the belly button and maintain a tight midsection. 


The external and internal obliques are located lateral to the rectus abdominis on each side with fibers that run over and under the rectus abdominis. The function of the obliques is to flex, rotate, and compress the muscles of the trunk. 

Erector spinae (back extensors): 

It is responsible for standing up straight when bent over and for bending backward and bending side to side.

Barbell ab exercises

Barbell overhead carry

  • Press the barbell overhead and keep your arms completely straight. 
  • Keep your core tight and scapular slightly retracted.
  • Simply walk for distance and place the barbell down when you feel yourself losing the ability to hold it overhead.
woman standing doing rainbow barbell abs exercise
barbell abs rainbow exercise
barbell abs rainbow

Landmine rainbow

  • With your feet shoulder-width apart, grab the end of the barbell in front of you and interlock your fingers or place one hand higher than the other. Hold the barbell near your chest or slightly higher. 
  • While keeping your torso as rigid as possible, bring the end of the barbell down to hip level while fighting the rotation of your torso. Keep your arms straight but elbows can be slightly bent. 
  • Repeat on the opposite side.
single arm landmine shoulder press
single arm landmine shoulder press

Single arm landmine push

  • Take a split or staggered stance for this exercise. So, the left foot should be in front when pressing with the left arm and vice versa. Keep your legs straight and core tight.
  • Grip the end of the barbell with your left hand and hold it by your shoulder.
  • Press the bar up and rotate your torso inward at the same time.
  • Bring the bar back down and rotate your torso back to the starting position. 
  • Perform the desired number of reps then switch sides and repeat.
woman on floor preparing for barbell abs sit up press

Sit up press

  • Sit on the floor in a sit-up position so knees are bent while holding a barbell with hands about shoulder-width distance apart.
  • Lie on your back keeping your knees bent and press the bar above your chest as if you were doing a bench press (or floor press in this instance).
  • Keep the bar in this position and perform one sit-up. Keep your back straight and use your abs to lift your torso off the ground.
  • Roll back down and repeat.

Tip: Tuck your feet under something to better stabilize yourself while you do the exercise.

Barbell roll-out

The barbell ab rollout is one of the most challenging exercise and effective core movements you can do. You may be familiar with the ab roller which is very popular but the barbell variation is a great alternative.

  • Get into a kneeling position and grip the bar about shoulder-width.
  • Keeping your back straight and core tight, push the bar out till your arms get extended straight in the front on the floor.
  • Keep your hands completely straight during the exercise, and also make sure not to drop your hips down.
  • Use your core to pull the weight back toward your knees and repeat.

Zercher squat

  • Stand upright with the barbell in the crook of both elbows, keeping your hands together in front of your chest.
  • Stand with your feet at shoulder distance, and make sure to keep your toes slightly out.
  • Maintaining this position, slowly squat down while spreading your knees and shifting your weight on your heels.
  • Lower down till your hips are parallel, and push through your heels to stand back up.
  • As you move through this exercise, make sure to keep your lower back flat and shoulders down and back.

How to target the core using a landmine attachment

You can directly or indirectly target the core when using a landmine attachment.

If you do target the core directly when using a landmine attachment, you will likely be performing core stability or core strength exercises.

Core strength exercises such as the barbell sit-up and ab roll out rely on using the core muscles to initiate the movement.

Indirectly targeting the core with a landmine attachment often refers to performing an exercise that targets a different area of the body but recruits the core muscles to maintain stability to assist the main muscles. An example would be the landmine single-arm shoulder press and landmine rainbow.

How to do landmine core exercises without a landmine attachment

Stick one end of the barbell into the corner of a wall

Wedge one end of a barbell into the corner of a wall. Be careful not to damage the wall, but the wall will act as a holder of the landmine.

Stick one end of the barbell into a cut up tennis ball

You can cut up half of a tennis ball and stick it on one end of the barbell. The tennis ball creates friction between the barbell and the floor, so the barbell does not slide across the floor.

Try these core exercises and core workouts:

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