Explosive Core Training Unconventional Methods
by Jesse Seal

After reading article after article about core exercises, I can't help but ask myself, "Where is the explosive core training?!". 

With all the advice on core training flooding the fitness industry, it's no surprise how often the same mumbo jumbo is repeated: sit-ups this, planks that. While these conventional movements certainly play a role in core training, there are much more dynamic and interesting ways to not just build core strength, but to develop explosiveness that will carry over to whatever sport you enjoy.

Medicine Ball Training

Medicine balls have been a primary tool used by coaches and athletes to develop all sorts of strength, endurance, and explosive core training programs. While you may be thinking "medicine ball slams," there are plenty of other ways to diversify med ball training. Here are some of my favorites:

  • The Alphabet of Pain: You simply draw each letter of the alphabet in the air with the medicine ball (see video below).
  • Around the World: Using a heavier med ball, rotate the ball 360 degrees to your left, then to the right (see video below).
  • Tornados: Drop a small med ball into a tied off sleeve and spin it overhead. Change direction every other set, or half-way through every set. You'll love to hate this one!
  • Wall Scoops: Think about performing a granny shot in basketball, but there's a wall directly in front of you (see video below).
  • Basic Rotations: Keep the ball in front of you and rotate at the hips, not the torso. You don't want your lumbar to rotate (see video below).
  • Medicine Ball Slams: These are a classic which should NOT be ignored: Simply try to break the ground with the med ball. It's important to not use bouncy medicine balls...they like to bounce back into sensitive regions (see video below).


Mixed martial arts and strongmen are just a couple on the list of athletes who use this type of training to increase explosiveness and overall strength endurance. It's also a fantastic cardio and grip strength development tool. The first time I saw this was in Rocky Balboa (2006), so of course it became an instant favorite.

You can use a basic sledgehammer purchased at a hardware store, you can invest in professionally designed weighted sledgehammers, or you can create custom sledgehammers. For those of us who don't look like we are direct descendants of Thor, a regular sledgehammer gets the job done quite well.

The only downside to this type of training is that it pretty much requires a large tire to properly use. These can usually be acquired at any tire shop who doesn't want to spend the money to have them recycled. So then the biggest issue is transporting one home.

A few movements include basic slams (seen in the below video), golf style swings, and baseball style swings. In my opinion, basic sledgehammer slams are all that is necessary and the safest movement.

Battle Ropes

Just like medicine balls and sledgehammers, battle ropes can be "slammed" as well. The advantage here is the turn-around in which you can perform a follow-up repetition. This reduced time obviously makes ropes a more time efficient, cardio focused tool. In that regard, these are perfect for high intensity interval training (HIIT).

Another advantage with the battling ropes that is hard to replicate with medicine balls and sledgehammers is the ability to do unilateral work. Instead of slamming both ropes at once, do one side at a time, or isolate one side per set. Battling ropes are very versatile and great for explosive core training! 

Explosive Kicking Drill

This one is for combat athletes, and obviously transitions directly into MMA and other martial arts training. The drill in the video below will not only develop an explosive kick, but the explosive core required for such a kick. If you've been training in mixed martial arts you should already be doing this regularly. Not only will it train explosiveness and power, it'll condition your shins to take the necessary impact when performing the kick on a human opponent.

On the same note, performing an X amount of reps of high knees would also work the core and give you a nice warm-up before training. Since these are essentially a form of leg raises, and they mimic a Maui Thai knee, these are yet another sport specific drill for fighters that will train the core.

Furthermore, the shrimping motion used by grapplers has a similar training effect on the core. Combine reps of this with the high knee before each MMA training session and your core training (for the front of your core) has pretty much taken care of itself. Make sure to use intensity while maintaining technique in order to train the explosive element. 

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About the Author

Jesse Seal is the assistance Combatives Instructor, and has been training in Combative Sciences since 2008. He has also been training and learning through Bullock's Irondom Performance Systems since 2010.

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