In the past two articles, we have given you ideas and progressions for strengthening your torso. As you know by now, strong abs isn’t all that is needed. There are many more muscles at work in your mid-section. It doesn’t matter if you are squatting, playing golf, or carrying groceries out to the car, this area needs to be strong so that the rest of your body can get strong.

In this installment of our Torso Training Series, unorthodox exercises will be introduced. I will not list them in any particular order as these are advanced exercises.

In the past, some of these choices have been met with resistance by people saying that they don’t work the intended areas. Since there are no isolation exercises here, only compound movements that stress big areas of the body, I will add that any of our critics who have implemented our exercises into an integrated plan are no longer critics.

Remember what Teddy Roosevelt said, “It’s not the critic who counts!”

Let’s get to business….9 exercises off the top of my head:

  • 1-Arm Farmers Walk
  • 1-Arm Farmers Deadlift
  • Keg Crunches
  • Heavy Throws Backwards (keg, 56lb weight, medicine ball)
  • Land Mines
  • Hanging Bicycle
  • Sledge Hammer
  • Overhead Swings
  • Spider Lifts

These are some of our favorites, and ones that provide results FAST! Of course there are many, many more but I think these will keep you busy for a while.

You might have seen some of these before or you might not have, or you might know them by different names so I’ll describe each one in the list for you.

1-Arm Farmers Walk

Nothing fancy here, take a Farmers Walk handle or a heavy dumbbell, and pick it up like a suitcase, keep your body straight and walk as fast as you can. Your distance will usually depend on your weight used. Heavy weight will usually be carried for shorter distances, 25-35 feet, while lighter weight will be for longer ones, 100-200 feet. The 1-Arm Farmers Walk not only hits the entire torso and grip, but it also hits the glute medius which is often neglected and under-trained. It has also helped Knee Valgus in many athletes.

1-Arm Farmers Deadlift (Suitcase Deadlift)

This is also known as a Suitcase Deadlift for obvious reasons. Stand next to a Farmers Walk Handle and pick it up like a suitcase. A key point to watch out for is to ensure that the body stays properly aligned, no tipping to one side. Keep the reps lower on these, 6 or less is best. Don’t be afraid to go heavy.

Keg Crunches

For these you’ll need a beer keg, which for many of you isn’t a problem. Once you get one, it needs to be emptied – also, not a huge problem. Once emptied, you need to do something to it that will allow you to fill/empty the keg as needed. We take ours to a welding shop and have them attach a threaded pipe and screw cap. It’s pretty cheap to do and they last forever, so go make one.

To do the Keg Crunch, start with a keg filled 25% with water. Lie on the floor as if doing a regular crunch and lift the keg to arms length. As you crunch up, drive the keg towards the ceiling. Work on adding water to the keg until its full. You can also add stone, sand, or anything else you want – be creative!

Heavy Throws Backwards

This is a pretty standard medicine ball exercise that many people do and it’s a good one. The difference with ours is that we go heavy!

Assume an athletic stance, holding a medicine ball by your knees, drive your hips back and swing the medicine ball violently upwards and release it as it passes your head. Remember to be sure of what’s behind you. Anything you have can be thrown! Kegs, medicine balls (the heavy D-Balls at EliteFTS are best), 56 lb weight (used in Highland Games), office interns, use whatever. Just throw something heavy.

Land Mines

The Land Mine is a piece of equipment you should all be familiar with. It looks like home plate with a sleeve attached to it. You slide a barbell in the sleeve and do about a thousand different exercises with it. The Land Mine is a very versatile piece and there are far too many exercises to describe with it but here’s one! (We just call this one the Land Mine).

Assume an athletic stance facing the equipment and hold the barbell at chest height. Begin by twisting your shoulders to the left and let your arms follow as you drop them and your right knee towards the floor; immediately reverse directions and keep going as you establish a good rhythm back and forth. Remember to initiate direction changes with your shoulders, then your torso then let the arms follow. Light weights are better for this, start with an empty bar and work up.

Hanging Bicycles

I know this one sounds foolish but it’s a killer! To do these, you’ll need some ab straps that attach to a chinning bar (available at EFS).

Hook your arm through the ab straps as if you were going to do a hanging leg raise. Once in position, pedal your legs up and down like you were pedaling a bike. Try to get your knees up by your chest each time you pedal, and crunch down from the shoulders as you lift your kness/hips up. It’s a lot harder than it sounds.

Sledge Hammer

Heavy sledge hammering is a brutal torso workout. We usually swing the hammer into a heavy (500lb.+) tractor tire. Swing the hammer in different directions violently fast into the top of the sidewall or against the treads of the tire. Exhale hard as you swing the hammer.

Sledge Hammer work is great because you really get a 2-for-1 here: Grip and Torso at the same time. This type of training works best for people with sedentary jobs during the day. A construction laborer probably won’t get as much out of it as an office worker.

Overhead Swings

To do these properly, you need a rope ball (medicine ball with a rope through the middle) but it can be done with home made equipment too. Assume an athletic stance, and take the ball by the end of the rope, swing the ball back and forth overhead in wide circles (like the blades of a helicopter), and use your hips like you were swinging a hula-hoop around your waist. Sure it looks and sounds foolish but it’s a great exercise. Your shoulders will also see some benefit from this as well.

Spider Lifts

Don’t ask me where the name form this one came from! This is a great exercise for your entire torso. You’ll need a pair of dumbbells to do it.

From an athletic stance, press a dumbbell overhead - if the dumbbell is in your left hand overhead, twist your hips so the right hip is back, and the left hip is forward. Reach for the floor, as if doing a side-bend with your right hand. When you get down as low as your flexibility allows, reach for the ceiling with your left hand. It helps to keep your head turned and your eyes focused on the dumbbell that is overhead. Do an equal amount of reps with both sides of your body.

Now you have it….9 more exercises for your toolbox. I know some sound ridiculous, but give them a chance before you condemn them. Remember, athletes move in many directions and need to train that way.

Putting It All Together

So how do you use these exercises during your training? Below are several basic templates for beginners, intermediate and advanced athletes. We suggest doing torso training at the end of you workout.


Beginners 3-Day Torso Training Template – 3 Day:

Day 1:

      Basic Crunches 3 sets, 15-20 repsSide Bends 3 sets, 8-10 reps

Day 2: Sit-Ups 3 sets, 15-20 reps

Bicycle Crunch 3 sets, 15-20 reps

Day 3: Stability Ball Crunch 3 sets, 15-20 reps

Rainbows 3 sets, 8-12 reps

Intermediate Torso Training Template – 3 Day:

Day 1:

      Roman Chair Crunch 3 sets, 20-25 repsRockies 3-4 sets, 12-15 reps

Day 2: Wood Chops 4 sets, 6-8 reps

Basic Crunch 3 sets, 25-30 reps

Side Bends 3 sets, 10-12 reps

Day 3: Sit-Ups with Weight 4 sets, 15-20 reps

Rainbows 3 sets, 12-15 reps

Bicycle Crunch 3 sets, 20-25 reps

Advanced Torso Training Template – 4 Day

Day 1:

      Sledge Hammer Workout 2 sets, 1-2 minutes each

Keg Crunches 3 sets, 15-20 reps

Rainbows 3 sets, 15-20 reps

Day 2: Land Mines 3 sets, 15-20 reps

Sit-Ups with Weight 4 sets, 15-20 reps

Overhead Swings 2-3 sets, 15-20 reps

Day 3: Hanging Bicycles 3 sets, 15-20 reps

1-Arm Farmers Deadlift 4 sets, 6 reps each side

Stability Ball Crunch 3 sets, 25-30 reps

Day 4: Spider Lift 3 sets, 12-15 reps each side

Wood Chops 4 sets, 6-8 reps

Roman Chair Crunch 4 sets, 15-20 reps

As you can see, a variety of weighted and non-weighted exercises are incorporated. There are different rep schemes to vary the intensity. Rotational exercises are also varied as primary and secondary exercises on different days to ensure nothing is neglected.

As always, remember, these are sample templates only. I encourage you to design your own based on your athletes’ needs.

Good Luck and Go Heavy!