Tip: The Simplest, Hardest Exercise

Check out the core exercise that'll improve every big lift.


Most lifters don't do enough core work. Sure, when you squat, bench, or deadlift big numbers, you're basically training your core. But most people don't lift nearly enough weight to get much of an effect using only the big lifts as their core training. Even those who DO use a ton of weight will benefit from direct core training.

Your core isn't just responsible for creating movement; it's designed to resist it. In the gym, your core is constantly fighting to keep your spine in a strong, stable position while your arms and legs are in motion. So, choose the most fitting training modalities and you'll notice the results right away.

Here's the one you've got to try:

Simply hold an implement with uneven weight distribution to emphasize some of the key functions of your core: anti-lateral flexion and anti-rotation.

1. Load the barbell unevenly.

How much weight you use on each side is dependent on your training history and strength. The bigger the difference in weight distribution, the more challenging it is.

General guidelines:

  • 10-15 pounds on one side; no weight on the other
  • 25 pounds on one side; 0-10 pounds on the other
  • 45 pounds on one side; 15-25 pounds on the other
  • 70 pounds on one side; 35-45 pounds on the other

2. Get under the barbell as if you were squatting it.

Set your feet. Take 1-2 steps back and have your feet roughly shoulder-width apart (pretty much your regular squat stance).

3. Take a big breath in and brace your core.

You need full-body tension for this. At no point during the lift should you be relaxed. You won't really have a choice because you'll feel it immediately as you un-rack the bar. Make sure you breathe and brace before un-racking!

4. Unrack and hold.

Stand in a straight, rigid position and hold it there. That's it.

5. Do 2-4 sets of 30-60 second holds per side.

Rest 60 seconds in between sets.

Offset Kettlebell Hold

If you have shoulder issues or simply want to train your grip in addition to your core, use kettlebells instead of the barbell. Hold two kettlebells at different weights for 20-30 seconds each side.

Offset Farmer's Carry

Add some movement and treat this exercise as a farmer's carry by holding the barbell, two kettlebells, or a trap bar. If you have a turf strip, walk the full length and back before switching sides for 3-4 rounds.