How To Build Incredible Core Strength Using a Dumbbell

The Suitcase Carry is one of the best exercises for building core strength.

You can’t fire a cannon from a canoe ” – Fred Hatfield

Core strength is one of the most important factors in any physical performance. Without it, you’ll be missing out on a lot of power and will be at risk of injury. I know that increasing my core strength will be crucial for me to get back to pre-pandemic form. I recently invested in a 50 pound dumbbell so I can start doing one of the hardest core exercises known to man. It’s called the suitcase carry.

As you know by now, I’m a big fan of loaded carry exercises like the Goblet Carry and Farmers Walks. The Suitcase carry is the hardest loaded carry variation I’ve tried. The movement is just like it’s name. You hold a dumbbell to your side just like you would for a suitcase. Think of a Farmers Walk in which you only have a dumbbell on one side of your body. If you don’t feel your core engaging while doing this exercise then you must be from another planet. The level of core tension when doing suitcase carries is unreal.

If you want to build serious core strength all you need is to grab a dumbbell and start walking. You can also use a kettlebell or an actual suitcase. Just like any lift, the key to making this work is not using too much weight but using enough that it’s a challenge. You’d be surprised with how little weight you can use to make this exercise challenging

How I Incorporate Suitcase Carries To My Routine

I typically do Suitcase Carries after doing short sprints. My rep and set scheme is as follows.

  • Left hand Suitcase Carry for 30 seconds
  • 1 Minute Rest
  • Right Hand Suitcase Carry for 30 seconds
  • 2 Minute Rest
  • Repeat

Photo by Pixabay from Pexels

Strong Core, Strong Body

Some lifters believe you get enough core work from compound lifts like squats and deadlifts. However, I’m a huge fan of doing direct core work. Doing core work isn’t only about having a beautiful six pack. Good core exercises will give you a stable mid-setion and protect you from injuries when performing lifts. A strong core also allows you to generate more power in sports. The core exercises I do allows me to not only have nice abs but they give me a strong base when lifting heavy weights or performing sports movements. Here’s a list of my favorite core exercises:

Ab-wheel: The first step is placing the ab-wheel in front of you while holding it firmly with both hands. Start off by kneeling on ttop of a mat. The mat is there to keep your knees comfortable. With your hands firmly on the wheel, slowly lean forward til you have a straight torso. Then slowly get back to the starting position.I usually aim for three sets of 10. To take this move to another level, do five second pauses at the bottom position. You can also use a barbell with weight plates on each side if you don’t have access to an ab wheel.

Photo credit: Surge Lifestyle via VisualHunt / CC BY-SA

Farmer’s Walks: There’s many variations of farmers walks. The way I do them is grab a pair of dumbbells and walk. It’s that simple. You can manipulate weight and distance depending on your goals. If you want to focus on strength, you should pick heavy dumbbells and walk a short distance. You can pick lighter dumbbells and walk longer distances if you want a good cardio workout. It’s important to maintain an upright posture. You’ll feel your abs the next morning.

Leopard Crawls: Get on all fours and have your knees slightly above the ground. Keep your hips low and look up the whole time. When crawling, you’ll be moving with opposite limbs at a time. You’ll move your right arm and left leg at the same time and vice versa. Try moving forward and backwards to engage your core in different ways.

Gymnastic Based Core Movements: Gymnastics are pound for pound one of the strongest athletes in the world. I believe a major reason for this is their amazing core strength. I’ve seen benefits from basic level gymnastic exercises like alternate leg raises and half L-sits with one leg still on the ground. Imagine the results you’d get if you master moves like the full L-sit, Planche, and Levers .

I promise you if you use any combination of these core moves, you’ll develop a strong and attractive midsection. These moves will transform your fitness and your life. All your lifts will improve and you’ll look better.

Note: Don’t do crunches and sit-ups unless you want back problems. Planks are a good start but you’ll need more dynamic core exercises if you want to take your body and performance to the next level. Also make sure to brace your core during all these movements.

Top Photo via

Photo credit: <a href=””>Surge Lifestyle</a> via <a href=”″>VisualHunt</a&gt; / <a href=””&gt; CC BY-SA</a>

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