Who doesn’t want a tight and toned core, and perhaps abs that pop? In addition to looking great, a strong core really cuts down on back soreness and aches and pains, so core training isn’t just vanity, it’s healthy! If you’re not totally convinced, check out these 5 benefits of a strong core.
Here are some of our favorite core-strengthening exercises to get you baring your belly and standing straighter than ever.
Move Targets: Lower lumbar muscles and abdominals
Step 1: Start by lying face down and extending your arms out in front of you.
Step 2: Press your shoulder blades together and lift your arms, chest, and legs off the floor.
Step 3: Hold position for 60 seconds, keeping your head up and your arms extended out in front of you.
Modification (Beginner): Lift just your legs and chest for 30 seconds and then lift just your arms for 30 seconds.
2. Bicycle Crunches
Not only does this move target your abs, but it also gets your hip flexors and glutes! Remember to engage your core instead of pulling with your neck or back. Click here to learn how to do bicycle crunches.
Move Targets: Abdominals, hip flexors and gluteus
Step 1: Lie on back with knees and hips at a 90-degree angle. Place hands behind your head. Exhale as you lift head and shoulders off the floor. Twist torso to the right, bringing left shoulder in to touch your right knee. Keep left leg straight and lifted off the floor.
Step 2: Inhale as you slowly lower. Repeat, twisting torso to the left. Continue alternating sides for 60 seconds.
Modification (Beginner): Feet can return to the floor after each rep.
3. Toe Touch
Again, make sure you’re engaging your core, not your neck. If you’re feeling a pull in your neck, refocus your energy into your abs.
Move Targets: Core
Step 1: Lie on your back, extend your arms and lift your legs until your heels are facing the ceiling.
Step 2: Keeping your legs straight, lift your shoulders off the floor and try to touch your feet. Repeat this move for 60 seconds. Make sure you’re using your core to lift your shoulder blades off the mat. If you feel the strain in your neck, you need to focus the movement in your core.
4. Wood Choppers
The wood chopper is a great move because not only is it great for your abs, but it target all the other main muscles in your body!
Move Targets: Shoulders and Core
Step 1: Hold the med ball or weight in both hands and bring it to one side of your body as you come into a half squat. Your chest and shoulders and turn toward the ball, but your hips and knees will face forward.
Step 2: Come out of the squat as your bring the weight diagonally across the body. The weight should be higher than your head at full extension. Keep your elbows soft and your hips facing forward. This will protect the knees and lower back from unnecessary twisting.
Step 3: Bring the ball back to the starting point without bending the elbows. This means the weight stays an arm’s-distance away from you at all times.
5. Boat Pose
Incorporating yoga into this workout really helps with your strength and balance! Here’s how to do it.
Move Targets: Upper/lower abdominal muscles
Step 1: Have a seat on the ground with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Lean your upper body back to about a 45-degree angle. Keep your back straight and your shoulders relaxed.
Step 2: Pick your feet up off the floor and try to extend your legs so they are straight. Extend the arms so your hands graze the sides of your knees. Hold this pose.
Modification (Advanced): Pulse your arms up and down.
Pick your feet up off the floor and try to extend your legs so they are straight. Extend the arms so your hands graze the sides of your knees. Hold this pose.
6. Glute Bridge
This move will ensure that your hamstrings and glutes are feeling the burn as well as your abs!
Move Targets: Gluteus, hamstring and abdominal muscles
Step 1: Lie face up with your knees bent, feet hip-width apart and arms by sides with palms down.
Step 2: Slowly lift your hips off the ground until you form a diagonal line from knees to shoulders. Try to keep your abs tight as you lift your hips higher. Raise butt as high up as you can, keeping your glutes squeezed tight. Hold for a 5 count and lower back down to mat.
Modification (beginner): Lower the height of your lift.
7. Mountain Climbers
Mountain climbers will work your core as well as get your heart rate up for maximum fat-burning!
Move Targets: Total body
Step 1: Get in a push up position. Your body should be in a straight, diagonal line from your head to your toes.
Step 2: Raise your right knee toward your chest.
Step 3: Return to starting position and repeat with left leg. That’s one rep.
Step 4: Alternate legs quickly for 60 seconds.
Modification (Beginner):Decrease your speed and range of motion.
8. Ab Roll-up
This move is not for the fainthearted! Prepare to use your core and jump to the sky for a toned tummy!
Move Targets: Total body
Step 1: To begin, lie on your back with arms at your sides and palms facing down. Lift your butt and lower back up in the air so that the bottoms of your feet are facing the ceiling.
Step 2: In one fluid motion, lower your back and legs and transition to your feet while jumping in the air as high as you can with arms extended straight overhead. That is one rep. Do as many as you can within 60 seconds.
9. Russian Twists
Balance is key to obtaining a strong and toned core, and this move is perfect for that!
Move Targets: Obliques and abdominals
Step 1: Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet placed ﬂat on the ﬂoor about hip-width apart. Now sit about halfway up and place your hands directly out in front of you. Your arms are straight with palms together and your chin is up and off your chest. (You can hold a dumbbell or a medicine ball to make the exercise even more difficult.)
Step 2: Take a deep breath and then exhale while slowly twisting your torso as far to the right as you can manage without changing the angle of your torso from the ﬂoor.
Step 3: Now inhale slowly and rotate your torso back to the starting position. Repeat by rotating torso to the left side.
10. Bird Dog
For this final move, you’ll be targeting your whole entire body, not just your abs, so finish strong!
Move Targets: Total body
Step 1: Get down on your hands and knees with your palms flat on the floor and shoulder-width apart. Relax your core so that your lower back and abdomen are in their natural positions. Brace your abs, and raise your right arm and left leg until they’re in line with your body. Hold for 5 to 10 seconds. Return to the starting position. Repeat with your left arm and right leg. Continue to alternate back and forth. Try to keep your hips and lower back still, even as you switch arms and legs.
Step 2: Brace your abs, and raise your right arm and left leg until they’re in line with your body. Hold for 5 to 10 seconds. Return to the starting position. Repeat with your left arm and right leg.
Continue to alternate back and forth. Try to keep your hips and lower back still, even as you switch arms and legs.