Core exercises should be an essential part of any workout routine.
If you are neglecting the core muscles (abs, obliques, hip flexors, lower back) during your workouts, you are doing your body quite the disservice.
As its name implies, the core is truly the center of the body. In fact, every muscle group relies on the core muscles. All exertion, even when focused on the arms or legs, begins in your midsection. The core muscles contract first, sending energy throughout your body.
A strong, fit core also improves posture. But perhaps the most sought-after aspect of a fit core is the aesthetic appeal it provides for both sexes. Trim waistlines, flat stomachs, rippled abs, and strong lower backs are probably why the majority of people do core exercise.
So if you don’t feel like you’re getting the strength training results you’ve anticipated, or you want to have a six-pack for the summer season, it might be wise to give your core more attention.
Remember, your core is more than just your abs though.
So if your core body exercises have been limited to crunches and sit-ups, you’re barely scratching the surface of the core fitness exercises.
Let’s get to the core now, and examine some core strengthening exercises.
We’ll look at the best core exercises for both the guys and the ladies.
You’ll also see, after reading through the list of great core exercises, that the degree of difficulty varies. So we’ll look at some beginner core exercises and some advanced core exercises too.
Best Core Exercises
Here are two great beginner core exercises. These are great for either men or women.
The plank is one of the top core exercises, and can be beneficial to beginners or hard “core” fitness freaks. It strengthens the abdominal muscles most noticeably, but also strengthens the lower back and hip flexors.
To do the plank, lie on your stomach. Support your bodyweight with your forearms and the tips of your toes as you lift your body into a straight line. Keep your ab muscles tight and suspend your body a few inches off of the mat. Hold this position for at least 15 seconds (beginner).
As your core workout advances, hold the posture for a longer period of time.
The side plank is a great core exercise that concentrates heavily on the oblique muscles.
Lie on your right side. Bend your right arm at the elbow and stack your left leg atop your right leg. Using your right forearm and right foot as support, raise your body in a straight line. As with the normal plank, your body will be suspended a few inches from the ground. The ab muscles should be tight, and your back should be straight. Hold your body in this position for 10 seconds (beginner). Switch and repeat the same movement on the left side.
The plank and the side plank are among the top core exercises. They can be done anywhere, and are just as beneficial to the well-trained as they are the novice.
They’re great ab core workouts for beginners, especially those who are overweight, because they don’t put pressure on the back the way sit ups or crunches do. Plus, they’re more effective at tightening the core.
After you’ve conquered the plank and are ready to move out of novice status, you can advance to these advanced core exercises.
Side Plank with Hip Drops
This exercise works like the side plank, except you move you hips toward the floor, then raise them. This is effectively a side push up, and you’ll use the same form as the side plank. Make sure to contract your abs on the way down and hold your shoulder steady.
Complete 1-4 sets of 10-15 reps on both the left and right sides.
Seated Torso Twist
This exercise targets the obliques and hip flexor muscles.
Sit on the floor with your knees bent. Use a medicine ball to add to the resistance. Lean back slightly, keeping your back straight and chest lifted. Rotate to the right until the medicine ball touches the floor. Turn back to the center, and rotate to the left with the same motion.
Complete 1-4 sets of 10-15 reps. Remember one rep covers rotations to both the right and left sides.
Oblique Knee Drops
Oblique knee drops are one of the great core exercises. Not only do they work the oblique muscles, but they also focus on the lower abdominal muscles and lower back. This exercise also uses a medicine ball.
Lie on the floor with your knees tucked in and bent at a 90 degree angle. Place the medicine ball between your knees while stretching your arms out with the palms face up. Contract your ab muscles and lower your knees to the right. Keep your shoulders and back down against the floor. Bring your knees back up to center then perform the same motion to the left side.
Complete 1-4 sets with 10-15 reps.
Many of the core exercises we’ve mentioned so far concentrate on the obliques. Let’s take a look at some ab core exercises to help you unleash that six-pack.
The bicycle is among the best core exercises for the abdominal muscles.
Place your hands behind your head while lying on a mat. Bring your knees to your chest one at a time, touching each knee with the opposite elbow. Kick out with the leg that has just touched the elbow, and bring the other knee into its opposite elbow. The motion is that of riding a bicycle, hence the name. Make sure not to pull on your neck when you bring your elbows to your knees.
Most gyms have a Captain’s chair. This is because it is a highly effective way to work your abs.
Make sure your back is firmly against the pad and that your hands are holding the grips. Simply raise your knees to your chest and slowly lower them. Do 10-15 reps per set.
There is an almost endless array of core exercises that can be done with an exercise ball. The ball crunch is perhaps the most basic, but much more effective (and safer) than traditional crunches.
Lie on the ball and make sure it is beneath your lower back. Place your arms behind your head (or if you prefer, cross them over your chest). Raise your torso in the crunch position. Make sure to keep the ball stable beneath you when you perform this exercise.
All of the above exercises can be performed by either sex. However, men and women usually have different fitness goals and also tend to gain extra pounds in different parts of the core.
Here are two core exercises for women. They focus on the lower abdominal region and hip flexors, specifically.
Hip Circles with Exercise Ball
Hip circles increase mobility in the lower back, spine, and hips. Doing them on an exercise ball magnifies the effect by working more core muscles.
Sit up straight on an exercise ball and make a circular motion with your hips. Do several rotations clockwise, then switch to a counter-clockwise motion.
Lie on your back and lift your upper legs to 90 degrees with your knees bent. Straighten your legs out until they are parallel with the floor. Then pull knees back into bent position. For more resistance, a light dumbbell may be placed between the ankles.
Best Core Exercises – Final Words
So what are you waiting for?
Try some of these core strength exercises today!
Core strengthening exercises are essential for maintaining muscle. Core exercises will help you to achieve that slender, firm midsection.
*This article was written by Gregg Mumma; one of our favorite guest bloggers.