10 Best Core Exercises
10 Best Core Exercises
If blistering biceps and bulky shoulders is your style, a rock-solid core should be your substance. That's where regular and effective core muscle exercises come in.
We use our lower back, obliques and abs muscles, which make up the core muscles group, for just about every movement we make. They give us stability, balance and power so whether you’re looking to become an Olympic weightlifter or just carry your shopping more easily, you’ll want to make sure your core muscles stay strong.
Core muscles also support the spine so keeping them strong is important for helping to prevent back injuries. Finally, doing core exercises regularly will really help you with your posture and balance. Perfect for anyone who spends a lot of their time sat behind a desk.
Below, we take you through some of the best exercises you can do to get a strong core.
It’s a complete workout which focuses both the front and back core muscles to avoid any issues and keep everything balanced.
Strengthening your core at home:
You can strengthen your core by doing core muscle exercises regularly. Like any muscle group, building core strength is all about training regularly. One of the best ways to do this, is to work out at home. That way you've got no queue’s to worry about, no interruptions, no traffic and no distractions.
By working your core at home, you can start to get into a routine and make your abs, obliques and lower back exercises a real focus.
There are lots of ways you can target your abs with just a few pieces of equipment, such as an ab trainer pad. For most people, bodyweight is enough to build strength.
If you did want to add in some free weights for doing exercises such as Russian twists or weighted sit ups, then our Workout kit for beginners is a great all-round package. It includes everything you need for working out at home including an exercise mat, kettlebells, a slam ball and a plyo jump box.
What are the 10 best exercises for core strength?
Below are our top 10 exercises for a solid core.
Do each exercise for a minute or 60 seconds with a 30-second break in-between each set. Perfect as a quick, 10-minute body blast; or do a few circuits to give your core muscles a real wake-up call.
1) Leg raises
What they’re good for: leg raises are fantastic for working your lower abs, which is one of the harder areas to target. They also work your hip flexors.
How to do them: with your back firmly pressed into your exercise mat, lift both legs up until they are at a 90-degree angle to your body. Lower them back down until they are just about to touch the floor and then take them back up again. You might want to place your hands under your lower back to help stop you from over-arching your back.
If doing both legs at the same is too hard then try doing alternate legs to build up strength.
2) Toe touches
What they’re good for: these target your upper abs and are really intense to do.
How to do them: lie on the floor with your legs straight up in the air at a 90-degree angle to your body. Reach up to touch your toes and then come back down. Remember not to let your abs fully relax as you come back down so your abs stay tense throughout the full set.
3) Dynamic plank
What they’re good for: planks are great for working both your abs and your lower back. And by doing dynamic planks, you can target your arms and shoulders at the same time.
How to do them: when doing a plank, you should focus on keeping your hips in line with your back. Start your plank on your forearms and then straighten your left arm. Next straighten your right arm, then come back down left arm first then right arm. Start again beginning with your right arm this time and keep alternating throughout the set.
4) Bird dog
What they’re good for: these are great for your lower back as well as your glutes and abs.
How to do them: while on all fours, stretch your left leg out so it’s straight behind you. Then bring it back in. Repeat on the other side and keep alternating for the full minute. These exercises should be slow and controlled.
5) Reverse crunch
What they’re good for: when doing traditional sit ups, it’s easy to rely on momentum. However, by doing reverse sit ups, you remove that temptation. Reverse crunches instead focus on building strength and control.
How to do them: sit up on the exercise mat with your back straight. Lean back while keeping your back straight and slowly lower yourself down until you’re lying flat. Your knees will still be raised. Sit back up and start again.
6) Lower back extensions
What they’re good for: these are great for working your lower back plus they’ll give your abs a little stretch out, in-between sets.
How to do them: lie face down on the gym mat with your hands up near your head. Raise your torso up off the floor and squeeze your shoulders together as you reach the top. Then release back down ready to start again.
To make this exercise more difficult, you can raise both legs up at the same time as you raise your upper body.
7) Abdominal Crunches
What they’re good for: Gaining muscle definition on your upper abdominal muscles. Crunches aren’t necessarily the best exercise for building core strength but they will ensure that your upper abs soon stand out. Vary the exercise by twisting as you crunch to get a more comprehensive workout.
How to do them: lie on your back with your legs up in the air and you knees bent, so that your lower legs are parallel with the ground. Place your hands behind your head and simply lurch upwards, pushing your head up towards your knees. You should feel the burn on your abs almost immediately.
8) Heel touches (from side-to-side)
What they’re good for: these are a fantastic ab exercise to do and they’re particularly good as you have to keep your abs tense throughout the entire set.
How to do them: lie on the floor and bring your knees up. Touch your right heel with your right hand and then move to touch your left heel with your left hand. Repeat for the full minute.
9) Knee to elbow
What they’re good for: these are a great all-rounder and are perfect for working the sides of your abs.
How to do them: lie flat on the mat and bring your hands up to the sides of your head. Bring your right elbow up and as you do, crunch your left knee into your chest. Push up to touch your left knee with your right elbow. Then relax back down. Do the same on the other side and keep alternating for the full minute.
10) Flutter kicks
What they’re good for: these are another great exercise for feeling the burn as you should keep your muscles tensed throughout the entire exercise. They’re also particularly good for targeting your lower abs.
How to do them: lie flat on the mat with your legs straight. Place your hands under your lower back and make sure your spine stays straight throughout the exercise. Lift your legs up so they are at around a 45-degree angle to your body. Move your feet apart and then bring them back in so that your right leg crosses over your left leg. Then move them apart again and bring them back in so that your left leg is on top. Repeat for the full minute.
The above core muscle exercises are demonstrated by elite triathlete, Becky Hair. You can follow her progress on her Instagram page here.
If you want to build up your core and are looking to change up your training programme, give a wobble cushion a go.
For those of you who'd like to add weights to your sessions, discover these simple free weight exercises you can do at home.