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Are you wondering how to build core strength? The good news is that you don’t need a lot of time or a high fitness level to do so.
Core strength is important for various reasons. When talking about core strength, we are really talking about a large group of muscles in your lower back, hips, pelvis, and abdomen.
Core strength is important for better balance, stability, as well as making it easier to do other activities, no matter what they are.
A strong core can also prevent the onset of back pain while strengthening your core and reduce current back pain.
As you can see, there are plenty of benefits that should motivate you to do a core strength program.
We are often asked what are the best core exercises for women? Or what are the best core exercises for men? Well, the simple answer is that we all have the same core muscles. Targeting those muscles will be the same for men and women. So, don’t be fooled by specific core workouts for women or men.
Have a look at our selection below of the best core exercises to use to build core strength.
If you are looking for a video workout to follow along with, you can check out one of our most popular posts – Alexis Ren Ab Workout. Her 10-minute ab workout will get you the results you are looking for.
Sit-Ups to Start
Most sit-ups are a good starter exercise for your abdominal muscles. You probably are already familiar with the traditional sit-up, so we have listed below some variations that are good for building your overall core strength.
Stability Ball Sit-ups:
If you have a stability ball or can use one at the gym, this is a good way of preventing back pain while doing sit-ups.
You want to start in a sitting position with your feet flat on the floor, and then slowly lean backward to bring your tailbone and back to the ball.
You can adjust your legs so you feel stable and your thighs are parallel to the floor. Your hands can go behind your neck for slight support and you should engage your shoulder blades so you feel they are squeezed together.
Once you have achieved this starting position, slowly lift your upper back off the ball and bring your chest forward. Once up, slowly lower yourself back on the ball. This is one rep, to start with you can do a series of 10 reps.
Also a great exercise for core strength, this might be a bit harder for beginners. You can ease into this one until you feel stronger by bending your knees a little bit while holding the posture as explained below.
Start seated on the floor, and while contracting your core slowly lift your legs up in front of you at an extended position, forming a 45-degree angle with your torso.
Your legs and torso should basically look like a V shape. You can reach your arms forward towards your shins.
You need to hold this position, maybe for a few seconds to start with, while breathing. Then slowly go back to a sitting position and repeat the movement.
This is a good variant of the classic sit-up and easy enough for all levels but also easy to make harder, while good for hip flexibility.
Start lying on your mat and position the soles of your feet together, knees bent to the side. Position your arms extended overhead, then roll up your body until you are sitting upright.
If you can, reach forward to touch your toes. Then slowly go back to the starting position by lowering your back again, and start again. You can start with 10 reps.
This type of exercise is excellent for core strength as it also requires control on top of ab strength.
Classic Leg Raiser:
Lie down face up on your mat, arms by your sides and legs stretched out with pointed toes. Then slowly lift your legs in a slow-motion, trying to keep them straight and aim at pointing towards the ceiling (or as far up as you can reach).
Then you can lower them back, making sure you are always in control of the movements.
You should not, at any point, arch your lower back. This often is the most common mistake with this exercise.
If you can, stop just above the ground to keep tension in your muscles and start again. You can start by doing 10 reps. If this is too difficult, you can start with your knees bend and lift your legs that way first, then once your thighs are perpendicular to your body try to straighten your legs to reach the ceiling.
This is a variation from the previous exercise.
Start with one leg stretched out and one with the sole of your foot on the floor and knee bent. Then slowly lift the extended leg.
You can do 5 reps on each leg to start with. Similar to the previous exercise, your back should not arch and your shoulder blades should stay on the floor at all times.
Once you feel strong about those, you can also try hanging leg raises at the gym, which is more difficult.
This is a common exercise that is good for core strength as well as abs.
While lying on your back close to a wall, place your feet on the wall so that your knees and hips are positioned at 90-degree angles.
Then cross your arms on your chest to avoid straining your neck, and slowly raise your head and shoulders off the floor. Hold for 10 seconds, then slowly go back to your starting position.
This is an exercise that uses back and abs muscles, therefore it is great for core strengthening, but it is also an excellent way to develop your balance.
Starting on all four with hands aligned with your shoulders and knees aligned with your hips, you want to tighten your core before you start moving.
Then lift and extend behind you your right leg, while at the same time extending your left arm at the front to shoulder level. You can hold for a few seconds before you switch to the other side. As you bring your arm and leg back to the start position crunch your elbow to your knee.
You can start with a set of 10 reps.
Oblique Seated Stretches:
This is a great exercise because it can easily be fitted into your workday if you are sitting a lot. You can simply do a few reps while sitting in the office or in a waiting area!
Put your feet flat on the ground hip-width apart. Raise your arms above your head and form a circle with them, hands joining. Then engage your core muscles and simply bend from one side to another slowly. Your back should remain straight through the entire movement.
For more crunches variations, you can also check our article about abs workouts.
Planks are great exercises for core strength. There are also quite a few variants from the standard high plank that you can experiment with.
This is a good exercise for oblique muscles and the core in general. Put an elbow to the ground and turn your body to the side, feet on top of each other. You then push your body up into a straight line and your shoulder should be directly above the elbow. You need to alternate sides, try to hold for 20 to 30 seconds to start with.
Starting in a high plank with your arms straight, bend one arm to bring elbow and forearm to the floor, then do the same with the second arm so you are in a forearm plank. Then push back to the start position by placing each hand where your elbows were. Ideally, you want to alternate which side you lower first with each rep.
This is not exactly a plank exercise but it uses similar muscles and it is also a position to hold.
You start on your back, bend your knees and position your feet at hip-width. Your feet should be flat and steady, your hands as well, palms down and on your sides. You then raise your hips as high as possible until your knees, hips, and shoulders form a straight line. Hold for 20 to 30 seconds and then slowly bring your hips and butt back down.
With this large choice of core exercises, there are some options you can use to build your core strength. You can either build a short core workout from these or integrate some of these core strength exercises into your normal workout. Don’t forget to also think about your core strength in your daily activities and remember to engage your core muscles when cycling or simply walking!
Here is a great workout plan to get those abs in shape with just a medicine ball – give it a shot –Abs and Lower Body Medicine Ball Exercises.
For more ideas on exercise and fitness, please visit our Move Page.