best core and abdominal exercises

30 Best Bodyweight Core Exercises From Beginner to Advanced

May 06, 2020

We use our core every day and with every movement we make. It is the center of our being and one of the most important aspects of a healthy, properly functioning body. By strengthening your core, you will improve your balance, stability, posture, and overall strength, explosiveness, speed, and agility.

If you have decided that it’s time to get your core muscles up to par or you want to take your core strength and stability to the next level, these are the best core exercises you can do to achieve that.

We’ve categorized the core strengthening exercises by beginner, intermediate, and advanced, so you can progress over time. The best part is, you can do these core exercises anywhere.

All of the core exercises below are thoroughly explained and detail the muscle worked. That way you know exactly what core muscles you are targeting with each exercise.

People of all fitness levels will find value in this core exercise guide. We also provide some information on core exercises for seniors and those who are overweight.

At the end, we run through a few core workout examples, so you can see how we use the core exercises in a workout format. Additionally, we answer the most frequently asked questions about core muscles, core strength and so on.

Without further ado, let's dive in…

core exercises

What are the core muscles?

When people think about their core, they probably envision their abs…and maybe their obliques. However, your core is much more than that. It consists of all the muscles around your torso, including your back and pelvis.

Your core is composed of 29 muscles! They all work together to help protect your spine. Your core is the center of your universe. Not only does you core help you prevent injury, but it also allows you to transfer force from your lower body to your upper body (and vice versa), in all directions, and it is responsible for giving you strength and stability when bending or twisting.

So, when thinking about core exercises, you must understand the anatomy. That way you can train your core thoroughly and in its entirety.

what are the core muscles

Although there are many muscles, to keep things simple, the core can simply be broken down into 7 different sets or groups of muscles.

Below is an all-encompassing list of the core muscles groups.

Rectus Abdominis, also known as “abdominal muscles” or "abs: The rectus abdominis is an outer band of stomach muscle that links your rib cage to your pelvis. These are the muscles that most of us desire to be visible as they make up the “six pack”. They are also one of the major muscles of the core. Whenever you bend forward, you are using your rectus abdominis.

External Obliques: The external oblique are located on front and sides of the abdomen. They contribute to spinal stability and they enable you to flex and bend your torso to the side. They also allow you to rotate contralaterally, with the help of the entire oblique sling system.

Internal Obliques: The internal obliques are located beneath the rectus abdominis and are under the external oblique. They run opposite to the external obliques. They allow for spinal stability and flexion, and rotation of the trunk to the same side of the body.

Transverse Abdominis: The tranverse abdominis is located below the obliques. They are the deepest muscles of the abdomen and they actually wraps around your spine for protection.

Erector Spinae: The erector spinae is major muscle group that makes up the backside of your core. It runs from your neck all the way down to your lower back. Anytime your bend or twist, you are using your erector spinae.

Quadratus lumborum: Your quadratus lumborum is the deepest posterior muscle of the core, opposite to the transverse abdominis. This muscle groups supports, extends and rotates the spine.

Hip Flexors: The hip flexors is a group of muscles located in front of the pelvis and upper thigh. They include the psoas muscles, rectus femoris, pectineus, and sartorius. Your hip flexors act to lift the knee and bring it towards your torso, which is flexion, hence the name flexors.

Other muscles of the core are the Multifidus (the multifidus is located under the erector spinae, along the vertebral column), your pelvic floor muscles, and hip adductors/abductors, and glutes.

“Minor” muscle groups of the core (not that they are small) are the latissimus dorsi (aka Lats) and trapezius.

So, as you can see, all of the muscles that attach to the spine are considered core muscles. And to be the most powerful, resilient human, we must train our core in its entirety.

All of the core muscles are connected by highways of fascia (Sling Systems). Thus, our body works as one unit.

Much of the core exercises in this guide will work multiple core muscle groups in one exercise, so you won’t be spending tons of time when hitting your core.

core exercises for seniors

What are core exercises?

With so many core muscles, you might be wondering what are core exercises? Core exercises strengthen your core muscles, which includes your abdomen, back, and the muscles around the pelvis. They can be done from the floor, standing up, or using benches, tables, equipment. There are literally hundreds of ways to strengthen your core, but not all core exercises are created equally.

In this post, we will be demonstrating the best core exercises for beginners, intermediate, and advanced fitness levels.

Are core exercises necessary?

You’ll often hear that “core exercises aren’t necessary because they get worked with big compound movements like squats” or with unilateral exercises. Sure, big compound exercises will always give you the best bang for your buck and your core will get worked in the process, but it absolutely doesn’t mean you shouldn’t dedicate time to core-specific training as well. Core specific training is a must if you want to have the highest level of fitness. Plus, core training will directly increase your strength in other areas.

There are many weightlifters out there who have impressive squat and deadlift numbers but their cores are deplorably weak because they neglect core specific training. Of course, their core is strong enough to stabilize their spine during these big lifts. However, ask them to do hanging leg raises and see how they hold up. What’s interesting is if they were to start doing core-specific workouts, their PRs would surely benefit.

All in all, you should definitely spend time on core exercises. You don’t need to add hours to your routine to train your core. 10 minutes after a workout or a quick core workout on your non-weightlifting days a few times a week will do the trick. If you spend time on your biceps and triceps, then you damn well better spend time on your core.

core exercises bodyweight

Why core exercises are important - Benefits of Core Strength

The benefits of core training go far and wide. If we had to choose only one type of training (thankfully we don’t!), it would be core training. It’s the key to longevity and a well functioning body.

Here are the primary benefits of core strength training:

  • Aids in injury prevention. It’s not just great for reducing the risk of spinal injuries, but core training is also great for the other joints in our body as with poor core strength, you have bad balance, and bad balance leads to pressure on the hips, knees, and ankles.
  • Helps you create proper distribution of weight, and aids in the absorption of force and the transfer of forces.
  • Improves athletic performance. Not only does core training make you stronger, more explosive, and more powerful, but it also improves your balance, coordination, agility and speed. After all, your core transfers power and energy to and from your legs and arms.
  • Makes your stronger both rotationally and anti-rotationally. Rotational force comes from your core, so when you twist, turn, and swing, and accelerate, decelerate, and move in multiple directions, you will do so forcefully if you have a strong core. Moreover, you will be able to do these things safely because on the flip side you have anti-rotation strength, which helps you prevent injuries, stand strong, and remain balanced. Rotational and anti-rotational strength go hand-in-hand…but we will say we place more importance on anti-rotation.
  • Improves posture both when the body is still and in motion.
  • Helps you achieve your fitness goals as a stronger core leads to a more powerful squat, deadlift, bench press, military press, etc. Core training will allow you to build more muscle in other areas of your body and break through plateaus in your big lifts.
  • Core stabilization exercises are an effective way to manage low back pain for those with chronic low back pain.

On top of all that, a strong core looks great! Who doesn’t want a six pack with ripped obliques and a shredded, defined back?

One of the best things about core exercises is they can be done anywhere. You can build a powerful core with nothing but your bodyweight. If you have a pull up bar, even better, as hanging leg raises are one of the best core strengthening exercises you can do. The point is, core strength training doesn’t require much. All you need is dedication and consistency.

How do you know if you have a weak core? Core strength test

It’s good to know your baseline when beginning core training. Moreover, if you aren’t sure if your core is weak and you want to find out, we have a few signs to look for and a test that will tell you if you need to start taking core strengthening more seriously.

Note: Just because your abs are visible doesn’t mean your core is strong and just because you can’t see your abs doesn’t mean your core is weak. So, give the below some thought and do the core strength test.

Signs you need to strengthen your core:

  • You have trouble getting out of a chair or bed without using your arms.
  • Your posture is poor.
  • You sway when you walk and you have balance issues.
  • You have ankle pain or knee pain (could be your core strength as your balance is off).
  • You hold your breath unintentionally when doing core exercises and other exercises when working out.

core strength test

Core Strength Test

We will use a plank position for this core strength test. Place a timer on the floor where you can see it.

  1. Begin in a plank position with your elbows and feet on the floor - Hold this position for 60 seconds.
  2. Lift your right arm off the floor - Hold this position for 15 seconds.
  3. Bring your right arm to the floor and lift your left one up off the floor - Hold this position for 15 seconds.
  4. Bring your left arm back to the floor and lift your right leg off the floor - Hold this position for 15 seconds.
  5. Bring your right foot back to the floor and lift your left leg off the floor - Hold this position for 15 seconds.
  6. Lift your left leg and right arm off the floor - Hold for 15 seconds
  7. Return both your left leg and right arm to the floor then bring your right leg and left arm off the floor - Hold for 15 seconds.
  8. Return to the starting position and hold for 30 seconds.

How to interpret this core strength test?

If you can complete the test fully, you have great core strength. If you can’t your core needs improvement. It’s that simple!

How long does it take to strengthen your core?

If you stay consistent and train your core 2-3 times a week then you should strengthen and build your core muscles within 4 to 8 weeks.

However, seeing your abs and obliques is another story. This requires low body fat. You could strengthen your core significantly and still not see your abs if your diet is not in check.

What is the fastest way to strengthen your core?

There is no fast trick or hack. If you stay consistent, you can streamline the results though. Moreover, it’s important that you choose the right exercise to see the best results. For example, it is now common knowledge that planks are superior to crunches, especially for beginners who would likely use momentum and put stress on their spine when doing crunches.

core exercises at home

Increasing difficulty - Progressive Overload vs Progression Exercises

With core/ab muscles, you really aren’t progressive overloading (adding more stress to your muscles) in the same way you would with muscle groups like your quads, chest, and shoulders. With exercises like squats, deadlifts, and bench press, your goal is to progressive overload by ultimately adding more weight. However, with core exercises, the approach is a bit different. While you can add more reps, time under tension, and volume, the ultimate goal is to increase intensity/difficulty. The easiest way to do that is with progression exercises (more challenging exercises).

To give you an example of why increasing difficulty with more challenging exercises is better than more time or reps…

If you do planks, and you keep increasing the time until you are holding the position for 10 mins, your workouts would become so long. It’s not efficient. So, instead, you increase the difficulty by doing some progressions of the plank. Such as Plank Walks, Plank Step Ups, or Plank Knee To Elbows.

Adding Variety

When it comes to weightlifting, most people want to increase the weight of their big lifts, not the reps. To do so, you have to stick to those same lifts week in and week out. With core training, you can add a lot more spice (variety) because when it comes down to it, you aren’t looking to increase weight or even reps (to a certain degree), you just want to keep improving.

Note: For those who are not interested in bodybuilding or powerlifting, and you just workout to lose fat, keep in good shape, stay healthy and be active, you can of course switch up your daily exercises all around rather than sticking to the big lifts. We just wanted to give you some context into how core training differs than your average weightlifting routine.

Moving on…

30 BEST CORE EXERCISES

The following exercises are categorized by beginner, intermediate and advanced core exercises. We will make note of what specific core muscles each exercise targets. These exercises are what we consider to be the best core strengthening exercises. Moreover, these exercises are all relatively safe as they are bodyweight-only exercises.


Stick to these exercises and you will have an impressive torso in the near future.

We recommend that you start at the beginner level and work your way up to the more advanced core exercises over time. If you have already been training your core for some time now, you can gauge your level and try any of the exercises below. Just make sure you can do the exercise with proper form, as to not put yourself at risk of injury. Some advanced exercises can be done by any fitness level, with a little adjustment to the form (we will make note of it).

Can these core exercises be done at home?

All of these core exercises can be done from home, the gym or even outdoors (backyard, park, while traveling, etc.)

Are these core exercises good for men or women?

These core exercises don’t discriminate. They are great for men and women and people of all ages!

For seniors and those who may have trouble with the beginner section, see further below for recommended exercises to start with.

Finally, let’s get into the best exercises to strengthen and build your core muscles…

BEGINNER CORE EXERCISES

What are the most effective core exercises for beginners?

The most effective core exercises for beginners focus on anti-movement/anti-rotation rather than rotational movements and movements that bend the spine. This will allow beginners to build a solid foundation in a safe manner.

So, this was kept in mind when choosing the following exercises for beginners.

1. Plank

best plank exercises

The plank is one of the best core exercises you can do for a strong torso because it works all the muscle in your core. For beginners, the forearm plank should be a go-to.

How To Do Planks:

  1. Place your forearms on the floor with your elbows aligned below your shoulders and your arms parallel to your body at about shoulder width.
  2. Feet should be hip width apart.
  3. Keep a neutral spine. As you hold, keep your hips up, don’t let them start to fall to the floor.
  4. Maintain a tight core and keep your legs and glutes squeezed tight at all times.
  5. Focus on keeping everything tight for the allotted time.

Muscles worked: Rectus Abdominis, Transverse Abdominis, Internal Obliques, External Obliques, Hips, Erector Spinae, Multifidus, Quadratus Lumborum, and Glutes.

Work: Start with 20-30 second holds. Once you can maintain the position with good form for up to 2 minutes, move on to a progression exercise.

2. Glute Bridge

best exercises for cre

The glute bridge is another complex, all-encompassing core exercise that is great for beginners or anyone getting back into training after time off.

How to do Glute Bridges:

  1. Lie face-up on the floor with your knees bent and feet flat to the floor. The back of your heels should be aligned with the front of your knee.
  2. Keep your arms at your side with your palms down.
  3. Lift your hips off the floor until your knees, hips and shoulders form a straight line.
  4. Hold the bridged position for 3 seconds, then ease back down and repeat.

Muscles Worked: Glutes, Hips, Erector Spinae, Multifidus, Quadratus Lumborum, Hamstrings, Quads

Work: Aim for 10 reps. Your goal should be around 30-45 seconds of work.

3. Side Plank

best oblique exercises

This is easily the best oblique exercise you can do as a beginner. It’s killer and it works your entire side body.

How To Do Side Planks:

  1. Start on your side with your feet together and one hand (or on forearm to make it easier) directly below your shoulder.
  2. Contract your core as your raise your hips off the floor.
  3. Hold the position so your body is in a straight line from your head to your feet.
  4. Don’t let your hips drop to the floor.

Muscles Worked: Internal Obliques, External Obliques, Transverse Abdominis, Quadratus Lumborum, Multifidus, Glutes, Hip Adductors…and even your legs and shoulders.

Work: Start with 20-30 seconds. The aim should be to hold for 60 seconds with good form eventually.

4. Alternating Bird Dogs

best core exercises for beginners

This is a great and simple exercise to improve spinal stability. It also helps relieve low back pain, encourages a neutral spine, improves posture, and increase range of motion.

How To Do Alt. Bird Dogs:

  1. Get down onto your hands and knees. Place your hands on the floor directly under your shoulders, and knees on the floor under your hips.
  2. Extend your right arm in front of you and your left leg straight back so they are parallel with the floor. Hold the position for a couple seconds.
  3. Return back to the starting position and then extend your left arm in front of you and your right leg straight back. Hold the position for a couple seconds.
  4. Return back to starting position and repeat on the other side. Continue alternating sides for a set number of reps.

Muscles Worked: This is great for reciprocal muscle activation. It prevents rotation, so it’s a great exercise for the Lumbar Stabilizer Muscles - Erector Spinae, Multifidus, Quadratus Lumborum, Glutes, Hips. You will also work your upper back and shoulders.

Work: 20 reps (10 to each side).

5. Side Lying Hip Abduction

are the hips part of your core muscles

Since your hips play such a key role in core strength and spine stability, we are adding this one into the mix. Moreover, a lot of people who are weak in their core are also weak in their hips. The core goes hand in hand with the hips, which is why the hips are often considered part of your overall core.

How To Do Side Lying Hip Abductions:

  1. Lay down on your side, with your under leg bent at 90 degrees behind you. Your top leg is out extended straight, aligned with your body.
  2. Your forearm should be on the floor, aligned with your shoulder.
  3. Use the muscles on the sides of your hip and your glute to raise your leg up. Keep your leg straight.
  4. Bring it back down. And repeat
  5. Focus on pushing your hip slightly forward as you do this exercise so you feel it working your outer hips and glutes more than your hip flexors.

Muscles Worked: Hip Abductors, Glutes

Work: 10 reps each side for 3 sets.

6. Supine Toe Tap

easy core exercises

This is a great exercise for beginners who want to strengthen their core, especially their abs and hip flexors. This is a movement you often see in pilates.

How To Do Supine Toe Taps:

  1. Lie down on your back. Lift your legs up with your knees bent at 90 degrees. Hands to your side, palms down.
  2. While keeping your core tight, lower your right foot down and gently tap the floor. Make sure you keep your back flat at all times.
  3. Raise your right foot back up to the starting position and repeat with your left leg.

Muscles Worked: Rectus Abdominis, Transverse Abdominis, Hip Flexors

Work: Do 10 reps each side. 3 sets should be good if you are doing a couple other core exercises during your core workout.

7. Heel Touches

best crunch exercises

Heel touches are a good crunch exercise for beginners as it promotes good form. Without your hands on the back of your head, you’ll be less likely to use jerky movements and momentum. This is a good exercise for the abdominals.

How To Do Heel Touches:

  1. Lie down on the floor face up.
  2. Your feet should be flat on the floor, heels aligned with the front of your knees.
  3. Keeping your core tight and your low back to the floor at all times, crunch up and tap the back of your heels with your hands.
  4. Move slowly back down and repeat.
  5. Keep your core engaged the entire set.

Make sure you use your abs and don’t use jerky movements and movements to get your upper body/shoulder blades off the floor. If you can’t do this exercise properly, skip it and focus on anti-movement core exercise as this one can put pressure on your spine if done incorrectly.

Muscles Worked: Rectus Abdominis, Transverse Abdominis

8. Alternating Heel Touches

easy oblique exercises

This is a great beginner exercise for targeting the obliques. It’s also a good one to add to a core circuit workout for any fitness level.

How To Do Alternating Heel Touches:

  1. Lie down on the floor face up.
  2. Your feet should be flat on the floor, shoulder-width apart, heels aligned with the front of your knees.
  3. Arms by your side, core tight and your low back to the floor at all times, lift and keep your shoulder blades off the floor.
  4. From there, touch the side your left heel with your left hand, come back, then alternate sides back and forth. Your core should be tight at all times as well as your shoulder blades off the floor.

Muscles Worked: Internal Obliques, External Obliques, Rectus Abdominis.

Work: 20 reps (10 each side) or around a 30-45 second set.

9. Lying Knee Raise In

beginner ab exercises

This is one of the tougher core exercises here in the beginner section. It could easily go into the intermediate section below.

How To Do Lying Knee Raises:

  1. Lie down face up with your legs extended together and your arms at your side palms down (place your hands under your butt to make it easier).
  2. Bring your legs in until your knees are past your belly button (your legs should be at about 90 degrees), the slowly bring them back to extended. Keep your feet together and don’t let your feet rest on the floor during the entire set.
  3. Repeat for allotted time or reps.

Muscles Worked: Rectus Abdominis, Transverse Abdominis, Hip Flexors.

Work: Do 10-12 reps or 30-60 seconds. Move slowly during this exercise. Focus on contraction and keeping core tight at all times.

10. Flutter Kicks

easy ab exercises for beginners

Flutter Kicks are good exercises for beginners. They specifically target the lower abdominal wall.

How to do Flutter Kicks:

  1. Lie down face up with your legs extended and your arms at your side palms down (place your hands under your butt to make it easier).
  2. Keeping your legs extended, and a few inches apart, bring your legs up and down in an alternating fashion for an allotted time or number of reps.
  3. Try to keep your toes pointing slightly forward and your leg completely straight. Don’t let them touch the ground at any time. Also, only raise them to a maximum of a foot off the ground. Around 8-10 inches off the ground when up is perfect and a couple inches when down. The higher you keep your legs, the easier it will be.

Note: If you bring your shoulder blades off the ground, you should feel it more in your hip flexors.

Muscles Worked: Lower Rectus Abdominis, Traverse Abdominis, Hip Flexors.

Work: Aim for 30-60 seconds.

INTERMEDIATE CORE EXERCISES

11. Plank With March

best plank variations

Take your plank up a notch with Plank Marches. This exercise is a more dynamic version of the plank, which challenges your core even more.

How to do Plank With March:

  1. Place your forearms on the floor with your elbows aligned below your shoulders and your arms parallel to your body at about shoulder width. You could also go on your hands rather than your forearms.
  2. Feet should be hip-width apart.
  3. Keep a neutral spine. As you hold, keep your hips up, don’t let them start to fall to the floor.
  4. Lift one foot off the floor, place it back down, then lift the other foot off the floor, place it back down. Continue alternating like this for allotted time.
  5. Maintain a tight core and keep your legs and glutes squeezed tight at all time. Focus on keeping everything tight.

Muscles worked: Rectus Abdominis, Transverse Abdominis, Internal Obliques, External Obliques, Hips, Erector Spinae, Quadratus Lumborum, Multifidus, Glutes, and Shoulders.

Work: Aim for 45-60 seconds per set.

12. Side Plank With Hip Dip

side plank variations

Make your side planks harder by adding a little movement.

How to do Side Plank With Hip Dips:

  1. Start on your side with your feet together and one forearm directly below your shoulder. You could also go on your hand rather than your forearm.
  2. Contract your core as you raise your hips off the floor.
  3. Hold the position so your body is in a straight line from your head to your feet.
  4. Slowly let your hips move towards the floor (but don’t touch the floor), then lift back up so your body makes a straight line. Hold the top position for 2 seconds in-between each dip.

Muscles Worked: Internal Obliques, External Obliques, Transverse Abdominis, Quadratus Lumborum, Multifidus, Glutes, Hip Adductors…and even your legs and shoulders.

Work: 10-12 reps each side.

13. Mountain Climbers

fat burning ab exercises

Mountain climbers are a great core exercise as they work the core muscles while also pumping your heart rate up. It’s a double whammy. Burn fat and strengthen your core. Moreover, they work many muscles from your quads up to your shoulders!

How To Do Mountain Climbers:

  1. Get into a standard plank position with your hands on the ground. Make sure your weight is distributed evenly between your hands and your toes. Hands should be shoulder-width apart and directly below your holders. Your abs should be engaged, back flat, neutral spine, and the back of your head/neck aligned with your back.
  2. Bring your right knee towards your chest as far as you can go. Then as you return it back, bring your left knee towards your chest.
  3. Continue alternating for an allotted time or number of reps.
  4. To increase the intensity, speed up and do this as fast as you can (this is what’s great about mountain climbers, beginners can go slow and those who are advanced can go fast to equal core strengthening and fat burning effect! It’s an exercise for all levels)

Muscles Worked: Hip Flexors, Rectus Abdominis, Erector Spinae, Quadratus Lumborum, Multifidus, Glutes, Quads, Hamstrings, Shoulders, Triceps.

Work: 30-45 seconds.

14. Bird Dogs with Knee/Elbow Touches

best core stability exercises

The bird dog with knee to elbow touches is a triple whammy of an exercise. It will work core strength, core stability, and spinal alignment. You will feel your core contraction big time on this one.

How to do Bird Dogs with Knee/Elbow Touches:

  1. Start on all fours, hands and knees on the floor. Hands aligned under shoulders, knees aligned under hips.
  2. Activate your core and extend your right arm in front of you and your left leg straight back so they are parallel with the floor. Hold the position for a second or two then bring your right arm and left knee to your center and try to touch them. Squeeze and move slowly.
  3. Return back to the starting position and then extend your left arm in front of you and your right leg straight back. Hold the position for a second or two, then bring your left arm and right knee to your center and try to touch them. Squeeze and move slowly.
  4. Return back to starting position and repeat on other side. Continue alternating sides for an allotted time or reps.

Muscles Worked: Erector Spinae, Internal Obliques, External Obliques, Rectus Abdominis, Transverse Abdominis, Quadratus Lumborum, Multifidus, Glutes, Hips, Upper Back, and Shoulders.

Work: 20 reps (10 to each side).

15. Legs Up Crunch

best exercises for abs

Although this is a progression of the crunch, we decided to skip the crunch as we aren’t huge fans of basic crunches. Not that they are bad if done correctly. We just figured you’ve seen them enough.

How To Do Leg Up Crunches:

  1. Bring your legs up so they are perpendicular with the floor and knees slightly bent. Keep your lower spine flat to the floor.
  2. Tighten your abs, then slowly curl your upper body, lifting your shoulder blades off the floor. Exhale out as you do this. Remember this is a crunch, not a sit up.
  3. Slowly return back and repeat.

Muscles Worked: Rectus Abdominis, Transverse Abdominis.

Work: Don’t do high reps. In fact, don't do high reps on any crunch. Aim to do reps that you would normally with other exercises, i.e. 10-15. Focus on moving slowly and controlled with your abs tight rather than fast just to get the reps out of the way. Less is more if done correctly.

16. Hip Lifts

exercise for core strength

This is a great core exercise that primarily targets your lower abs.

How to do Lying Hip Raise:

  1. Lie down with your back and head to the floor, hands to your side with your palms down, and your feet flat to the floor with your knees bent.
  2. Bring your legs up in the air directly above your hips.
  3. Lift your hips into the air. Lower down and then lift back up. Continue this motion for allotted reps. Your head, upper back and shoulders will to the floor at all times. Also, keep your hips off the ground when you go down.

Muscles Worked: Rectus Abdominis, Transverse Abdominis, Hip Flexors

Work: 10-15 reps

17. Scissor Kicks

great core exercises

This is a good exercise for all levels so we are putting it in the intermediate section. For beginners, you can do lying scissor kicks.

How to do seated scissor kicks:

  1. Sit on the floor, leaning back (no arch in your back) with your palms to the ground right around the sides of your upper thigh.
  2. Raises your legs off the ground  so they are straight up in the air, then bring your legs down and up in an alternating pattern. The straighter you keep your legs, the harder it will be.
  3. Continuing alternating your feet up and down while keeping your core tight. The only thing that should be moving is your legs.

For beginners, lying down with your back and shoulders to the floor will make this easier. Also, it is easier if you bend your knees more.

Muscles Worked: Transverse Abdominis, Hip Flexors, Rectus Abdominis.

Work: Aim to do 30-45 seconds.

18. Bicycle Crunch

core exercises for men

The bicycle crunch is a great core exercise to target both your abs and your obliques. You will surely feel the burn on this one.

How to do bicycle crunches:

  1. Lie down with your back flat to the floor.
  2. Put your hands behind your head, contract your abs, then bring your knee towards your chest and lift your shoulders off the ground while rotating your right elbow to your left knee. Touch your elbow to your knee if you can, then return back down.
  3. As soon as you lower down, alternate sides - right knee to left elbow.
  4. Continue alternating for set reps or time.

Muscles Worked: Internal Obliques, External Obliques, Transverse Abdominis, Rectus Abdominis.

Work: Aim to do around 20 reps (10 each side).

19. Plank Jack

different kinds of planks

The plank jack is a fun yet challenging exercise. Not only is it tough on the core but it also gets your heart rate up so you can burn a lot of calories with this one too.

How to do Plank Jacks:

  1. Get into a standard plank position (hands to the ground directly aligned with your shoulders).
  2. Keeping your core tight, hop your feet out then back in continuously for an allotted time. Do not stop. It’s like a jumping jack from a plank position.

Muscles Worked: Muscles Worked: Rectus Abdominis, Transverse Abdominis, Internal Obliques, External Obliques, Quadratus Lumborum, Multifidus, Glutes, Quads, Erector Spinae, Shoulders

Work: Aim to do 30-45 seconds.

20. Lying Leg Raises

core exercises beginners

Lying leg raises are very effective for your lower abs and hip flexors. This exercise is good for all levels as with simple adjustments, it can be made easier or harder.

How to do Lying Leg Raises:

  1. Lying down with your back and head to the floor; hands at your side with your palms down.
  2. Keeping your legs together and as straight as you can, raise them up so they are pointing straight in the air, then slowly lower them back down to just about an inch or two off the ground (don’t let them touch the ground).
  3. Raises them back up and back down for a set number of reps.
  4. Move your legs slowly down to make the movement more difficult. Bend your knees to make it easier. Keep your back to the ground at all times.

Muscles Worked: Psoas/Hip Flexors, Rectus Abdominis, Transverse Abdominis

Work: Aim to do 10-15 reps per set.

ADVANCED CORE EXERCISES

21. Up Down Plank

what are the best exercises core strength

Now we are taking our plank game to the next level by adding a lot more core stability control. This one is really going to force you to remain stable, thus adding more core contraction.

How to do an Up Down Plank:

  1. Place your forearms on the floor with your elbows aligned below your shoulders and your arms parallel to your body at about shoulder width.
  2. Feet should be hip-width apart.
  3. Keep a neutral spine. As you hold, keep your hips up, don’t let them start to fall to the floor.
  4. Lift your left forearm off the ground and place your palm to the floor then lift your right forearm off the ground and place your palm to the floor. You are now in a standard plank position (like a push up).
  5. Lower back down to your forearms, one arm at a time.
  6. Continue going back up and down for a set number of reps.
  7. One of the key points of the up down plank is to try to keep your hips squared forward at all times. As you raise up and down, keep your core tight and try not to let your hip rotate side to side.

Muscles worked: Rectus Abdominis, Transverse Abdominis, Internal Obliques, External Obliques, Hips, Erector Spinae, Multifidus, Quadratus Lumborum, Glutes, and Shoulders.

Work: Aim to do 15-20 full reps.

22. Plank Shoulder Taps

hard core exercises

This is another great advanced variation of the plank. It can be a bit harder than the plank step up as the movement is quicker and it requires very strong core stability as well as strong shoulders.

How to do Plank Shoulder Taps:

  1. Get into a standard plank position (hands to the ground directly aligned with your shoulders).
  2. Raise your right hand up and tap your left shoulder then bring it back down.
  3. Raise your left hand up and tap your right shoulder then bring it back down.
  4. Continue alternating shoulder taps in a quick manner. As soon as your hand goes down the other hand goes up.
  5. Keep your hips squared forward to the floor at all times.

Muscles Worked: Rectus Abdominis, Transverse Abdominis, Internal Obliques, External Obliques, Quadratus Lumborum, Multifidus, Glutes, Quads, Erector Spinae, Shoulders

Work: Aim to do 30-60 seconds.

23. Plank Walk Outs

difficult core exercises

There are so many advanced variations of the plank, and this is one that is going to really light up your core.

How to do Plank Walk Outs:

  1. Get into a standard plank position (hands to the ground directly aligned with your shoulders).
  2. Slowly walk your hands out in front of you until you reach a point where it’s difficult to hold your body in a straight line. Hold for a second or two, then slowly walk your hands back to the starting position.
  3. Continue doing this for allotted time.

Muscles worked: This one is very tough on the upper abs and lower back. It is also going to also work all the muscles of your core - Transverse Abdominis, Internal Obliques, External Obliques, Quadratus Lumborum, Multifidus, Glutes, Quads, Erector Spinae, Shoulders.

Work: Aim for 45-60 seconds each set.

24. V-Sit

core strengthening exercises

The V-Sit is a great core strength isometric exercises that also challenges your balance and mental fortitude.

How to do a V-Sit:

  1. Sit down on the ground.
  2. Extend your legs off the ground and lean your torso back so that your body makes a  “V” shape. Hold your hands straight and to the sides of your legs (without touching).
  3. Hold this position for the allotted time.

Muscles Worked: Rectus Abdominis, External Obliques, Internal Obliques, and Hip Flexors.

Work: Aim for 45-60 second holds.

25. V-Ups

best core strength exercises

This is a fantastic core strength exercise that is very challenging, especially after a couple reps. Get ready for a major burn with this one.

How to do V-Ups:

  1. Lie down on your back and extend your arms behind your head. Extend your legs straight and keep your feet together and toes pointed forward.
  2. Bring your legs up (keep them straight) as you simultaneously raise your upper body off the floor and reach for your toes with your hands. Slowly lower yourself back down to the starting position and repeat.

Note: An easier version of this is the single-leg v-up, where you leave one leg on the floor, foot down.

Muscles Worked: Rectus Abdominis, Transverse Abdominis, Obliques, Lower Back

Work: Aim to do 10-12 reps.

26. Side Plank Toe Touches

advanced core exercises

Take your side plank up difficulty up a few notches by adding a dynamic movement to it that not only tests your core strength but your balance, stability, flexibility and shoulder strength as well.

How to do Side Plank Toe Touches:

  1. Get into a side plank with your hand to the floor (not your forearm). Extend your top hand straight above your head.
  2. Bring your top leg straight forward until it is aligned with your hips as you simultaneously move your top hand down to touch your toe.
  3. Once you touch your toe, bring your leg back and your arm overhead and repeat.

Muscles Worked: Internal Obliques, External Obliques, Rectus Abdominis, Erector Spinae, Quadratus Lumborum, Multifidus, Lower Back, Hips, Shoulders

Work: Arm to do 12-15 reps each side.

27. Windshield Wipers

rotational core exercises

Here is a great core stabilization exercise. This one involves rotation so we recommend it only for those with a strong core as it does put your spine in a vulnerable position.

How to do Windshield Wipers:

  1. Lie down on your back.
  2. Bring your arms straight out to your sides.
  3. Bring your legs straight up so your body forms a 90-degree angle (bend your knees to make it easier).
  4. Rotate your hips to the left (do not let them touch the floor), then rotate to the right. Move slowly, keep your core tight, and be in control at all times.

Muscles Worked: Internal Obliques, External Obliques and Rectus Abdominis

Work: 20 reps (10 each side).

28. Plank Forward Reach to Toe Touches

top core exercises

This plank variation will challenge your core strength, stability and balance. Your shoulders, glutes, and core will be on fire and you will get a great stretch in your hamstrings as well.

How to Do Plank Forward Reach to Toe Touches:

  1. Get into a standard plank on your hands. The wider your feet, the easier it will be.
  2. Reach your left hand straight forward (keep that body straight) hold for a second then come up into a pike and touch your right foot.
  3. Return back to the starting plank position and repeat on the opposite side.

Muscles Worked: Rectus Abdominis, Transverse Abdominis, Obliques, Erector Spinae, Quadratus Lumborum, Multifidus, Hips, Glutes.

Work: Aim to do 10 reps to each side.

29. Superman Exercise

bodyweight core exercises

Here is one of the best low back bodyweight exercises you can do.

How to do Supermans:

  1. Lie face down on the floor with your arms extended forward.
  2. Raise your legs and hands off the floor, your upper thigh, hips and lower abs will be all that is touching the ground. Hold this position for a few seconds then return back down and repeat. You will look like SUPERMAN.

Muscles Worked: Erector Spinae, Quadratus Lumborum, Multifidus, Glutes, Hips, Rectus Abdominis

Work: Aim for 10 reps with 2-3 second holds each rep

30. Hanging Leg Raises

bodyweight core exercises advanced

The king of all abdominal exercises. This one requires serious upper body and core strength to do correctly.

You will need a pull-up bar and a beam for this one.

How to do Hanging Leg Raises:

  1. Get into a pull-up position, hanging from the bar.
  2. Bring your feet together and toes pointed.
  3. Lift your legs straight up while keeping them straight. Bring them up to just above hip level, then slowly lower them back down and repeat (to make it easier, bend your knees).

Muscles Worked: Rectus Abdominis, External Obliques, Hip Flexors (Psoas, Rectus Femoris).

Best core exercises for Seniors

For seniors, beginner core exercises and balance training is going to be the best approach for core training.

Taking from the above exercises, these are the top 5 core exercises for seniors:

  • Forearm Planks or Standard High Planks
  • Alternating Bird Dogs
  • Supine Toe Taps
  • Plank March
  • Side Lying Hip Abduction

Exercises like bodyweight lunges are great too. Unilateral exercises increase balance, ergo core strength & stability.

Core exercises for those who are overweight or anyone coming off a back injury

If you find the exercises above to be too difficult, try these variations

  • Knee planks
  • Standing Knee Raises (raise your right one knee up as high as you can to your core then back down and alternate sides for a set number of reps)
  • Hollow Body Holds
  • Glute Bridge
  • Side Plank On Knees (same as the side plank but you are on the side of your knees)

Can you do core exercises every day?

Although you can train your core/abs a little more frequently than other muscle groups, you should not train them every day, just like you wouldn’t train your legs every day.

Your core needs time to recover just as your other muscles do. Plus, if you train your core every day, you will create muscle imbalances and this can create postural problems. It may even put too much stress on your spine.

Here is a good breakdown of when to do core exercises…

Full Body Training Plan:

For a full body training plan, you can do core exercises each workout because you will have rest days to give your core muscles time to recover. Moreover, you will be training all your muscle equally.

4 Day Spilt Training Plan:

Day 1: Legs/Glutes
Day 2: Chest/Core
Day 3: REST
Day 4: Back/Core
Day 5: Shoulder/Arms
Day 6: REST
Day 7: REST

Upper Lower Training Plan:

Day 1: Lower Body
Day 2: Upper Body/Abs
Day 3: REST
Day 4: Lower Body
Day 5: Upper Body/Abs
Day 6: REST
REPEAT

or…

Day 1: Lower Body
Day 2: Upper Body
Day 3: Abs/Cardio
Day 4: Lower Body
Day 5: Upper Body
Day 6: Abs/Cardio
REPEAT

As you can see, the goal is to space out your core workouts but to do them consistently. Aim for 2-3 core strength session per day.

How many core exercises per workout?

2 or 3 core-specific exercises or a 5-10 minute low rest core session is enough to do the job. Start with 2 exercises and over time add another exercise, then from there, increase the difficulty of the core exercise rather than adding more volume and spending unnecessary time working out. Increase difficulty by doing more advanced core exercises.

If you choose to do 2 or 3 exercises, do 3-4 sets for each exercise. Each set you should feel the burn.

If you choose to do a timed core workout, you can do a circuit of core exercises or a Tabata for example. A 5-minute core Tabata will be killer.

Switch it up week to week or every so often. So if you do sets x reps, change to a 5-10 minute core circuit the next week. With core training, switching things up and adding intensity is a great way to keep improving. Challenge your core in new ways.

Below are some core workout formats…

best core workouts

CORE WORKOUTS

Here are a few core workout examples that you can try using the core exercises above.

Beginner Core Workouts

Workout 1:
  • 6 exercises
  • 2-3 rounds
  • 30 seconds work each exercise, 10 seconds rest, then move to the next exercise. Continue this until all rounds are completed.

i.e. 2-3 rounds (30 seconds on, 10 seconds rest):

Plank
Side Plank
Heel Touches
Side Lying Hip Adduction
Mountain Climbers
Alternating Bird Dogs

Workout 2:
  • 3 exercises
  • 3 sets (complete one exercise for 3 sets then move to the next)
  • 10 reps or 30 seconds work time for each exercise
  • Rest 20-30 seconds between sets

i.e.:

Plank: 3 sets x 30 seconds
Side Plank: 3 sets (each side) x 30 seconds
Alternating Bird Dogs: 3 sets x 20 reps (10 each side)

Intermediate Core Workouts

Workout 1:

  • 6-8 Intermediate or Advanced Exercises (do exercises that primarily target different core muscles)
  • 45 seconds on, 15 seconds rest
  • 2 rounds

Workout 2:

  • Superset 3 Intermediate or Advanced Exercises
  • 30 seconds each exercise (no rest between exercises)
  • 4 rounds (rest 30 seconds between rounds)

Advanced Core Workouts

Workout 1:

  • 6 to 8 Advanced Core Exercises (targeting different primary muscles)
  • 20 seconds on
  • No rest until Round 1
  • Do 3 rounds

Workout 2:

  • 4 Advanced Core Exercises (targeting different primary muscles)
  • 3 sets x 1 minute of work (complete all three sets for one exercise before moving to the next)
  • 20-30 second rest between sets (try for minimal rest time)

core workouts and exercises

FAQ:

Are core exercises good for weight loss?

With enough intensity, core exercises can promote weight loss, but not more than any other intense exercise (i.e jumping lunges, burpees). Weight loss is about calories consumed versus calories spent. If you want to lose weight, you need to focus on doing total-body exercises and keeping your heart rate up so you burn more calories during your workout and then also diet properly for your weight loss goals.

Note: Core exercises like plank jacks and mountain climbers are good for weight loss and core strength. These are dynamic core exercises so they burn more calories. Exercises like Standard Planks are isometric exercises, so they focus more on core strength than burning calories.

What core exercises burn belly fat?

Core exercises will not specifically target belly fat. They will aid in the process, but to burn belly fat, you need to do intense workouts and diet properly. You need to burn more calories per day than you consume. It’s that simple. The best way to do this is with a high-protein low-carb diet and high-intensity workouts.

By the way, if you are burning fat, you are burning it all over your body, not just your stomach.

If you want to do core exercises that burn belly fat, you need to do the ones that challenge you the most and get your heart racing! This combined with total body, compound exercises (like burpees, jumping jacks, high knees) and cardio will lead to fat loss. Not just on your belly, but all around.

Are core exercises good for abs?

Yes! Of course! However, not all core exercises are ab-centric. Your core is composed of a lot of muscles. When doing a core workout, aim to do one exercise that specifically targets the abs and others for obliques, lower back, etc.

Are core exercises good for lower back pain?

Yes! By training your core, you will improve your posture and create more stability in your spine. Core strength training is an effective way to manage low back pain.

Studies on the effectiveness of core stabilization for those with chronic low back pain:

Study 1: “Core stabilization exercise is more effective than routine physical therapy exercise in terms of greater reduction in pain in patients with non-specific low back pain.”

Study 2: “All of the core strength training strategies examined in this study assist in the alleviation of chronic low back pain; however, we recommend focusing on training the deep trunk muscles to alleviate chronic low back pain.”

Takeaway

We hope this guide to a stronger core will be of help to beginners looking to jump-start an effective exercise routine that doesn’t take the core lightly, as well as those who are more experienced with working out and are simply looking for a way to advance their core strength. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us.

Treat your core like it’s the center of your universe…because it is!

Before starting any exercise routine, talk to your healthcare provider if you have any concerns.

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