Getting a strong, toned core doesn’t take magic. With the right set of exercises, routine, and the necessary mind-muscle connection, you can get the abs you crave without any fancy equipment. Understanding what core strengthening workouts you should be doing can be confusing. Some fitness experts tell you to do crunches until you’re blue in the face, others warn you to never do them. We are breaking down how to start your core strength training with specific workouts that will target the exact muscles you need to build a solid center while protecting your lower back from unnecessary strain.
Why a Strong Core is Important
The benefits of a strong core go far beyond having a flat, toned stomach. Strengthening your core also:
- Makes it easier to carry out everyday activities
- Reduces your risk of injury so you can reach your goals faster
- Prevents and improves lower back pain
- Improves balance, agility, and speed
- Helps correct posture and alignment of the spine that can lead to chronic pain
How to Strengthen Your Core
So how do you do it? How do you get that strong, sculpted core you’re longing for? To optimize your core conditioning, focus on a combination of:
#1 Compound Exercises That Recruit Multiple Muscles in Your Core
Exercises like squats, deadlifts, push-ups, step-ups, and renegade rows may not seem like core exercises at first glance, but they are impossible to perform correctly without recruiting your core muscles. Learning how to activate your core while performing these exercises is crucial to tapping into the benefits of a strong core. Other compound movements like planks (forearm, side, and other variations like mountain climbers) may be more obvious compound movements to include in your core strengthening workouts.
#2 Concentrated Exercises That Focus on Individual Core Muscles
These are the ab exercises that immediately come to mind when you think of core-strengthening workouts like crunches, roll-ups, v-sits, Russian twists, bicycles, cobras. They’re the exercises that immediately make your abs and/or lower back burn (in a good way). These will teach you how to activate your core and focus on building your rectus abdominis, obliques, and transverse abdominis in the front of your trunk and erector spinae and latissimus dorsi muscles in your back.
#3 Balance Exercises That Recruit Your Core Stabilizing Muscles
In addition to your main core muscles in the front, back, and side of your torso, you also have a number of other stabilizing muscles in your hips that affect how your core functions. By incorporating balance exercises into your core strength training workouts, you condition the muscles in your pelvis, lower back, abs, and hips to work together during movements, an essential part of improving performance and reducing your risk of injury.
Start Your Core Strength Training With These Exercises
Step #1: Start lying on your back, feet straight out in front of you, arms overhead.
Step #2: Pull your abs in towards your spine as you slowly curly head, neck, and shoulders off the mat and bring your arms forward up to the ceiling. Continue to roll up as you bring your arms forward toward your toes.
Step #3: Continue to roll all the way up to a seated position and stretch your torso over your legs.
Step #4: Slowly reverse the curl as you come all the way back down to your starting position, moving vertebrae by vertebrae.
Step #5: Complete 10 to 20 repeat one to two times.
Step #1: Start on your hands and knees.
Step #2: Lower down to your forearms, keeping them shoulder-width apart and parallel. You can clasp your hands or, for an added challenge, keep your hands face down and separated.
Step #3: Pull your abs in and come up onto your toes, legs straight. To modify this position, bring your knees back down to the ground, but make sure they are behind your hips, so your torso stays at a 45-degree angle.
Step #4: Press up through your shoulder blades and squeeze your glutes. Your entire body should be one straight line.
Step #5: Hold for 30 to 90 seconds and repeat one to two times.
#3 Russian Twists
Step #1: Start in a seated position, knees bent, and feet planted in front of you. Hold one 5 to 15-pound dumbbell in both hands at your chest.
Step #2: Pull your belly button into your spine and lean back, so your torso is at a 45-degree angle with the floor.
Step #3: For an added challenge, lift your feet off the ground and come into a tabletop position with your legs.
Step #4: Keeping the lower half of your body as still as possible, twist to the right side, and gently tap the weight on the floor beside you.
Step #5: Come back through center and repeat on the left for one rep.
Step #6: Complete 10 to 20 reps on each side and repeat one to two more times.
Step #1: Start standing with feet hip-distance (or a little wider), parallel. For an added challenge, hold one dumbbell in each hand or place a barbell across your upper back.
Step #2: Pull your abs in and bend your knees as you lower down into your squat, so your knees make at least a 90-degree angle.
Step #3: Make sure to keep your toes tracking forward over your feet, back flat (no arching!), and shoulders away from your ears.
Step #4: Squeeze your glutes as you come back to standing.
Step #5: Complete 10 to 15 reps and repeat one to two more times.
Step #1: Start lying on your stomach, legs straight behind you and arms straight overhead.
Step #2: Pull your abs in and lift your arms, head, neck, and shoulders, feet, and legs off the ground as high as you can.
Step #3: Make sure to keep your neck straight by looking down at the ground.
Step #4: Hold for one or two counts and slowly lower back down to your starting position.
Step #5: Complete 10 to 15 reps and repeat one to two more times.
Put It All Together With These 3 Core Strengthening Workouts
When your schedule is tight, this 6-minute workout will have your abs burning in all the right places. With exercises like cross crunches, bicycles, and roll-ups, it’s the perfect core strengthening routine to focus solely on your main core muscles.
By using a combination of balance, stability, compound, and concentrated ab exercises, this workout packs it all in with just 13-minutes of your time! Do this workout a few times a week to see changes in your core strength!
This workout leaves no core muscle behind. Core strengthening exercises like alternating leg lifts, reverse crunches, knee tucks, cross-body mountain climbers, flutter kicks, and swimmers target all the muscles in your core, back, and hips needed to have a bulletproof and sculpted center.
At-Home Core Exercises Are The Best Kept Secret For Tight Abs
So, there you have it. The best at-home core exercises that you can do right from your living room without having to head to the gym. Try adding these exercises to your regular fitness routine. Need a little more guidance on how to do these core exercises? Consider one of the above FitOn core workouts, or browse the toning and strength category in the FitOn app to find which core workouts you like best.
And, remember don’t get discouraged if you don’t see results immediately. Toning and strengthening that core takes hard work, commitment, and time. So, keep at it. Show up for your workouts, eat clean, practice regular stress reduction, and you’ll be on your way to seeing results.