You often hear about “core” exercises, but what muscles are involved, and why is it important to train your core? Many believe that the term refers to your abdominal muscles, but your core includes your abdominals plus your glutes (butt), hips, pelvic floor muscles, and your scapula. Most functional movements that you perform every day require your core muscles, from sitting and standing to lifting and twisting.
Adding core exercises will improve your stability and balance while helping you build a strong foundation for advanced training. Here is a beginner to intermediate core workout of four exercises to begin developing and strengthening your core:
1. Knee Planks
- Start from a knee pushup position with your elbows bent and your weight on your forearms. Keep your back straight without allowing your hips or arms to drop or rise. Hold your plank for 30 seconds and increase each workout until you reach 1-2 minutes.
- Start on your hands and knees with your back straight and extend your left arm and point forward as you extend your right leg straight back and point. Hold for 15-30 seconds then lower and extend the opposite arm and leg. Focus on keep the arm and leg straight and in line with your body. Increase each workout until you reach 1-2 minutes.
- Start on your back with knees bent and arms across your chest. Lift your upper body and touch your elbows to your knees and hold for 1-2 seconds and return to the start. Perform 1-3 sets of 10-20 repetitions. As a variation, add a twist as you come up and touch your left elbow to your right knee and alternate.
2. Reverse Crunches
Start flat on your back and place your arms palms down at your sides. Lift your legs until they are perpendicular to the floor and hold, then lift your pelvis off the floor and push your hips and legs towards the ceiling and hold for 1-2 seconds and relax. Perform 1-3 sets of 10-20 repetitions.
3. Full Planks
Start on your stomach in a pushup position but with your forearms flat on the floor. Lift your body until straight and rigid with your weight fully supported on your forearms and toes. Focus on not allowing your hips to drop or rise as you hold your plank for 30-60 seconds. Repeat 3 times.
4. Weighted Twists
You can use a small dumbbell, kettlebell or medicine ball as your weight. Start in a sit-up position with your knees bent and your weight in your hands extended in front of your chest. While keeping your arms straight, twist to the left and touch the weight to the floor, return to center and then twist to the right and touch the floor alternating left-right-left. You can perform your weighted twists fast or slow, and to increase difficulty you can lift your feet off the floor and balance on your buttocks as you twist left and right. Perform 1-3 sets of 10-20 repetitions.