Your core is the powerhouse of your body. Every movement stems from the middle of your body. Having good core strength is one of the most important things that you can do for your body to prevent injury.
The plank is a great way to strengthen your core. The beauty of the plank is that it will work other parts of your body as well. The muscles you activate when you plank are rectus abdominis(ab muscles), quadriceps(front of thighs), pectoralis major(chest), and your deltoids(shoulders). If you are a beginner, start with 10 seconds and gradually work your time up to 60 seconds. If you have a back issue, you may also modify by lowering your knees to the ground.
Form tip: Imagine there is a string going loop through your belly button and attached to the ceiling.
2. Side Plank
The side plank is a variation of the basic plank. This exercise targets the obliques which are the stomach muscles located on the sides of your body. You want to position your elbow directly underneath your armpit. Engage your core and squeeze your glutes. Pull your belly button in towards your spine. Switch sides and repeat. To make this more challenging, increase the length of your hold time or raise the upper leg off of the lower leg.
Form tip: Don’t let your hip sag down. Keep a nice straight line from your ankles to your shoulders.
3. Plank Tap
This exercise is a variation on the basic plank. The plank tap strengthens your core, arms, glutes, shoulders, and wrists. Start with your hands on the ground and alternately tap the opposite shoulder. This exercise is great for reducing low back pain. It will strengthen your core and improve your posture. After you have mastered good form in the traditional plank, try the plank tap as a more advanced move. If you are a beginner, modify your form by bringing your knees down to the ground.
Form tip: Keep your torso still and do not rock back and forth as you switch arms.
4. Medicine Ball Slam
As a personal trainer, this is one of my favorite core exercises. Many people don’t think of this as a core exercise. It will strengthen and tone your midsection. Lift the ball above your head and then slam it to the ground as you lower your body into a squatted position. Engage your core and lift the ball back up over your head. You will feel that core burn as you lift the ball from the ground. Repeat 10-15 times. If you are using a ball that does not bounce(dead ball) be sure you are on a solid floor that can handle the impact. If you are using a ball that bounces make sure you have plenty of space for safety.
Form tip: Keep your back nice and straight. Don’t slouch over to pick up the ball.
5. Bird Dog
If you have ever been to physical therapy for any type of spine or hip therapy, you most likely have done the bird dog exercise. This is a great exercise that will strengthen your core muscles and hip muscles. The bird dog encourages a neutral spine which helps to stabilize your back muscles. Start on all fours and extend opposite arms and legs. Alternate sides. As this exercise gets easier you can modify it by pulling your elbow to your knee or by doing the exercise on top of a bench.
Form tip: Keep your glutes squeezed.
6. Leg Raise
This exercise is another great simple exercise for your core that can be done anywhere. Lie flat on your back with your arms extended next to your body. Lift both legs and lower while keeping them straight. Lower the legs back down, but don’t touch them to the floor. Repeat.
Form tip: Press your lower back to the floor. Keep the knees bent if it is too challenging.
7. Mountain Climbers
Mountain climbers will give you both cardio conditioning and a great ab workout. Place your hands on the ground. Alternately pull your knees in towards your chest as you activate the core. You will work your core, arms, shoulders, and both the upper and lower legs. It won’t be long before you break a sweat with this exercise.
Form Tip: Make sure your shoulders and wrists are in line with one another.
Keeping your core strong is important for many reasons. A weak or inflexible core can impair how well your arms and legs function. You need good core strength for your daily living activities. Things such as housework, gardening, and chores will become easier if your core is strong. Many people suffer from low back issues that could be avoided if they kept a strong core.
Core exercises are important if you want more defined ab muscles. However, it takes aerobic activity to burn abdominal fat. Core exercises will strengthen the muscles underneath the fat. But, if you want to reveal those washboard abs muscles underneath the fat, you will need to do more cardio and make sure you eat a healthy diet.
Keep in mind that your core is not only on the front of your body. Your core includes the muscles on the front, sides, and back of your body. These muscles are stabilizers for your entire body which will be in overall better shape if you consistently do these seven exercises.