Want to build a stronger core? Start with these beginner-friendly exercises to activate your abs, glutes and back muscles.
A strong core goes beyond the aesthetics of a sexy six-pack, and it’s not just about doing endless crunches and sit-ups. Building core strength is essential for improving your stability and balance, as it trains the muscles in your abdomen, lower back, hips and pelvis. If you’re guilty of neglecting your core or suffer from back pain, start with these beginner-friendly moves. You’ll be surprised at your improved posture, and how everyday activities seem much easier over time.
This simple exercise will engage the stabiliser muscles in your core, strengthen your spine and help to reduce lower back pain. Start on all fours, aligning hands under shoulders and knees directly under hips. Pull abs in tight towards spine, keeping back straight and parallel to the ground. Slowly extend right hand and left leg off the floor in opposite directions. Return to starting position. Repeat on the other side to complete one rep.
Toe Touch Crunch
Bored with the classic crunches? Switch it up with this variation. Movements may be minimal, but it’s sure to fire up your abs. Start by lying on your back with feet directly above hips, toes pointed to the ceiling. Raise arms up above shoulders, perpendicular to the floor. Slowly lift shoulder blades off the ground and reach for your toes. Contract abs as you crunch up. Lower upper body down slightly without completely resting it on the ground to complete one rep. Having trouble holding your legs up? Lean them against a wall for support.
This move looks exactly like it sounds, and it’s one of the simplest exercises to strengthen your core. Lie on your back and bring your feet up to tabletop position, knees bent at 90 degrees directly above hips. Extend arms towards the ceiling above shoulders. Tighten abs and press lower back to the floor. As you exhale, slowly extend left leg and right arm away from you and towards the floor without arching your back. Repeat on the opposite side. Too easy? Take it to the next level with dumbbells or a resistance band.
You aren’t just toning the obliques with this dynamic movement, but the whole abdomen. Sit on a mat with your knees bent, feet together and hands clasped in front of your chest. Lean back slightly until your body forms a 45-degree angle with the floor. Keep your spine straight and abdominal muscles tight. Twist your torso, rotating left and right as far as you can to complete one rep. To scale down, rest your heels on the ground. For a higher intensity, add weights by holding a medicine ball or dumbbell as you perform this exercise.
The plank is essentially a full-body workout – besides improving core strength, it also activates the muscles in your arms and shoulders, as well as trains your stability. While it may look simple, it’s important that you learn to do it correctly, and avoid these common mistakes. Start in push-up position. Bend arms at a 90-degree angle, positioning elbows directly under shoulders. Squeeze butt, tighten abs, and ensure that your head is aligned with the spine. Hold for 30 seconds. If it’s too difficult, drop your knees to the floor. Once you’ve mastered the forearm plank, challenge yourself with these 20 plank variations.
Mountain climbers are hands down one of the best exercises to add to your HIIT and strength training routines with all these wonderful benefits in tow. Start from a high plank position with palms directly under your shoulders. Your body should form a straight line from your shoulders to ankles. Tighten abs and lift your right foot off the floor. Bend right knee up towards your chest, then straighten behind you. Repeat with left leg and alternate swiftly without stopping. Each leg movement equals one rep. Do 20 reps or go continuously for 45 seconds. Keep your wrists in line with your shoulders at all times. Avoid sinking hips.