When you hear the phrase “a strong core,” what do you think about? Does the image of a bodybuilder or athlete with six-pack abs come to mind? Or do you imagine having to endure hours of tough exercises?
Well, you’re in luck – it is more than possible for you to achieve a strong core without having to be a professional athlete or spend hours in the gym.
Your core muscles are a group of muscles that surround your midsection and act as a great stabilizer for your body. Many people may skip core workouts and not realize that even a beginner core workout can do wonders for your body!
See why we never skip core exercises in our fitness programming and why you shouldn’t either.
Why is a Strong Core Important?
Your core is made up of several sets of muscles that surround the midsection or trunk of your body, including your abdominal muscles, obliques, pelvic floor, hip flexors, diaphragm, and trunk extensor muscles.
Together these muscles help you keep good posture and balance, prevent certain muscles from overworking themselves to compensate for weak muscles and support optimal breathing and endurance. Who knew that your core did so much?
If your core muscles are weak and unstable, this can have unintended consequences throughout your body. Common signs of a weak core include lower back pain, poor balance and stability, and an increased risk of injury.
Developing and strengthening your core muscles can help mitigate these ailments and set your body on a good foundation. This is why engaging in a regular practice of core strengthening and stabilization exercises can help keep your body functioning well.
In a 2022 review of studies, researchers found that core stabilization exercises helped strengthen the muscles that support the spine, decreased lower back pain, and helped improve normal functioning in individuals with non-specific lower back pain.
Another analysis of the effect of core training found that doing core strength training exercises improved dynamic balance stability and resulted in better lower extremity movement in both athletes and non-trained adults. This analysis also showed core bodyweight exercises are just as effective as those with weights.
One of the most beneficial outcomes of engaging in a core exercise routine is the improvement in stability throughout your body. This may seem intuitive but dynamic stability is important in preventing injuries and keeping you active, whether it’s playing with your children or cleaning up around the house.
Beginner Core Workout
These beginner core workout exercises are core strengthening and stabilizing exercises that can be used no matter what level of fitness you are at. Mastering these movements can help you build muscles in key areas and also serve as a building block to more complex exercises.
- Plank – 3 sets, hold for 30-60 seconds each
- Glute Bridge – 3 sets of 10 reps
- Superman – 2 to 3 sets of 8-12 reps
- Side plank – 3 reps on each side, hold for 15 to 30 seconds
- One-leg balance – balance for 30 seconds on each leg
If you are unable to do some of these exercises, many have modifications so that you can work your way up as you develop your core. You can also try this simple 15-minute core workout if you’re pressed for time.
Core Workouts with Weights
Adding weights to your workout can be an excellent way to further your progress toward core strength and stability, and challenge yourself as you adapt to bodyweight exercises. Many traditional core exercises can easily be modified to include weights as extra resistance.
Before starting a core workout with weights, be careful to not choose weights that are too heavy for you. Excessively heavy weights may prevent you from achieving proper form and can increase the likelihood of straining muscles or causing injury.
Here are a few weighted movements you can try adding to your core workout routine:
- Wood chopper – 3 sets of 10-15 reps per side
- Weighted crunch – 3 sets of 10-12 reps
- Russian twist – 2 to 3 sets of 10-12 reps
- Kettlebell deadlift – 1 to 2 sets of 5-12 reps
- Sit-up to press – 2 to 3 sets of 10-15 reps
Best Core Workouts for Women
Core strength and stability training are important to overall health in women. Core exercises can help with increasing lean muscle mass and burning fat around your midsection which can be particularly challenging for women, in addition to the benefits of stability and strength.
- Flutter kicks – 3 to 4 sets of 20-30 reps, or max reps in 30-60 seconds
- Hip lifts – 2 sets of 10-12 reps
- Side plank hip dip – 10-15 reps on each side
- Starfish crunch – 2 to 3 sets with 8-10 reps on each side
- Dead bug – 2 to 3 sets of 8-12 reps
Best Core Workouts for Men
Core workouts are also essential for men’s health. When you’re doing leg day and arm day, don’t forget about including your core to balance out your workout. Remember that core muscles help keep the body in dynamic balance and reduce overcompensation from other muscle groups.
- Mountain climbers – 2 to 3 sets of 10-15 reps on each leg
- Hollow body – 2 to 3 sets of a 30-second hold
- Russian Twist – 2 to 3 sets of 10-12 reps
- Reverse crunch – 2 to 3 sets of 15-20 reps
- Back extension – 2 to 3 sets of 10-15 reps
- Developing and maintaining your core muscles strong can help support good posture, reduce back pain, decrease lower extremity injuries, and improve your balance. These exercises benefit the health of both men and women.
- Incorporating weights into your core workout adds extra resistance that can further strengthen your core.
- Dedicating a few minutes of your workout to developing and strengthening your core is one of the best investments you can make in yourself.
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Written by Markita Lewis, MS, RD
Markita has an interest in the biological, social, and cultural aspects of eating. She enjoys writing about nutrition and wellness, food justice and policy, cultural foodways, and the psychology of nutrition. You can find her at: www.wellnessandchill.com
- Smrcina, Z., Woelfel, S., & Burcal, C. (2022). A systematic review of the effectiveness of core stability exercises in patients with non-specific low back pain. International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy, 17(5), 766–774. https://doi.org/10.26603/001c.37251
- Barrio, E. D., Ramirez-Campillo, R., Garcia de Alcaraz Serrano, A., & RaquelHernandez-García, R. (2022). Effects of core training on dynamic balance stability: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Journal of Sports Sciences, 40(16), 1815–1823. https://doi.org/10.1080/02640414.2022.2110203