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Top 15 Core Strengthening Exercises

by
ISSA Certified Specialist in Fitness & Nutrition
Top 15 Core Strengthening Exercises April 2, 2018

What’s your core made of? Not steel, of course! But you can build steel-like strength in your core by doing 20 minutes of core strengthening exercises at home. A strong core improves and corrects your posture, reduces the risk of back injury and back pain, and makes everyday tasks easy. Plus, you will get a jaw-dropping midriff that even you cannot stop looking at! So, let’s get started, shed some flab, and inspire others. But first, let me answer a few basic questions. Swipe up!

What Does ‘Core’ Really Mean?

The core is just not your abdominal muscles. Surprise! Yes, your core is everything apart from your arms, legs, and head. So, from your abdominals, to the back, the hips, the back of your shoulders – everything falls under “core”.

Its main function is to generate enough power to aid all body movements. The abs are a part of your core, but they are not the only core muscles. To strengthen your core, you must target all the core muscles. What are those muscles, and where are they located in the body? Find out next.

What Are The Core Muscles?

Here’s the list of all the core muscles:

  1. External Abdominal Obliques – These are the muscles seen pointing diagonally downwards from either side. They are located on the side and front of the abdomen.
  2. Internal Abdominal Obliques – These muscles are under the external abdominal obliques, but point in the opposite direction.
  3. Rectus Abdominis – These are the muscles that correspond to the popularly known ‘six-pack’, seen as those squarish parts in the middle. They are located along the front of the abdomen.
  4. Transverse Abdominis – These are the deepest muscles, behind the oblique muscles and around the spine.
  5. Glutes – These are the hip muscles that help in various movements like walking, sitting, and bending.
  6. Pelvic Floor – These are the muscles that you can feel when you try to stop urinating. You will know your pelvic floor muscles are weak if you pass a little urine unintentionally when you cough, laugh, sneeze, or workout.
  7. Scapular Muscles – These muscles include the ones present on your upper back and at the back of your shoulders – the trapezius, rhomboid, teres minor and major, serratus anterior, pectoralis minor, etc.

So, now you know that to strengthen the core, you must target all the muscles mentioned above. Let’s get started with the exercises.

Remember, warm up for a good 10 minutes before you start. Scroll down for the core strengthening exercises.

Top 15 Core Strengthening Exercises

1. Flutter Kicks

Begin with flutter kicks that target the following muscles.

 

Target Muscles – Glutes, hip flexors, lower abs, quads, hamstrings, and calves.
Level – Beginner

How To Do Flutter Kicks
  1. Lie down on your back on a mat. Keep your hands by your side, palms flat on the mat, back flat against the mat, and look up at the ceiling.
  2. Engage your core, lift both your legs off the ground and alternately kick them up and down. Do not let your feet touch the ground before you complete one set.

Sets And Reps – 2 sets of 15 reps

2. Seated Knee Tuck

Target Muscles – Upper, middle, and lower abs, glutes, quads, hamstrings, calves, back of the shoulders, biceps, and triceps.
Level – Beginner

How To Do Seated KneeTucks
  1. Sit on the mat with your knees flexed and feet flat on the mat. Place your hands behind you, and keep your palms flat on the mat.
  2. Engage your core, bend your elbows, lean back a bit and lift your legs in the same flexed-knee pose.
  3. Bring your knees close to your chest and your upper body close to your knees.
  4. Lean back and push your legs away. Straighten your legs as you do it.
  5. Again, flex your knees and bring them close to your chest, and your upper body close to the knees.

Sets And Reps – 3 sets of 10 reps

3. Russian Twist

The Russian twist is an amazing exercise to get rid of the “love handles”. It will help you shed the flab and get a strong core. You can do it on a mat or a bench and may or may not use weights (medicine ball or a dumbbell). Here are the muscles it works on.

Target Muscles – Internal and external obliques, rectus abdominis, traps, spinal erectors, shoulders, hamstrings, and quads.
Level – Intermediate

How To Do The Russian Twist
  1. Sit on the mat with your knees flexed and feet flat on the mat. Hold the medicine ball or dumbbell with both your hands and lean back a little.
  2. Engage your core, lift your legs in the same flexed-knee pose, and cross them.
  3. Start twisting from side to side. Keep your lower body and neck still.

Sets And Reps – 3 sets of 15 reps

4. Crunches

Core Strengthening Exercises - Crunches Pinit

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Crunches are the go-to exercises to get defined abs. And since the abs are a part of your core muscles, you must include them in your exercise routine. Here are the muscles this exercise targets.

Target Muscles – Rectus abdominis, internal and external obliques, lats, and shoulders.
Level – Beginner

How To Do Crunches
  1. Sit on the mat with your knees flexed and feet flat on the mat. Keep your feet together.
  2. Roll back until the back of your shoulders touches the mat. Do not rest your head on the mat.
  3. Engage your core and place your fingertips on the head to support it. Keep your elbows out, arms wide open, and chest out. Do not tuck your chin. This is the starting position.
  4. Exhale and lift your head (do not push it) so that only the upper back is off the ground. Look at the top of your knees.
  5. Inhale and slowly go back to the starting position.

Sets And Reps – 2 sets of 15 reps

Tip: Make sure you do not overdo it. If you want to strengthen the core (and not just the abs), you should keep the health of your back muscles and spine in mind. Overdoing crunches negatively impacts the spine.

5. Bicycle Crunch

This is a variation of the regular crunch exercise. Here are the muscles that bicycle crunch targets.

Target Muscles – Upper, mid, and lower abs, obliques, quads, hamstrings, calves, lats, and shoulders.
Level – Intermediate

How To Do Bicycle Crunches
  1. Lie flat on the floor, and place your arms by your side.
  2. Place your hands behind your head. Raise your head and right knee.
  3. Touch your left elbow to your right knee and straighten your left leg.
  4. Touch your right elbow to the left knee and extend your right leg.

Sets And Reps – 2 sets of 15 reps

6. Vertical Leg Crunch

The vertical leg crunch is challenging and super fun. Here are the muscles that it targets.

Target Muscles – Upper, mid, and lower abs, obliques, quads, hamstrings, rhomboids, lats, and deltoids.
Level – Intermediate

How To Do Vertical Leg Crunches
  1. Lie flat on the floor, and keep your arms by your side.
  2. Lift both your legs at 90 degrees from the floor.
  3. Lift your hands off the floor and try to touch your toes with your fingertips.
  4. Inhale and go back down.
  5. Exhale and try to touch your toes with your fingertips.

Sets And Reps – 2 sets of 15 reps

7. Reverse Crunch

Another variation of the regular crunch exercise. It works on various core muscles and is hence a must for you. Here are the muscles that it works on.

Target Muscles – Upper, mid, and lower abs, obliques, quads, hamstrings, and deltoids.
Level – Intermediate

How To Do Reverse Crunches
  1. Lie flat on the floor. Place your arms by your side.
  2. Flex your knees and lift both your legs so that your thighs and shins are at 90 degrees to each other.
  3. Place your fingertips on the back of your head, and thumbs behind your ears. This is the starting position.
  4. Bring your knees and head close to each other.
  5. Inhale and pull them away and go back to the starting position.

Sets And Reps – 2 sets of 12 reps

8. Sit-ups

Core Strengthening Exercises - Sit Ups Pinit

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You have probably heard of sit-ups before and know that they are good for toning your belly. Here are the muscles that this exercise targets.

Target Muscles – Upper, mid, and lower abs, obliques, and deltoids.
Level – Beginner

How To Do Sit-ups
  1. Lie on the floor with the knees bent, feet flat on the floor, arms by the side, and palms on the floor.
  2. Cross your arms over your chest so that they are resting on opposite shoulders. Or place your fingertips behind your head.
  3. Engage your core, lift your head slightly off the ground, and use your shoulders to lift your upper body off the floor until you are in a sitting pose.
  4. Hold for a few seconds and go back to starting position.

Sets And Reps – 2 sets of 10 reps

9. Bridge

Core Strengthening Exercises - Bridge Pinit

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The next exercise is amazing for your core. Plus, it doesn’t even feel like an exercise. Here are the muscles it targets.

Target Muscles – Chest, abs, lower back, upper back, glutes, quads, and hamstrings.
Level – Beginner

How To Bridge
  1. Lie on your back with the knees bent, feet flat on the floor, arms by your side, and palms facing down.
  2. Bring your heels as close to your buttocks as you can.
  3. Without lifting your feet, thrust your hips toward the ceiling. Keep your shoulders relaxed and your head and neck strain free.
  4. Hold the position for a minute and then go back to the starting position, lowering your hips slowly.

Sets And Reps – 2 sets of 7 reps

10. V-sit

The V-sit is a slightly advanced core strengthening exercise. However, if you practice it regularly, you can do it with ease. Here are the muscles that it targets.

Target Muscles – Abs, glutes, obliques, quads, shoulders, quads, and hamstrings.
Level – Intermediate

How To Do V-sits
  1. Sit on a mat, extend your legs and lift them. Lean back a little and keep your hands extended and pointing in the front, and palms facing the floor.
  2. Hold this pose for 10 seconds and then relax.

Sets And Reps – 1 set of 5 reps

11. Plank

Core Strengthening Exercises - Plank Pinit

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The plank is one of the best core strengthening exercises. And that’s because it works on most of the core muscles. Here are the muscles you can activate by doing planks.

Target Muscles – Abs, glutes, quads, shoulders, hamstrings, and biceps.
Level – Intermediate

How To Do A Plank

  1. Get into a push-up position with the elbows flexed, forearms and toes on the floor, and your body in a straight line from the head to the heels.
  2. Make sure to keep your elbows right below your shoulders.
  3. Engage your abs and squeeze your glutes to prevent any sagging in your middle.
  4. Look down at the floor. Avoid any strain on your head and neck.
  5. Hold for 30-60 seconds.

Sets And Reps – 2 planks of 30-60 seconds hold

12. Side Plank

Core Strengthening Exercises - Side Plank Pinit

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The side plank is a variation of the elbow plank. Here are the muscles that it works on.

Target Muscles – Abs, glutes, quads, shoulders, obliques, hamstrings, and biceps.
Level – Intermediate

How To Do A Side Plank
  1. Lie on your left side. Keep your right leg directly over the left leg and left arm outstretched above your head. Place the left palm flat on the floor.
  2. Raise your body, keep your left palm directly below your left shoulder and form a straight line from head to heels.
  3. Use your abs and gluteal muscles to hold the position for at least 30 seconds.

Sets And Reps – 2 planks of 30 seconds hold

13. Push-up

Core Strengthening Exercises - Push-up Pinit

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Push-ups are difficult if you are starting out. But practicing planks regularly will give you the strength required to execute a push-up properly. Plus, it is a great core strengthening exercise. Here are the muscles that it works on.

Target Muscles – Abs, glutes, chest, shoulders, obliques, and deltoids.
Level – Advanced

How To Do A Push-up
  1. Get down on the floor and push your legs backward until they are fully extended and resting on your toes.
  2. Keep your hands firmly planted on the floor on either side of you, slightly wider than shoulder-width apart.
  3. Your arms and legs should be straight. Your body should be in a straight line from head to heels.
  4. Inhale, pulling in your navel, and bend your elbows out to 90 degrees (and no more) while lowering yourself to the floor. Keep your body straight throughout. Keep the pressure on the outside of your palms.
  5. Exhale and raise yourself to the starting position. Do more repetitions at a slow and steady pace, without compromising on the form.
  6. If this is too hard, you can do modified versions of this exercise. One is by resting your palms on a bench or table instead of the floor. Another is by resting on your knees instead of your toes.

Sets And Reps – 2 sets of 10 reps

14. Plank Jacks

The plank jack is a hybrid of a jumping jack and a plank. Here are the muscles that it works on.

Target Muscles – Abs, glutes, chest, shoulders, obliques, deltoids, adductors, abductors, calves, and hamstrings.
Level – Intermediate

How To Do Plank Jacks
  1. Assume the push-up or hand plank position. Keep your core engaged and legs hip-width apart.
  2. Keeping your upper body and hands steady, move your legs apart (wider than shoulder-width) and then bring them back to the starting position. So, basically, you will be doing the leg movement of jumping jacks in the plank position.

Sets And Reps – 3 sets of 20 reps

[ Read: 10 Best Benefits Of Jumping Jacks For Your Body ]

15. Plank Rotation

The plank rotation is an advanced version of the plank and side plank. And it targets all the muscles that are counted in core muscles.

Target Muscles – Abs, glutes, chest, shoulders, obliques, deltoids, lower back, adductors, abductors, calves, quads, and hamstrings.
Level – Advanced

How To Do Plank Rotation
  1. Assume the push-up or hand plank position.
  2. Engage your core, and without bending your knees, lift your right hand off the floor. Twist your body and your right hand to your right, and keep your gaze on the right palm.
  3. Come back to the original position.
  4. Do the same on your left side as well.

Sets And Reps – 2 sets of 10 reps

These are the 15 core strengthening exercises that you can do at home and get the following benefits.

Benefits Of Core Strengthening Exercises

  1. Help you get a flat tummy.
  2. Improve core muscle power.
  3. Improve muscle coordination.
  4. Prevent injury.
  5. Help stabilize the torso.
  6. Improve respiratory function.
  7. Improve posture.
  8. Stabilize the spine, ribs, and pelvis.

These core strengthening exercises will give you a flat tummy, improve your overall posture, and keep many health risks at bay. So, put on your exercising clothes, tie your hair up, and get a killer body by doing these exercises regularly. Cheers!

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Charushila Biswas

Charushila is an ISSA Certified Specialist in Fitness Nutrition and a full-time contributor to Diet & Weight Loss at Stylecraze. She believes that food has healing powers and eating good food is the best way to lose weight. A binge eater-turned-fitness enthusiast, Charushila likes to share her knowledge and experience with the world. When she is not working, she loves to cook healthy food, watch movies, travel, workout, and read Bengali literature.