Top 5 Core Exercises for Beginners
WRITTEN BY SEB COOK
Forget endless crunches, here are 5 great exercise for beginners to strengthen your whole core.
Having a 6 pack may look great, but for a truly strong core you will also need to train your obliques (the muscles at the side of your abs), lower back and glutes. All of these muscles form a kind of corset around your midsection to keep you strong and stable while you workout.
Build that core strength with these 5 exercises:
- The Plank
- Reverse Crunch
- Glute Bridge
- Side Plank
The plank is an essential core strength building exercise for any level. It teaches you to brace your entire core which is useful when performing other exercises as well, such as a squat or pull up. The aim is to hold the position for a set length of time or for as long as possible without dropping or lifting. If you feel any kind of strain in your lower back, rest and when you try again keep your pelvis pulled in towards your belly button.
- Make a straight line from your shoulders to your heels
- Keep your elbows beneath your shoulders
- Keep your pelvis and belly button pulled in to stop your back from arching
- Stay relaxed and breathe
- The intention is not to squeeze but to stay braced
This exercise is great for activating and firing up the core. It will help you develop control when contracting your core muscles. Unlike the plank, it involves motion which means your abs will be contracting and lengthening, remaining under constant tension. It does require a little bit of coordination, but is simple to perform with a little bit of practice. Try 3 sets of 6-10 reps or whatever it takes to feel your core light up!
- Push your stomach into the floor to close the gap under your back
- Extend 1 arm and the opposite leg straight out from the body
- Bring your arm and leg back to the middle and repeat on the other side
The reverse crunch is a useful exercise to help strengthen the lower part of the abdominals. It's a great starting exercise that leads into progressions like leg raises, hanging leg raises and eventually, toes to bar. Aim to pull your knees up to your chest enough to raise your hips off the floor, making your stomach curl inwards. Try doing 3 sets of 8-12 reps.
- Keep your knees bent with your heels close to your bum
- Place your hands by your side for stability
- As you lower your feet try to keep them slightly elevated from the floor
- Aim to slightly lift your hips at the top of the movement to get full range of motion
The glutes form part of your core and can give you a big boost in strength when they are engaged and used in training. Make sure you don't neglect them. To begin building core strength from the glutes, try glute bridges which can be performed with or without weight on your hips. Lying with your legs bent, the goal is to drive your hips forward by contracting your glutes. You might need to consciously squeeze to ensure your hamstrings and lower back muscles don't take over. Try 3 sets of 12-15 reps.
- Pivot on your shoulders and push your heels into the floor
- Move your hips forward by squeezing your glutes tightly
- Avoid arching your back
- Keep your hips off the floor as you lower to hold tension through your set
The side plank will work your obliques which are the muscles on each side of your abs. Like the plank, this exercise is performed as an isometric hold. However, you can also raise and lower your hips to make this a dynamic exercise. Including this exercise in your training regime will ensure that you have stability along the sides of your core. You will also notice your abs are braced on this exercise. Try holding for a set period of time or for as long as you can on each side.
- Place your lower elbow directly beneath your shoulder
- Lift your hips from the ground to form a straight line along your body
- If you find it difficult try bending and resting on your lower knee
- Use your top arm for balance or place your hand on your obliques to feel the tension
BEGINNERS AB WORKOUT
Try putting these exercises together to form a beginners core workout. Once you can complete the workout comfortably, try progressing each exercise by adding weight or intensity!
Deadbug - 3 sets of 10 reps (on each side) Progression: Alekna or Jack Knife
Plank - 3 sets holding as long as possible Progression: Weighted plank or plank with feet against a wall
Reverse Crunch - 3 sets of 12 reps Progression: Leg raise or hanging knee raise
Side Plank - 3 sets of a 30 second hold (on each side) Progression: Dynamic side plank or weighted side plank
Glute Bridges - 3 sets of 15 reps Progression: Weighted hip thrusts
There is no right or wrong way to strengthen your core. The idea is always going to be to progress from whatever your starting point is. There are many more exercises out there to try and once you build up some initial core strength, you will be ready to try them out! Your core is super important in all exercises you perform so get out there and give it a go.