What do people focus on when they hit the gym? Legs, back, chest, arms, shoulders, and cardio, which is often an afterthought. What shouldn’t feel like a chore or an afterthought is working on your core strength. Maintaining a strong core is essential for most of the movements you do with your body. Without a strong core, you become more prone to falls, back pain, and your range of motion decreases. And you have to work on all of your major back muscles, pelvic floor, glutes, and abs to strengthen your entire core.
Your core accounts for a lot of muscles that you may not consider to be core muscles. The abdominal, hips, back, butt, and legs are all core muscle groups. Working all of these muscles will help strengthen your entire core. Your core can help stabilize your pelvis and spine, so a weak core makes you more prone to back injuries, general back pain, and pelvis misalignment issues. If you have difficulty doing core stability moves, including planks, glute bridges, or dead bugs, then you know your core is weak. Check out the following beginner-friendly exercises to strengthen your core muscles.
Stir The Pot
This is a dynamic variation of the plank and it works more core muscles in a shorter amount of time. It activates the same core muscles as a plank, only it incorporates movement, so you pass the workload to various core muscle groups. You will need an exercise ball for this exercise. Begin in an elbow plank by placing your forearms on the ball and feet extended behind you. Keep your core strong and don’t let your hips sag. Use your arms to roll the ball in small, controlled circles. Do five clockwise and five counterclockwise to complete one set, rest, and then complete two more sets to fulfill three.
The clamshell aims to strengthen your hip muscles and pelvic floor by engaging the inner and outer thighs. This is a great move for runners because a lot of ankle and knee alignment comes from a stabilized pelvis and hips. Lie on your left side, stacking your right leg on top of your left. Bend your knees so that they are at a 45-degree angle and keep your feet in line with your hips. Rest your head on your left hand, which you prop up by resting your left elbow on the ground. Engage your lower abdomen by drawing your belly button in toward your spine. Raise your right knee as high as you can, but don’t shift your hips or pelvis and keep your left leg on the ground. Hold for one second and then return to the starting position. Complete a total of 10 reps and then switch sides. Complete a total of three sets of 10 reps per leg.
Dead Bug Crunch
This is a slow-paced core exercise that calls for your constant engagement throughout. It activates both the transverse abdominis and builds spinal stability. Lie flat on your back with your knees bent at a 90-degree angle stacked right over your hips. Make sure your shins are parallel to the floor and extend your arms toward the ceiling. Reach your right arm next to your ear, hovering it above the floor, as you extend your left leg out and down toward the floor, stopping about six inches above the ground. Engage your lower abdomen and glue your lower back to the floor. Return to the starting position and then alternate. Continue alternating for 30 seconds, rest for a minute, and then complete two more sets.
Think of this like a traditional plank pose, only the pressure is much less on your lower back. A lot of HIIT and barre class instructors incorporate this into their workouts because it activates stabilizers that support the lower back. Begin in a tabletop position on your hands and knees, stacking your shoulders over your wrists and hips over your knees. Keep your spine neutral and core engaged as you lift yourself off the ground in a controlled manner. Only your hands and toes should be on the ground. Engage your abdomen, chest, and glutes, holding the pose for 15-30 seconds. Try to work your way up to a minute as you get stronger.
The V-up is a simple movement, but challenging to pull off. It works your entire rectus abdominis, the core muscles that go from your pubic bone to your sternum. Lie flat on your back with your arms and legs extended and resting on the floor. In a fluid motion, reach your arms up and bring your toes to meet your hands in a “V” shape. Return to the starting position and immediately repeat, continuing until you complete 10-12 reps. Complete a total of three sets.
The Farmer’s Carry
A lot of people only focus on planks to increase core strength, but the core is so much more than your abdominal muscles. Some of the best core exercises are often the simplest, which is the case for the farmer’s carry. You will need two kettlebells, dumbbells, or weights for this exercise. Begin in a standing position with your feet hip-distance apart and the weights on either side of you. Keep your back straight as you squat down to pick up the weights and then stand back up, engaging your glutes and hamstrings to do so. Make sure that you feel balanced and that the weights are not too heavy. Hold the weights by your sides (about a few inches from your legs) and start walking. As you walk, maintain a neutral spine and drop your shoulders to lift your chest. Try to walk for 20 steps and then turn around to walk back. Repeat for a set number of steps or time limit and then stop to rest before repeating a couple more times.