People are interested in core exercises mainly because everybody wants the small waist and six pack abs. And who wouldn’t? But the six pack section, the rectus abdominis, is only one part of the groups of muscles that make up a strong core.
To get a strong, healthy core, you need to work all of the core muscles – your abs, obliques, hips, and lower back. They are essential to back health, overall strength, just about anything you do that involves movement.
Keep in mind that as important as core strengthening exercises are when it comes to looking your best, the idea that you can tone one part of your body in isolation is a myth. If you work hard on your abs and want them to show, you have to burn fat off of your whole body.
If you’re over 30% body fat now, all the sit-ups, crunches, or ab equipment reps in the world aren’t going to make your abs show. At least not within the 6 weeks that a lot of exercise equipment peddlers ridiculously promise.
With that in mind, keep your motivation up by keeping your expectations in line with reality. Then set goals accordingly. For your abs to show there has to be very little fat between your muscles and your skin. That means a low body fat percentage all over the body. That means strength training including core exercises, PLUS nutrition, PLUS cardio.
More good news. Most of the fat in the body gathers around the midsection, especially for men. So you really have to burn most of the fat off of your whole body before you even start noticing a decrease around your waist.
You can do it. Be realistic about where you are now and make a goal to get to the next step. Make a goal you can reach, whether it’s 10 pounds or 5% body fat, work to reach that goal, then set the next one. It’s a process.
You’ll notice an overlap between core exercises and ab exercises. That’s because the abdominals are part of the core. That means abdominal exercises are really just a subset of core exercises.
This page will cover some great stability and rotational exercises. The ab exercises page will cover other great trunk and hip flexion exercises. You can count them all as highly effective core strengthening exercises.
Plank exercises are outstanding for building strength in your entire core, not just the abs, but also the obliques, lower back, and hips.
You almost always see people either with their butt way up in the air, or their hips sagging to the ground when they're trying to do what they call "planks". To do the plank exercise right, your body has to be a straight line. Simple enough, right? From the back of your head, to your back, to your butt, to your heels is a straight line.
Check out the plank exercise page for more coaching tips and a lot of great modifiers. You can do more with planks than you may think.
The side plank exercise is great for the entire core. It will help tighten the abs and obliques, while it strengthens the back and hips.
Again, straight line. Believe me, it's not a bad idea to have your friend check you for form or at least check your shadow when doing the side plank. Your hips or your head can be more out of line that you realize.
To get the benefit, you have to be perfectly straight. Just like with the plank exercise, there are a lot of core exercises you can do with side planks. Read on to get some ideas you may not have thought of yet.
The quadruped is a simple and effective exercise that works your core and ab muscles without the strain on your back that sit ups and crunches and cause.
The basic mountain climber exercise is a calisthenic exercise that is great for the core. The movement is pretty basic and the modifiers are easy to pick up. Like all stability exercises, though, form is the key to getting the benefit
These exercises work all of the abdominal muscles, but really target your obliques. They also help your abdominal muscles work with the muscles in your hips and lower back. That will allow you to rotate your body with more power.
Did you catch that last part tennis players? Baseball players? Softball players? Racquetball players? Golfers?
The Russian Twist exercise is a classic core exercise. It is normally associated with the obliques, but it really works the entire core. This exercise can be modified to be effective for everyone from the beginner to the seasoned athlete by simply adjusting the angle of the upper body and adding weight.
The Hip Crossover works all of the muscles of the core including the obliques and the lower back. It will also improve flexibility. This is a great warm up exercise before any sport that requires powerful rotation.