Core workouts are an essential component of any well-rounded fitness routine, focusing on strengthening and stabilizing the muscles of the core region. Incorporating core workouts into your regimen can bring remarkable benefits—whether you’re an athlete, fitness enthusiast, or simply someone striving for a healthier lifestyle. Our comprehensive guide explores the significance of core workouts. We’ll look at what muscle groups the various core workouts target, the health impact they have, the equipment commonly used, and who can benefit from these exercises.
Core workouts, as the name suggests, primarily involve exercises that engage the muscles of the core. The workouts go beyond the “six-pack” muscles and encompass a complex network of muscles including the rectus abdominis, obliques, transverse abdominis, and erector spinae, among others. The core acts as the central foundation of our body, providing stability, balance, and support during everyday movements and physical activities. By incorporating regular core workouts into your fitness routine, you reap a multitude of benefits, including but not limited to improved posture, enhanced athletic performance, reduced risk of injuries, and increased overall functional strength.
Understanding the equipment commonly used in core workouts is crucial for safe and effective training. Stability balls, resistance bands, medicine balls, and TRX suspension trainers are frequently employed to add variety and resistance, targeting specific muscle groups and intensifying the workout. Prioritizing safety through proper form, appropriate weights, and gradual intensity progression is essential to prevent injury and maximize benefits.
Core workouts are also suitable for individuals of all fitness levels and genders, with no significant difference in shoulder exercises between men and women. We’ll consequently explore the best core workouts for seniors, beginners, and those who prefer to do workouts at home with or without equipment. That said, we recommend consulting with a healthcare professional or fitness instructor before starting a new exercise regimen, particularly if there are pre-existing medical conditions or limitations.
Below is a list of the best core exercises to ignite your core strength and transform your physique. The thirteen core workouts covered in the article are as follows.
- Hip hinge: Hip hinge exercises, like deadlifts and kettlebell swings, focus on hinging at the hips while maintaining a neutral spine. The exercises primarily target the posterior chain, including the glutes, hamstrings, and lower back, improving hip strength and overall functional movement.
- Hip circle exercises: Hip circle exercises utilize a resistance band looped around the thighs or knees to activate the muscles of the lower body, particularly the glutes and hips. They help improve hip stability, strengthen the glute muscles, and promote proper movement mechanics.
- Captain’s chair exercises: Captain’s chair exercises are performed using a piece of equipment called a captain’s chair, typically found in gyms. The workout requires you to raise the knees towards the chest or perform leg lifts while bracing the arms on the chair—targeting the abdominal muscles, especially the rectus abdominis.
- Back extension workouts: Back extension workouts focus on strengthening the muscles of the lower back, including the erector spinae, which is part of the work. Back extension workouts can be performed using gym equipment, or by lying face down on the floor and lifting the upper body against gravity.
- Steel mace exercises: Steel mace exercises are dubbed so because you have to use a long metal mace with a weighted end to perform various movements. The exercises challenge stability, coordination as well as strength in the core, shoulders, and grip.
- Medicine ball exercises: Slam ball exercises involve lifting a weighted ball overhead and forcefully slamming it onto the ground. These movements engage the entire body, providing a cardio, shoulders, and arms component to the workout.
- Olympic lifts: Olympic lifts, such as the snatch and clean and jerk, are dynamic and explosive movements that involve lifting a loaded barbell from the ground to overhead. These lifts engage multiple muscle groups simultaneously, including the legs, hips, back, and shoulders, promoting overall strength and power.
- Power clean exercise: The power clean is an explosive Olympic lift that involves lifting a barbell from the floor to the shoulders in one fluid motion. It targets multiple muscle groups, including the legs, hips, back, core, and shoulders, promoting power development and full-body strength.
- Upright row: Upright rows target the shoulder but rely on and provide benefits to the core muscles by stabilizing, strengthening, and toning the muscles. The exercises also provide some additional variety to your routine without leaving out your core.
- Lateral pulldown: Lateral pulldowns are performed using a cable machine or resistance band. You pull the bar or band down towards your chest while seated to perform the exercise. Lateral pulldowns are largely a back exercise as they target the muscles of the upper back, but they can be beneficial for the core as well.
- Compound dumbbell exercises: Compound dumbbell exercises involve movements that engage multiple muscle groups. Examples include dumbbell squats, lunges, and shoulder presses. Compound dumbbell exercises consequently provide a full-body workout to enhance muscle coordination and stimulate overall muscle growth.
- Dumbbell pullover: Dumbbell pullover exercises involve lying on a bench and holding a dumbbell with both hands above your chest. You then lower the weight backward over your head while keeping your arms straight. Dumbbell pullovers primarily target the muscles of the chest, back, and triceps.
- Battle rope workouts: Battle rope workouts consist of using long, heavy ropes anchored to a point while performing various wave-like motions. The workouts engage the upper body, core, and cardiovascular system—promoting strength, endurance, and calorie burning.
1. Hip hinge
Hip hinge exercises are a type of core workout that offers significant benefits to the core muscles, in addition to engaging the posterior chain. Your core muscles (including the deep abdominal muscles, obliques, and erector spinae) work together to stabilize your spine and maintain proper alignment to perform and gain the benefits of a hip hinge exercise. The activation of the core muscles helps improve core strength, stability, and control. A strong core is not only essential for maintaining proper form during hip hinge movements, but also for enhancing overall functional movement, improving athletic performance, and reducing injury risk.
How to do hip hinges safely
Hip hings require good form and technique, but you can maximize your core workouts with the tips below.
- Uses fundamental movements: Hip hinges are fundamental movements that engage the posterior chain and core, enabling you to lift objects off the ground with greater strength and control.
- Challenges knee and back problems: Mastering the hip hinge can be challenging, especially for those with common difficulties related to the knees and lower back. Keep your health in mind before trying out hip hinge exercises or any other core workout that challenges your knee or back.
- Minimize knee movement: Aim for minimal knee movement and maintain a neutral spine to prevent pain and injury to execute the hip hinge properly.
- Enhances performance: Developing a proper hip hinge technique is valuable for overall strength and performance enhancement. It also offers benefits such as improved body awareness, posture, and injury prevention.
What are the best hip hinge variations for core stability?
Below are eleven hip hinge exercises that target the core while improving hip mobility and form.
- Bulgarian split squat: The Bulgarian split squat is a standing hip hinge exercise. To perform a Bulgarian split squat, stand lunge-length in front of a bench and place the top of your trailing foot on it. Lower your body until your front knee is bent at least 90 degrees, then drive through your front heel to stand back up to the starting position.
- Romanian deadlifts: Romanian deadlifts are a popular exercise and core workout that utilizes a hip hinge movement. Romanian deadlifts are done by holding a barbell with feet hip-width apart and knees slightly bent. Hinge your hips back, keeping a flat back and the barbell in contact with your thighs. Reverse the movement by squeezing your glutes and returning to an upright position.
- Hack squat: The hack squat is a hip hinge exercise performed using a hack squat machine. Position yourself on the hack squat machine with your back against the pad and feet shoulder-width apart on the platform. Lower your body until your thighs are parallel to the platform, then push through your heels to return to the starting position.
- Goblet squat: A goblet squat is another core workout that incorporates a kettlebell or dumbbell. The exercise is also simple to complete. All you have to do is hold the weight close to your chest and then perform the quintessential squat movement.
- Hip thrust: A hip thrust introduces a barbell into your core exercise, similar to the Romanian deadlift. Begin by sitting on the floor with your back against a bench. Next, place a barbell or weight across your hips and lift your hips up towards the ceiling to activate the rectus abdominis, obliques, and transverse abdominis muscles.
- Glute bridge: Glute bridges are another popular exercise that also functions as a hip hinge exercise. Glute bridges are also easy to incorporate as core exercises as the movements are simple. Start by lying on your black with your knees bent. Make sure that your knees are positioned right above your ankles before lifting your hips up toward the ceiling. Press your back into the mat to engage your core, maintaining this engagement as you lift your hip.
- Good mornings: Good mornings are a hip hinge exercise and an effective core workout. You perform the exercise by placing a barbell across your shoulders or holding a kettlebell or dumbbell on your cervical spine. Stand with feet hip-width apart and brace your core. Next, hinge your hips back while maintaining a neutral spine, and fold your torso forward. Remember to squeeze your glutes as you return to an upright position.
- Single-leg deadlift: A single-leg deadlift is a hip hinge exercise you perform while standing. Begin with your feet hip-width apart before standing on one leg. Then begin bending forward at the hips, reaching towards the ground with the opposite hand so you create a “T” shape with your body.
- Kettlebell swing: A kettlebell swing is done by standing in front of a kettlebell with feet outside, shoulder-width apart. Hinge your hips, reach through your legs, and grasp the kettlebell. Use your hips to swing the kettlebell forward, squeezing your glutes at the top. Control the descent and repeat the motion.
- Resistance band deadlift: You perform a resistance band deadlift by standing on a resistance band with your feet shoulder-width apart. Next, hold the ends of the band in your hands and perform a deadlift motion to activate and engage your core muscles.
- Kettlebell hip hinge: A kettlebell hip hinge is a standing movement performed using a kettlebell. To perform a kettlebell hip hinge, stand with your feet hip-width apart and hold a kettlebell in front of you with both hands. Keeping your knees slightly bent and back straight, push your hips back and lower the kettlebell towards the ground, then squeeze your glutes to lift your torso and return to the starting position.
You should add the hip hinge exercises listed above to your workout routine if you want to boost your overall strength and stability and develop strong core muscles. These exercises effectively target your core muscles, giving you a total-body workout that improves your overall fitness. Hip hinge exercises are also generally safe, but people with certain medical conditions or injuries should avoid them. For example, individuals with herniated discs, spinal stenosis, or other spinal injuries should avoid hip hinge exercises as they can exacerbate one’s condition.
2. Hip circle exercises
Hip circle exercises are a dynamic workout that improves your lower body strength. The exercises incorporate a hip circle band, also known as a slingshot band or hip band, into your routine. The band serves as a versatile tool that engages the hip abductors, external rotators, and glutes. Additionally, the band challenges the transverse abdominis and obliques in the core, making it both an effective hip and core workout. Hip circles’ most significant benefits include (but are not limited to) a better range of motion, more flexibility, and enhanced strength in your hips and lower body. The compact size of the band also allows for convenient transportation in your gym bag or for being a staple in your home gym setup.
What are the best hip circle variations for training the core?
The following list offers ten hip circle exercises to enhance any core workout.
- Glute bridge: Glute bridges are a popular core workout that you can modify with a hip circle band. Doing so intensifies core activation and strengthens your abdominal and lower back muscles. Simply place the band low on your thighs, above your knees. Lie flat with feet shoulder-width apart and lift your hips skyward, engaging your core throughout.
- Fire hydrant exercise: The fire hydrant exercise performed with a hip circle band not only activates your glutes but also engages your core for improved stability and control. Begin by securing the band on your thighs, then proceed onto your hands and knees. Lift one leg as you bear down into the other leg and hands, combating the resistance of the band for a deeper stretch.
- Clamshell exercise: The clamshell exercise is a type of exercise where you lie on one side and lift your outer knee up. The exercise is traditionally a bodyweight exercise, but incorporating clamshells with the hip circle helps elevate your core workout and improves hip stability. It also addresses any weaknesses or imbalances in your core muscles.
- Walking lunges: Walking lunges with a hip circle band consists of stepping forward with one foot and lowering the back knee towards the ground, the band being wrapped around your thighs for additional resistance. You then move forward with the opposite foot and repeat the movement.
- Glute kickbacks: You can use a hip circle band during glute kickbacks to enhance your core workout and develop stability in your lower back and abdominal muscles. Hip circle glute kickbacks consist of balancing one leg and extending the lifted backward as the band around your lower thighs creates tension.
- Lateral band walk: The lateral band walk is a standing hip circle exerciser performed with a resistance band. Begin by placing a resistance band around your legs, just above the ankles, then lower into a half-squat position, maintaining a straight back. Step sideways with one foot, maintaining tension on the band, then follow with the other foot, repeating this side-stepping motion for the desired number of repetitions in both directions.
- Monster walks: Monster walks are a common type of hip circle exercise. Place the band on either your ankles, calves, or thighs. Stand with your feet apart, knees slightly bent, and hip hinged forward. Walk in this stance, fighting the resistance of the band to strengthen your core and improve hip stability and control.
- Squat walk: The squat walks is a standing hip circle exercise similar to the lateral band walk. Start by standing tall, then lower your body into a squat position, keeping your back straight and your chest lifted. Maintaining this squat, step forward one foot at a time, ensuring you remain low to the ground, and repeat this movement for the desired number of steps or distance.
- Seated hip abduction: The seated hip abduction is a great finisher for your leg or core workout. You perform a seated hip abduction by sitting up on a bench, legs spread with the band around your calves. As you exhale, spread your legs further to create more tension in the band while activating your core and maintaining a straight posture.
- Hip circle squats: Hip circle squats take advantage of the hip circle band to the fullest. Simply place the hip circle around the thighs and perform a squatting motion to complete the exercise.
3. Captain’s chair
Captain’s chair exercises are core workouts that tone your stomach and achieve washboard abs. The exercises use the captain’s chair, which is a piece of gym equipment that looks like an elevated chair with handles to grasp but no seat. Exercises on a captain’s chair primarily target and strengthen the rectus abdominis, hip flexors, and external obliques, further emphasizing its effectiveness as a core workout. Captain’s chair workouts also cater to various skill levels, allowing beginners and experts to target different core muscles. The starting position of captain’s chair exercises consists of positioning yourself so you’re firmly grasping the handles with your forearms flat on the pads and your legs hanging above the floor. Press your back against the chair and engage your core for maximum support.
How to do captain’s chairs safely
Learn how to do captain’s chairs with good form to minimize risk of injury with the tips below.
- Avoid momentum: Using momentum to lift your legs is a common mistake that defeats the purpose of the exercise. Instead focus on tightening your core and lifting with your abs rather than relying on leg swinging.
- Engage your core: Before lifting your legs, engage your core muscles. Doing so not only protects you from injury but also maximizes the benefits of the exercise.
- Maintain proper back alignment: Resist the urge to arch your back or let it sag when raising your legs. Actively engage your core and keep your back tight to ensure proper form and optimize the stretch.
- Breathe properly: Holding your breath while lifting can make the exercise more difficult. Remember to regulate your breathing and synchronize it with your lifts. Providing your muscles with oxygen is essential for optimal performance.
What are the best captain’s chair variations for abs and hips?
Below are nine of the best captain’s chair variations that fully engage your hips, abs, and obliques.
- Leg raises: Leg raises consist of raising your legs to a 90-degree angle with a slight knee bend. Focus on keeping your core tight as you lower them back down.
- Weighted leg raises: You perform weighted leg raises while holding a dumbbell between your feet. Control the movement and focus on engaging your core muscles throughout.
- Bicycle crunches: Bicycle crunches on a captain’s chair involve lifting one knee to a parallel position while dropping the other leg, alternating as if pedaling a bicycle. The exercise challenges your core and adds a cardio element.
- Criss cross: The criss cross motion on a captain’s chair consists of raising your legs to approximately 90 degrees, then crossing them horizontally while maintaining tension in your core. Switch to the other legs at a controlled and steady pace to complete the exercise.
- Scissor kicks: Scissor kicks are an advanced exercise that targets your core and implements a cardio challenge. Raise one leg at a 45-degree angle while dropping the other leg, then alternate in a scissor-like motion.
- Knee raises: Perform knee raises by starting with your knees bent and pressed together. Raise them towards your chest, keeping your core engaged, and then lower them back down.
- Leg hold: Raise your legs to a 90-degree angle. You then achieve the leg hold by holding the position and feeling the contraction in your core muscles. Start with a shorter duration and gradually increase over time for a more challenging core workout.
- Single-leg lifts: Raise one leg at a time, focusing on slow and controlled movements. Single-leg lifts allow for better muscle targeting and control over the lift, enhancing core strength.
- Side knee raises: Side knee raises are similar to the knee raise. However, you angle your knees towards the right side as you lift them, then lower and repeat on the left side. The exercise targets the obliques for a stronger core.
4. Back extension workouts
Back extensions are an effective exercise for targeting and strengthening the core muscles. Back extensions primarily engage the erector spinae, which run along the spine and play a crucial role in maintaining proper posture and spinal stability. The muscles, along with the glutes and hamstrings, work together to extend the spine and support the back. By incorporating back extensions into your core workout regimen, you develop a stronger and more stable core, improved posture, and enhanced functional strength.
Back extension workouts are particularly beneficial for individuals seeking to strengthen their lower back, improve spinal flexibility, and alleviate back pain. The workouts consequently offer an effective means to target the core muscles and promote a healthier, more resilient back.
Enhance your core workout by incorporating the nine back extension workouts listed below.
- Superman exercise: The Superman exercise is a popular workout and an effective back extension. The exercises consist of lying face down on the floor. You then raise your arms, head, and legs off the ground, squeezing the glutes, to form a Superman pose.
- Alternating Superman: The alternating Superman exercise is similar to a traditional Superman exercise. You lie face down, but then raise your opposite arm and leg off the ground at the same time then alternate. For example, lift your left leg if you’re lifting your right leg before alternating sides.
- Reverse hyperextensions: Reverse hyperextensions are similar to traditional hyperextensions. You start by lying face down on a bench or machine. You then lift your legs up towards the ceiling while keeping the hips and lower back stable—all while engaging the lower back muscles, core, glutes, and hamstrings.
- 45-degree hyperextension: A 45-degree hyperextension starts by lying face down, this time on a 45-degree hyperextension bench. Proceed to lift the upper body upwards, engaging your core muscles so your hips and lower back stay strong and engaged.
- Single-leg hyperextension: Single-leg hyperextensions are similar to 45-degree hyperextension, but you perform the exercise with one leg at a time. The exercise adds a degree of difficulty by challenging your balance, core muscles, and lower body more.
- Twisting hyperextension: The motions of a twisting hyperextension are familiar if you know how to do a 45-degree hyperextension. The exercise is similar, except you twist the torso to one side, then repeat on the other side as you lift your body upwards.
- Stability ball back extension: A stability ball back extension is another back extension exercise to consider for your core workout. Begin by kneeling in front of a stability ball, placing your torso on the ball, and then lifting your chest and torso off the ball.
- Back extension on bench: Performing back extensions on a bench makes use of a standard back extension motion. Lie down on a bench with your upper body over the top edge and lower body flat on the bench at a 180-degree position. You then raise your upper body in a similar motion as the 45-degree back extension but while starting at a different degree.
- Front plank with hip extension: A front plank hip extension incorporates the plank position. You start off in a front plank position. You then lift one leg up, maintaining stability in the hips and lower back stable for support.
5. Steel mace exercises
Steel mace exercises are a range of activities that utilize a steel mace as the primary weight. The exercises serve as a unique and effective way to work out as steel maces offer a full-body workout that engages every major muscle group, including the core. The steel mace also replaces the need for free weights and provides a challenging approach to fitness and core workouts in general. To ensure safety and achieve optimal results, begin with a gradual pace and prioritize the correct technique with each exercise. Adding a steel mace workout to your routine additionally helps break through plateaus and reignite your enthusiasm for exercise, making it both effective and enjoyable.
What are the best steel mace variations for functional core strength?
Incorporating the following eight steel mace movements into your core workout routine provides a comprehensive approach to core strengthening as well as improving overall stability, strength, and functional fitness.
- Overhead press: An overhead press with a steel mace focuses on the shoulders and helps improve overall form and technique. Mastering the overhead press with a steel mace is also crucial for performing more advanced mace exercises with proper form due to the required control and stability.
- Front squat: The front squat challenges balance and coordination while building lower body strength. The steel mace exercise also engages the lower body and core, enhancing stability and strength. It primarily works the quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, and core muscles.
- Overhead squat: A steel mace overhead squat improves overall functional strength, providing a full-body exercise that challenges the arms, shoulders, core, and legs simultaneously. It additionally challenges stability, mobility, and coordination while working out the mentioned muscle groups.
- 10-to-2: The 10-to-2 movement with a steel mace promotes shoulder stability and mobility while challenging the core muscles. The exercise also strengthens upper back muscles, providing an extensive workout for the body.
- Mace 360: The Mace 360 is a rotational exercise that enhances core stability and coordination by engaging the entire body—including the shoulders, core, hips, and legs. The motion of the Mace 360 workout additionally improves rotational power and mobility in these areas.
- High hinge row: The high hinge row improves posture and helps develop a strong and stable back. The steel mace exercise also helps prepare you for more complex mace exercises by strengthening and toning up your upper back and arms.
- Joust with lunge: The joust with lunge utilizes a steel mace to improve your lower body strength, stability, and coordination. The exercise incorporates a forward lunge movement to target the quadriceps, glutes, core, and stabilizing muscles for a challenging but effective core workout.
- Single-arm 360: The single-arm 360 leverages a steel mace to enhance your shoulder stability, grip strength, and rotational power. To do so, the exercise engages the shoulder shoulders, core, and stabilizing muscles.
Safely incorporating the listed steel mace exercises into your core works depends on mastering fundamental movements, using proper form, and gradually increasing intensity. You should therefore prioritize good posture, engage your core, and maintain control throughout each exercise. Take rest days when needed and seek guidance from a fitness professional for proper technique and progression.
6. Medicine ball exercises
Medicine ball exercises are a form of exercise that incorporates a ball to challenge your body. The exercises involve using a heavy weighted ball called a medicine ball that can be lifted, thrown, or slammed against the ground in order to work out specific muscle groups. Medicine ball exercises offer long-lasting durability and a broad selection of full-body exercises, making them excellent accessories for any gym space.
Medicine balls function well as core workouts because they target your core muscles and boost overall strength and performance. The balls also engage other areas like arms and legs. You will consequently not only build up your core by adding medicine balls into your core workout routine—but you’ll also increase stability throughout your entire body for improved balance and coordination.
How to do medicine ball exercises safely
Below are five important tips to help you maximize the safety and efficiency of using medicine balls for core workouts.
- Safety first: Ensure you have a proper space with a clear area to perform the slams without any obstructions. Use a slam ball specifically designed for slamming exercises to prevent any damage or injury.
- Core engagement: Focus on engaging your core muscles throughout the exercise. Keep your abs tight and maintain a stable posture to protect your lower back.
- Start with lighter weights: If you’re new to slam ball exercises or have limited experience, begin with a lighter weight and gradually increase the intensity as you become more comfortable and stronger.
- Progress gradually: As you gain strength and proficiency, you can gradually increase the weight of the slam ball or incorporate additional exercises to increase the intensity. Aim for two or three sets of 10-15 repetitions each, or choose a time interval, such as 30 seconds, and work at your maximum effort during that period.
- Use proper form: Make sure you use proper form while doing slam ball exercises. Keep your back straight, tighten your core, and keep.
What are the best medicine ball variations to work the core?
Below are eleven of the best medicine ball exercises that engage your core muscles and provide a challenging workout.
- Wall balls: Wall balls engage your lower body and shoulders by squatting with the ball and explosively tossing it to an overhead target, such as your workout partner. The exercise activates your glutes, quads, hamstrings, calves, shoulders, and triceps. You should aim for 15 repetitions to build strength and endurance.
- Woodchopper exercise: The woodchopper exercise is a medicine ball exercise consisting of standing with your feet shoulder-width apart and holding a slam ball with both of your hands. You then perform the movement by twisting your torso to one side while bringing the ball down towards your opposite foot.
- Medicine ball slams: Medicine ball slams are a quintessential movement in medicine ball exercise. Begin with your feet shoulder-width apart, holding a slam ball overhead. Next, slam the ball onto the ground in front of you, squatting to catch it. Repeat in a continuous, explosive motion for any desired number of reps.
- Med ball Russian twists: Med ball Russian twists are a popular type of exercise that can be done with your bodyweight, dumbbells, kettlebells, or, in this case, a medicine ball. You begin the core workout by sitting on the ground with a slight bend in your knees and holding a slam ball between your hands. You then lift your ankles off the ground and rotate your core to tap the ball on the ground on each side.
- Medicine ball sit-ups: Medicine ball sit-ups target and engage different core muscles, similar to a traditional sit-up. You complete the exercise by simply lying on your back with your knees bent while holding a medicine ball to your chest. You then proceed to do a typical sit-up, holding the position of the medicine ball throughout.
- Medicine ball chest pass: A chest pass with a medicine ball consists of standing while facing your partner and passing back and forth between each other. The key motion is to keep the ball at chest level throughout the exercise.
- Medicine ball burpee: A medicine ball burpee is a variation of a traditional burpee. Follow the basic movements of the burpee, with the exception being that you slam your ball down to the ground before you enter the push-up motion. You also pick up the ball overhead as you rise up.
- Medicine ball plank: The medicine ball plank is an elevated type of core workout. You do the exercise by getting on the ground or a mat and bracing your plank position with one hand bearing down a medicine ball. You can also attempt to brace your weight with two hands on the medicine ball.
- Medicine ball lunges: Medicine ball lunges require you to hold a medicine ball at chest height and keep it there as you perform a lunge. Medicine ball lunges engage the core and legs, similar to the overhead lunge.
- Med ball toss: The med ball toss is similar to the chest pass. The main difference is that, while you’re facing your partner, you toss the med ball in an overhead motion rather than at chest level. Doing so engages the arms and core muscles.
- Med ball snatch: A med ball snatch is another core workout to consider—consisting of holding a medicine ball with one hand and performing a snatch movement to bring the ball overhead.
The exercises listed above can be incorporated into a core workout routine as they all engage the core muscles to varying degrees, providing greater versatility and challenges. They can be used as a warm-up to activate the core muscles or as a finisher to burn out the core muscles after a workout. That said, consult with a healthcare professional or fitness trainer as slam ball exercises aren’t for everyone—especially those with medical conditions that could be aggravated by the motions we described above.
7. Olympic lifts
Olympic lifts are an effective core workout that targets multiple muscle groups and enhances overall strength and athleticism. There are two fundamental disciplines in Olympic lifts. The first is the snatch motion which consists of lifting the barbell overhead in a fluid motion (a full snatch). The second movement is the clean and jerk motion which consists of pulling the barbell up and catching it in a squat (clean or full clean) and then extending it overhead, adjusting your stance (jerk).
Both the snatch discipline and the clean and jerk discipline engage various muscles throughout the body, including the core muscles. Either motion requires explosive power from the hips that activates the glutes, hamstrings, and quadriceps to strengthen core stability and enhance body coordination. The core muscles, including the rectus abdominis, obliques, and deep stabilizing muscles, play a vital role in stabilizing the spine and transferring force from the lower body to the upper body during the lifts.
The following list provides an overview of six major variations and movements in Olympic lifting, all of which benefit and elevate your core workout.
- Power clean: The power clean is a variation of the clean motion. The main distinction is that instead of dropping into a deep squat to catch the barbell, power cleans require you to catch it at a higher point in the squat position.
- Front squat: The front squat in Olympic lifting consists of holding the barbell in the front rack position. You then move down into a squat, reaching a depth where you can hold the squat and barbell in an upright position.
- Power snatch: The power snatch varies upon the snatch motion. You snatch the barbell at a higher position, eliminating the need to squat.
- Push jerk: The push jerk is a variation of the Olympic lift jerk. It involves pushing the barbell from the shoulder to the overhead position rather than dipping it.
- Squat clean: The squat clean describes the full clean motion, in which you catch the barbell in the front rack position while dropping to a squat. The movement requires significant strength, power, and coordination to execute.
- Squat snatch: The squat snatch is a full snatch, meaning you catch the barbell overhead in a fluid motion. Like the squat clean, the movement is difficult and requires experience to do well.
It is critical to note that Olympic lifts are highly technical and require careful, gradual training to avoid injury. Before attempting to incorporate Olympic lifts into your core workouts, spend time reviewing the various progression programs, and work with a coach or trainer to ensure you learn the fundamental movements before doing them on your own.
Snatch progressions break down the complex motions of the Olympic snatch into fundamental training exercises that are more approachable to beginners. Snatch progressions start with the simplest and least physically demanding exercises, then gradually add complexity and difficulty. Carefully training snatch progressions under the guidance of a coach helps build a solid foundation of mobility, stability, and technique that will improve core strength and avoid injury. Don’t move onto the next stage of the snatch progression until you are fully comfortable with the current stage. Training Olympic lifts furthermore requires adequate rest and recovery between sessions to avoid overtraining and reduce the risk of injury.
Below is a sample snatch progression that slowly builds in complexity over successive exercises.
- Overhead squat: The first movement consists of the overhead squat. You use the movement to screen the mobility and stability of the snatch while challenging the core muscles.
- Snatch balance: The snatch balance increases dynamic movement. A snatch balance movement engages the core to stabilize the overhead position during the quick descent into an overhead squat.
- Hang power snatch and overhead squat: The third progression combines the hang power snatch and the overhead squat. The combination challenges the core to maintain stability and control.
- Hang snatch: The fourth progression, the hang snatch, is a full snatch. Perform a full snatch movement, while emphasizing core engagement during the squatting phase to complete the exercise.
- Snatch deadlift and hang snatch: The fifth progression introduces the snatch deadlift. The movement strengthens the core with the snatch deadlift targeting the lower back and abdominal muscles.
- Paused snatch: Develop core strength and control by pausing the lift just above the knee with a paused snatch. The pause allows for a focused emphasis on core engagement during the initial pull and reinforces proper technique.
- Full snatch: Enhance core strength and stability, and end the progression, by executing the full snatch movement. The core muscles work to maintain balance and control throughout the lift, contributing to overall core strength and toning.
Clean and jerk progressions
Clean and jerk progressions are equally important to training complex Olympic lifts as snatch progressions. Attempting the highly technical clean and jerk without sufficient progression training greatly increases your risk of injury due to a lack of stability, core strength, inefficient movement patterns, and kinesthetic understanding of the exercise. Nevertheless, the clean and jerk is an ideal core workout when performed correctly that develops power, explosiveness, bone density, and stability. Moreover, the clean and jerk mimics lifting scenarios encountered in everday life, and are thus effective for building functional carryover strength.
Below is a sample clean and jerk progression that builds strength, coordination, and technique in preparation for more technical core workouts.
- Overhead press: The first progression consists of strengthening and stabilizing the core while pressing the bar into a stable overhead press.
- Front squat: Front squats build leg and core strength, and are thus an important early component of clean and jerk training.
- Split press: You practice the split press by applying a split position and overhead press with the bar behind the neck. Be sure to emphasize balance and core stability while maintaining proper hip and knee alignment.
- Power clean: Power cleans focus on explosive hip and leg drive, preparing you for the full clean movement.
- Push press: The third progression, the push press, develops the drive and power for the jerk. Use the legs to generate force, and finish the lift by pushing through the bar with the arms.
- Power jerk: Through the power jerk motion, you train the dip and drive motion while moving the feet into a squat stance. The exercise depends on power, stability, and relaxed arms.
- 2-Pause jerk: The two-pause jerk consists of a split jerk with pauses at the bottom of the dip and while catching the bar in the split position. Remember to drill proper positioning and stability during dynamic movements to complete the exercise correctly.
- Split jerk: Practice the full split jerk movement with repetition work to improve technique and footwork. Emphasize relaxation of the arms, proper throw and catch, and maintaining hip alignment.
- Power clean and jerk: Combine the power clean with the split jerk in the penultimate progression stage. Focus on dip and drive mechanics to enhance core stability and balance.
- Full clean and jerk: Finally, practice the full clean and jerk movement with repetition work to refine technique, footwork, and hip alignment. Emphasize relaxation of the arms, proper throw and catch, and maintaining hip alignment.
8. Power clean
Power clean exercises are dynamic barbell movements that benefit your strength and core development. We previously mentioned power cleans as an Olympic lift movement, but it also serves as a standalone exercise. The power clean exercise primarily targets the quads and glutes, while also engaging the spinal erectors, abdominal muscles, and postural muscles in the upper back, such as the lats, traps, and rhomboids. You not only build strength in the mentioned muscle groups, but you also develop explosive power by performing power cleans. The power clean exercise additionally offers significant benefits. The benefits include effective lifting power development; improved postural strength; stronger jumps and sprints; better athletic performance across other sports; diversified weight training; and enhanced full-body movements. The exercise is consequently a valuable addition to your core workout regimen.
How to do power cleans safely
The following steps walk you through the power clean exercise in detail.
- Set up: The first step consists of setting your feet between hip and shoulder width, grasping the barbell with a half to one hand’s width into the knurling. Keep your back tight, shoulders rotated back, knees out, and lower your hips to bring the chest upright.
- Below the knee: The second step involves pushing against the floor. Maintain the chest and back position while easing the barbell and knees backward. The knees should be positioned directly above the heels when the bar reaches the knee, with the shin vertical.
- Above the knee: You balance the weight through the rear as the bar comes back during the third step. The hips should also stay close to the bar. Remember that movement comes from the hips, not by throwing the shoulders back.
- Extension: In the fourth step, fully extend the hips and knees—driving to the top of your toes and getting tall from the lower body. Maintain a tight back with relaxed arms, and keep the bar close to the body while extending upward and slightly backward.
- Transition and catch: Allow the bar to rise at the end of the extension, keeping it close to the chest with high and backward elbows. Move downwards into a front squat stance width with a tall chest and tight back. Catch the bar in a stable rack position resting on the shoulders.
Remember to engage your core throughout the entire power clean movement to maintain stability and control. It’s also important to avoid three common mistakes to maximize your results. The first common error is hinging too early in the power lift, treating it like a deadlift instead of driving the quads against the floor. A second mistake is squatting the pull, which involves sitting behind the bar and not utilizing the legs and hips effectively. A third common mistake is whipping the shoulders backwards as relying too much on the upper body can hinder your progress. Maintaining a stable, tight back during power cleans is crucial to prevent injury.
What are the best power clean variations for an explosive core?
Consider power-clean variations once you’re familiar with the steps listed above. Doing so adds more variety to your weight training and introduces possibilities in your core workout routine outside of what was discussed for Olympic lifts. The ten best power clean variations are listed below.
- Power clean: The power clean is a power-based core-engaging exercise. Begin with the barbell on the ground, positioning your body over the bar with your feet hip-width apart. Explosively pull the barbell upward, dropping under it and catching it on your shoulders while you descend into a partial front squat, then stand to complete the lift.
- Clean and jerk: The clean and jerk starts with a barbell on the floor. Grip the barbell with your hands shoulder-width apart. Perform a clean by explosively pulling the barbell up to your shoulders, then quickly squatting under the bar and standing up. Proceed with the jerk by bending your knees slightly and then powerfully extending to lift the bar overhead while splitting your legs into a lunge position, then return to a standing base to complete the lift.
- Hang clean: A hang clean starts the lift from a hang position which means the barbell is held at mid-thigh level. The lifter then pulls the barbell up towards their shoulders and catches it in a squat position to complete the lift—explosively activating the lower body muscles, including the hips, glutes, and quadriceps, as well as the upper body muscles.
- Hang power clean: The hang power clean is a variation similar to the hang clean. However, in a hang power clean, the lifter catches the barbell at a higher point in the squat position. The hips and knees are also bent at less than a 90-degree angle which differs from a traditional power clean.
- Power snatch: The power snatch is a standing barbell-based exercise. Begin with a barbell resting on the floor and grip it with a wide, overhand grip. Lower your hips into a half-squat position, then explosively extend your hips and knees while pulling the bar upwards, simultaneously drop under the bar by squatting and catch it overhead in one fluid movement, then stand up to full extension.
- Clean and press: A clean and press refers to lifting the barbell from the floor to the shoulders in a clean lift, then pressing it overhead to complete the lift. The variation targets the entire body, with a focus on the shoulders, upper back, and triceps, though it’s still an effective core workout as it engages the muscles there as well.
- Clean pull: The clean pull is another variation to add to your core workout and lifting routine. A clean pull requires the first part of the clean lift, pulling the barbell up towards the shoulders, but you don’t catch it in a squat position. The exercise largely activates the lower body and helps to improve the explosive power and speed of the clean lift.
- Hang snatch: The hang snatch exercise varies upon the motions of the hang clean. The main difference is that it consists of the lifter catching the barbell overhead in a snatch position instead of at the shoulders.
- Snatch pull: You’ll be familiar with the mechanisms of a snatch pull if you learn how to do a clean pull. However, the snatch pull calls for bringing the barbell up towards the overhead snatch position rather than the front rack position.
- Jump shrug: A jump shrug is a challenging variation to add to your weightlifting and core exercises. You hold the barbell at a hip level before jumping upwards while shrugging the shoulders to pull the barbell up towards the chin, challenging many muscle groups at once (including the core).
9. Upright row
Upright rows are a type of exercise that primarily targets the trapezius, deltoids, and biceps muscles in the shoulder. Upright rows consequently focus on the shoulder, but they do play an important role in core workouts and should be included for the following four benefits. Firstly, upright rows work the trapezius muscles in the upper back. The trapezius muscles stabilize the core and strengthening the area improves core stability. Secondly, upright rows rely on the core muscles to hold proper form and prevent rounding of the back. Training the muscles during upright rows consequently strengthens and tones the core. Thirdly, upright rows are beneficial for your posture due to the involved motions. Good posture requires strong core muscles, so strengthening the core through upright rows improves posture. Finally, adding upright rows provides variety to your core workout and allows you to work on other areas of your body without neglecting your core.
There are different types of upright rows. A traditional upright row typically involves a barbell or dumbbells gripped in an overhand grip and pulling the weight up to your shoulders, targeting and improving your shoulder and upper body strength.
What are the best upright row variations for core workouts?
Below are the ten best upright row variations that target the core.
- Barbell upright row: A barbell upright row is a traditional upright row that utilizes a barbell. You perform the exercise by standing with your feet shoulder-width apart, your barbell in an overhand grip, and lifting it to shoulder height with control. The core works throughout the movement to stabilize the body and keep the back strong.
- Cable upright row: A cable upright row is similar to a barbell upright row, the main difference being that you attach the weight to a cable machine in order to target the upper back muscles more effectively. As you engage your core, you lift the arms straight up towards the chin with your posture strong.
- Dumbbell upright row: The dumbbell upright row is often depicted in an upright row workout (alongside barbell upright rows). You perform the exercise through the traditional steps, grasping the dumbbells at thigh height and raising them to your chin or shoulder height.
- EZ bar upright row: An EZ bar upright row makes use of an EZ bar with a curved grip. Doing so helps reduce stress on the wrists, making it a good option for people with wrist pain or injuries. You execute the exercise as you would for a barbell upright row, starting with a straight back and an engaged core as you bring the bar to shoulder height.
- Wide grip upright row: Gymgoers sometimes perform an upright row with a wider grip than a standard upright row. The steps are identical to a barbell upright row, except that you’re targeting the outer lats more effectively through a wider grip.
- Rope upright row: A rope upright row is a variation that utilizes a rope attachment on your gym’s cable machine. The attachment allows for a more versatile movement, as you can grab the rope in different ways. A rope upright row should not be confused with a cable upright row which uses a handle to raise the weights of the machine. However, the motion is similar as it involves grabbing onto the end of ropes to lift it towards your shoulder.
- Single-arm upright row: The motions of a single-arm upright row will be familiar if you have performed a dumbbell upright row before. The exercises consist of the same movements but are conducted on a single arm. Follow the traditional steps, bending your elbow and rowing the dumbbell up with one hand. Your free hand should stay at your side.
- Resistance band upright row: One variation you can incorporate is a resistance band upright row, which uses a band to execute the movements. Anchor the band beneath your feet in a shoulder-width stance, then proceed to row the band up to your chest—activating your core and keeping your back straight.
- Bent-over upright row: A bent-over upright row requires you to bend over, placing more emphasis on the upper back muscles. You may either use a barbell or dumbbells for the exercise. Bend at the waist until your back is parallel or almost parallel to the floor. Hold and row the weight up to your chest, repeating as many times as desired.
- Incline upright row: The incline upright row makes use of an incline bench. Doing so emphasizes and engages the middle deltoids. You perform the exercise by lying on an incline bench with your feet flat on the floor. Hold and row a barbell or dumbbells vertically up to your chest with an overhand grip.
Be sure to understand proper form before attempting any of the variations listed above as you may end up injuring yourself. Proper form will vary depending on the variations, but proper form for upright rows generally consists of a straight back, an engaged core, and standing with your feet shoulder-width apart (unless indicated otherwise). Engaging your core will prevent you from rounding your back and putting unnecessary strain on your spine while also engaging and strengthening the core muscles. Meanwhile, you should select a weight you know you can control throughout the movement rather than a heavier weight to challenge yourself. Doing otherwise will increase your risk of injury.
10. Lateral pulldown
Lateral pulldowns are an upper-body exercise that targets the upper back, core, shoulders, and arms. You perform a traditional lateral pulldown with a lat pulldown machine where you grip the bar from overhand, maintain a straight posture, and engage your core as pull the bar down to your chest. Lateral pulldowns are a highly effective compound exercise that targets multiple joints and muscles simultaneously, making it a top choice for upper-body strength training.
The exercise’s standout feature is its ability to specifically develop the latissimus dorsi—the largest muscle in your back. The latissimus dorsi play a crucial role in functions like extension and adduction, while also contributing to a visually appealing physique. Although the focus is on the back muscles, lateral pulldowns should be added as part of a core exercise due to their indirect effect on the core muscles. The core muscles, including the rectus abdominis, obliques, and transverse abdominis, engage to stabilize the spine and prevent excessive arching or extension of the lower back during lateral pulldowns. By maintaining a stable core throughout a lat pulldown, you strengthen and tone up your core muscles.
What are the best lat pulldown variations for core and back?
The following list details eight of the best lateral pulldown variations that engage the core muscles and support the spine.
- Straight arm pulldown: The straight arm pulldown targets the latissimus dorsi and engages multiple upper-body muscles. By keeping your arms straight, you focus on strengthening your back and avoiding bicep involvement.
- Close grip lat pulldown: A close grip lat pulldown is a variation incorporating a close grip handle and pulling it down towards the chest. You engage the middle and lower areas of the latissimus dorsi, biceps, forearms, and core.
- Single arm lat pulldown: The single arm lat pulldown builds unilateral strength and shape in the upper body. By pulling your elbow down while maintaining proper form, you engage the lats, rhomboids, deltoids, and obliques.
- Wide grip lat pulldown: The wide grip lat pulldown is a similar variation to the above, except you use the wide grip attachment to widen and strengthen your teres major and upper lats.
- Reverse grip lat pulldown: A reverse grip lat pulldown is a lateral pulldown variation performed with an underhand grip. As before, you grip the bar and pull it toward your chest with measured control.
- Neutral grip pulldown: The neutral grip pulldown means you have to position your palms so they’re facing each other as they grip two individual cable handles. The palm position is referred to as the neutral grip because it puts less strain on the wrists than other variations.
- Kneeling lat pulldown: A kneeling lat pulldown refers to a variation in which you kneel in front of the cable machine and pull the bar or handle down toward the chest—providing a more challenging workout. You may kneel down on both knees or one.
- Resistance band lat pulldown: The resistance band lat pulldown makes use of a resistance band that is attached to a sturdy anchor point such as a door or metal stand. It’s an alternative to a lat pulldown machine as it can be done at home without gym equipment.
The lateral pulldown variations described above shouldn’t be used solely as a core workout as they primarily target your back. However, they’re nonetheless an effective exercise for multiple muscle groups, including your core. Remember to select the appropriate weight for your fitness level and avoid the exercises altogether if you have injuries that the motions may worsen.
11. Compound dumbbell exercises
Compound dumbbell exercises are a type of strength training that engages multiple muscle groups. The chest, back, shoulders, arms, and legs all benefit from compound dumbbell exercises. The compound dumbbell exercises also function as a core workout because the core muscles help stabilize the spine and pelvis—which in turn prevent injury and maximize the benefits of the exercises. The more you engage your core muscles, the greater support you have over your body during compound dumbbell exercises.
Compound dumbbell exercises are suitable for fitness levels and offer numerous benefits. For example, compound dumbbell exercises result in improved strength, muscle mass, cardiovascular health, coordination, balance, and flexibility. Another benefit of compound dumbbell exercises is that, unlike single-joint exercises like biceps curls, compound exercises engage multiple muscle groups simultaneously. You consequently save time and increase the effectiveness of your activity. Additionally, compound dumbbell exercises can contribute to better bone density, cardiovascular health, coordination, balance, and flexibility.
The following ten compound dumbbell exercises are ideal for those who seek to maximize overall muscle activation while enjoying the benefits of a challenging workout that relies on the core.
- Dumbbell shoulder press: The dumbbell shoulder press works the shoulders, upper back, and core. You perform the movement by standing with dumbbells at shoulder level, pressing them up overhead, and lowering them back down.
- Dumbbell bench press: A dumbbell bench press is a versatile exercise that targets multiple muscle groups. Start by lying on a bench while dumbbells above your chest. You then press the weight up while engaging your core.
- Renegade row: The renegade row strengthens the core, arms, and upper back due to the motion involved in the movement. Start in a plank position with a dumbbell in one hand. Remain in the plank, but row the dumbbell up to your torso, lower it, then repeat the process on the other side.
- Dumbbell overhead press: A dumbbell overhead press begins with you standing with your feet shoulder-width apart and holding a dumbbell in each hand at shoulder height. Press the dumbbells overhead until your arms are fully extended, then lower them back to the starting position.
- Dumbbell Romanian deadlift: The Dumbbell Romanian deadlift targets the lower body, including the hamstrings, glutes, lower back, and core. Standing with dumbbells in hand, you hinge forward at the hips, lower the weights, then rise back up to complete the movement.
- Dumbbell lunges: To perform dumbbell lunges, grasp the dumbbell in each hand and step forward with one leg. Lower your body until your front knee is bent at a 90-degree angle and your back knee is almost touching the ground. Engage your core during the movement to maintain posture.
- Lateral dumbbell lunges: Lateral dumbbell lunges are a frontal plane exercise that challenges the legs, glutes, and core. Start the exercise by taking a side step before lowering into a wide lunge as you hold the dumbbell. Return to the starting position and repeat.
- Dumbbell thrusters: A dumbbell thrusters workout zeroes in on major muscles. It is completed by holding dumbbells at shoulder level, squatting down, rising up, and pressing the weights overhead. The movement is distinct from dumbbell Romanian deadlifts because the deadlift requires you to hinge your hips, not squat.
- Dumbbell goblet squat: Dumbbell goblet squats are a challenging compound exercise for the quads, hamstrings, calves, glutes, and back. The exercise involves holding a dumbbell in front of your chest, squatting down, and standing up to complete the movement. This differs from a dumbbell thruster because dumbbell goblet squats hold the weights at chest level rather than the shoulder.
- Dumbbell walking lunge: The dumbbell walking lungs begins with the traditional stance of a dumbbell lunge. However, instead of stepping forward and back, step forward and then continue walking forward, leading off with the same leg each time and then repeat with the other leg.
Compound DB core workout tips
The compound dumbbell exercises listed above are effective for varied fitness levels, but remember to listen to your body and avoid injury by using appropriate weights. You should also consider the following key points to get the most out of your core workout when incorporating compound dumbbell variations.
- Focus on core: Choose compound dumbbell exercises that specifically target the core to pivot compound dumbbell exercises toward a more nuanced core workout.
- Activate your core: Engage your core muscles throughout the entire exercise by maintaining proper form and posture.
- Pace yourself: Remember to pace yourself and gradually increase the weight of the dumbbells to continuously challenge your core muscles.
- Try different variations: Incorporate variations and progressions of compound dumbbell exercises to keep your core workouts challenging and effective.
- Be consistent: Consistency is key! Aim to incorporate compound dumbbell exercises into your core workouts at least 2-3 times per week to see noticeable results in core strength and stability.
12. Dumbbell pullover
Dumbbell pullovers are an excellent choice for a strong core workout. Dumbbell pullovers primarily work the latissimus dorsi, pectorals, triceps, and serratus muscles, but it also engages various stabilizer muscles throughout the body and core. The exercises are highly effective in building lean muscle mass in key areas, such as the chest, back, arms, and abs. What sets them apart is their unique ability to simultaneously target opposing muscle groups, maximizing the efficiency of your workout.
Dumbbell pullovers not only build back muscles but also offer additional benefits, such as improving upper body flexibility, enhancing stabilizer muscle strength, targeting latissimus dorsi development, and providing a weighted stretch for the pectoral muscles. You should therefore add dumbbell pullovers to your workout routine if you’re looking to enhance your upper body strength, muscle growth, and overall stability. These exercises are an effective addition to your core workout, providing you with the physical benefits you need for a fitter, healthier body.
How to do dumbbell pullovers safely
Follow the six steps below to learn how to execute the perfect dumbbell pullover for core strength.
- Lie on a flat bench with your feet securely planted on the ground.
- Hold a dumbbell between your hands, palms facing upwards.
- Begin with the dumbbell extended above your chest, and then slowly lower it down behind your head until it reaches just below head height for optimal lat activation.
- Hold your position for two seconds, emphasizing the stretch in your lats.
- Pull the dumbbell back up and over your chest, fully contracting your pecs.
- Keep your arms extended throughout the movement, maintaining a slight bend in the elbows.
Lower the dumbbell as far as you safely can behind your head, before pulling it back up to emphasize the last element of the lift. If you want to focus more on the pecs, squeeze your hands together during the movement. Remember, the first phase of pulling the dumbbell back up is the lat-dominant part, while the second phase, as the dumbbell reaches your chest, becomes pec-dominant.
What are the best dumbbell pullover variations for core strength?
Below are eight of the best dumbbell pullover variations to add variety to your workouts and maximize your results.
- Straight-arm dumbbell pullover: A straight-arm dumbbell pullover is another variation where you try to keep your arms straight as possible for an additional challenge. Start by lying with your arms straight and a dumbbell in your hands. Next, lower the weight as normal and bring it back up with your arms straight.
- Incline dumbbell pullover: The incline dumbbell pullover is similar to the aforementioned decline dumbbell pullover. The primary difference is that you lie on an incline bench with your head higher than your feet. The dumbbell motion is the same, however. Whereas decline dumbbell pullovers avoid arching the lower back, this exercise avoids arching in the upper back areas.
- Decline dumbbell pullover: The decline dumbbell pullover incorporates a decline bench. Lie down with your head lower than your feet. Next, hold a dumbbell with both hands and extend it over your head and behind you. The exercise is a beneficial core workout because it engages the lower rectus abdominis and hip flexors—all while preventing excessive arching of the lower back.
- Dumbell pullover with stability ball: A stability ball pullover is a dumbbell pullover variation where you lie on a stability ball with your upper back and head supported. You hold a dumbbell with both hands and extend it over your head and behind you. The exercise targets the core muscles by engaging the stabilizing muscles of the abdomen and lower back to maintain balance on the otherwise unstable surface of the stability ball.
- Dumbell pullover with bands: You perform a dumbbell pullover with bands by attaching a resistance band to a stable anchor point and lying on the ground or a mat face-up. You then do the core workout by holding the other end of the band with both hands, creating tension from the starting position, and then extending it over your body.
- Single-arm dumbbell pullover: A single-arm dumbbell pullover is similar to a traditional dumbbell pullover except you only utilize one arm. Lie in the standard position, lower the dumbbell behind your head, and lift back into the starting position as per usual.
- Dumbbell pullover crunch: A dumbbell pullover crunch incorporates the movements of a traditional dumbbell pullover—the key difference being that you lift your legs up towards your chest as you bring the dumbbell back up. This exercise is challenging but effective for the rectus abdominis, obliques, and hip flexors.
- Dumbbell pullover with leg raise: A dumbbell pullover with leg raise is another core workout that incorporates the legs. Perform the dumbbell pullover as always, but lift your legs up towards the ceiling as you go through the motions. The exercise engages both the upper and lower body.
13. Battle rope workouts
Battle rope workouts are dynamic core exercises that incorporate intense movements. Performing battle rope exercises consists of movements such as waves, slams, or rotations. The intensity of the movements engages the core muscles, including the rectus abdominis, transverse abdominis, obliques, and lower back muscles, to stabilize the body and generate power. The rapid and forceful movements of the ropes create instability that requires the core muscles to work harder, leading to improved core strength, stability, and endurance.
To implement battle rope workouts effectively into a core workout routine, start with basic movements and gradually increase intensity and complexity. Add in exercises that involve different planes of motion and target all areas of the core. You should also aim for a balanced workout by combining battle rope exercises with other core exercises, such as Russian twists, to maximize the benefits and achieve a well-rounded core workout.
What are the best battle rope workouts for core fitness?
Below are nine of the best battle rope workouts to round out your core exercise regimen.
- Battle rope slams: Battle rope slams engage the core muscles, as well as the entire body, providing a high-intensity workout. Begin by holding one end of the battle rope in each hand, with feet shoulder-width apart and knees slightly bent. Extend your arms overhead and forcefully slam the ropes onto the ground while squatting down. Repeat the movement with an explosive and controlled motion.
- Bilateral waves: Bilateral waves consist of swinging the ropes up and down in a wave-like motion for an effective core workout. You start off by standing with your feet hip-width apart, holding the ropes with a neutral grip. You then bend your knees slightly and swing the ropes up and down in a wave-like motion.
- Battle rope alternating waves: Battle rope alternating waves activate the core muscles, along with the shoulders, arms, and upper body. For this exercise, hold one end of the battle rope in each hand and stand with feet shoulder-width apart. Create waves in the rope by moving your arms up and down alternately. Keep a steady rhythm and continue for a desired duration or number of repetitions.
- Battle rope crossovers: Battle rope crossovers swing the ropes up and across your body, crossing them in front of you. The exercise begins in the standard position of feet apart and ropes held in a neutral grip. Proceed to swing the ropes so they cross in front of you, keeping your shoulders back and your core engaged.
- Battle rope jump slam: A battle rope jump slam means you swing and slam the ropes into the ground as you jump into the air. Begin in the standard position, positioning your feet to jump. As you jump up, swing and slam the ropes down to generate the desired wave.
- Battle rope Russian twist: Battle rope Russian twist are a modification of the traditional Russian twist core workout. Sit on the ground with your legs extended while holding the battle rope with both hands. Lean back slightly to engage the core. Next, twist your torso to one side, bringing the battle rope across your body. Reverse the movement and twist to the opposite side, continuously alternating sides.
- Jumping jacks with battle ropes: Jumping jacks with battle ropes modify the typical jump jack for a more intense workout. You perform the exercise by jumping up and spreading your feet wide, swinging the ropes up and out to the sides. As you land, bring your feet back together and swing the ropes back down.
- Battle rope side-to-side slams: Battle rope side-to-side slams are a great core-engaging addition to your battle rope workouts. Begin by standing with your feet shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent, and hold one end of the battle rope in each hand. Swing both arms to one side at the same time, slamming the ropes on the ground, before repeating the action to the other side, maintaining a consistent rhythm and powerful movement.
- Unilateral Waves: Unilateral waves are an effective core-activating battle rope workout exercise. Start by standing with your feet shoulder-width apart and knees slightly bent, grasping one end of the battle rope in each hand. Perform the wave motion with one arm at a time, moving your arm up and down in quick, powerful movements while keeping the other arm still, before switching arms, creating alternating waves in the rope.
The battle rope workouts above are effective and challenging core exercises, however, they do require a gym with specific equipment that many do not have.
What are the best core workouts for beginners?
The five best core workouts for beginners consist of the following exercises, which can easily be done at home or the gym.
- Bird dog: The bird dog exercise begins on all fours with your hands under your shoulders and knees under your hips. Extend one arm forward while simultaneously extending the opposite leg straight back. Keep your core tight and avoid arching your back. Alternate sides and focus on maintaining balance and stability for an effective core workout.
- Standing side crunches: Standing side crunches is a core workout that helps tone your obliques and improve core stability. Begin by standing with your feet hip-width apart and place your hands behind your head. Crunch your upper body to the side, bringing your elbow towards your hip while contracting your obliques. Repeat on the other side.
- Standing march: A standing march activates your deep core muscles and improves coordination. Stand tall with your feet hip-width apart. Lift one knee towards your chest while keeping your core engaged. Alternate legs in a marching motion, focusing on balance and stability.
- Reverse crunches: Reverse crunches target your lower abs and help strengthen your entire core. Kick off the exercise by lying on your back with your legs bent and feet flat on the floor. Place your hands by your sides or underneath your hips for support. Engage your core and lift your hips off the ground, bringing your knees towards your chest. Slowly lower your hips back down to the starting position.
- Standing side bends: Standing side bends target your obliques and improve lateral core strength. Start off by standing with your feet shoulder-width apart, your hands resting on your hips or holding light dumbbells. Next, keep your core engaged and maintain a straight posture as you bend your torso to the side, reaching towards your knee with the dumbbell or hand. Return to the starting position and repeat on the other side.
What are the best core workouts at home?
The list below defines the five best core workouts that can be done at home.
- Plank: Planks are a popular, easy core workout that can be done at home, with or without equipment. Start in a push-up position with your hands directly under your shoulders and toes on the ground. Engage your core, keep your body in a straight line from head to toe, and hold the position for as long as possible while maintaining proper form. Feel free to implement other variations such as plank jacks or burpees for a greater challenge.
- Bicycle crunches: Bicycle crunches are similar to planks in the sense they’re simple to implement at home. All you have to do is lie flat on the ground or on a mat with hands behind your head and knees bent. You then lift your shoulders off the ground, bringing your right elbow towards your left knee while extending your right leg straight before doing the same with the opposite, alternating as you go.
- Russian twists: We’ve discussed traditional and variations of Russian twists previously. As we’ve illustrated, you can do Russian twists with or without equipment. Try the core workout at home by sitting with your knees bent, feet flat before proceeding to lean back with your posture straight. Either free-handed or with a weight, rotate your torso to one side, bringing your hands to your hip as you engage your core throughout.
- Mountain climbers: Mountain climbers engage your entire core, including your abs, obliques, and hip flexors, while also providing a cardiovascular challenge. The movement consists of a starting high plank, then activating your core and bringing one knee to your chest, followed by the other.
- Leg raises: Leg raises are a simple home core exercise. Begin on your back, legs extended and hands by your sides or underneath your glutes. You then lift your legs off the floor until they are perpendicular to the ground—all while keeping your core engaged and your lower back pressed into the ground. Slowly lower your legs back down without letting them touch the floor.
It’s possible to enhance the results of the home core workouts listed above by incorporating additional equipment, such as dumbbells, resistance bands, and kettlebells. By using these tools, you can add resistance to your exercises and further challenge your core muscles. Furthermore, adding new exercises each week varies your routine and keeps your body engaged. With consistent effort, you can achieve a stronger and more toned core at home in no time.
What are the best core workouts at home with no equipment?
The five best core workouts that can be done at home with no equipment consist of the following bodyweight exercises.
- Plank: Start with the basic plank exercise, which helps to strengthen your entire core, including your abs, back, and shoulders. Hold the plank position for 20-30 seconds and gradually increase the duration as you build strength.
- Mountain climbers: You begin mountain climbers in a high plank position and then alternate, bringing your knees towards your chest in a running motion. This exercise targets your abs, obliques, and hip flexors while providing a cardio element.
- Russian twists: Russian twists are done on the floor with your knees bent and feet flat. Lean back slightly and lift your feet off the ground. As you rotate your torso from side to side, hold your hands together or use a weight for a challenging core workout. This exercise targets your obliques and helps improve rotational strength.
- Bicycle crunches: Bicycle crunches engage both your upper and lower abs. They are performed by lying on your back with your knees bent and hands behind your head. Bring one knee towards your chest while simultaneously rotating your upper body and bringing the opposite elbow towards the knee. Alternate sides in a pedaling motion.
- Dead bug: The dead bug is a bodyweight exercise where you lie on your back with your arms extended towards the ceiling and your knees bent at a 90-degree angle. Slowly lower one arm and the opposite leg towards the ground while keeping your core engaged and your back pressed against the floor. Return to the starting position and repeat on the other side. This exercise is an effective core workout because it activates your deep core muscles.
What are the best core exercises for men?
The best core exercises for men focus on targeting all the major muscles of the core. The rectus abdominis, transversus abdominis, obliques, and lower back muscles should all collectively benefit. Targeting these muscles is important because a strong core plays a vital role in a man’s stability, posture, and athletic performance. That said, there’s no significant difference between core workouts for men and women. Either gender stands to benefit and the only significant difference is one’s individual goals and fitness levels.
You should incorporate gym equipment into your core workout routine to better strengthen and define core muscles (regardless of gender). By utilizing gym equipment, you can also target your core from multiple angles, enhancing strength, endurance, and overall fitness.
Consider the following five core workouts for men to start.
- Cable crunches: Cable crunches consist of attaching a rope handle to a high cable pulley and kneeling facing the machine, holding the rope above your head. Crunch your torso downward, contracting your abs as you bring your elbows towards your knees. Slowly return to the starting position. Adjust the weight and perform multiple sets.
- Hanging leg raises: Hanging leg raises incorporate a pull-up bar. You hang from a pull-up bar with your arms extended and your body relaxed. Engage your core muscles and lift your legs straight out in front of you until they form a 90-degree angle with your torso. Lower your legs back down slowly and repeat for several repetitions.
- Medicine ball slams: Medicine ball slams are ideal core workouts for both men and women. Start off by holding a medicine ball with both hands, standing with your feet shoulder-width apart, and raising the ball above your head. Forcefully slam the ball onto the ground while engaging your core and generating power from your hips. Catch the ball on the bounce and repeat for multiple sets.
- Barbell rollouts: Barbell rollouts involve placing a barbell with weight plates on the ground in front of you. Kneel down and grip the bar with your hands shoulder-width apart. Roll the barbell forward while keeping your core engaged and your back straight, extending your body as far as you can. Slowly roll back to the starting position and repeat for several repetitions.
- Woodchoppers: You perform woodchoppers by attaching a rope or handle to a high cable pulley. Stand with your side facing the machine and grab the handle with both hands. Pull the handle diagonally across your body, rotating your torso and engaging your core. Return to the starting position and repeat on the other side.
What are the best home core workouts for men?
The best core workouts for men at home are those which engage the rectus abdominis, obliques, and transverse abdominis. promoting core strength, stability, and muscular endurance. By incorporating these exercises into your home workout routine, you can develop a solid core. A strong core helps enhance overall athletic performance, improves posture, reduces the risk of injuries, and supports functional movements in daily life.
Below is a list of the five best core workouts that men can do at home.
- Bicycle crunches: Lie on your back with your hands behind your head and bring your knees toward your chest. Alternate touching your elbow to the opposite knee while extending the other leg, simulating a cycling motion.
- Russian twists: Sit on the floor with your knees bent and feet lifted off the ground. Lean back slightly and twist your torso from side to side, touching the floor on each side.
- Mountain climbers: Begin in a push-up position and bring one knee toward your chest while keeping the other leg extended. Quickly alternate your legs in a running motion, engaging your core throughout.
- Flutter kicks: Lie on your back with your legs extended and lift them slightly off the ground. Alternately kick your legs up and down in a scissor-like motion, keeping your core engaged and your lower back pressed against the floor.
- Reverse crunches: Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet lifted off the ground. Contract your abs and bring your knees toward your chest, lifting your hips off the ground. Lower your hips back down to complete one repetition.
What are the best core exercises for women?
The best core workouts for women engage the rectus abdominis, obliques, and transverse abdominis. Incorporating such exercises into your core workout routine leads to a stronger core, improved posture, enhanced athletic performance, and reduced risk of injuries. Some of the top core workouts for women that may require gym equipment include cable woodchops, stability ball pikes, weighted Russian twists, medicine ball slams, and cable crunches. The listed exercises specifically target the core muscles and are adjustable by intensity to better fit a woman’s individual fitness levels. Women may also try bodyweight exercises or modify selected workouts to be bodyweight only (as in the case of Russian twists).
Women can achieve a toned midsection, enhance overall functional strength, and enjoy the benefits of a strong core in their daily lives by focusing on the following five core workouts.
- Cable woodchops: Cable woodchops target the obliques and improve rotational core strength. Attach a cable handle to a high pulley and stand perpendicular to the machine. Grab the handle with both hands and rotate your torso diagonally while keeping your arms straight.
- Stability ball pikes: The movements of stability ball pikes engage and activate the rectus abdominis, helping to improve core stability and balance. Start in a push-up position with your shins resting on a stability ball. Engage your core and lift your hips while rolling the ball toward your hands.
- Weighted Russian twists: Weighted Russian twists are a more challenging variation of your everyday Russian twist that improves core rotational strength. Sit on the floor with your knees bent and hold a weighted object (such as a dumbbell or medicine ball) in front of your chest. Lean back slightly and rotate your torso from side to side, touching the weight to the floor on each side as you do so.
- Medicine ball slams: Medicine ball exercises, specifically medicine ball slams, engage the entire core in order to elevate core power and explosive strength. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, holding a medicine ball overhead. Slam the ball forcefully onto the ground while engaging your core. Catch the ball on the rebound and repeat the movement.
- Cable crunches: Cable crunches target the rectus abdominis, providing a strong contraction for core development. Attach a rope handle to a high pulley and kneel facing the machine. Hold the rope by your head with your elbows bent. Contract your abs and curl your torso down towards your thighs while keeping your hips stationary.
What are the best core exercises for women at home?
The best workouts at home for women target several key muscles to effectively strengthen the core. These muscles include the rectus abdominis (the front abdominal muscles that create the “six-pack” appearance), the obliques (located on the sides of the waist), and the transverse abdominis (deep muscles that provide stability to the spine and pelvis). Additionally, other muscles such as the erector spinae (back muscles), hip flexors, and glutes also play a supportive role in core exercises for women. By engaging and targeting the listed muscles through specific exercises, women develop a strong and functional core—promoting better posture, stability, and overall fitness.
Below is a list of five core workouts that women can easily incorporate at home.
- Pilates hundred: Pilates hundred refers to the Hundred exercise in Pilates which zeros in on and strengthens the core. You begin the exercise on your back with your legs extended and arms at your sides. Lift your head, neck, and shoulders off the ground while simultaneously raising your legs to a 45-degree angle. Pump your arms up and down by your sides, taking five short breaths in and five short breaths out.
- Side plank with leg lift: We recommend the side plank with leg lift maneuver for women who like to do challenging bodyweight core exercises. Begin by lying on your side, then lift your body off the ground—using your forearm and side of the foot. Once in a side plank position, raise your top leg up and down, engaging the obliques and outer thigh muscles. Switch sides to work both sides of the body equally.
- Standing oblique crunch: Standing oblique crunch is a home core workout where you stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and place your right hand behind your head. Crunch to the right side, bringing your right elbow down towards your right hip. Repeat on the left side to target the obliques and improve one’s waistline definition.
- Single-leg V-ups: A single-leg V-ups is an effective core workout for women. Lie on your back with your legs extended and arms extended overhead. Next, lift one leg off the ground while simultaneously raising your upper body and reaching toward your toes. Finally, lower both your leg and upper body back down and repeat on the other side.
- Plank jacks: Plank jacks refer to an exercise that combines planks and jumping jacks. The exercise is an effective core workout because it engages the entire core, including the rectus abdominis, obliques, and lower back muscles. It starts off in a plank position with your hands directly under your shoulders and your body in a straight line. Next, jump your feet wide apart and then back together, while maintaining a stable core.
What are the best core exercises for seniors?
The best core exercises for seniors are low-impact exercises because they provide a gentle yet effective way to build strength and improve overall stability. The exercises focus on strengthening the abdominal muscles, lower back, and pelvic region. These muscles are crucial for maintaining proper body alignment and supporting daily activities so targeted exercise is crucial for maintaining senior health. Furthermore, engaging in core exercises specifically designed for seniors helps enhance posture, balance, and coordination, reducing the risk of falls and injuries.
Seniors benefit from the following five low-impact core workouts.
- Seated Russian twists: Seated Russian twists are a variation of standard Russian twists that are gentler on the body and easy to adjust for your core workout. Begin by sitting on a chair with your feet planted on the ground. Hold a medicine ball or a weight with both hands, then rotate your torso from side to side while keeping your core engaged.
- Standing marches: Standing marches consist of standing tall with your feet hip-width apart. Lift your knees, one at a time, as high as comfortable, while maintaining good posture and engaging your core muscles. Pace yourself accordingly and don’t overly strain yourself as you lift your knees as doing so may lead to injury.
- Side leg lifts: Side leg lifts are ideal for core workouts for seniors due to the involved low-impact motions. Start off by standing behind a chair, holding onto it for support. Lift one leg out to the side, keeping it straight or slightly bent, and return to the starting position. Do the same motion on the other side to complete the exercise.
- Seated knee extensions: Seated knee extensions engage both the legs and core for a low-impact exercise. Begin on a chair with your feet flat on the ground. Extend one leg out straight in front of you and hold for a few seconds before lowering it back down. You then repeat the motion with the other leg for any desired number of reps.
- Standing side bends: Standing side bends are performed by first standing tall with your feet shoulder-width apart. You then place one hand on your hip and reach the other arm up and over to the side, bending your torso towards that side. Return to the starting position and repeat on the other side.
Remember to always consult with a healthcare professional before attempting any of the exercises listed above. Doing so is especially crucial for seniors as age or underlying health conditions may determine the safety of any low-impact exercise, including those we’ve discussed. Additionally, it’s critical that listen to your body and modify exercises as needed to suit your individual abilities and comfort level.