15 exercises to strengthen your core
on 13 June 2016
Your core includes the main muscle areas in your torso, including your back, hips, abdominal, pelvic floor, inner abdominal and scapula.
The core of your body is where energy is generated to carry out any movement. For this reason, strong core muscles make it much easier to do many other physical activities. Many people think of core muscles as the abdominal muscles, but it’s important to remember that the abdominal muscles are just one part.
To build core strength, you need to train all of the muscles involved. Beginners will need to start with low reps to accustom their muscles to the activity. A foundation of core strength will build from this and high reps and weights can then be introduced.
Having a strong core will not only mean your overall strength and wellbeing is improved, it also means that you have the foundation required to perform well in other sporting activities.
If you’re keen to get started on your core today, we recommend beginning with 8-10 reps of each exercise listed below. You can slowly work your way up to 12-15 reps of each exercise and even incorporate the use of weights if you feel you are able to do so without muscle strain.
You don’t need anything for these exercises – just yourself, a wall, and a mat or towel if you want to be a little more comfortable!
- Wall sit
Place your back flat against a wall and lower your torso down the wall until your knees are at a right angle (or as close to a right angle as possible). Your ankles should be beneath your knees. Hold this position with your hands hanging by your sides for 45 seconds. You can increase the time if you feel comfortable.
- Body twist
Lay down on your back with your arms down in line with your body. Lift your legs, keeping your knees straight, until your legs are perpendicular to the ground. Slowly move both of your legs, keeping them together and straight, as far to the left as you can. Bring them back up to the centre slowly before taking them as far to the right as you can.
Lay on a mat, stomach down, with your toes tucked under your heels and your shoulders above your elbows. To increase the strength of your pose, you can hold your hands together. From your resting position, lift with your leg and abdominal muscles and hold a plank position for 45 seconds. Your body should be as straight as possible, so try to keep your bottom as low to the ground as you can.
- Side plank
Lay on a mat on your side, propped on the elbow that is beneath you. Your elbow should be as close to directly under your shoulder as you can get it. This is your resting position. Lift your body using the muscles in your stomach, back and legs. Your armpit, bottom hip and ankle should be in a straight but slanted line. Try to keep the hip on top directly over your other hip and don’t let it fall backwards. Hold this position for 45 seconds.
- Mountain climbers
Lay down on the mat, stomach down, and then assume a push-up position with your arms extended directly under your chest, shoulder width apart. Lift your body to form a straight line from your shoulders to your ankles. Lift your right foot off the floor and slowly raise your knee to your chest. Return your right foot to starting position and repeat with your left foot. Continue alternating for 8-10 reps.
- Bike crunch
Lie flat on a mat with your back down. Hold your arms up with your fingers slightly touching behind your ears. Lift your knees to a 45 degree angle. Slowly start a pedalling motion with your legs, ensuring one comes up to a 90 degree angle while the other stretches out straight. At the same time, touch your elbows to opposite knees to twist your core back and forth.
Lay down on your back with your knees bent and arms by each side. Using your leg and bottom muscles, push your hips up into the air so that your knees, hips and shoulders make a straight line. Hold this position for 45 seconds. To make it more challenging, you can try pulsing your hips up and down, or adding a weight to sit on your hips.
- Bird dogs
Get down on a mat on your knees with your arms stretched out straight beneath each shoulder. At the same time, you need to pull your left knee up to your chest while your right elbow is pulled back to your hip. The next movement is to fully extend both your left leg out and your right arm completely forward in front of your body. Repeat this 8-10 times before swapping over to the right leg and left arm.
Lay on your side propped up with your elbow underneath your shoulder and with straight legs. Slowly lift the leg on top as high as it will go, trying to keep it directly above the bottom leg at all times. Hold it for two seconds before lowering the top leg slowly. Repeat this 8-10 times before rolling over and swapping sides.
- Russian twist
Sit down on the mat. Lean back slightly and using both hands together, touch the ground on the right side of your body. Move both hands together across your body to the left side and touch the ground on that side. Repeat this movement 8-10 times. To make it more challenging, lift your legs up from the ground and hold them in the air, trying to keep them as still as possible while you move your arms and core.
Sit down on a mat with your legs straight out in front of you. Lean back on your bent arms so your elbows are close, but not touching, the ground. At the same time you need to lift your legs to a 45 degree angle from the floor, while keeping them straight. The next movement involves you pulling your chest and knees up to create a ‘V’ shape between your knees, hips and shoulders. Repeat these two movements one after the other 8-10 times.
- Pulse up
Lay down on your back with your legs in the air at a right angle to your torso with your arms down by your sides. Use your muscles to lift your bottom off the ground while keeping your legs straight and trying to reach 15-20cm higher with the ends of your toes. Slowly release and let yourself back down the original position. Repeat this 8-10 times.
- Flutter kicks
Lay down on your back with your legs straight out and your arms straight down by your sides. Lift both legs slightly off the ground then begin kicking them up, one at a time, while keeping them straight. Alternate the leg you kick with and ensure the bottom leg remains in the air at all times. Repeat 8-10 times.
- Up and downs
Get down on your mat in a plank position. Prop yourself up on your wrists, rather than elbows, one at a time to result in a pushup position with your wrists beneath your shoulders. Take yourself back down to the plank position, one arm at a time. Repeat this process 8-10 times before changing over your lead arm (if you used your right arm to push you up and bring you back down first, use your left for the second set).
Lay down on a mat stomach down with your legs straight and your arms straight out in front of you. This is your resting position. Simultaneously lift your ankles and wrists up from the ground, trying to hold them 10-15 centimetres above the ground for 15-20 seconds. Release, rest for 5 seconds and then repeat 8-10 times.