The core is mostly associated with the ab muscles, but there’s more to it than that. The abs and lower back muscles mainly make up the core, but your hip muscles can also be involved. The bottom line is there’s more to working your core than doing crunches. If you only focus on your abs you’re going to miss out.
An at-home core workout should have abdominal work mixed in with exercises that force you to stabilize the spine and pelvis. Max Gordon, a certified strength and conditioning specialist and owner of Max Gordon Fitness, urges people to shift their mindset when working out at home.
You might have to drop your long-term fitness goals and focus on weak points you can improve, such as core strength. Focusing on the things you can do at home eases some of the anxiety of not being able to go to the gym, says Gordon.
10-MOVE CORE HOME WORKOUT
Situps – Hands Behind Head
Situps are a classic ab exercise. The U.S. military has been using them for decades to test the core strength and endurance of cadets. Typically they’re performed with your hands folded over your chest, but you can make them harder by putting your hands behind your back.
The move: Lie on the ground on your back. You can use weights over your feet to anchor them to the ground. Keep your knees bent and plant your feet on the ground. Your feet should be six inches to a foot in front of your butt.
Put your hands behind your head. Breathe out, brace your abs and sit up. Then, relax and lower yourself back down. Perform three sets of 10 reps.
Copenhagen Side Plank
This side plank variation is more challenging than the standard version. It incorporates the inner thigh muscles, also known as the adductors. According to a June 2019 study published in PNF and Movement, using the adductors during a plank exercise increases ab muscle activation.
The move: Lie on your side with your legs straight. Put your top foot on a bench, couch or chair. The bottom leg stays off. Prop yourself up on your hand with your elbow straight. Lift your hips so your body forms a straight line. You’re now supporting yourself with the top leg and the bottom leg is off the ground, relaxed. Hold this position for as long as possible, then switch sides. Do three sets per side.
Plank With Reach
The plank position engages the abdominals and other muscles of the core that stabilize your spine and pelvis. Once you get better at the plank, however, it starts to get boring. Use this variation to spice things up.
The move: Start in a plank position with your forearms on the ground. Dig your toes in and lift your body into the air so it forms a straight line from your shoulders to your ankles. Now that you’re in the plank position, slowly reach your right arm forward. Extend it all the way out, slowly pull it back and put it down on the ground. Then, switch arms. Do your best to avoid rocking side-to-side. Continue to alternate for 10 reps on each side. Perform three sets.
Crunches on Stability Ball
Now that you’re working out at home you can finally use the stability ball you bought years ago but never took advantage of! Using a stability ball allows you to extend your range of motion.
The move: Sit on a stability ball with your feet planted on the ground. Slowly walk your feet forward and lie back on the ball until it’s under your lower back. With your feet planted on the ground, put your hands behind your head. Slowly crunch up by pulling your ribs down and lifting your shoulders up. Go as high as you can, then lower back down. Perform three sets of 10 reps.
Crawling on the ground forces you to stabilize your pelvis and spine in a way you probably don’t normally use them. Most people haven’t crawled on the ground since childhood, so this exercise might take some practice to get used to. Be sure you move slowly and with control.
The move: Start on the ground on all-fours with your back flat and knees off the ground. Take a step to the right with your right foot. At the same time, lift your left hand and place it next to your right. Then, bring the left foot into the right foot and step the right hand out to the right. Repeat 5 times, then head back in the other direction. Do this exercise for 30 seconds before resting, then repeat for three sets.
The bicycle crunch works your abs by combining a crunch with a twisting motion, getting the obliques involved.
The move: Start on your back with your lower back pressed into the ground. Lift your legs into the air and bend them at 90 degrees. Put your hands behind your head.
Twist to the right and touch your right elbow to your left knee. At the same time, reach your left leg out straight. Then, slowly turn the other direction and touch your right elbow to your left knee. Complete 10 reps on each side for three sets.
This stability ball exercise requires core strength and concentration, but don’t get discouraged. Once you do it correctly you should feel muscles working from your shoulders to your legs.
The move: Start in a plank position on a stability ball. Your forearms should be on the ball and your feet on the ground. Spread your feet a few feet apart and keep your knees straight. Slowly make circles with your arms on the ball. Do 5 clockwise and 5 counterclockwise. To make it harder, draw bigger circles. Perform three sets.
Plank With Leg Lifts
Another variation of the plank is to add a leg lift. This is a similar concept to the reach with your arms. When you lift one limb you lose stability and the rest of your body (particularly the core muscles) needs to tense up to compensate.
The move: Start in a plank position with your forearms and toes on the ground. Lift your body so you form a straight line from your shoulders to your ankles. Keeping your body centered and without turning your hips, lift your legs one at a time then put them back down. Move slowly and with control. Perform 10 lifts with each leg and complete three sets total.
This is a challenging core exercise that requires some equipment. If you have a hardwood floor you can use a dish towel under your feet to help you slide. If you only have carpet you should purchase a pair of carpet sliders of ValSlides.
The move: Take your carpet sliders or dish towel and put them under your feet. Both feet should be able to slide. Get into a front plank position with your forearms on the ground. Staying in the plank position, slowly slide back while keeping your legs straight and hips even. Slide back a few inches, then pull yourself forward until you’re back in the plank position, then repeat. Perform three sets of 10 reps.
The dead bug is one of the best exercises to work on core strength and stability, according to certified personal trainer Rachel Sneeden. If you don’t find it very challenging, Sneeden suggests holding dumbbells, water bottles or cans in each hand to add extra tension.
The move: Lie on your back with your legs in the air and knees bent at 90 degrees. Your arms should be pointed straight up toward the ceiling. Inhale and extend opposite limbs down toward the ground. Keep your lower back pressed flat against the ground as you move.
Once your arm and leg are straightened you’ve reached the bottom of the movement. Lift them back to the starting position and switch to the other side. Perform 3 sets of 10 reps on each side.