15 Of The Best Core Exercises For Beginners To Advanced

 Written by 

Julien Raby

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In the world of fitness, the term “core” often conjures images of sculpted abdominals, suggesting that a strong core is solely about aesthetics. However, the core is a complex and intricate network of muscles that extends far beyond the visible six-pack. It’s a multifaceted system that involves not only the front muscles but also those deep within, along the sides, and even extending into the lower back, pelvis, and hips.

These muscles play a foundational role in stabilizing and supporting the body, influencing virtually every movement we make. This means, in this article we’re going to go over what exactly makes up your abdominal muscles and 15 core exercises you can add to your routine for beginners to advanced.

A woman doing core exercises using a medicine ball
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What Is Your Core?

The core can be thought of as the body’s central hub, providing stability and strength that radiate outwards. Let’s delve deeper into its components:

Rectus Abdominis

These are the superficial muscles commonly referred to as the “abs.” They run vertically along the front of the abdomen and play a role in flexing the spine.

Transverse Abdominis

This deep-lying muscle acts like a natural corset, providing vital support to the spine and pelvis. It’s particularly important for stabilizing the core during movement.

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Obliques

Positioned on the sides of the abdomen, the obliques enable twisting and rotational movements of the torso. They contribute to lateral flexion and anti-rotation stability.

Erector Spinae

Spanning the length of the spine, these muscles help maintain an upright posture and provide support to the back.

Hip Muscles

Including the hip flexors and glutes, these muscles connect the lower body to the core. They’re integral for movements such as walking, running, and jumping.

Understanding the complexity of the core system is crucial for crafting a comprehensive fitness routine. Beyond aesthetics, a strong and functional core is a cornerstone of overall health and performance.

A man doing the plank, one of the many core exercises
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15 Core Exercises From Beginner To Advanced

Starting with beginners, here are 15 of the best core workouts you need to add to your routine for a stronger core:

Beginner Core Exercises

Plank: The plank is a foundational exercise that requires you to support your body on your forearms and toes while maintaining a straight line from head to heels. It engages the transverse abdominis, rectus abdominis, and obliques. Focus on bracing your core and holding the position for as long as you can while maintaining proper form.

Dead Bug: Lie on your back with your arms extended toward the ceiling and your knees bent at a 90-degree angle. Slowly lower one arm overhead while simultaneously extending the opposite leg, then return to the starting position. This exercise challenges your core stability as you control the movement.

Bridge: Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Lift your hips off the ground, creating a straight line from your shoulders to your knees. Squeeze your glutes and engage your core as you hold the bridge position briefly before lowering your hips back down.

Cat-Cow Stretch: Start on your hands and knees in a tabletop position. Inhale as you arch your back and lift your tailbone (cow pose), and then exhale as you round your back and tuck your chin to your chest (cat pose). This gentle stretch engages the core muscles and promotes spinal flexibility.

Bird-Dog: Begin on your hands and knees in a tabletop position. Extend your right arm forward while simultaneously extending your left leg back. Focus on maintaining a stable core and balanced position. Alternate sides while engaging your core to prevent wobbling.

Intermediate Core Exercises

Russian Twists: Sit on the ground with your knees bent and feet flat. Lean back slightly while keeping your back straight. Hold a weight or medicine ball with both hands and twist your torso to one side, then the other. This exercise targets the obliques and improves rotational strength.

Side Plank: Lie on your side with your legs straight and prop yourself up on your forearm, creating a straight line from head to heels. Engage your obliques to hold the position. For an additional challenge, lift your top leg to work the lateral muscles even more.

Mountain Climbers: Start in a plank position. Alternate bringing your knees toward your chest in a running motion. This exercise not only engages your core but also provides a cardiovascular element, making it a dynamic full-body movement.

Leg Raises: Lie on your back and place your hands under your lower back for support. Lift your legs up toward the ceiling, engaging your lower abs. Slowly lower your legs back down without letting them touch the ground to maintain tension in the core.

Flutter Kicks: Lie on your back with your legs extended and hands under your hips. Lift your feet a few inches off the ground and alternate kicking your legs up and down in a fluttering motion. Focus on keeping your lower back pressed into the floor.

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People doing advanced core exercises using a specific machine
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Advanced Core Exercises

Hanging Leg Raise: Hang from a pull-up bar with your arms extended. Keep your legs straight as you lift them up toward the bar using your core muscles. Control the movement and avoid swinging.

L-Sit: Sit on the floor with your legs extended in front of you and your hands placed beside your hips. Lift your body off the ground, balancing on your hands, and keep your legs parallel to the floor. This exercise requires significant core strength and stability.

Dragon Flag: Lie on a bench with your head hanging off the edge. Hold onto the bench for support and lift your legs and hips off the bench, keeping your body straight. Slowly lower your legs back down without letting them touch the bench.

Toes-to-Bar: Hang from a pull-up bar with your arms extended. Engage your core as you lift your toes to touch the bar, then lower them back down with control. This exercise targets the lower abs and requires upper body strength as well.

Plank Variations: Elevate the traditional plank with dynamic movements like rocking forward and backward or tapping your knees to your elbows while in the plank position. These variations challenge your core stability and control while not needing excess gym equipment.

Remember, proper form is crucial to prevent injury and effectively target the core muscles. It’s always a good idea to consult a fitness expert before attempting advanced exercises, especially if you’re new to them.

A man and a woman using a medicine ball during their core exercises
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4 Reasons Why You Need to be Doing Core Exercises

So, you have the exercises now, but still not exactly sure why you should be doing them? This is the list of the top 4 reasons you need to focus on core strength training:

Improves Posture

Maintaining good posture isn’t just about appearances; it’s crucial for optimal musculoskeletal health. A strong core provides the foundation for proper posture by supporting the spine and reducing strain on the surrounding muscles. When the core muscles are weak, you’re more likely to slouch or experience discomfort in the neck, shoulders, and lower back. Engaging the core muscles helps align your body and promotes an upright posture, which not only makes you appear more confident but also prevents imbalances that can lead to chronic pain and postural issues over time.

Enhances Performance and Balance

A stable and well-conditioned core serves as a powerhouse for functional movements and athletic performance. Whether you’re lifting weights, using kettlebells, running, playing sports, or even performing everyday activities, a strong core acts as a stable center from which energy is transferred efficiently. This enhances your ability to generate power and move with precision. Additionally, core exercises challenge your balance and proprioception (awareness of body position in space), leading to improved stability. This newfound stability translates to better performance in both high-intensity activities and everyday tasks.

Injury Prevention Through Full-Body Strength

The core isn’t just a standalone set of muscles; it’s intricately connected to the rest of your body. Strengthening your core doesn’t only benefit your midsection—it creates a chain reaction of strength throughout your body. When your core is strong, it acts as a stabilizing force during movements, distributing forces more evenly and preventing undue stress on specific joints or muscles. This becomes especially important during compound exercises or dynamic movements that involve multiple muscle groups. A strong core contributes to better overall body mechanics, reducing the risk of injuries caused by poor alignment or compensatory movements.

Alleviates Lower Back Discomfort

Lower back pain is a common ailment that can greatly impact daily life. A weak core can contribute to lower back pain, as the muscles in this region play a critical role in supporting the spine. By strengthening the core, you provide additional support to the spine, reducing the load on the lower back muscles. Core exercises engage the transverse abdominis, which acts like a natural weight belt, and the erector spinae muscles, which help stabilize the spine. This increased support can alleviate existing lower back discomfort and contribute to improved flexibility and range of motion in the spine.Incorporating core exercises into your fitness routine is not only about achieving a sculpted midsection.

It’s about cultivating a strong, functional, and balanced body that supports you in all aspects of life. By improving posture, enhancing performance, preventing injuries, and reducing lower back pain, a strong core becomes an integral component of your overall physical well-being. Whether you’re a beginner, intermediate, or advanced fitness enthusiast, dedicating time to core exercises reaps numerous benefits that extend far beyond the gym.

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About

Julien Raby is the owner of BoxLife. He owns a bachelor in literature and a certificate in marketing from Concordia. He's Crossfit Level 1 certified and has been involved in Crossfit since 2010. In 2023 he finally made it to Crossfit Open Quarterfinals for the first time. LinkedIn Instagram Facebook

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