Getting Your Core Fitness Workout

by Charles Platkin, PhD

Your core muscles act as a bridge between your upper and lower body – like the trunk of a tree. They include your abs, glutes, back, hip, and chest. Building your core helps you improve everyday movements such as carrying groceries in from the car, getting in and out of the shower, taking out the trash, sitting and getting up from a chair and getting dressed, and to maintain an active lifestyle so you can walk, bike and garden. Your core muscles are also responsible for a healthy, pain-free back and for helping you keep your balance, which reduces your risk of falling.

Here are a few core exercises you can do at home.

Bicycle Maneuver
1. Lie flat on the floor with your lower back pressed to the ground.
2. Touch the sides of your head with your fingertips just behind your ears.
3. Raise your upper body off the floor using your abdominal muscles, not your neck.
4. Bring your knees up to about a 45-degree angle and slowly go through a bicycle pedaling motion.
5. Touch your left elbow to your right knee, then your right elbow to your left knee. Keep your breathing rate even and relaxed throughout. Ten repetitions.

Crunch on Exercise Ball (You’ll need an exercise ball for this.)
Sit on the ball with your feet flat on the floor. Let the ball roll back slowly.
2. Now lie back on the ball until your thighs and torso are parallel with the floor.
3. Place your hands behind your head (or cross your arms over your chest) and slightly tuck your chin in toward your chest.
4. Exhales as you contract your abdominal muscles, raising your torso to no more than 45 degrees. For better balance, spread your feet wider apart.
5. Inhale as you return to the starting position. Ten repetitions

1. Begin on your hands and knees with your hands a little more than shoulder width apart and slightly in front of your shoulders.
2. Extend one leg at a time, coming to balance on the balls of your feet as in the “up” part of a push-up. Contract your abdominal muscles and keep your back is parallel to the floor. Keep your head and neck in line with your spine.
3. Hold starting for 15 seconds, building up to 60 seconds. One repetition.

Cat Cow
1. Start on all fours with your hands directly under your shoulders and your knees directly under your hips.
2. Inhale and look up as you let your stomach soften toward the ground while arching your back as if forming the letter “U,” and letting your buttocks lift toward the ceiling.
3. Then, as you exhale, let your head and buttocks round toward the floor so that your spine humps and your stomach is concave. Repeat inhaling and exhaling with slow, controlled movements.
4. Continue arching up and down through your spine. Ten repetitions.

Side Leg Left
1. Stand straight with your feet together and hands on your hips, elbows slightly bent.
2. Slowly lift your right leg out to the side until your foot is a few inches off the ground. Return to the ground. Ten repetitions.
3. Repeat on the left leg.

Knee Lift
1. Stand straight with your feet together and hands on your hips, elbows slightly bent.
2. Slowly lift your right knee up towards the ceiling, making sure to keep your balance. Ten repetitions.
3. Repeat on the left leg.

Bird Dog
1. Start on your hands and knees with your back flat as a board.
2. Straighten your left leg to the rear and your right arm to the front and hold for a few seconds.
3. Return to your starting position and repeat with the other arm arm and leg. Make sure to control the rest of your body movements. Ten repetitions on each arm/leg.

Scissors or Flutter Kick
1. Lie on your back with your hands at your sides, palms facing the ground. Pull your abdominals in so you can lengthen your back.
2. Lift your legs about 3 inches off the floor.
3. Exhale as you rapidly move your legs up and down in a scissor motion, your right and left legs moving between 3 and 6 inches in opposite directions. Inhale as you slowly return the to starting position. Ten repetitions.

Pelvic Tilt / Hip Extension / Bridge
1. Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet on the floor. Make sure your feet are in line with your hips and your toes are pointing forward.
2. Keeping your feet flat and pressing all four corners of your feet firmly into the floor. Exhale as you squeeze your buttocks and tighten your lower abdominal muscles as you lift your hips and pelvis off the floor.
3. Inhale as you lower your pelvis and return to the starting position. Ten repetitions.

Body Squat
1. Stand with your feet a little wider than shoulder width apart and your arms hanging at your sides. Keep your torso erect and your body weight over your heels.
2. Inhale as you bend your knees and lower your body as if to sit in a chair until your thighs are as close to parallel to the floor as possible. Do not go lower than this, or you will put too much stress on your knees.
3. Exhale as you squeeze your buttocks and come back to the starting position. Always keep your knees in line with your second toe. (I realize that “your second toe” may sound strange, but if your knees extended to your big toe, it would be too far.) Do not let your knees extend over your toes. Ten repetitions.

Other Resources

Check out the ACE Core work here:

Swap the Sit-Ups: Effective Vertical Core Exercises

Reality Check: Are Planks Really The Best Core Exercise?

You know core exercises are good for you ­ but do you include core exercises in your fitness routine? Here’s why you should.

Core stability: The centerpiece of any training program

Rate this post

You may also like

Subscribe To The Weekly Food & Nutrition News and Research Digest
Our weekly email news and research digest is everything you need to know about food, nutrition, fitness and health.
No Thanks
Thanks for signing up. You must confirm your email address before we can send you. Please check your email and follow the instructions.
We respect your privacy. Your information is safe and will NEVER be shared.
Don't miss out. Subscribe today.