Types of Core Exercises

Do you try and try to tone your midsection but can’t seem to make any headway? You’re not alone. Plenty of people, even those of us who hit the gym every day, find the core to be one of the most persistently troublesome areas on the body.

But there’s a reason for this: the exercises and diets we’ve been told will help us shed weight and sculpt muscle just don’t work.

Yes, all the sit-ups in the world can only do so much. So if you’re truly serious about getting the midsection you’ve always wanted, then you’re going to want to rethink your approach to exercising the core. Lucky for you, we’ve done just that.

We’ve compiled a list of ten exercises that will help bring about the beautiful stomach, abs, and core that you’ve always dreamed of having. And make sure you read till the end because that’s where we’ve put our personal favorite recommendation. You can click on any of the links below to jump to a section.

1. Plank

Let’s start things off simply with a tried-and-true classic. The plank is an isometric core strength exercise that’s pretty similar in form to the push-up.

One of the best exercises for core conditioning, the plank also helps strengthen your glutes, hamstrings, posture, and balance.

To perform one, all you need to do is rest your forearms on the floor, with your elbows directly underneath your shoulders and your hands facing forward, in a parallel manner.

Then, extend your legs behind you and rest your toes on the floor. If you’re doing it right, your body will form a straight line from your shoulders to your heels.

Next, you’ll want to squeeze your entire core, glutes, and quads. Be sure to tuck your butt in a little in order to keep your lower back straight, and you should also try to not drop your hips or hike your butt up toward the ceiling.

Finally, rest your head so that your neck is in a neutral position and your gaze is on your hands. And voila! Just hold this position for however long you can, usually until your core or arms start to burn.

2. Body Saw

This subtle variation on the plank is a great exercise for building both core strength and stability. All you have to do is put your toes on some towels or a set of gliders, and then get into a standard forearm plank position.

Make sure you’re tucking your tailbone in and engaging your core, butt, and quads. This will be your starting position.

Now slowly push with your forearms and elbows to slide the gliders or towels back toward the wall behind you. Try to move as far as you can without losing core engagement, and don’t let your hips sag.

Then, slowly pull in your arms and elbows, returning to your starting position.

3. Panther Shoulder Tap

Here’s a dynamic and challenging exercise that will quickly fire up your entire midsection. You start on all fours, then engage your core while keeping your back flat and your butt down, as if you’re doing a plank. Then, lift your knees off the floor about 1-3 inches.

You should look down at the floor below you and in front of your hands, and keep your neck in a comfortable position.

This is the tricky part: tap your right hand to your left shoulder, and then your left hand to your right shoulder, using your core strength to keep your hips as still as possible.

Continue by alternating sides until you’ve had enough. All in all, the panther shoulder tap also does great things for your deltoids, triceps, abs, glutes, quads, and lower back.

4. Butterfly Sit-up

This may just turn into your go-to ab exercise. You can think of it as a supercharged version of the classic sit-up. Butterfly sit-ups not only work your abs but also improve the flexibility of your back muscles.

To do one, start by lying face up with your feet together and knees bent out to the sides, and then reach your arms overhead. This will be your starting position.

Using your core muscles, roll your body over until you’re sitting upright, and then reach forward to touch your toes.

Rep 1 down. Slowly lower back down to your starting position and continue this cycle for about ten reps.

5. Dead Bug

This is an all-encompassing ab exercise that won’t burn as hard as some of the others on this list. A favorite of runners, you begin by lying face up with your arms extended toward the ceiling and your legs in a tabletop position.

Your knees should be bent at 90 degrees and stacked over your hips. That’s your starting position.
While simultaneously dropping your left arm overhead, slowly extend your right leg straight out, keeping it a few inches from the ground.

Squeeze your butt, keep your core engaged and your lower back pressed to the floor. Finally, bring your arm and leg back to the starting position. Repeat on the other side, extending your left leg and your right arm.

6. Half-Kneeling Wood Chop

The wood chop is an excellent exercise because it helps your obliques, transverse abdominals, lats, shoulders, and more. To perform one, get on your knees and then step one leg a few feet in front of the other.

Your foot should be flat on the floor and your knee should stay bent at roughly 90 degrees. Then, grab hold of a light-to-medium dumbbell, and place it on the floor by your knee.

Take both ends of the weight in your hands. Here’s your starting position.

You’re going to want to bring the weight diagonally up toward the ceiling on the opposite side of your body, rotating your abs as you do so. Your hips should face forward, and only your core muscles should be rotating.

Finally, bring the weight back down to the starting position. Do five-to-ten reps on one side, and then do the same on the other side.

7. High Boat to Low Boat

This challenging exercise strengthens the hip flexors, back muscles, and abs. To start, sit up straight and bend your legs, keeping your feet flat on the ground.

With your legs staying together, gently lift them off the floor until they’ve formed an angle 45-degrees to your torso. You should engage your whole core, keep your back flat, and balance your weight on the tailbone.

You can either keep your knees bent or straighten them out, which is a more challenging version of the exercise. The final step is to reach your arms straight out in front of you, parallel to the floor.

And that’s the High Boat. (If you need some extra support, place your hands on the floor underneath your hips.)

The trick here is the transfer from the High Boat to the Low Boat. So, hold in the High Boat position for three deep breaths. Then, straighten out and lower your legs while also lowering your upper body.

Both your shoulder blades and legs should be a few inches off the floor. If that’s too difficult, stay slightly higher off the floor and bring yourself lower and lower. And that’s the Low Boat.

Hold here for one breath, and then lift your legs and torso back to High Boat. You can do this by transferring for five to ten reps.

8. Side Bend

This one activates the deep core muscles, obliques, arms, and back. You start by getting into a side plank and placing your right hand on the floor, directly underneath your right shoulder.

Your feet should stay staggered so that the left one is in front of the right, and you can also stack your left foot on top of your right.

Next, engage your butt and core. Your left arm can stay relaxed by your left side. You then dip your hips down toward the ground and lift them back up, which makes for 1 rep.

Do ten reps on this side, and then do likewise on the other side.

9. Jackknife

The jackknife, also known as a “V-up,” is an underrated version of the sit-up exercise that’s designed to strengthen the upper and lower abdominal muscles, specifically the transversus abdominis muscle.

To do a jackknife, lie face up with your legs extended out and your arms extended overhead, keeping them close to your ears. Then, press your lower back into the ground and contract your abs. This is the starting position.

From here, point your toes and squeeze your thighs together. Next, squeeze your glutes while at the same time lifting your legs and upper back off the ground.

You should reach your hands forward to meet your feet so that your body forms a V- shape. Keep your core engaged as you slowly lower yourself and return to the starting position. Repeat for about 15 reps and 3 sets.

10. Mountain Climbers

Our final recommendation combines a plank with knee movements and is an excellent move for improving balance and core strength. To perform a mountain climber, start in a plank and place your hands on the floor directly underneath your shoulders.

Tighten your core and then lift your right knee to your chest. Make sure your hips stay down and that your back is kept straight while performing this first movement.

While simultaneously lifting your left knee to your chest, return your right leg to its starting position. Then, continue alternating legs for about 3 sets of 8-12 reps.

If any of these fantastic core workouts sound right for you, we have one final suggestion: perform them in a gym with trained professionals.

Live in the Chicagoland area? Then you’re in luck because CrossTown Fitness offers the perfect place to do just that.

They offer both personal training and on-demand classes, so there’s bound to be an exercise regimen that’s perfect for you and your schedule. What are you waiting for? Schedule a session today!

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