A strong core is an invaluable asset. For starters, a strong and stable midsection can give you better balance and better posture, and it can even help reduce back pain. Every move you make, both in daily life and during a workout, will be easier if your core is showing up and doing its job. It really is the center of all your movement.

Your core is made up of many muscles, including your rectus abdominis (what you think of when you think “abs”), transverse abdominis (the deepest internal core muscle that wraps around your sides and spine), erector spinae (a set of muscles in your lower back), and the internal and external obliques (the muscles on the sides of your abdomen). Since various combinations of these muscles are involved in so many different exercises, you don’t have to be doing things that target one specific area, like sit-ups, to challenge these muscles. In fact, some of the best, most efficient core exercises are ones that work the entire muscle group at once. (This also helps keep the muscles balanced, which is important for improving performance and avoiding injury.)

Other great core exercises, like deadlifts and squats, seemingly don’t work your midsection at all—but core engagement is crucial to do them properly, which is why I like to call them “sneaky” core moves.

When it comes down to it, there are a million and one ways to work your core. So how can you decide what’s best? Or just where to even start? I asked top trainers to share their favorite core exercises, so that I could put together a list of some great ones to try. Most of them use only your bodyweight, so you can easily add them into your workout routine whether you’re at home, in a gym, or traveling.

Below, check out 20 great core moves that top trainers swear by. Demoing the moves is Amanda Wheeler, a certified strength and conditioning specialist and co-founder of Formation Strength, an online women’s training group that serves the LGBTQ community and allies.

Plank

Plank

How to do it: Rest your forearms on the floor, with your elbows directly underneath your shoulders and hands facing forward so that your arms are parallel. Extend your legs out behind you and rest your toes on the floor. Your body should form one straight line from your shoulders to your heels. Squeeze your entire core, your glutes, and your quads, and tuck your butt under a little to keep your lower back straight. Make sure you are not dropping your hips or hiking your butt up high toward the ceiling. Position your head so that your neck is in a neutral position and your gaze is on your hands. Hold this position.

Panther Shoulder Tap

Panther Shoulder Tap

How to do it: Start on all fours. Engage your core and while keeping your back flat and your butt down (like you’re in a plank), lift your knees off the floor about 1-3 inches. Gaze at the floor a few inches in front of your hands to keep your neck in a comfortable position. Tap your right hand to your left shoulder, and then your left hand to your right shoulder, while using your core strength to keep your hips as still as you can. Continue alternating sides.

Butterfly Sit-up

Butterfly Sit-up

How to do it: Lie face up with the soles of your feet together, knees bent out to sides. Reach your arms overhead. This is starting position. Using your core, roll your body up until you are sitting upright. Reach forward to touch your toes. That’s 1 rep. Slowly lower back down to starting position and continue immediately into the next rep.

Dead Bug

Dead Bug

How to do it: Lie face up with your arms extended toward the ceiling and your legs in a tabletop position (knees bent 90 degrees and stacked over your hips). This is starting position. Slowly extend your right leg out straight, while simultaneously dropping your left arm overhead. Keep both a few inches from the ground. Squeeze your butt and keep your core engaged the entire time, lower back pressed into the floor. Bring your arm and leg back to the starting position. Repeat on the other side, extending your left leg and your right arm.

Half Kneeling Wood Chop

Half Kneeling Wood Chop

How to do it: Start on your knees, and then step one leg a few feet in front of the other, foot flat on the floor and knee bent at 90 degrees. Hold a light-to-medium dumbbell by the knee that’s on the floor. Grasp onto both ends of the weight. This is starting position. Bring the weight diagonally up toward the ceiling on the opposite side of your body, twisting your abs as you do. Keep your hips facing forward—only your core muscles should be rotating. Bring the weight back down to starting position. Do all your reps on one side, and then repeat on the other side.

High Boat to Low Boat

High Boat to Low Boat

How to do it: Sit up straight with your legs bent, feet flat on the floor. Keeping your legs together, slowly lift them off the floor until they form a 45-degree angle to your torso. Engage your entire core, keep your back flat, and balance on your tailbone. You can keep your knees bent (as pictured) or straighten them out for more of a challenge. Reach your arms straight out in front of you, parallel to the floor. If you feel that you need some extra support, place your hands on the floor, underneath your hips. This is High Boat. Hold here for three deep breaths. Then, lower your legs, straightening them out, while also lowering your upper body. Both your shoulder blades and legs should hover a few inches off the floor. If that is too challenging, keep them slightly higher off the floor and work toward bringing them lower and lower. This is Low Boat. Hold for one breath, and then lift your legs and torso back to High Boat.

Body Saw

Body Saw

How to do it: Put your toes on a set of gliders or towels and then get into a forearm plank with your forearms on the floor, elbows directly underneath your shoulders, hands facing forward so that your arms are parallel, and legs extended behind you. Tuck your tailbone and engage your core, butt, and quads. This is starting position. Slowly push with your forearms and elbows to slide the gliders or towels back toward the wall behind you. Move as far as you can without losing core engagement. Don’t let your hips sag. Slowly pull with your arms and elbows to return to the starting position.

Side Bend

Side Bend

How to do it: Start in a side plank with your right hand on the floor, directly underneath your right shoulder, and your feet staggered so the left is right in front of the right (as shown). You can also stack your left foot on top of your right. Engage your core and your butt. Let your left arm relax by your left side. Dip your hips down toward the ground and then lift them back up. This is 1 rep. Do all your reps on one side, and then repeat on the other side.

Jackknife

Jackknife

How to do it: Lie face up with your legs extended and arms extended overhead on the floor, keeping them close to your ears. Contract your abs to press your low back into ground. This is starting position. Point your toes, squeeze your thighs together, squeeze your glutes, and simultaneously lift your legs and upper back off the ground, reaching your hands forward to meet your feet so that your body forms a V. Keep your core engaged as you slowly lower to return to starting position.

Hollow Hold to Jackknife

Hollow Hold to Jackknife

How to do it: Lie face up with your legs extended and arms straight over your head, keeping them close to your ears. Contract your abs to press your low back into ground. Point your toes, squeeze your thighs together, squeeze your glutes, and lift your legs off the ground. Lift your shoulders off the ground and keep your head in a neutral position so that you’re not straining your neck. Your legs and mid-back should both be off the ground, and you should be in the shape of a banana with just your low back and hips on the ground. This is starting position, a hollow hold. Stay in the hollow hold position for as long as you can, up to 10 seconds. Then, lift your arms and legs to meet so that your body forms a “V” hold for a breath, and slowly lower back down to hollow hold position.

Hollow Body Rock

Hollow Body Rock

How to do it: Lie face up with your legs extended and arms straight over your head, keeping them close to your ears. Contract your abs to press your low back into ground. Point your toes, squeeze your thighs together, squeeze your glutes, and lift your legs off the ground. Lift your shoulders off the ground and keep your head in a neutral position so that you’re not straining your neck. Your legs and mid-back should both be off the ground, and you should be in the shape of a banana with just your low back and hips on the ground. This is starting position. Slowly rock forward and back, keeping everything tight, to the point that your feet and hands nearly touch the floor. If this is too difficult, get into the starting position and simply hold.

C-Curve

C-Curve

How to do it: Sit on your tailbone with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Hold onto each leg just above the knee.Round your spine, tuck your tailbone, and begin to lower your torso back, as if you were lowering back after a sit-up. About halfway (like in the photo above), stop and hold. Keep your entire core and your quads engaged. For an extra challenge, let go of your legs and just hold your arms out in front of you.

Wheelbarrow

Wheelbarrow

How to do it: Start on all fours with a glider or towel under each hand. Squeeze your core and tuck your tailbone so that your back is flat, like you’re doing a plank from your knees. This is starting position.Slowly push your hands in front of you, keeping your arms straight. Glide as far as you can while still maintaining your torso in a plank position. Press into the floor and pull your arms back to return to starting position.

Rolling Like a Ball

Rolling Like a Ball

How to do it: Sit up tall with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Wrap your arms around your legs and hold onto the outside of your ankles. Curl your head and chest forward in toward your knees. Scoop your core muscles in deeply, then roll your body back until your shoulders touch the ground. Don’t roll so far that your neck or head touches the ground. Rock back up to a seated position.

Leg Raise

Leg Raise

How to do it: Lie face up with your legs extended and hands at your sides or tucked underneath your hips for extra support. Slowly raise your legs, keeping them together and as straight as possible, until the soles of your shoes are facing the ceiling. Then, slowly lower your legs back down. Don’t let your feet touch the floor; instead, keep them hovering a few inches off. That’s 1 rep. As you do this move, make sure to keep your lower back flat on the floor. If you’re having a tough time doing that, don’t lower your legs as far.

Tabletop Leg Press

Tabletop Leg Press

How to do it: Lie face up with your legs raised in a tabletop position (knees bent 90 degrees and stacked over your hips). Contract your abs to press your low back into ground. Crunch up just a few inches and place your hands on the front of your quads. Drive your quads into your hands while simultaneously pressing them away. There should be no visible movement in your body, but you should feel the battle and intense tension in your core.

Row Your Boat

Row Your Boat

How to do it: Sit up straight with your legs bent, feet flat on the floor. Keeping your legs together, slowly lift them off the floor until they form a 45-degree angle to your torso. Engage your entire core, keep your back flat, and balance on your tailbone. You can keep your knees bent (as pictured) or straighten them out for more of a challenge. Reach your arms straight out in front of you, parallel to the floor. If you feel that you need some extra support, place your hands on the floor, underneath your hips. This is High Boat. From here, clasp your hands in front of you and twist at the waist toward one side, swinging your arms to the same side as if you had an oar in your hands and you were rowing. Immediately twist to the opposite side and repeat the same arm movement.Continue alternating sides.

Single-Leg Jackknife

Single-Leg Jackknife

How to do it: Lie face up with your legs extended and arms by your sides. Contract your abs to press your low back into ground. This is starting position. Squeeze your thighs together, squeeze your glutes, and simultaneously lift your left leg and upper back off the ground, reaching your right hand forward to meet your left foot. Your torso and your left leg should form a V. Keep your core engaged as you slowly lower to return to starting position. Repeat with the opposite leg and arm. Continue alternating sides.

Plank Tap

Plank Tap

How to do it: Start in a high plank position with your palms flat on the floor, hands shoulder-width apart, shoulders stacked directly above your wrists, legs extended behind you, and your core and glutes engaged. Tap your right hand to your left shoulder while engaging your core and glutes to keep your hips as still as possible. Try not to rock at the hips. Do the same thing with your left hand to right shoulder. Continue alternating sides.

Hip Dip

Hip Dip

How to do it: Start in a forearm plank with your forearms on the floor, elbows directly underneath your shoulders, hands facing forward so that your arms are parallel, and legs extended behind you. Tuck your tailbone and engage your core, butt, and quads. Rotate your hips to the left side and tap the floor. Repeat on the right side. Continue alternating sides.

Tags : CoreWorkout