For anyone looking to get strong and gain abdominal definition, core exercises are essential. Core exercises are types of physical activities that target the stretcher chain of muscles that make up the body’s center, running from the hips to the shoulders. Not only do these exercises target the abdominals that people commonly want to focus on for abs definition and a toned stomach, but they also work the back, sides, and glutes as well. What’s more, working the core can also improve overall functional strength and performance in other types of exercises. In this article, we’ll cover five moves for a stronger core and explain the benefits of incorporating these exercises into your regular fitness routine.
The plank is a strong core staple and a great place to start when it comes to strengthening your core. This move works the transverse abdominis, obliques, rectus abdominis and erector spinae so it really hits all the areas you want to strengthen to get that toned midsection! With the plank, you want to hold the same position for an extended period of time and be sure to keep your back straight. You can start off with a 30-second hold and build up from there until you can plank for up to two minutes. This exercise is relatively low on the difficulty level so even if you’re just starting out, challenge yourself to keep a strong plank for thirty seconds.
The plank is a great core strengthening move for building dynamic strength in the lower and mid-sections of the abdominal area. This move is effective for working the internal and external obliques, rectus abdominis, and transverse abdominals. It also works your lower back muscles as well as your glutes and hamstrings.
A. To perform a plank, begin by getting into a kneeling position. Then, slowly lower your body forward and bring your hands directly beneath your shoulders, with your back flat and abs tight. Make sure to keep your neck and chin in line with the rest of your body, forming a straight line from head to toe. Hold this position for as long as you can, then release and come back up.
B. Muscles worked: Internal and external obliques, rectus abdominis, transverse abdominals, lower back muscles, glutes and hamstrings.
C. Difficulty level: Plank is considered a moderate-to-high difficulty move. Beginners should start with very brief holds (20-30 seconds), then gradually build up to longer holds. Experienced practitioners may be able to hold the plank for one to two minutes.
A. This move is easy to do, can be performed almost anywhere, and requires no special equipment. To get started, try to find a stable railing or chair that you can hang from. Grab the railing or chair with both hands and, keeping your back and legs straight, lift your legs off the ground while contracting your abdominals and focusing on squeezing your core.
B. The captain’s chair is a great way to work your midsection as it targets most of your muscle groups in the core, such as the rectus abdominis (abs), obliques, erector spinae, hip flexors, and transverse abdominis (the deeper abdominal muscles).
C. Although it may seem like a simple move, the captain’s chair can be a bit more challenging and is recommended for intermediate to advanced fitness levels. Try to hold each rep for a couple of seconds and, as you get stronger and more comfortable with the move, you can increase the time of each rep for even greater results.
A. The plank is a great core-strengthening exercise that requires you to activate all the muscles of your core to keep your body in position. To do this exercise, start by lying face down with your toes pointed and both elbows bent, placing your forearms and elbows flat on the floor. From there, push up on your toes so that your body is in a straight line and your head is not hanging down. Hold this position for 15-60 seconds before releasing.
B. The plank works all the muscles of your core, including the rectus abdominus (the “san voyage” muscles that run down the front of your torso), the abdominal obliques, transverse abdominus (the deep abdominal muscles across your waist), and the glutes.
C. Difficulty level-wise, planks can come in easy or hard versions depending on how long you choose to hold the position and where you place your feet. For those who are just starting out, a low-level plank (where your feet are on the ground) is simpler than trying to hold a high plank (where your feet are on an elevated surface). Don’t forget to breathe—holding your breath when you’re in the plank position can make it harder to stay in the correct alignment!
A. To do this exercise, lie flat on your back with your arms beside your hips and your legs in the air. Lift your feet up and down in a scissor-like pattern. You can do this exercise with your legs straight and bring them up and down together or alternate them. As you get stronger, you can lift your legs higher from the floor and add a small pause between each rep.
B. This move will work your lower abdominal muscles and your hip flexors. Your glutes and lower back will also be engaged for stabilization.
C. On a scale of 1-5, scissor kicks are rated as a 3 in difficulty. With time and practice, you can make this move more challenging by adding more repetitions, a higher range of motion, or holding each rep for a few seconds.
Having a strong core can help improve overall fitness and coordination, and the exercises discussed above can help you get started on the right track. A brief recap of the core exercises we discussed include planks, Superman holds, hip twists, heeled bridge touches, and bird dogs. However, as with any exercise program, make sure to take safety precautions for exercise including warming up beforehand. If any stretch or pose ever begins to cause discomfort or pain, it is always important to stop and speak to your doctor. Lastly, remember to switch things up a bit – repeat exercises and add variations over time to continually challenge your muscles in different ways and keep from getting bored of the same routine. Have fun and stay safe!