Doing core exercises regularly trains the muscles throughout your pelvis, hips, lower back, and abdomen to work in harmony with each other. This gives you better balance and stability while playing sports and in regular daily activities – making it easier to do everything from swinging a golf club, to reaching the top shelf. And, according to the Mayo Clinic, weak core muscles can make you susceptible to poor posture, back pain and muscle injuries. So why are core exercises so often neglected?
While many notable core exercises require special gym devices like an ab machine or hanging leg raise machine, there are many fantastic core exercises that do not require specialized equipment or a gym membership. If you don’t even have a BOSU ball, here are five core exercises you can do at home using your own body weight, while laying on the floor.
1 – Plank
Yes, the dreaded plank. There’s a reason this thing has stuck around even though there isn’t much love for it – it works your entire core, as well as many upper and lower body muscles.
- Lay down on your front side. Lift your body off the floor with your forearms, elbows directly under your shoulders and toes.
- Keep your body in a straight position, without arching the back (collapsing through the hips). It’s key to keep the knees, hips and shoulders in a straight line.
- Hold between 30-60 seconds – depending on how long you can hold proper form – before lowering down, resting and repeating.
2 – Superman & Superman Twist
These exercises work your lower back, quads, and hamstrings. Depending on your level, you can choose whether to add the added challenge of a twist on this one.
- Lay down on your front, with arms extended in front of you or placed behind your head for less challenge.
- Keeping your entire body stiff and core engaged, lift your feet and chest as high off the floor as you can and hold as long as you can keep proper form. Remember to breathe. Lower down to rest and then repeat.
- To add the extra challenge of a twist, at the top of the raise, carefully twist your entire body to one side (as if you were flying in that direction), pause for a second, return to the centre, and twist to the other side. Pause for a second before returning to centre and lowering down to rest.
3-Lying Leg Raises & Windmills
Lying windmills can be incredibly challenging, so I’ve included standard leg raises for beginners before they move on to windmills. The advantage of windmills is in addition to the lower abdominals (targeted by leg raises), they also the transverse (side) abdominal and oblique muscles.
- Lay down on your back with your arms by your side and legs in the air straight up (perpendicular to the floor), and your feet flexed to keep your muscles engaged.
- Slowly, carefully, and with control, lower your heels straight down to hover just above the ground. Pause for 3 seconds, and carefully raise the legs back up.
- Repeat this process as many times as you can while maintaining proper form and avoiding any sharp pains in the lower back.
- Add in the Windmill by extending your arms out parallel to your shoulders, and instead of lowering feet down in front of you, twist your body to the side, and while keeping knees together and both shoulders planted firmly on the ground, slowly and carefully lower your legs to one side as far as you can, pause for a second, then slowly bring them back up. Repeat on the other side.
A V-Sit targets your upper ab muscles, obliques and also engages your hip flexors.
- Lay down on your back with legs extended straight.
- Keeping your shoulders pressed back and feet flexed, raise your torso and legs off the ground so you’re sitting in a V shape. Raise arms out to the side for balance.
- Hold this position as long as you can while maintaining proper form and without any sharp pains in the back.
The Twisting Crunch is one of the most effective core workouts, as it works all of your stomach muscles simultaneously.
- Lay down on your back with hands behind your head and elbows pointing straight out from your ears. Keep the legs engaged and feet flexed
- Lift the torso off the ground about 45 degrees, and twist it from side to side as many times as you can while maintaining proper form and without any sharp pains in the back.
- For even more of a challenge, lift the knee on the side you’re turned to and touch it to the opposite elbow before twisting to the other side and lowering the leg back down. (This is also known as bike pedalling.)
These exercises are great for working your entire core - just don’t expect to get a six-pack without aerobics. While core strengthening activities build and tone the underlying muscles, it takes aerobic activity to burn off abdominal fat so you can see those muscles.