Advertising

Last Updated on December 15, 2020

11 Best Core Strengthening Exercises to Do At Home

Advertising
11 Best Core Strengthening Exercises to Do At Home

No matter where you are in your fitness journey, chances are you wouldn’t mind a little more definition in your midsection.

Whether you have a six pack or a beer belly, those abs could probably be a little bit sharper. Not to mention developing better core strength is hugely important when it comes to improving your overall strength and athleticism, as well as protecting you from injuries.[1]

The good news? Your abs and core muscles can handle a lot of training.

While most of your muscle groups do best with just two training sessions per week,[2] you can hit your abs every other day to great effect. You don’t even have to leave the house!

Here’s my guide to the 11 best core strengthening exercises you can do at home with no equipment.

1. Planks

Let’s start with the mother of all core-strengtheners, the plank.

Planks not only work your abs and obliques, they challenge those core muscles deep inside your body that help promote stability and power. They can also reduce back pain and improve your balance and posture.

Get down into pushup position, feet behind you, hands under your shoulders. Lock out your arms and legs, squeeze your core muscles, and hold your body stiff (like a plank!) for as long as you can.

For a more challenging variation, try a forearm plank with your arms out in front you. Lay your forearms on the ground for support, with your elbows under your face rather than aligned with your shoulders.

2. Side Planks

To hit your obliques even harder, try this challenging variation: the side plank.

From plank position, rotate onto one side. Prop yourself up on your elbow and one foot with your body straight and stiff.

Don’t forget to squeeze your core as you hold this position for as long as you can.

Advertising

Switch sides and repeat to avoid creating muscle imbalances.

3. Reverse Crunches

The regular stomach crunch is a fine exercise, but when it comes to abs and core strength, you’ll want to opt for moves that are a lot more challenging.

When you can crank out 50 crunches without a problem, it’s probably time for something new.

The reverse crunch packs a wallop for your lower abs and can be done anywhere, anytime, just like the standard crunch.

Lay on your back with knees bent in crunch position. Place your hands flat on the ground by your side and lift your pelvis, bringing your knees up toward your face, then back down again.

Engage your lower ab muscles to do the work, not your back. Repeat for a few sets of 12-20 reps.

4. Flutter Kicks

The lower abs are a problem area for a lot of people, so we’ll want to work them hard.

If that sounds like you, flutter kicks are just what the doctor ordered.

Lay flat on your back in leg raise position, hands at your sides or pressed into the floor. Raise your legs together about 6 inches off the floor, then alternate lowering one and raising one a few inches in rapid succession.

It should look like you’re kicking the air, and it should give you quite a burn in your abdominal area.

5. Arms High Sit-Ups

Imagine a crunch, but way harder!

Lay down on the ground in sit-up position, knees bent, feet flat on the floor in front of you.

Advertising

Raise your arms up to the sky and keep them elevated as you perform a few sets of sit-ups.

Engaging your arms in this way makes the move extraordinarily difficult and taxing. You’ll get a lot more mileage out of this move versus traditional crunches.

6. L-Sits

The L-Sit is outrageously difficult to perform well, but if you can build your strength here, the benefits are phenomenal.

To perform an L-Sit, you’ll need a stable surface to press off of. You can do them on the floor, but it’s a little easier if you can elevate yourself on a pair of dumbbells, two sturdy chairs, or a similar apparatus.

Sit on the floor with your legs out in front of you. Lock your arms in place at your sides, palms on the ground or surface, and press. Bring your legs into the air, perpendicular to your upper body, using the tension from your locked arms.

Hold this position as long as possible for an intense strength building workout.

7. Stomach Vacuums

And now for something different!

It’s easy to work your front-facing abdominal muscles, but there is another muscle group in your core that’s frequently overlooked: The transverse abdominis.

This muscle isn’t visible through your skin, but it’s incredibly important in stabilizing your body, creating good posture, and holding your belly in tight to your spine.

To strengthen this muscle and get a flatter stomach, try stomach vacuums.[3]

Standing straight and tall. Exhale all of the air out of your body and simultaneously pull your belly in tight. Imagine sucking your belly button back into your spine.

You’ll feel the transverse abdominis engage. Hold as long as possible, rest and then repeat.

Advertising

8. Star Planks

Planks are too effective to not utilize multiple variations of them in your routine.

The star plank engaged similar muscles to the traditional plank, but is a lot harder to hold for time.

From the push-up or standard plank position, walk your feet out wide and your hands, as well.

Your body should form an X position. Elevate your core off the ground, squeeze tight, and hold for as long as possible.

9. Boat Pose

Yogis know all about core strength, so if you want a tighter tummy, you should take a page out of their playbook.

Boat pose is an extremely difficult isometric hold that builds exceptional balance and core power.

Star in sit-up position. Crunch yourself up toward your knees, then lift your feet off the floor until they’re about level with your face. Balance on your butt, squeeze your core, and hold this position as long as you can.

Your body should form a V with the only point of contact being your butt on the ground. Holding boat pose should be extraordinarily challenging!

10. Mountain Climbers

Ab work alone won’t shred stomach fat. But when you combine abs and cardio, that’s when you’re onto something magical.

Mountain climbers fit the bill if you’re looking to blast your core and also work up a good sweat.

Get down into plank position. With your arms locked and your body tight, drive one knee at a time off the floor, up toward your chest, and then back to its original position. Repeat in quick succession.

It should look like you’re climbing a hill, and it should exhaust you in a matter of seconds!

Advertising

11. Russian Twists

Finally, let’s give the obliques a little more love.

Get down into sit-up position and perform a crunch toward your knees. From here, lean back so your torso is at a 45 degree angle to the floor, clasp your hands in front of you, and twist side to side in rapid succession.

You’ll feel your obliques engage after just a few reps.

For a more difficult variation, lift your feet off the floor similar to boat pose while perform the move, or perform the twist using a heavy medicine ball for added resistance.

The Bottom Line

The biggest piece of the puzzle when it comes to six-pack abs is a low body fat percentage. That’s best accomplished by sticking to a smart diet and building your fully body strength.

However, if you want to improve your athleticism, overall strength, or even your longevity, you can afford to work your abs a bit more frequently — 3-4 times per week is perfect.

If you hit them hard enough, you’ll probably see some great improvement in definition as well!

Cranking out endless crunches is one way to go about core training, but there are so many better and more challenging moves you can try without ever having to leave your living room.

Give them a shot!

Featured photo credit: Luis Quintero via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Evan Porter

Fitness Enthusiast, Expert Researcher, and Full-Time Dad. Author and owner of The Trusty Spotter and Dad Fixes Everything.

Lose Stomach Fat Fast With These 10 Diet Hacks 11 Best Core Strengthening Exercises to Do At Home

Trending in Exercise & Training

1 Best Bodyweight Workouts For Beginners (The Complete Guide) 2 9 Simple Cardio/Core Exercises You Can Do At Home 3 30-Minute HIIT Workout You Can Do At Home (Without Equipment) 4 7 Best Resistance Bands to Work Out at Home 5 7 Best Foam Rollers for Muscle Relaxation

Read Next

Advertising
Advertising

Last Updated on September 23, 2021

Best Bodyweight Workouts For Beginners (The Complete Guide)

Advertising
Best Bodyweight Workouts For Beginners (The Complete Guide)

Think you can’t get a great workout or build muscle with your body weight? think again. Getting fit doesn’t have to be complicated. Keep it simple, safe, and effective with bodyweight workouts you can do anytime and anywhere for the rest of your life.

Regardless of whether you are an athlete, recreational exercise enthusiast, or someone who hasn’t lifted anything but small children or everyday household items, using your body weight as resistance is one of the best ways to get and keep your body in tip-top shape for years to come.

What Is Bodyweight Training?

Bodyweight training or workout uses your body as resistance and is essential for gaining and maintaining muscles, especially as you age. According to the National Institute of Health, beginning as early as age 30, we gradually lose muscle mass and strength as a natural part of the aging process.[1] The rate of loss varies from person to person and will increase due to a sedentary lifestyle and poor nutritional selections. If you don’t do anything about it, the average human will lose 3% to 5% of their muscle mass each decade. But there is excellent news. With the addition of daily movement, weekly strength training, and proper nutritional choices, gaining muscle is more straightforward than you will expect.

If you want to build confidence, endurance, move better, feel stronger, and lose weight, start with bodyweight workouts. Your body is one of the most fantastic fitness machines ever created to handle life’s physical demands and challenges, and it is always available to you. With a bit of effort, consistency, and proper progressive programming, you will not only improve your fitness level, but you will also continue to feel mentally focused, and you might even minimize the effects of the aging process.

    Photo Credit: Kaileen Pfeiffer of Pfeiffer Photography

    Need more convincing?

    Advertising

    Jane M. Taylor, MS, CSCS, PN L1, Owner/Coach of Raw Fitness Performance, says:

    “Mastering bodyweight strength is crucial if you plan to add strength training to your overall fitness plan. Having coached thousands of athletes, adults, teens, and kids, I apply the same movement paradigm to everyone, especially beginners.

    First, can you get in position? In other words, do you have proper mobility and stability? You do? Great.

    Next, can you get in and out of position? That’s bodyweight strength—movement with control.

    Spending time practicing bodyweight workouts is time well spent. Not worrying about an external load allows you to groove the movement, laying down the foundation and establishing the fundamentals to eventually express more significant amounts of strength with weights when you are ready to progress.

    Not only that, no matter where you go, you’ll NEVER miss a workout!”

    Benefits of Bodyweight Exercises

    Here are 12 benefits that will motivate and excite you to put your body to work.

    1. It helps improve any muscle imbalances, especially from rounded shoulders and tight hips from sitting too long (hello, new work from the home model).
    2. It works the whole body.
    3. It lays down an excellent foundation for future weighted programming.
    4. It helps improve strength, endurance, balance, flexibility, and coordination.
    5. It can increase your confidence.
    6. It saves time going to the gym.
    7. It can be done anywhere, so there is never an excuse not to work out.
    8. No equipment is necessary.
    9. It never gets boring.
    10. It’s free.
    11. It’s great for any body type.

    Will I Build Muscles With Just My Body Weight?

    Yes!! Following an intense workout, muscle fibers break down and need to repair. It’s during this repair phase that the muscles will strengthen and grow. Note that for this process to occur, the body must be pushed outside of its comfort zone. Using external resistance, aka free weights, barbells, or bands, will speed up this process and is a fantastic addition to any strength program, but it is doable with just your body weight.

    As you improve, the trick is to continue changing your training variable (sets, reps, intensity, time under tension). Once you have mastered your technique, it is time to take it to the next level by mixing high-intensity exercises with exercises performed slowly, focusing on engaging the muscle during the contraction phase, which I will demonstrate in the video.

    Let’s break down a few beginner exercises and body parts to get you started.

    Advertising

    First, there are seven basic movements the body can perform; pushing, pulling, hinging, squatting, twisting, skipping, jumping. From these seven, there are many different variations for each body part which I will show you below. With bodyweight workouts, you work all your muscles, including your heart, as you elevate your endurance.

    1. Back – Plank Push-Ups, Back Extensions
    2. Chest – Push-Ups, Incline Regular, High to Low Plank
    3. Arms – Modified Side Plank, Side Plank Hip Drop, Dips
    4. Core/Hips – Planks (high and low; you may perform off your kitchen counter), Elevated Mt Climbers, Opposite Arm Leg Reach, Bear Crawl Hold, Isometric Knee Press (Single and Double Knee Hold), Heel Drops (Single and Double Heel Drop), Deadbug, Crunches, Floor Bridge
    5. Legs/Hips
    6. Quadriceps – Seated Bent Knee Extensions, Seated Straight Leg Lift
    7. Hips – Side Leg Raise, Deadlifts, Prone Leg Lifts, Glute Extensions
    8. Squats – Chair Squat, Step Out Squat, Plie Squat, Wall Squat Hold
    9. Lunges – Step Ups, Stationary, Side Lunge, Curtsy Lunge, Swing Lunge

    Designing a Bodyweight Workout Program

    With bodyweight workouts, the variety is endless and can be applied to any current life situation. Whether you have 10 minutes or an hour, use the simple format below to keep your muscles constantly guessing. If you are just starting, begin with 20 minutes twice a week for two to four weeks. As your fitness level improves, increase the time and amount of days/week.

    The greatest thing about bodyweight workouts is there are multiple variations, and you will never get bored. Select an exercise from each category. Always starting with a movement that works numerous muscles at once ex push-ups and squats, then move to exercises that work smaller muscles, aka dips for the triceps.

    Best Beginner Total Body Workout

    Beginner: two times a week

    (Repeat 2 x 10 to 15 repetitions)

    Advertising

    1. Plank Push-Ups

    1. Begin on your elbows on an elevated surface such as your kitchen counter or dining table.
    2. Step your feet back and together so you are supporting your body weight on your elbows.
    3. Maintain a straight line from the top of your head to your toes.
    4. At the same time, brace your core by pulling your stomach muscles in towards the back of the body and begin to retract your shoulder blades as if you are squeezing a pencil, then push the counter away with your core and elbows and come back to the starting position.
    5. Perform the prescribed repetitions (reps).
    6. Your whole body should move as a unit.

    2. Push-Ups

    1. Begin by placing your hands shoulder-width apart on an elevated surface such as your kitchen counter or dining table.
    2. Step your feet back and together so you are supporting your body weight on your hands, maintaining a straight line from the top of your head to your toes.
    3. At the same time, brace your core by pulling your stomach muscles in towards the back of the body and begin to bend your elbows and lower your chest towards the counter, then straighten your arms and push back up to the starting position.
    4. Perform the prescribed reps.
    5. Your whole body should move as a unit.

    3. Step-Out Squat

    1. Begin standing with your feet together.
    2. Step out to the right and lower your hips back behind you, pushing through the heels. Keep the knees behind the toes.
    3. Stand up and step together, tucking the tailbone under and squeezing the butt at the top.
    4. Perform the prescribed reps.
    5. Repeat on the left.

    4. Stationary Lunge

    1. Step out about hip bone/hip distance.
    2. Step the right foot back and stagger your stance about the same distance as the length of your leg.
    3. Keep the back heel off the ground and begin to bend into both legs, lowering your body towards the floor.
    4. Be sure to place more of your body weight through your front heel and keep the front knee behind the toe.
    5. Perform the prescribed reps.

    5. Hip Bridge

    1. Lie on your back, either on the floor or couch.
    2. Bend your knees and place your feet on the floor.
    3. Press through the feet, squeeze your butt and press the hips to the sky.
    4. Lower down 1/2 way, then repeat.
    5. Perform the prescribed reps.

    6. Isometric Knee Press

    Depending on your core strength, begin with one side at a time or both legs on a tabletop.

    Level 1: Single-Leg Knee Press

    1. Lie on your back, either on the floor or couch.
    2. Bend your knees and place your right foot on the floor.
    3. Keeping the left knee bent, bring it up off the floor into a 90°-angle (otherwise known as tabletop position).
    4. Place the left hand on your thigh.
    5. At the same time, push your hand into your thigh and thigh into your hand. You should feel your abdominals contract.
    6. Hold that contraction for 10 sec, then pause.
    7. Perform the prescribed reps.
    8. Switch sides.

    Level 2: Double Knee Press

    1. The exact format as above, only this time, both legs will be in tabletop.
    2. Keep the abdominals braced for 10 sec, then pause.
    3. Perform the prescribed reps.

    Conclusion

    If your goal is to move and feel better in your body and continue to progress to an advanced fitness level, begin with bodyweight workouts. Not only will it lay down a solid foundation, but it will also help you minimize injury and give you the confidence to keep progressing to more challenging workouts.

    Commit to yourself and future strength gains by incorporating bodyweight workouts into your weekly routine. I promise you won’t be sorry.

    More Beginner Workouts You Can Try

    Featured photo credit: Fortune Vieyra via unsplash.com

    Reference

    Read Next