Advertising

Last Updated on December 17, 2020

15 Core Strength Workout Exercises for Beginners

Advertising
15 Core Strength Workout Exercises for Beginners

When many people think of a core strength workout, it immediately brings to mind cheesy ab routines that have run on TV infomercials for years.

I don’t blame you if you’re one of those people!

I, too, used to think the term core strength merely encompassed the abdominal muscles.

However, after several years of training (mostly in the sport of powerlifting) and much research, the picture has become clearer.

What is Core Strength?

A strong core is supported by more than just muscles, despite what many may think. In fact, the strength of one’s core is closely related to the quality and depth of one’s breathing.

Much of our society is simply not breathing properly: not taking deep belly breaths with a focus on filling the base/full 360-degree core.

They should be expanding the lower rib cage before air occupies the upper chest and lungs.

Many people do not breathe deeply, instead spending most of their days just touching the surface of their breathing capacity by entirely relying on upper chest breathing.

How to Breathe

So, before attempting any of the exercises below, first work with your breath.

Take a somewhat thick string (such as a shoe string), and wrap it around your waist so it is crossing over your navel (much like a belt worn high).

Ensure that you can fit two fingers between the string and your navel – thus not tying it tightly, and giving yourself room to breath into the belly without restriction.

The objective here is to wear the string throughout the day, and use it as a physical queue to focus your efforts on deep belly breathing.

Advertising

When you breath deep into your belly correctly, you will feel the string becoming tighter around your entire core.

After trying this approach for a couple days, dive into the below exercises without the string but while still maintaining focus on your breathing.

Core Strength for Health

Core strength is a vital aspect of overall health, and we’re going to examine several exercises that not only build core strength effectively, but also create core stability – which is arguably even more important!

15 Essential Core Strength Exercises

1. Kettlebell or Dumbbell Suitcase Carry (“Farmers Walks”)

You’ll notice many of these exercises have conveniently clear names, and this exercise is no exception. It functions much like it sounds.

Farmers Walks essentially allow you to pick up a moderately heavy weight and hold it on each side (left first, then right) while walking steady (focusing on core breathing) for 10-15 paces.

You should not be walking lopsided; you should be maintaining a straight, neutral spine, and allowing your core to support that stability.

Learn more kettlebell moves: The Benefits of Kettlebell Workouts You Might Not Know (+8 Exercises to Try!)

2. Lunges

These can be performed with or without weight, and with or without side bends. If performing with weights, this is a great core strength exercise to perform directly after Farmers Walks.

Side bending is done without weight and works by reaching your arm over and creating a half moon crescent shape during the lunge movement – the arm you arch should be on the same side as the leg with its knee on the ground.

3. Glute/Hip-Bridge

This is a very simple movement of laying down on the ground with your legs shoulder-width apart, then raising your butt off the ground to create an arch or “bridge.”

You can perform this movement with repetitions, which then become “Hip Thrusts,” or you can hold the top position for 3 seconds before returning down.

You can keep your arms laying flat on the ground for a more complex/difficult hold or use them to support your lower back for an easier movement.

Advertising

4. Bird-Dog Exercise

Lean forward to place your hands on the ground, positioning them directly under your shoulders (shoulder-width apart) with your fingers facing forward.

Reposition your hands and knees as necessary so that your knees are directly under your hips and your hands are directly under your shoulders.

Now, extend your right arm straight forward, meanwhile extending your left leg straight back. Repeat on the opposite side – with the left arm extended straight forward, and the right leg extended straight back.

5. Front Plank

Get into a push-up position with arms shoulder-width apart and bring your elbows to the ground. That’s it! Hold the static position without your knees touching the ground for as long as you can and repeat.

Learn more about the benefits of planking: 7 Amazing Things That Will Happen When You Do Planks Every Day

6. Side Plank

This core strength workout is similar to a front plank, but you are turning to each side and resting entirely on one elbow or the other.

Perform with the other arm extended straight into the air, or kept straight/parallel, running down the side of your body.

7. Goblet Squat

This is a fun one! You can perform this with a kettlebell (ideally), dumbbell, or even a heavy book!

Basically, you are standing with your feet a bit wider than shoulder-width apart, and your feet pointed out to a 45-degree angle. Descend into a deep squat and use the weight you’re holding to counter-balance.

Stay in the bottom position for 7 or more deep breaths before ascending.

8. Hanging Leg Raises

This exercise is excellent not just for core strength and stability, but also for overall shoulder health.

While hanging, be sure to maintain a straight back and shoulder line – remain stable and in control throughout the entire movement.

Advertising

Don’t swing your legs up and down, rather raise them and lower them in a slow and controlled manner.

9. Barbell Overhead Press

You might not think overhead pressing would correlate to core strength, but it does! You cannot perform a straight line overhead press without first stabilizing and bracing your entire core.

I suggest you film yourself from the side when performing the movement, and watch to ensure your bar-path remains in a straight line over your head.

10. Dumbbell Overhead Press

This move is much like the barbell overhead press; however, it requires more core and shoulder stability.

Bonus Exercises for Advanced Lifters

If you’ve been exercising or lifting weights for years, try the below exercises if you haven’t already done so.

If you’re already utilizing these core strengthening movements, simply consider incorporating them even more into your routine since they’re just that effective!

11. Dragonfly or Dragon Flag (by Bruce Lee)

Popularized by famous martial artist Bruce Lee, this movement requires you to have a decline bench or similar, which will support your entire weight.

Lay flat on your back on the bench, with your feet closer to the ground (on the decline).

Now, grab the bench behind your neck, then raise your legs from the lower position while stabilizing your upper body with your arms and core.

12. Kettlebell Turkish Get Up

This exercise is a complicated movement whereby you start from a laying-down position on the floor, and in 6 to 10 steps, raise the kettlebell overhead in a straight line.

Then, maintain that same straight line (holding the kettlebell up overhead) while you rise from the floor.

13. High Bar or Low Bar Back Squat

The high bar squat is the most optimal position if focusing on core stability, and is preferred by Olympic lifters for that reason.

Advertising

However, the low bar squat will typically still build core strength but allow for a more maximal load, and is thus preferred by powerlifters.

14. Deadlift (Sumo or Conventional)

Personally, this is my favorite exercise, and a great way to build core strength along with testing one’s central nervous system capacity.

Without getting into a detailed breakdown, I suggest having a peek at my video below, and checking out my YouTube channel where I cover how to efficiently deadlift, Squat, and more!

Why try deadlifts? Read 10 Benefits of Deadlifts You Probably Never Knew

15. Front Squat

Front squats are arguably the best way to build overall core strength – hitting the anterior chain and posterior muscle chain. They are performed in one of three ways.

First, by crossing the arms over and holding the barbell above the chest (resting on the clavicle), or, second, by not crossing the arms and keeping hands shoulder width apart while holding the bar.

The third approach is the same as the second, but if wrist mobility is an issue, a pair of straps can be utilized to hold the bar in position with each hand/wrist.

Conclusion

Core strength shouldn’t be isolated by any means; it should be considered an integral part of the whole ecosystem that is human physiology.

Core strength is associated with digestion and elimination, and can even be attributed to psychological wellness for that reason. Our gut is considered by many (me included) to be a second brain, and if our digestion is in check, so too will be our minds.

Try your hand at these core strength workouts to help your body reach its full potential, and to stay healthy – both physically and mentally.

More Exercise Tips

Featured photo credit: Daniel Apodaca via unsplash.com

More by this author

Adam Evans

BioHacker, competitive athlete, researcher in many fields including health and fitness, science, philosophy, metaphysics, religion.

Try These 13 Immune Boosting Foods Under the Weather? 13 Immune Boosting Foods for a Quick Recovery How to Break a Fast When You’re Intermittent Fasting 11 Health Benefits Of Ashwagandha (Backed By Science) Intermittent Fasting Diet for Beginners (The Complete Guide) 21 Healthy Dinner Recipes to Lose Weight and Gain Muscle Strength

Trending in Exercise & Training

1 9 Simple Cardio/Core Exercises You Can Do At Home 2 30-Minute HIIT Workout You Can Do At Home (Without Equipment) 3 7 Best Resistance Bands to Work Out at Home 4 7 Best Foam Rollers for Muscle Relaxation 5 15 Static Stretches to Totally Enhance Your Workout Routine

Read Next

Advertising
Advertising

Last Updated on September 16, 2021

9 Simple Cardio/Core Exercises You Can Do At Home

Advertising
9 Simple Cardio/Core Exercises You Can Do At Home

You want to work out but you don’t always have the time to implement a workout routine into your busy day. Finding time for daily exercise takes discipline and commitment, and often you feel like you need to go for a long run or intense workout at the gym in order to feel a sense of accomplishment.

There are many simple exercises you can do at home in order to improve your strength, agility, and cardio vascular endurance. The problem with some at-home workout routines or quick exercise routines is that you might be doing the wrong kind of exercise.

If you are trying to build upper body strength you don’t need to do squats or calf raises. On the other hand, if you are trying to build lower body strength knocking out a ton of pushups and bench dips isn’t going to help either. Make sure you determine what you want to improve on before you undertake an exercise regimen.
Often people focus too much on upper body and lower body strength when the core of your body needs more attention than any other part. Your core keeps you stable and balanced. I like to think of it as the fulcrum of your body. Without a strong core you probably aren’t going to experience as much strength and stability in your upper and lower body. Mixing in intense cardio is always a good idea as well, and you don’t need to run 10 miles to do it.

Instead of trying to 1,000 pushups per day focus on building your core along with some cardio. I guarantee you will feel stronger and more energetic than you ever have before, and your body will thank you.

Here are 9 great exercises that will improve your cardio and core strength. I have also included a sample workout plan at the end of the article which incorporates all of these exercises, so please read carefully so you know how to perform each exercise properly.

Please consult a medical professional first if you have any injuries or medical conditions to ensure you are able to perform physical activity.

1. Sitting Holds

This is a very simple but effective exercise to burn the core, legs, and arms all at once. Additionally you get to sit down while doing it, so it can’t be that bad!

Sit down in a position with your feet off the ground, straight out in front of you. Hands should be extended out in front as well. You are simply going to hold this position for a given amount of time.

Advertising

Try not to strain and tighten up your body too much while doing this. This is especially important with the back and neck. If you find yourself straining too much than stop. You can always build on the amount of time you hold this posture.

It is important that you also stay as still as possible throughout the duration of the hold. It is going to get difficult but challenge yourself to remain in the steady position throughout.

2. Burpees

Some people love them. Some people hate them. Even though I do these quite a bit during my summer training, I fall in the latter group. They are very challenging, but in my opinion, there is no better exercise that incorporates complete body training (core, cardio, upper body and lower body strength). You even get a little upper body strength training when you do these, so it is a win-win.

To do a burpee start standing straight up with your feet little more than shoulder width apart. Bring your hands to the ground in between the distance of your legs but slightly in front of your body. When you come down to the ground bend at the hips not at the back. You should bends your knees with your back straight as you bring your hands to the ground.

As soon as your hands are on the ground, you will jump back with your legs, so that you are in a plank position (hands are shoulder width apart aligned with your chest and your back is straight, not hunching towards the ground; legs are straight back and shouldn’t be touching the ground). For an extra challenge add a pushup at this point of the burpee.

After you get into the plank position you immediately bring your legs back up to your hands (like they were before you kicked them back into the push up position). With your knees bent, come up and jump straight up in the air. That is 1 repetition.

3. Mountain Climbers

If climbing mountains isn’t your forte than this will be probably be the closest you get to climbing an actual mountain. This is a great workout for your core, cardio, and lower body.

You are going to start in a plank position. It is important that you keep your core tight and strong the entire time you do this exercise. The tendency during this exercise is for your body to droop towards the ground or be arched towards the sky as you get tired. You want to make an effort to keep your back straight and don’t allow it to come out of the perfect push up position. This can lead to back problems.

Advertising

From the push up position you alternate your feet up and back towards your stomach. You are trying to knee yourself in the stomach (not literally but for the exercise purpose). When the right knee comes up, the left knee stays back. When the right knee goes back, the left knees comes up towards the stomach. You do this as rapidly as you can. You want a full range of motion so ensure you are bringing your knees up as far as possible and stretching them back as much as possible.

Your hands shouldn’t be too far out in front of you. They should be right around your shoulders. By this, you are also receiving an upper body workout because you are holding the plank position as well as moving your feet as fast as possible.

4. Running High Knees

This is a great cardio exercise that incorporates an intense range of motion from your legs. You can do this exercise running in place or with movement. The goal of this exercise is to get your knees up as high as possible and as quickly as possible. It is beneficial when you stay on your toes and utilize quick movements. As soon as your toe hits the ground you explode back up with your knee.

Use your arms properly when doing this exercise. Similar to running you want to alternate your hand and knee movements. When the right knee goes up, the left arm comes up simultaneously. When the right knee goes down, the left arm goes down. Maintaining an effective arm and leg movement balance will help you get into a rhythm as you speed up and increase the intensity of the exercise.

5. Step Ups

Find something in your house that is solid and won’t move if you step on it. I suggest using a sturdy couch or chair, maybe even a bench if you have one available. If you don’t have anything solid then place a chair against the wall so it won’t move. Make sure the height of the chair or bench is not too high to where you can’t step onto it comfortably.

The goal of this exercise is explosive movements. Again you are focused on a complete range of motion. Step up onto the platform of your choosing with one leg. With the opposite leg you are going to explode it in the air and then step back down onto the ground. If this motion is too difficult than simply step onto the platform with the other leg. Alternate legs and repeat.

Use your arms effectively during this exercise to ensure that you give your arms a solid workout, and to assist you as you explode your legs onto the platform. For example when you put your right leg onto the platform, the left arm is already up in the air. As you explode onto the platform with the left leg, the right arm raises up to boost this movement. The left arm falls to the side.

As you create a dynamic pace, challenge yourself to see how quickly you can alternate feet. This will increase the intensity of the cardio. Stay on your toes and focus on swift movements up and down from the platform.

Advertising

6. Jumping Jacks

You probably did these when you were a kid. These are a staple for many youth physical education classes. Even though this is a basic exercise it can be quite effective when completed with vigor and you guessed it, full range of motion.

Start standing straight up with your hands at your sides and your legs together. Jump your legs out so that they land wider than shoulder width apart. Simultaneously, your arms should move straight out over your head until your hands meet. It is not imperative that your hands touch over your but it is an effective reference point to ensure you use full range of motion with your arms. Then jump back to the starting point. This is one repetition.

The focus of the exercise is to work both the lower body and the upper body. By jumping the legs to a point that is slightly uncomfortable you are stretching out the hips and gluteus maximus muscles, which are all essential for core strength as well.

The more rapidly you perform this exercise the better cardio results you are going to experience. As is the case with most of these exercises, stay on your toes as much as possible. Try not to land on your heels when jumping out because this will restrict the pace at which you exercise.

7. Towel Knee Bends

This exercise is great for the entire body but it really targets the middle core. You will need a large towel or two small towels for this exercise as well as a slippery surface in which to perform it.

Start out in a plank position with the towel(s) at your feet. Hands should be shoulder width apart underneath your shoulders. Bring both feet up at the same time as far as possible. Then bring your legs back down into the plank position. This is one repetition.

Similar to the mountain climbers, you are attempting to knee yourself in the stomach. You don’t want your knees to come together because this takes away from the isolation of the exercise. Each leg must work on its own to thrust towards the stomach. This range of motion is important because you want to experience the full benefits of the exercise.

Keep your core aligned the entire time you do this exercise. Don’t allow the back to hunch upward or slouch downward. Part of the challenge is holding the plank position coupled with the leg movement.

Advertising

8. Towel In and Outs

For this exercise you are going to need two small towels, one for each foot. Start out again in the plank position just as the previous exercise. This is a core exercise as well, but it focuses more on external oblique muscles, or the side of your abdominals.

Instead of bringing both feet towards your stomach you are going to extend both feet outward, away from one another. You want to push your legs out as far as possible depending on how flexible you are in the hip region. Try to extend your legs at least shoulder width apart. If you are unable to stretch them that far, than go as far as you can. Then bring your legs back together to the starting plank position. That is one repetition.

As the intensity of this exercise increases and you become tired, there is a tendency to use more legs than core. You want to try to avoid this. Concentrate on using your core to extend your legs back and forth. Do less reps if necessary but make sure this is a core exercise, not merely a lower body exercise.

9. Wall Sit

This title doesn’t leave much for the imagination. You are literally going to sit against the wall. This is a great way to finish your workout. It is primarily a lower body workout but it also integrates some core training.

Sit against the wall with your back straight against the wall. Your feet should be right under your knees. Make sure your knees are not extended over your toes. This can be detrimental and cause knee pain. On the other hand your feet should not be extended too far out underneath your knees because this takes away from experiencing the stretch in your quadriceps and the rest of your legs. You should be sitting in a position with your knees bent at a 90 degree angle. Arms should be above your head or laterally at your side the entire time. Do not place your hands on your knees.

Your Training Plan

Exercise                               Repetitions/Time                                      Rest
Sitting Hold                           15 seconds-1 minute                                   15 seconds
Burpees                                5-20                                                           30 seconds-1 minute
Mountain Climbers                 5-25 each leg                                              30 seconds-1 minute
Running High Knees               5-15 each leg                                             30 seconds-1 minute
Step Ups                              10-25 each leg                                            30 seconds-1 minute
Towel Knee Bends                 5-20                                                           30 seconds-1 minute
Towel In and Outs                  5-20                                                           30 seconds-1 minute
Wall Sit                                 15 seconds-30 seconds                              30 seconds

These are simply repetition and time estimates for a basic workout plan. I have no idea what your conditioning level is. If you can’t do the allotted repetitions, that is perfectly ok. Figure out how many repetitions you can do but challenge yourself by doing them correctly every time. When you can’t do anymore reps properly, then you are finished with that exercise.

The rest periods are seemingly low and not enough time but in order to improve your cardio on your own it is imperative that you perform highly intensive exercises with shorter recovery times. This will challenge your cardio, help you lose fat, and stress your body in an appropriate manner. If it becomes too intense and you need more time to rest, than take the time you need. You know your body better than anyone else. These are mere guidelines. Eventually as you continue exercising you may notice you need less and less time to recover before the next exercise.

Advertising

The amount of sets you execute is ultimately your decision. Start out with one set and see how it feels. If you are unable to complete one set of all these exercises, then finish what you are capable of. I think you will observe profound changes in your fitness levels by consistently taking the time to perform these exercises. Good luck and have fun!

Featured photo credit: Girls With Muscle via girlswithmuscle.com

Read Next