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Published on February 21, 2020

15 Core Strength Workout Exercises for Beginners

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Last Updated on August 28, 2020

How to Quit Drinking for a Healthier Body and Mind

How to Quit Drinking for a Healthier Body and Mind

Drinking alcohol is a big part of the social fabric of many cultures. Drinking is a way to celebrate, to relax, to socialize, and to fill time. However, if an occasional drink goes to being a daily drinking habit or alcohol addiction, you may want to learn how to quit drinking in order to improve your body and mind.

If you’ve made the decision to stop drinking, you’re already on the right path. Once the decision is made, it’s time to take action.

Here we will look at the consequences of drinking too much and some steps you can take to quit drinking.

How Much Is Too Much?

This is a great question to ask in our discussion of how to quit drinking for a healthy body and mind. Let’s look how much drinking is too much and when it can become a problem.

A recent 2018 study of nearly 600,000 alcohol drinkers found that those who drank less than 100 grams of alcohol per week (about 6 glasses of wine) had the lowest levels of mortality[1].

The study suggested that those who drink more than 100 grams of alcohol per week had increased risk of stroke, heart disease, heart failure, fatal hypertensive disease, and fatal aortic aneurysm.

Occasionally going over 100 grams of alcohol a week likely won’t do lasting harm, but if you find that you’re consistently passing this threshold, or that you can’t go more than a couple of days without a drink, it may be time to learn how to quit drinking.

How to Quit Drinking Alcohol

When you want to quit drinking, it’s all about changing habits. Here are some steps to help you get started.

1. Admit You Have a Problem

Awareness is the first step in wanting to change any situation, and it’s just as true here. This is often the most difficult step as your brain wants to continue on the familiar path it’s on. If you can overcome this and admit that you want to change, you’ve done a great thing.

When you find yourself thinking more and more often that drinking is creating problems in your life, it’s probably time to admit you have an issue with drinking too much.

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There is no shame in admitting it. Many people have issues doing too much of lots of things.

2. Think About Why You Should Quit

When we think about the long-term effects of drinking too much alcohol, such as cirrhosis of the liver, it’s not usually enough to make us quit. The reason is because it’s not real yet.

Think about the very real, short-term effects drinking has. If you drink four drinks at a time, three days a week, and each time it takes two hours, you’ve “lost” six hours a week to drinking. Add in the cost of the alcohol, say $30 a week (and that’s being generous), times 52 weeks a year, and you realize you’re spending over $1500 a year on alcohol.

When you toss in the things you miss out on by drinking, it becomes much more real.

It may help to make a list of your motivations to quit drinking. That way, you can go back to it when you start finding it difficult to quit drinking.

If you’re not sure how to find your “why,” check out this article.

3. Change Your Environment

This is a tough step. You have to change multiple things that have been central to the way you live your life.

You’ll need to shift your social life by not going to happy hours or other similar get togethers. You’ll most likely have to cut certain people out of your life, as well as alter the places you go.

If you know that you will inevitably drink when you go see a specific friend, it’s time to have a talk with that friend. If they’re not willing to support your decision, it’s time to spend more time with other friends who will.

If you know you won’t be able to resist a drink if you go to your coworker’s birthday party, you may need to excuse yourself until next time, when you’re more prepared to being around other people who are drinking.

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4. Adjust Your Attitude

When drinking is a big part of your life, it’s difficult, under the best of circumstances, to quit.

You will get mad at people who think they are “helping” you. You will most likely get down on yourself and beat yourself up internally. You might have trouble falling asleep, and your mind will think about drinking a lot.

Keep pumping yourself up and know that you are working towards a goal that you know is right for you.

Try participating in positive activities, such as a group sport, meditation, or an online class. These things will help you refocus your attention and feel good about the things you’re doing.

5. Get Help From Rehab or Support Groups

Many people are not able to quit drinking on their own. Alcohol abuse and alcoholism are serious illnesses, and if the addiction has been in charge of your life for quite a while, your brain will have a particularly hard time giving it up.

If you find yourself unable to quit drinking on your own, it may be time to check into a rehab treatment facility. Another option is joining a support group such as Alcoholics Anonymous. The support of a group of people with a similar problem will help you feel like you’re not alone.

There are a variety of support groups and rehab facilities that can help you if you want to learn how to quit drinking.

6. Keep Going

If you decide to remove alcohol from your life for good, it will be an ongoing process. Once you get through the initial stage and become a non-drinker, you will have to work on it as long as you want to stay away from alcohol.

This isn’t as bad as it sounds though. This is really true of any situation you want bad enough.

If you want to be in great shape, that takes ongoing commitment to exercise. If you want to make a million dollars, that takes consistent and ongoing hard work and hustle.

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Any major life improvement is constant, hard work. Keep reminding yourself why you’ve made this change and how it’s benefiting you. Find friends and family members who will continually support your struggle in case you have days where it feels particularly difficult.

If you need more motivation to keep going, you can check out the benefits you’ll receive when you learn how to quit drinking alcohol.

What Happens When You Quit Drinking

Here are numerous negative effects of alcohol, and many  ways your body and mind benefit when you decide to quit drinking. Here are just some of them.

How to quit drinking: What a month off drinking does for your body

    You Will Sleep Better

    This benefits both your body and your mind. Many people believe that alcohol helps you sleep because it makes you feel tired, but one scientific review found that alcohol consumption “increases the quality and quantity of NREM sleep during the first half of the night,” but that it disrupts sleep during the second half, which is when your deepest sleep occurs[2].

    When you quit drinking, your body will rest better, which will improve your energy levels, concentration, mood, and mental performance.

    You’ll Lose Weight

    Alcohol is full of empty calories. An average beer contains approximately 150 calories. If you are a weekend drinker and typically have five beers on Friday and 5 beers on Saturday, that’s 1500 calories saved in a week. That’s pushing a full days worth of calories right there.

    Your Skin Will Look Better

    Since alcohol is a diuretic, you urinate more when drinking on a regular basis. This causes you to be less hydrated than you should be. When you quit drinking, you’ll be more hydrated, and this shows up on your skin in a positive way.

    You Will Be Able to Concentrate More

    Several studies have suggested that your concentration levels can improve up to 18% and your work performance can go up by 17% after a month of not drinking any alcohol[3].

    That’s a substantial boost to your mental health!

    Your Immune System Will Improve

    Heavy drinking makes you more

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    susceptible to serious infections like tuberculosis and pneumonia because alcohol suppresses both the innate and the adaptive immune systems.

    One study specified that “alcohol’s combined effects on both innate and adaptive immunity significantly weaken host defenses, predisposing chronic drinkers to a wide range of health problems, including infections and systemic inflammation”[4].

    When you quit drinking, your body is much better at fighting off infections because the immune system is no longer suppressed.

    You Will Feel More Alert

    Alcohol can disrupt the way neurotransmitters work in your brain. You chalk up the foggy brain to a hangover, but there’s more happening than that.

    Your neurotransmitters aren’t working as well, especially if you’ve been a heavy drinker for a long time.

    After you’ve put alcohol in the rear view mirror for several months, your head will feel more clear than it has in a long time.

    Your Muscles Will Thank You

    If you are someone who works out and enjoys staying in shape, your muscles could benefit if you quit drinking. For one thing, you put a lot of hard work into building up muscle and staying in shape.

    Drowning your muscles in beer and wine only helps add empty calories. There has also been recent studies that suggests that alcohol my decrease the production of human growth hormone, which is a key part of muscle building and repair[5].

    The Bottom Line

    We’ve taken a look at how to quit drinking for a healthier body and mind. It’s readily apparent how much alcohol is woven into the fabric of our society. Like most things in life, you can control whether you pick up a drink or not. It’s not impossible to stop!

    If you decide that drinking isn’t for you, you are on your way to a healthier body and mind.

    More on How to Quit Drinking

    Featured photo credit: Zach Kadolph via unsplash.com

    Reference

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