The one exercise you should be doing to improve your core strength, according to a strength coach

Strengthen your core with this one move that takes just 60 seconds a day

Strong woman smiling in gym with hands on her hips
(Image credit: Getty Images)

A strong core is the foundation of a healthy body because it plays an important role in supporting the spine and enabling pain-free movement. 

Gianna Webbe, a gymnast and strength coach at The Project PT, says: "A strong core can better transfer forces to the lower limbs, which can enhance movement, strength and speed. By contrast, a weak core can be a contributor to back pain."

Sit-ups may be the exercise people think of when it comes to the core, but isometric training (which means a static hold, such as a plank) can actually be more effective, according to Webbe.

Gianna Webbe
Gianna Webbe

Gianna Webbe is a personal trainer at The Project PT. They are also a gymnastics star, having started competing at the age of nine, and have represented Bermuda in competitions.

"Isometric training can minimize spinal load—which happens during dynamic core movements like sit ups—while still providing moderate levels of core activity. You can easily progress and regress this type of exercise, you don’t need equipment, and it’s easier to keep good form," says Webbe.

If you're only going to do one core-training move in your exercise session, Webbe says it should be the hollow hold. The force required to press the lower back into the mat means this exercise maximizes tension through a wide range of core muscles, making it very effective. Here's how to do it properly, according to the strength coach.

How to do the move

  1. Start by lying on the floor, legs extended, arms by your sides. Engage your abdominal muscles by pulling your ribs down towards your hips, which will flatten your back lower into the ground. 
  2. Keep your abs contracted as you raise your legs two to three inches above the floor.
  3. If you are able to, raise your head and shoulders slightly off the floor (one to two inches) and extend your arms overhead and behind you. Focus on continuing to pull the ribcage down and the lower back into the floor. Ideally, complete three sets of 20 seconds.

Technique tips

If you’re a beginner and struggle to raise your legs, you can modify this move by keeping knees bent and raising the feet slightly off the floor. There should be no room between the lower back and the floor throughout this exercise.

Maddy Biddulph

Maddy Biddulph is a freelance journalist specializing in fitness, health and wellbeing content. With 26 years in consumer media, she has worked as a writer and editor for some of the bestselling newspapers, magazines and websites in the US and UK. 

She is also a qualified L3 personal trainer and weight loss advisor, and helps women over 40 navigate menopause by improving their physical and mental strength. At Maddy Biddulph Personal Training, she runs one-to-one and small group training for menopausal women who want to get fit to ease symptoms and feel like themselves again.