A strong core is the foundation of a fit and functional body, playing a major role in your posture, balance and physical performance. So if you're not doing them already, you should really add some core strengthening exercises into your weekly exercise plans.
This six-move workout plan is a comprehensive training session for your mid-body muscles—and it doesn't require any equipment. It comes from Jordan Fernandez, an expert strength and conditioning coach at Trainer Academy.
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Do three circuits of the below exercises, with minimal rest in between. If any of these exercises are new to you, scroll down for an explanation of how to do them.
- Plank: 30-60 seconds
- Russian twist: 15 repetitions in each direction
- Bicycle crunch: 30 repetitions (15 on each leg)
- Leg raise: 10-15 repetitions
- Mountain climber: 30 repetitions (15 on each leg)
- Dead bug: 10-15 repetitions
Time: 30 - 60 seconds
- Support your weight on your feet and forearms, brace your core and keep your hips level. Your body should form a straight line from your head to your heels.
2. Russian twist
Reps: 15 in each direction
- Sit on the ground with your feet planted in front of you about hip-width apart. Your knees should be facing the ceiling. Lift your feet off the ground and clasp your hands together.
- Twist to touch your hands on the ground to the right of your hips, then twist back in the other direction to touch your hands on the ground to the left of your hips. You can hold a weight in your hands if you want to make this exercise more challenging.
3. Bicycle crunch
Reps: 15 on each leg
- Lie on your back with your hands behind your head. Keeping your legs straight, lift them a couple of inches off the ground.
- Bring your right knee towards your chest. As you do, twist your torso to move your left elbow towards your right knee.
- Return to the starting position then repeat with the other leg and elbow.
4. Leg raise
Reps: 10 - 15
- Lie on your back with your hands under your hips.
- Keeping your legs straight, brace your core and raise your legs so they're pointing at the sky.
- Lower them back down to within a couple of inches of the ground, without letting them touch the floor. If this feels too difficult, you can bend your knees to make it slightly easier.
5. Mountain climber
Reps: 15 on each leg
- Start in a push-up position, with your hands directly underneath your shoulders and your body forming a straight line from your head to your heels.
- Quickly bring one knee towards your chest, then return your leg to the starting position before bringing the opposite knee towards your chest.
6. Dead bug
Reps: 10 - 15
- Lie on your back with your arms and knees pointing towards the sky, and your lower legs parallel with the ground.
- Extend one of your legs in front of you, and at the same time extend your opposite arm behind you so both limbs end up parallel to the ground.
- Return to the start position then repeat using the opposite limbs.
What is the core?
The abs, or abdominals, are a group of four mid-body muscles; the rectus abdominis (responsible for the six pack shape), the spine supporting transverse abdominis, and the internal and external obliques, which run down the side of the abdomen. Abs workouts focus on these muscles, particularly the rectus abdominis.
The abs make up part of, but not all of, the core. The core is a wider collection of mid-body muscles responsible for everything from supporting, moving and resisting movement in the spine, maintaining your posture, transferring power between your upper and lower body, and keeping you balanced.
As a result, a core routine tends to be a more comprehensive workout for your midsection, activating other muscles like the hip flexors and multifidus.
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Harry Bullmore is a Fitness Writer for Fit&Well and its sister site Coach, covering accessible home workouts, strength training session, and yoga routines. He joined the team from Hearst, where he reviewed products for Men's Health, Women's Health, and Runner's World. He is passionate about the physical and mental benefits of exercise, and splits his time between weightlifting, CrossFit, and gymnastics, which he does to build strength, boost his wellbeing, and have fun.
Harry is a NCTJ-qualified journalist, and has written for Vice, Learning Disability Today, and The Argus, where he was a crime, politics, and sports reporter for several UK regional and national newspapers.
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