When people hear the word core, they generally think six-pack abs. But it is much more than just washboard abs. Regardless of whether you’re an anatomy wiz or not, we want to help you strengthen and shape that midsection. We searched the web to find the best core exercises that most frequently appeared on experts’ lists. But before we get to them, let’s talk about what comprises your core.
The abs that you see (or that may be hiding) are the rectus abdominis. When people think core, that is what they’re picturing. But they’re not considering or do not know that the transverse abdominis, multifidus, internal and external obliques, erector spinae, diaphragm, and pelvic floor muscles are also part of the picture. There are also larger muscles that assist as well. You’re basically a walking core.
That said, the idea of just doing some crunches will not suffice. We need to make sure your backside is as strong as your frontside. Though glutes, lats, and traps play a large role in doing that, we’ll simplify here and focus in this article on the rectus abdominis, obliques, and lower back.
Okay, you will also see exercises involving glutes on this list; the experts know just how important glute strength is for oh so many reasons. We reviewed 10 experts’ lists to find the five consensus best exercises for your core. Keep in mind there can be many variations of the exercises on the list. And of course, we want to know which belly burning exercise is your favorite, so comment below to let us know!
The List: Top 5 Core Exercises, According to Experts
The plank and its many variations are a staple in any core-strengthening routine. It can be performed in high (straight arms) or low (on forearms) positions. And we cannot forget about side planks to strengthen those obliques.
“Holding the plank position takes strength and endurance in your abs, back, and core. The plank is one of the best exercises for core conditioning, but it also works your glutes and hamstrings, supports proper posture, and improves balance,” writes Julie Diamond on SELF.
And if you get bored with the standard front and side plank holds, don’t worry, with a quick web search you’ll find enough variations to keep you entertained for years.
Here’s a tip on positioning from Very Well Fit: “To enter the pose, prop your upper body on your forearms and lower body on your toes. Keep your knees rigid and your abdominal muscles taut. Do not let your hips drop or your upper back sink between your shoulder blades.”
If you’re new to planking, you may want to start by holding the position for time. As you progress you can start to incorporate variations so that you don’t get bored by staring at a clock.
2. Dead Bug
The name fits when you see the positioning needed for the exercise. Though when your core is aflame after a few reps you will feel quite alive.
This exercise will help you create core stability and strength by making you work in an unstable position. BarBend notes, the Dead Bug is “a move that creates core instability by having you simultaneously reach your opposite-side arm and leg.”
Women’s Health, in speaking about core training in general, writes, “it also is crucial for improving your balance and stability, creating equilibrium in your body.” Performing contralateral exercises like the Dead Bug is a great way to build overall trunk stability and muscle balance.
3. Glute Bridge
Many people do not realize how many issues stem from having weak glutes. Knee and postural problems can sometimes stem from underdeveloped glute muscles. So, for overall stability, do not neglect the glutes when you think core training.
“This pose activates your glutes to lift your hips, which helps train your core while toning your butt and thighs,” writes Healthline. Sounds like a lot of bang for your buck, and it is. Working multiple muscles in symphony not only challenges your body, but it’ll also burn more calories.
Men’s Health knows how important glute training is: “A strong core needs a strong set of glutes, but if you spend all day sitting behind a desk then chances are you’re suffering from weakened glutes and lower-back issues.”
This exercise can be performed for reps, raising and lowering hips, or for time, holding the top position and staying tight for a set amount of time.
4. Leg Raises
A common issue people have with these is pressure on their lower back as they lower their legs down to the floor. To alleviate that, Runtastic reminds you to “lower your legs as low as possible without arching your back.” That may mean that your range isn’t the same as someone else and that’s okay. The hanging variation will mostly alleviate the lower back pressure, but it is a more challenging version of this exercise.
Another way to lesson lower back discomfort while performing this exercise is to “bend your legs at the knees as you lift them up” writes Inverse. Bending the knees some will allow you to flatten your back into the floor more so than with straight legs.
5. Bird Dog
The Bird Dog, also known as Quadruped, is a favorite of many physical therapists and for good reason. It “works your erector spinae muscles (which helps with spine stabilization), rectus abdominis and glutes,” writes PureWow. You’ll get the benefit of working multiple muscles at once with this movement.
Two important reminders from Bustle: “Engage core to remain steady. Maintain a neutral spine the entire time.” This isn’t an exercise that will have your abs screaming in pain, so you’ll need to actively brace. Also, it’s easy to slip into a rounded-back posture while performing this exercise, so maintaining that flat back is important.
This is one of those pesky exercises that removes excuses. It requires no equipment, so you can perform it in a variety of places; you do not need gym access.
- Russian Twist
- Turkish Get-up
- Bicycle Crunch
- Hollow Body Rocks or Holds
- Woodchop variations
Note: This article was not paid for nor sponsored. StudyFinds is not connected to nor partnered with any of the brands mentioned and receives no compensation for its recommendations.