10 Bodyweight Exercises to Strengthen Your Core
No matter who you are and what your training level is, having a strong core is endlessly important. Seriously! Don’t neglect it! Before we dive into some core exercises, let’s chat about the benefits that come from strengthening your core.
The Benefits of Core Training
The primary goal of core training is to strengthen the muscles that stabilize, align, and move the trunk of the body.
Core training also does the following:
1. Develops neuromuscular control.
A consistent core training routine will help you develop better neuromuscular control. This is a fancy way of saying that you become more coordinated because your central nervous system and your muscles communicate more efficiently with each other, leading to more efficient movement.)
2. Better stability.
Core training is SO important for injury prevention. Your core helps you maintain balance and properly distribute forces during different movement patterns. If you are performing a lift without the support of a bench or a machine, even if it's not an ab focused movement, you’re actually using your core to keep your body stable while the prime mover muscle does the work.
3. Strength, Power, and Muscular Endurance of the Core
Your ability to lift heavy, lift intensely, and use the muscles for long periods of time are heavily dependent on your core strength. Even if, for example, your legs and back are very strong, they will only be as strong as your core allows. This is because weakness of the core leads to muscle imbalance, compensation, and poor movement patterns. This means that if you aren’t strengthening your core, the progress made by the rest of your body will suffer.
4. Prevention and Treatment of Low Back Pain
If you suffer from low back pain, chances are, you have a weak core. This is common because our bodies are smart and adapt to our everyday activity (or lack of.) When so many of us are stationary at work all day, the core becomes weakened from less use. Since the core is responsible for stabilizing the spine, weak core musculature can lead to low back pain. Strengthening these muscles have been shown to treat and prevent such problems.
10 Bodyweight Exercises that Will Strengthen Your Core
1. Knee to Elbow
- Lie with your back flat on an exercise mat and place your hands behind your head.
- Bring your knees towards your elbows and your elbows towards your knees.
- Shorten the distance between your pelvis and your rib cage as much as possible.
- Lower your elbows and knees back to their respective starting positions.
2. Lying Leg Raise
- Lie with your back on a mat with hands under your lower buttocks on either side to support your pelvis.
- Your legs should be fully extended out in front of you with your ankles together and your feet slightly off of the floor.
- Raise your legs by flexing the hips until they are completely flexed. Maintain the full extension of your legs throughout the movement
- Return to starting position. *Note: in the picture for Step 1, you see my true starting position for the exercise with feet on the floor. In between reps, however, do not bring your feet all the way down. Stop a couple inches off the floor to maintain constant tension on the abdominal muscles.
3. Reverse Crunch
- Lie on the floor with your knees bent at 90 degrees and your feet off the floor.
- Flex your hips so that your legs raise further off the floor and toward the ceiling while maintaining the 90 degree bend at your knees.
- Pause and then slowly return to the starting position.
4. Plank Jacks
- Get into plank position with your hands underneath your shoulders. Keep the core tight and the hips higher in a neutral position to prevent the lower back from caving in as you jump.
- Alternate your feet jumping out and coming back together again.
5. Plank Shoulder Taps
- Start in plank position with your back flat and your upper and lower body forming a straight line.
- Bring your right arm off of the ground and touch your left shoulder. Be careful to maintain your body’s position as you do so. Do not allow the torso to rotate. Maintain your flat back position.
- Place your right arm back on the ground to return to plank position.
- Repeat the movement with the left arm.
- That’s one rep.
6. Bird Dogs
- Get on your hands and knees with hands under shoulders and knees under hips.
- Keep the core tight, squeeze the glutes, and simultaneously lift one arm and the opposite leg, extending both as you raise them.
- Slowly lower back to the starting position.
- Repeat with the opposite arm and leg.
7. Modified Toe Touch
- Lie flat on your back and flex your hips to bring your legs up into the air. Note: If you have limited flexibility in your hamstrings, bend your knees to perform this exercise. Otherwise, perform with straight legs.
- Contract the abs to bring your shoulders up off of the ground.
- Reach for your toes.
- Slowly lower back down to the starting position.
- Sit on your pelvis or your sit bones with your feet off the ground.
- Lift your upper body off the ground, bringing the left elbow to the right knee.
- Twist between your pelvis and your rib cage.
- Return to the starting position.
- Switch to the other side.
- Stand up straight with feet about hip distance apart.
- Reach your hands down to the floor directly in front of your feet. Allow the knees to bend slightly as needed to reach the ground.
- Once your hands reach the floor, slowly walk your hands forward one at a time until your body has straightened out into plank position.
- Begin walking your hands back in until you reach the starting position.
- Get into push up position with your hands underneath your shoulders.
- Lower your forearms to the ground, and form 90 degree angles with your elbows.
- Legs should be straight out behind you and your body should form a straight line. Keep the back flat. Do not let the back extend further/cave in.
- Hold as long as possible.
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