9 Best Exercises to Strengthen Your Core

Medically Reviewed By William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Written By Elizabeth Beasley on May 21, 2020
  • Senior couple indoors at home, doing exercises on the floor
    Core Exercises You Can Do at Home
    One of the best things about exercises for core strengthening is that they rarely require equipment and are easy to do at home. A common question is: What makes up your core muscles? Core strengthening focuses on more than just your abdominal muscles. It includes the lower back and muscles around the pelvis. Having a strong core improves your posture, balance, and stability which makes it easier and safer to do everyday activities like lifting a box, putting on your shoes, and moving throughout your day.

    Try to do 5 to 15 repetitions of these core exercises twice a week. As you get stronger, work up to 2 to 3 sets of repetitions. Beginners may want to look for video examples to demonstrate how to do the exercise properly. If you have back problems or other health issues, talk to your doctor before starting a core exercise routine.
  • Man during abdominal muscle training in living room
    1. Crunch
    This is a classic core-strengthening exercise that targets your central abdominal muscles. Lie on your back with your knees bent or place your feet on a wall so your knees bend at a 90-degree angle. Cross your arms across your chest. Tighten the muscles in your abdomen and lift your head and upper back off the floor and hold for three seconds. Slowly lower your upper body down to the floor. Repeat with as many repetitions as you can do. Remember to try and keep your neck and shoulders relaxed and lift with your abdominal muscles.
  • Sportswoman exercising abs doing crunches at home
    2. Reverse Crunch
    While you’re in the crunch position, try a reverse crunch. This works your lower abdominals near your pelvis. For this exercise, lift your feet off the floor with knees at a 90-degree angle and ankles crossed. Place your arms on the floor next to your sides with palms down for support. Tighten your abdominal muscles and pull your hips toward your rib cage, lifting your hips and bottom slightly off the floor. Hold for one second, then slowly lower your hips to the starting position and repeat. See if you can do 10 to 20 repetitions.
  • Man doing exercise on fitness mat in living room
    3. Side Rotation
    This core exercise targets your side abdominals. While lying on your back with knees bent, tighten your abdominal muscles and slowly twist your lower body while dropping your knees as far to the right as is comfortable. The slower, the better. It should feel like a stretch, but not painful. Here’s where the abdominal work happens: use your abdominal muscles to slowly pull your knees back up to the starting position. Now, do the same movement on the left side and repeat the sequence up to 15 times.
  • Woman doing yoga exercise in gym room
    4. Toe Tap
    This Pilates exercise may seem simple, but it actually engages all your core muscles, including your abdominals, hips, glutes, and legs. If you have lower back issues or you’re a core exercise beginner, toe taps are a good alternative to crunches. To get started, lie on your back and lift your feet off the floor, hips and knees bent at a 90-degree angle. Place your arms at your side with palms facing down. Tighten your core muscles while lowering your right foot to gently tap the floor, then bring your right leg back to the 90-degree position. Repeat with your left leg. Continue this sequence for 5 to 15 reps.
  • Woman in sportswear doing hip bridge exercise
    5. Bridge
    The bridge, also called the pelvic tilt, strengthens the muscles in your abdomen and glutes which protect your lower back and improves posture. Lie on your back with knees bent and arms at your side, palms facing down. Tighten the muscles of your core and buttocks, raising your hips off the ground and keeping your upper back and shoulders on the floor. This position should create a straight line from your knees through your hips to your shoulders. Next, slowly lower your hips back down. Repeat 10 to 15 times, rest for a minute, and do another set of repetitions.
  • Young woman doing Bird dog yoga pose on floor mat
    6. Arm and Leg Raise
    Some people call this exercise the bird dog, because you’re pointing your arm and leg at the same time. It’s great for improving balance and working your abdominal and back muscles all at once. Start by kneeling on all fours with your hands below your shoulders and knees below your hips. Tighten your abs and lift and straighten your right arm to shoulder level while also lifting your left leg to hip level. Bring that arm and leg back to the starting position and repeat with your left arm and right leg. Try ten to twenty repetitions.
  • Make time for the things that benefit you
    7. Plank
    The plank is an excellent full-body exercise that focuses on your core, but also works your arms, back, shoulders, legs, and glutes. Start by kneeling on all fours with your hands below your shoulders and knees below your hips. Tighten your abdominals and straighten your legs, like you’re preparing to do a push up. Instead of doing a push up, simply hold this position for 10 seconds or longer. You can make this exercise easier by dropping your knees to the ground. As you get stronger, challenge yourself to see how long you can hold the pose.
  • Women at gym doing side plank exercise
    8. Side Plank
    This variation of the plank works the same muscles but focuses on strengthening the side of your body. Start in a plank position, then lift one arm off the ground and towards the sky while you turn your body to the side. Your arms will be in one straight line from wrist to wrist. Hold that position as long as you can, then lower your arm down to a plank position and repeat on the other side. This version of the plank can be a tough one. Beginners can make it easier by keeping their knees on the ground.
  • Muscular Athletic Fit Man in T-shirt and Shorts is Doing Squat Exercises at Home
    9. Side Crunch
    One last exercise for your side abdominals. As a bonus, this standing crunch also targets your thighs, quadriceps, and glutes. Stand with your feet a little wider than shoulder-width apart, toes turned slightly outward. Place your hands behind your head and keep your chest open. Now, bend your knees and squat towards the floor a few inches. Don’t go any lower than feels comfortable. Hold this squatting position, and bend your torso to one side like you’re trying to touch your right thigh with your right elbow. Do the same move on the left side. Repeat 10 to 15 times on each side.
Best Exercises for Core Strengthening | Core Exercises for Beginners

About The Author

Elizabeth has been writing for Healthgrades since 2014 and specializes in articles about alternative and complementary therapies like meditation, yoga, energy work and aromatherapy. She also performs improv comedy and is a firm believer that laughter really is the best medicine.
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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2020 May 20
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.