The 5 Best Core Exercises to Do Today

Exercising you core is much more than trying to do a bunch of sit-ups. In fact, when you think of your core, include not only your abdominal muscles, but also your pelvis, low and mid back, hips and neck. These muscles work together like a big girdle, to support and protect your spine. When strengthened, they help to improve your overall balance, posture, stability and coordination. Here are 5 great exercises designed to target your core.  Aim to do these exercises fifteen times each, three times a week. Think quality of movement over quantity, and remember to check with your doctor before starting any type of exercise program, or if you suffer from low back pain.

1. Core Exercises: Abdominal Brace

Abdominal Brace

This is a fundamental exercise that targets many of your abdominal muscles, including your obliques (your side abdominal muscles). Bracing creates abdominal tension that will help stabilize your core in preparation for other activities like planks, pushups and strength training.

How to do it:

 Lie on your back on a mat with your knees bent. Place you hands gently on your abdomen. Think of tightening your stomach as if you were getting ready to receive a punch. Your stomach should be in a neutral position, not sucking it in, nor pushing it out. Avoid using other muscles like your neck and shoulders to help with the movement. Hold for ten to fifteen seconds. Make sure you're breathing normally throughout the exercise, as holding your breath will raise your blood pressure!

 


2. Core Exercises: Bicycle Crunch

The Bicycle Crunch

This move not only targets your abdominal muscles, but also the ones the run alongside it, your internal and external obliques. Researchers over at the San Diego University Biometrics Lab, found that the bicycle crunch activated your abdominal muscles more so than other exercises, including the traditional crunch. 

How to do it:

Start of by lying on your back on a mat, keeping your back pressed to the ground and knees bent. Take a deep breath in; place both hands behind your head while contracting your abdominal muscles. At the same time lift your head, upper back and right shoulder, and bring it across to your left knee while breathing out.  Your right leg will be straight. Repeat with the opposite side (left shoulder to right knee), which makes one complete rep. Make sure you keep moving continuously and have both legs off the ground, like you're pedaling a bicycle. Don't strain your neck by pulling at the back of it. Stop to correct your form, and then start over.


3. Core Exercises: Plank

Plank

Seems so easy to do, until you actually do it! Planks strengthen your abdominal muscles, hips, back and pelvic floor.

How to do it:

Lie face down on a mat. Place both of your forearms on the mat, keeping your shoulders in line with your elbows. Your head should be in line with the rest of your body, while you lift and lengthen it. Avoid straining or rounding out your back. Lift up onto your toes, keeping your feet hip wide apart. Breathe in and then slowly breathe out while contracting your abdomen and glutes. Hold for 15 seconds, resting between each set on your hands and knees. Progress into a push-up position and holding for thirty seconds.


4. Core Exercises: Bridge

Bridge

A great basic core stability exercise that’s easy to do and targets the abdominal, low back, glutes (butt), hips, hamstrings and pelvic floor muscles. (Phew, did you get all that down?)

How to do it:

Lie on your back on a mat with knees bent at 90 degrees and palms face down. Contract your abdominals and glutes (butt muscles!), while raising your hips so they’re aligned with your knees. Push through your heels. Hold for 3 seconds and then slowly lower yourself to the floor. Breathe out with the motion, or when your hips are up in the air. Keep your back in a neutral position.  Progress to holding for ten seconds and using one leg at a time.


5. Core Exercises: Hip Circle

Hip Circle

This move will engage your abs while strengthening your hip flexors, which help to bend your body, and raise your leg, like when you’re walking, running, or going up steps.

How to do it:

Lie on a mat resting on your forearms. Brace your abdominals and extend both of your legs. Keeping your heels together, rotate your feet out in a "V" position. Squeeze your inner thighs and glutes as you bring your legs clockwise down (inhale) and then back up to center (exhale). Try doing ten in a row and then switch to counterclockwise. You will definitely feel the burn doing this exercise! Avoid slouching by drawing your shoulder blades in a downward position.