Bodyweight Exercises for Core Strength
Above and beyond rocking a six-pack or crop top, a strong and stable core provides an essential foundation to healthy movement in both your daily life and fitness routine.
Your core muscles stabilize your spine and pelvis and help with posture, balance and stability. They’re your support system for everything from simple movements (like walking down the street or bending down to put on your shoes) to most exercise movements—like running, lifting weights or swinging a tennis racket or golf club.
When exercising, a stable core is important for properly performing movements and preventing injuries. Because it’s the foundation of most movements, good core strength and stability can help you achieve your other fitness goals.
There are many powerful core exercises that can be done without any special equipment or gym memberships. Here are four of our favorites:
Settle into plank position with your forearms on the floor, elbows under your shoulders and your hands shoulder-width apart. Maintain a straight line from your heels through the top of your head, gazing at the floor slightly in front of your face. Engage your abs and hold.
Start with: Use a timer to measure your baseline—see how long you can hold plank before your form breaks. Then, do 3-4 sets at this time, making sure to focus on proper form!
Scaling up: As you’re ready, increase the time you hold by 10 seconds.
Tips: Don’t look up—that can strain your neck. Make sure your hips aren’t sagging when your core fatigues, as that can stress your lower back.
Begin in a push-up position. Bring one leg to your chest. (Quickly) reverse the positions of your legs, extending the bent leg until it’s straight behind you in the push-up position, and bringing the other leg up to your chest. Repeat on alternating sides.
Start with: Repeat on alternating sides counting to a total of 50.
Scaling up: Increase by 10 total reps (5 on each side).
Tips: Do this movement swiftly while consciously engaging your core.
Everyone’s favorite! Start in standing position, feet shoulder-width apart. Squat down to put your hands on the floor in front of you. Kick your feet back into a push-up position. Lower your chest to the floor (use your knees to lower yourself down if needed). Kick (or walk) your feet back to their original position. Jump up, clapping your arms overhead.
Start with: For beginners, start with 5 burpees in a row and repeat 3 times.
Scaling up: Add 2 more burpees to each set.
Tips: If needed, use your knees to lower your body to the ground and step back up.
You’ll need a little bit of space for this one, though it’s still doable even in a small apartment. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, hands on your hips. Step forward with one leg into a lunge (front knee above your ankle, back knee almost touching the ground). Step forward with your rear foot, repeating the action on the opposite leg.
Start with: Beginners try 3-4 sets of 10 total (5 on each side).
Scaling up: Add 2 more lunges to each set (1 on each side).
Tips: In the lunge position, make sure both of your legs are in 90-degree angles. Your front knee should not be any further forward than directly over your front ankle, as this reduces stability in the knee.
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Try one (or two, or all!) of these exercises today.
Many thanks to John for modeling these movements during a hike. Marines are always ready for an impromptu workout!
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