Easy Core Exercises to Try Now
Creating a strong core is worth its weight in gold when it comes to gym time. As well as improving your posture, decreasing the potential for muscle injuries and reducing back pain (which working from home may have increased), having a strong core is your body’s support system, and so can help improve your balance and stability, enabling you to do simple everyday activities more easily. Although the core is often thought of as shorthand for the abs and torso, it actually extends to the muscles around your arms, legs and hips too. If you’re not familiar with the makeup of your whole core, here’s a little refresher: the deepest layer of your abdominal muscles, your transverse abdominis, helps stabilise your spine and pelvis, while your rectus abdominis runs vertically down your front and helps move the body between the ribcage and the pelvis. Internal and external oblique muscles allow the trunk to twist and help control and stabilise spinal movements. Finally, the multifidus is a deep back muscle running along the spine and works with the transversus abdominis to increase spine mobility and ward off back injury. To help strengthen this vital area, you need a combination of exercises that will target the right areas, but luckily, whether you’re back in the gym or still enjoying your home workouts, there are plenty to choose from. Here’s the lowdown.
The plank is a great one to try to increase core strength as its minimal movement means almost anyone can give it a go.
- Begin by lying on a mat, face down with your forearms and toes on the floor. Your elbows should be directly under your shoulders and your hands should be facing forward. Your head should be relaxed and you should be looking at the floor.
- Stiffening your torso and legs, slowly lift your whole body off the mat while keeping your forearms and hands on the ground. Try to avoid your back dropping or your back or hips arching upwards and keep your knees straight. Keep your shoulders positioned directly over your elbows. Continue to breathe and hold the position.
- When you’re ready, gently lower your body back down to the mat before relaxing.
Strengthening your core can have a big impact when it comes to stabilising the muscles and tendons in your lower back. As well as working your spinal stabilisers, hamstrings and glutes, the bird dog engages abs, hip flexors and shoulders and is great for lengthening the spine if you’ve been sitting at your desk for too long.
- Kneel with your knees hip width apart and your hands on the ground shoulder width apart. Brace your abdominals.
- Lift one hand and the opposite knee just off the ground while balancing on the other hand and knee. As you move, keep your weight centred, your abs engaged and your hips squared to the ground. Extend to the full range of motion by pointing the same arm straight out in front of you and extending the leg straight out behind you.
- Hold for a few seconds then return your hand and knee to the starting position.
- Repeat for 5 reps on each side.
Don’t worry if you don’t have a Peloton just yet, the old-fashioned kind of bicycle can help strengthen your obliques and get your heart rate going.
- Lie down on the mat. Place your hands behind your head, lifting your shoulders off the ground.
- Straighten your left leg while twisting your body to the right. Bring your right knee into your body and bring your left elbow to meet it.
- Lower your right knee and kick it out straight as you bend your left knee into your body. swap arms so that your right elbow then meets your left knee.
- Repeat for 15 reps on each side.
Targeting the lower abs, this is also a great exercise for easing and strengthening tight hip flexors, which, if you’ve spent much of the last year working from home, are likely to be an issue.
- Lie face up with your legs straight out, with hands at your sides or tucked under your hips.
- Slowly raise your legs, keeping them together and as straight as you can, keeping your feet flexed up towards the ceiling, your core engaged and your back flat on the floor.
- Hold at the top for a few seconds then slowly lower your legs back down, without letting your feet touch the floor; instead, keep them hovering a few inches off. That's 1 rep.
- Repeat for 15 reps.